By on November 23, 2010

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” The fellow from the Jim Russell School at Infineon couldn’t hear me screaming through my helmet and the rolled-up windows of my blue-and-white Challenger “392″, but surely he saw me gesturing. Let me out first! In the last ten-minute session, I lapped all the other journalists at least once and some of them twice! Let me out FIRST!

Smiling and making a “calm down” motion at me, the Russell instructor waved the other 392 out, this one piloted by one of the usual potbelly-avec-cheap shoes barfly journalists. And then he ostentatiously counted off fifteen or so seconds. You see? I’m gapping you out! But it didn’t matter. Four turns later, I was attached to the back bumper of that other car, where I would remain for three laps while the journosaur in question steadfastly ignored, in order of occurrence, flashing lights, honking, a black flag from two different stations, and another Russell instructor screaming and waving his arms from the pit wall. By the time I decided to break the rules and blast past this jerkoff without a point-by, I had one lap left in which to test the car.

Are you ready for the one-lap review of the 2011 Challenger?

The conventional wisdom tells us that the current Challenger is a disappointment in racetrack or “fast road” situations. While that is true for some models, it doesn’t hold true for the SRT-8. It’s not an idiot-proof track rat along the lines of a Miata or Focus SVT, but if you are willing to manage your brake and tire heat it can be a very rapid way to get around a road course. The primary complaints I had with the 6.1-liter SRT-8 were a certain reluctance to turn into slow corners and a surprising lack of push from the HEMI in the middle of the rev range.

For 2011, Dodge has swapped out the shock absorbers, retuned the suspension bushings, and added negative camber at all four corners. The result is a car which feels considerably more eager to enter slow hairpins, such as the final turn of Infineon Raceway’s “NASCAR” configuration. I continue to believe that this is a platform which is best experienced in the longer wheelbase; the Charger R/T models on hand were easier to throw around Infineon’s massive elevation changes and deliberately unsettling Esses. Still, there’s noticeable improvement to be had in the 2011 model.

On the motivational side of things, Dodge has bumped the HEMI out to 6.4L — 392 cubic inches — and it now turns out 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. The torque peak is at 4200rpm, which is still a little high for a traditional musclecar, but the new model never feels short of breath. Most importantly, the new “392″ is never in danger from the hated and feared Camaro SS in a straight line. You’ll need a new Shelby GT500 to mount a serious challenge, since both cars are capable of running low twelves in the quarter-mile. My offhand impression after driving both cars is that the Shelby is still faster but that the Mopar entry continues to bring a little more character to the table in terms of engine sound and responsiveness.

1,492 “Inaugural Edition” Challenger 392s will be made available, with both the Tremec six-speed and the Mercedes-Benz WA-class transmission. There are a few color choices and some rather unfortunate-looking interior details. The white-leather seats were literally too bright for my Android phone to photograph correctly in the Nor-Cal sun.

Drivers who choose the big HEMI have at least one more pleasant surprise in store: this year, the MDS cylinder-deactivation system is included for extra freeway fuel economy. If ever this was a V-8 which was capable of pushing a car along with half the cylinders on welfare, this is the one, but anything other than flat-road cruise control will call all the spark plugs back into action.

The rest of the car is the Challenger you know and either love or hate: tall-body retro styling, imperfect ergonomics, bathtub visibility for most drivers, a street presence exceeding that of the competition. Chrysler expected the Challenger to be a quick-selling novelty which would quickly fade in the market place — think Plymouth Prowler — but sales have risen steadily in the past two years. Don’t look for the new 6.4 liter model to reverse that trend.

The other new engine in the lineup is the well-received Pentastar V-6, previously discussed on these pages. Although there was one V-6 Challenger available at Infineon, complete with automatic transmission, our hosts somehow found themselves unable to get me any track time in that particular vehicle. It may be that my announced intention to “shove that V-6 up the bleeding ass of every lame-sauce, color-rag rolling chicane out there in the HEMI cars” gave them some reason for mild concern. Instead, I was sent out in another Charger R/T, which I proceeded to shove up the bleeding ass of every color-rag rolling chicane out there, only with a greater closing speed. I’ll have a review on that car for you tomorrow, dear readers.

I cannot justify the purchase of a Challenger 392 on any rational grounds. The Shelby GT500 is cheaper and faster, and the additional size and weight of the big Dodge don’t pay off anywhere except on the boulevard. This is no domestic M3 killer, nor is it a particularly comfortable way to travel. The revised Charger even manages to trump it a bit in the desirability stakes, with its fabulous new interior and characterful new sheetmetal.

Regardless of the above, the Inaugural Edition will still sell out in a big hurry, and the Challenger will continue to sell in record quantities. It’s a satisfying car to own, it looks good, and it’s finally fast enough to back up the promise made by those good looks. It’s that rarest of things in the modern environment: a man’s car. Testosterone-challenged fossils like my journosaur pals can’t drive it correctly and won’t do it justice, but some of you may find it absolutely irresistible. Just make sure you get in line first at the local trackday, okay?

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68 Comments on “Review: 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 “392″...”


  • avatar
    qfrog

    “Fastest run group please”

    • 0 avatar
      jefffogg

      ok heres the deal…..this car is affordable……how many new trucks and suvs do you see on the road?   i just bought the 2011 challenger rt classic….wow i love this car….before i got it i drove a bmw 740il and people looked at me like i was an asshole….i drive the challenger and they love it….but i do too…..and cheaper than a suv….or at least a nice one……

      please dont compare this car to a honda tree hugging machine ….. i eat meat ,,,,love women with real boobs   or fake ones……still like guns…..and drive a challenger…..im an american….deal with it……

  • avatar

    These cars are a waste of money and look like a bloated dinosaur.  They are nothing but toys for the rich because the average person can’t afford to purchase, insure or pay the fines and there’s nowhere to drive them anymore but the track. Anybody who drives one on the street should be ashamed at the waste of metal and gasoline.

    • 0 avatar
      cmoibenlepro

      This applies to a bunch of cars.  What is a M3 exept a waste of money and a waste of gas, and a toy for the rich?
      Should BMW stop the production of the M3 for these “reasonable” reasons?  Hell NO!

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse

      Truth, that, Stencha. 

      May I interest you in a very frugal, beige Toyondassan transport appliance instead?

      It’s also true that if the snorting, tire-shredding, tail-wagging Challenger doesn’t create at least a shred of do-want somewhere deep inside your somewhat shamed soul, you must turn in your car-guy card to Ed.

      Simply click his name under “Staff” and email him for instructions.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      @Stencha:
       
      The greatest thing about America is the (relative) freedom of choice. If you don’t like the Challenger, no one is forcing you to buy one.

    • 0 avatar

      My new 300c SRT8 may be a waste of gas – and maybe I shoulda bought the 5.4L 300C instead, but every single morning, just starting the car and listening puts a smile on my face. Every single time I’m on a highway, the smooth response as I rocket from 60 – 90 puts another smile on my face.

      One day We are all going to die and when I die, I’ll be able to tell St. Peter  “I DROVE THE BEST CARS I COULD BUY  And smiled the entire way.  You should have seen how many cars I blew away.”

      I’m not going to be someone who says…”I drove a Prius and saved gas money”

    • 0 avatar
      Nick

      You must be a terrible bore at parties.

    • 0 avatar
      Royme55

      Have drove one? I haven’t either but I drove last years model. When you go and drive one then post they are a waste of sheet metal. They have a personality that is very infectious no matter what trim level you drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Biscuits

      Soooo….what color is your Prius?

  • avatar
    Jimal

    “So that I can drive flat out, which is how I drive. Flat out.”

  • avatar

    I just love the Challenger, it’s uniqueness and character really gives it something special over the Camaro and Mustang.  It’s not just about how fast you are in the twisties or to the 60s.

  • avatar
    twotone

    I’d like to rent one for track day, but would not buy it or use it as a daily driver.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      But if you did you would have arguably the best daily driver of the three pony cars. More rear seat room, more trunk room, more suited to cruising down the highway and maybe the best mpg because of the cylinder deactivation of the three when optioned with big V8′s.

    • 0 avatar
      KitaIkki

      MDS cylinder deactivation is only available on 392 Challengers equipped with automatic transmission.

  • avatar

    Jack,
    May I say that, while we don’t agree on everything, your reviews and “first-drive” columns are a breath of fresh air among the vapid press-release regurgitations delivered from the mainstream outlets.
    I’m never going to own this car, or consider it for purchase (just not my thing), but I immensely enjoyed the article.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    The more I read about this car, the more I’m falling in love with it. It’s only taken me two years to get my wife to fall in love with it too. If we were going to purchase something from the muscle car collection, this would be it.
     
    Simply irresistable.

  • avatar
    william442

    Thank you for including the quarter mile time.

  • avatar
    mikedt

    Visually, I like it best of the Detroit 3 muscle cars. Now they need a 300 hp 30mpg v6 like other guys. edit: well I see from the link I haven’t been keeping up with my TTAC reading. But not 30mpg and not available with a stick. darn.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    The Challenger isn’t my cup of tea, but I’m a sucker for the white stripes over blue look, and this car wears it well.  I’m surprised Shelby hasn’t tried to copyright it yet.

  • avatar
    imag

    I want to know which publication’s journalist wouldn’t offer a simple point-by.  That $h!t is inexcusable.
     
    I’m actually surprised the brakes could hang at all on the track.  That’s pretty impressive for one of today’s best boulevard cruisers.  The car isn’t my choice of track weapons, but I appreciate the fact that Chrysler is actually keeping it relevant.

  • avatar
    Royme55

    I’m a Dodge man to the core, having said that, you know I love this car. I would give up both of the family jewels for one. I would love to see two more things from the folks at Dodge before I go to Mopar heaven. Well that is where I want to go, being able to play with all the great Mopars all day is MY idea of heaven. I digress,back to the two things. I would love to see a New 426 Hemi Cuda and a two door Charger that looks like a Charger. It has to have a full solid grille with hide away lights like the 68 or 70 Charger. The Dodge folks did a hell of a job on the Challenger now give us the Cuda but only if you KEEP IT REAL, 426 & retro style. Hemi Cuda is one of the most recognized names in Mopar history and the 426 has to go with it.
    ALL THAT AGREE GIVE ME A HELL YA.

  • avatar
    Mike66Chryslers

    Mopar had been selling the 392 as a crate motor and in the special race-only Challenger previously.  I heard that they were working on the emissions so they could sell it in a street-legal car.  I think it’s great to see that they’ve worked-out those issues to put it in the SRT8 Challenger.  This car will have an MSRP north of $40k though, and I could still buy some REAL retro Mopar muscle for comparable money or less, as long as it’s not 426 Hemi-powered.
     
    @Royme55: Hell yeah!
     

  • avatar
    FJ20ET

    It’s nice that Dodge offers and affordable grand tourer(Yes, this car is comfortable,luxurious, and fast), a vehicle class that is unfortunatley almost extinct. Even a Japanese fanboy like me can appreciate it.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    This car is everything a typical Norwegian car buyer is not looking for. It’s an old-fashioned boy-racer beast with an un-impressive (for it’s size) engine in a heavy un-advanced chassis, which is designed from the ground up to be useless form over function. The only thing it can do properly is look good, burn rubber, empty a gas station in a week and drive fast in a straight line. And it would cost more than $200k in taxes and customs to register in Norway…
    How can I not love it :)

    • 0 avatar
      Royme55

      My e-mail went nuts with HELL YA’s and a few the other way. To the Jap car lovers I have a very short comment. There has never been a Oriental car that has 1/10 of the cool of this Challenger. If you love Jap cars fine but please never ever compare them to a piece of automotive art. You can’t  compare cookie cutter cars that you have to walk up to and read the name to this. Love it or hate it, the Challenger is unique. It may have it’s faults and not BE everyone’s cup of tea but it, the Camaro and the Mustang have style. They take us back to earlier times when our wheels were more than just basic transportation. It burns gas, tires and all that stuff of legends and I love it.
      ALL THAT AGREE GIVE ME A HELL YA!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Royme: Hells Yes!

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      “There has never been a Oriental car that has 1/10 of the cool of this Challenger.”
       
      You forgot about the Acura NSX.

  • avatar
    jj99

    Can’t imagine who would want this, the Camaro, or the Mustang with an oversize motor.  A bunch of junk.  Most would prefer a TSX anyday.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      (rolls eyes and prays the commentator is sarcastic)

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      9 out of 10 orthodontists, perhaps…

    • 0 avatar
      Royme55

      I tried to Google TSX and got the Toronto Stock exchange.  I then Googled Challenger and got 100′s of sites about the car. That should tell you something, like the cookie cutter cars you have to walk up and read the name plate. Pardon my ignorance but what is a TSX since Google couldn’t enlighten me?

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Its a warmed over luxury version of the Civic that they sell for Acura.  It used to be slightly entertaining, before they bloated it up and stuck a V-6 auto in it.  But wow, it sure has a nice looking interior with lots of bells and whistles.

    • 0 avatar
      Royme55

      Ok, I now know what a TSX is and it is a cookie cutter car, go figure. I guess there is room in this world for the cookie cutter drivers and those who like a ride with some flare. As for me, life is to short to eat salad when there is a medium rare T-bone as an option.

    • 0 avatar
      LXbuilder

      Your funny …aren’t you?

    • 0 avatar

      I drive a 2006 TSX, and while a fine car, I’d trade it for a Challenger or Mustang in a heartbeat!

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      Not that it matters much in this discussion, but the TSX is actually a tarted-up European (smaller than US) Accord rather than a tarted-up Civic.
      I don’t think lot of TSX’s are likely to get cross-shopped with 392 Challengers. But the V6 will get to 60 in six seconds, which for a family whip is not slow.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      (rolls eyes and prays the commentator is sarcastic)
       
      If past posts are an indicator, I would sadly say no, sarcasm is not the order of the day.  The TSX is (was) pretty cool, but really…

    • 0 avatar
      360_cuda

      Ummm, TSX? Do you mean the NSX by Acura! If I remember correctly, the NSX was a 6 figure exoctic that was meant to compete with the Lambo and the ferfari. The pony cars are for middle income America. your attiitude is typical of elitists that think anyone who doesn’t think like them, must be idiots. Well guess what, there are close to 300,000 idiots a year that buy one of the three cars you call a bunch of junk! I’m one of those idiots, and I am in good company!

    • 0 avatar
      bodegabob

      Don’t feed the troll.
       
      Actually, I’d prefer a TSX too, but would probably make better time in a plain old V6 Accord. In gray. With stock wheel covers. 0-60 in 5.9 with the manual. A quarter in the 13′s. Not bad, and the cops won’t be looking for a gray Accord.
       
      These pony cars remind me  a lot of the place Harley occupies in the motorcycle market. Big and gaudy for the sake of being big and gaudy, rwd and V-8 due to heritage. Just like Harley really can’t be directly compared on the basis of performance to the most modern bike designs, these cars can’t be compared to the best, most modern car designs.  They are more or less rolling lifestyle statements that exist to enhance the social lives of the people who drive them.
       
       

  • avatar
    bunkie

    In all seriousness, I love this car. I love the way it looks, I love the hemi, I love the color combination. It’s a no-****ing apologies fun machine. Life is short, screw all that practical BS, and heed the words of Paul McCartney and “step on the gas and wipe that tear away”.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I hope you made that pot-bellied candy ass piss his pants when you blew by him… if we dont teach em, who will??

    I doubt I could have had your patience to wait 3 laps before blasting by him!

  • avatar
    The Road Worrier

    The Challenger has serious serious presence.  Best looking of all ponies hands down imho.  I rented an R/T [hemi] in the Hill Country west of San Antonio and it drew admiring looks and questions on performance in a way I doubt any ‘stang would.  Fun to drive too, especially in the long sweepers.  Stock 16s need upgrade.  Best enjoyed in cop free territory.  Even survived an hour in the back to give my hosts some wheel time.  Would rent again, consider buying used if manual equipped but divorce would probably be a prerequisite too.  Love the commercial with Washington charging the British in one – America, fark yeah!    

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    but sales have risen steadily in the past two years. Don’t look for the new 6.4 liter model to reverse that trend.

     
    I recall that when this car came out, many TTAC posters blasted it, saying it would be a sales failure once the early retro-customer was satisfied.  Glad to see a small but vocal group here called that as BS.  While I would never consider using this as a commuter car, as a fun toy, hell yeah!!

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    There has never been a Oriental car that has 1/10 of the cool of this Challenger.
     
    The 1994 Supra comes to mind, as well as the ’96 Z twin turbo.

  • avatar
    Royme55

    I shall try to reply to all. As to being funny, do you mean weird funny or goofy funny? The answer
    HELL YA
    The NSX nice car would like to drive one but not own, again not in the same class, sharp but not cool, There is a difference !!!!!!!! You are comparing two cars with very different appeal to very different people. If you don’t get the whole muscle car thing you will never get why we love them.
    As for the sales, all I can say is Chrysler as a whole have made some bad cars & trucks. They are however really trying to change that. The new Ram is vast improvement or earlier models.The Jeep Grand Cherokee this year is amazing, the Challenger in improved, Charger is getting rave reviews. The Durango has been done over and also is being glowing reviews. They have an amazing man in Ralph Gilles and he is doing great things for Chrysler.
     

  • avatar

    Good to hear the SRT engine now includes MDS. Hopefully this substantially reduces the Gas Guzzler Tax, which was $2,100 on the 6.1.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Sigh…  Every time I see this thing I miss the Magnum that much more.

    • 0 avatar
      SupaMan

      +1
      I still miss the Magnum dearly. Nothing quite like a bad ass HEMI powered wagon that could haul more than ass.
       
      The Challenger would be a nice retirement gift (even though I’m nowhere near that age) so for now I’d rent one for the day. Over the Camaro and Mustang at that…

  • avatar
    Nick

    You didn’t push him off onto the grass, Jack?  You’re letting us down.

  • avatar
    dartman

    I waited and waited but it never came…So gather round young Mopar lovers…The original, and some believe only “true” Hemi was the legendary “392 FirePower” of 1957; it is the spiritual grandfather of all Top-Fuel dragsters even today;  the equally legendary “426 Hemi” of the 60′s was not considered to be a true “Hemi” by Hemi cognoscenti…but alas..my age is showing and saddens me much like the accelerating demise of the greatest generation;… people will buy the “392″ Challenger and have no clue…once America, and Elephant Engines ruled the world…

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Supaman…..a few months back Rick Ehrenberg took an 05 magnum SRT8 and installed a cat back exhaust and played with the software a little bit. Hot Rod magazine took a 2010 camaro and swapped the heads and removed the cats, and the magnum spanked it in the quarter. Imagine what this challenger would do with a few mods.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I want one of these.  And a Leaf.  Go figure.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    I’m not a muscle car guy, but I am a track car enthusiast, so I understand the appeal of the Challenger. A high-revving race engine and razor-sharp handling does the same thing to me as a snarling V8 and tire smoke does to muscle car guys.

    So, although our preferences are different, we are the same. We are people who love cars because of how they feel. We are people who know that there is more to a car than how many MPGs it gets. It is because of people like us that manufacturers make cars like the Challenger, the Lotus Exige S, the Corvette Z06, the Mitsubishi Evolution, the Mazda RX-8 R3, and the Porsche GT3 RS.

    In a market almost completely full of cookie-cutter, slush-boxed, bloated, gadget-filled snore-mobiles, I am very glad to see cars like the Challenger SRT-8 come into production, even though it’s not my style.

  • avatar
    atvman

    @ Jack

    The GT500 is substantially more expensive than the Challenger SRT8, like $6K more expensive. The closest Mustang variant to the Challenger SRT8 on the price tree is likely the Boss 302, which has a completely different mission.

    Aside from the classic rivalry between Ford and MOPAR, the Mustang and Challenger aren’t really natural competitors. The Challenger is a much larger car, it’s like comparing an E-Class to a 3-Series.

  • avatar
    Royme55

    If anyone is interested you can find a Youtube clip of one of these. The quarter mile was pretty impressive for a stock car. Time of 12.44 and 110.7 aren’t to shabby for a “two ton bloated gas hog”, to quote some commenter’s. I think with a few mods like a cold air intake and a tuner that could be improved on.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The people that are putting them down wouldn’t even know how to handle a car with that kind of power, and if taken for a nice good ride in one would probably end up wetting themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      ASISEEIT

      I have to agree. I have a 70 Cuda 440 four speed with manual steering. When I take it out and wind it up I not only have a smile on my face but  also tend to wet myself! Always use the restroom before leaving home!

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Quarter mile times are posted in this month’s issue of mopar action, with Rick Ehrenberg at the wheel.  First 2 runs netted a 12.38@110, third run netted a 12.29@111 mph.
    He brought along a set of drag radials, but couldn’t use them because he forgot the special lug nuts needed to mount them.

  • avatar
    bomis4

    I like it.

  • avatar
    DirtyJohnny

    Having owned a 2008 SRT8 Challenger, I can say that my 2011 392 is far superior to the 2008. I thought the Challenger handled ok and was fast, until I purchased a 2011 Cadillac CTSV for my wife.

    America is a great country and they build some great vehicles. WHAT BOTHERS ME; PAYING A $1500 GAS GUZZLER TAX ON CHALLENGER AND A $2600 GAS GUZZLER TAX ON CADDY. THESE CARS BOTH EXCEED 20 mpg, WITH THE CRUISE SET ON 80MPH!


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