The Truth About Cars » dodge challenger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:54:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » dodge challenger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com New York 2014: 2015 Dodge Challenger Gets Badly Needed Upgrades http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-gets-badly-needed-upgrades/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-gets-badly-needed-upgrades/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:57:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=801914 From Front to back: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Challenger 3

 

Dodge’s long-rumored 6.4L supercharged Challenger isn’t coming to New York, but there are a number of important upgrades for 2015.

The big news for 2015 is the addition of the 8-speed automatic across the broad, a long awaited upgrade to the Challenger. An upgraded electrical architecture allows better implementation of UConnect as well as electric power steering with three selectable modes. Eight trim levels are now available, with new Shaker and Scat Pack models available with the 5.7L and 6.4L V8 on the Shaker, while the Scat Pack gets the 6.4L engine exclusively. The 6.4L engine gets a bump to 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft on the Scat Pack. Dodge is claiming that the 8-speed Scat Pack model can hit 60 mph in the low 4-second range.

Shaker models get a Super Track Pack suspension package, Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, sport seats and a very retro graphics package – indeed, Dodge is going long on the retro theme for the 2015 upgrades.

2015 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT / R/T Plus (shown in Pearl/Black) with 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT / R/T Plus (shown in Pearl/Black) with 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus (shown in Ruby Red/Black) 2015 Dodge Challenger with eight-speed automatic 2015 Dodge Challenger “Tic-Toc-Tach”-inspired gauges 2015 Dodge Challenger 2015 Dodge Challenger trunk 2015 Dodge Challenger – 1971-inspired full-length stitch trape 2015 Dodge Challenger Uconnect SiriusXM Travel Link 2015 Dodge Challenger rear ¾ home screen 2015 Dodge Challenger Uconnect 3-D navigation icon 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic Ruby Red suede-leather 2015 Dodge Challenger TorqueFlite 8-speed electronic shifter 2015 Dodge Challenger 6-speed manual shifter 2015 Dodge Challenger 6-speed manual shifter 2015 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 7-inch TFT 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Clockwise starting from top: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dod From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dodge Challe From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dodge Challe From Front to Back: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Front to back: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Challenger 3 From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-gets-badly-needed-upgrades/feed/ 49
Cain’s Segments: Muscle Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/cains-segments-muscle-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/cains-segments-muscle-cars/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 18:43:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793946 2010_Dodge_Challenger_RT_Classic

The Ford Mustang is selling more frequently in 2014 than it did in the same period of 2013. Ford is also grabbing greater U.S. market share in the relatively high-volume muscle car sector.

This might seem surprising given that Ford is set to replace their fifth-gen pony car with a new edition for 2015 – don’t people want to wait for the new model? Yet such a turn of events isn’t unprecedented, and it’s not as though a few current Mustangs couldn’t be sold at this moment because their buyers find the next Mustang less desirable.

Unlike the Porsche Boxster’s class of European roadsters, the sales achieved by the Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Dodge Challenger garner attention not just because they stir up the passions of automotive enthusiasts but also because the numbers are high. These aren’t rare cars; their ubiquity can be traced back both to their affordability and to their history.

Moreover, there may be no sports/sporting/sporty car sub-segment where the competitors are so easily identifiable. While it’s true that loyal Mustang owners may never consider the Camaro, the three cars in this group are still plotted on the same connect-the-dots map. The same can’t really be said of the Scion FR-S (hardtop, and a backseat) and Mazda MX-5 Miata (two-seat droptop), nor even the Honda Civic Si (two doors and a trunk) and Volkswagen Golf GTI (hatchback).

And so we compare rear-wheel-drive muscle. Even at the end of winter. Even in a transition year.

The Mustang, sales of which have improved by 2276 units through one quarter of 2014, is America’s 60th-best-selling vehicle overall, less than 1700 sales back of the Lexus RX, GMC Acadia, Jeep Patriot, and Subaru Impreza/WRX. It ranks just ahead of the Nissan Pathfinder, Chevrolet Camaro, Nissan Frontier, and Kia Forte.

Camaro sales have increased by a less impressive 370 units. The Camaro is America’s 62nd-best-selling vehicle so far this year.

Both the Camaro and Mustang have stolen market share from the declining, aging Dodge Challenger. Never capable of challenging the Mustang and Camaro in terms of U.S. volume, Dodge has nevertheless increased its Challenger sales volume every year since the car arrived in 2008. In 2013 there were twice as many Challengers sold in America as there were in 2009.

The first quarter of 2014 has seen the Challenger’s market share in the category fall to 22% from 28.5% one year ago. Meanwhile, the Mustang has outsold the Camaro by a grand total of 28 units in 2014 – 681 units in March, specifically – and its share in the category has grown to 39% from 33.9% in Q1 of 2013. Camaro market share is up from 37.6% to 39%.

To better understand just how common these cars are, however, consider the total sales from individual automakers. Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge combined for 50,198 Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger sales in the first three months of 2014, 16,519 units more than the combined sales at Fiat, Mini, and Scion. The Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger’s total beats the whole Mazda brand by 8230 units; Infiniti by 18,977 units. The Mustang and Camaro, individually, outsell Volvo.

2014 won’t necessarily be a reliable barometer for American muscle car sales, with a redesign of the Challenger yet to be introduced, the aging Camaro, and the Mustang’s replacement. But the first three months of 2014 could still be an accurate gauge for what we can expect as the pages on this year’s calendar flip over.

And by the by, GM also sold 8179 Corvettes during the first three months of 2014, a 178% year-over-year increase.

—-

Auto
March
2014
March
2013
%
Change
3 mos.
2014
3 mos.
2013
%
Change
Chevrolet Camaro
8624 8102 + 6.4% 19,568 19,198 + 1.9%
Dodge Challenger
4882 6132 - 20.4% 11,034 14,540 - 24.1%
Ford Mustang
9305 7688 + 21.0% 19,596 17,320 + 13.1%
Total
22,811
21,922 + 4.1% 50,198 51,058 - 1.7%
]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/cains-segments-muscle-cars/feed/ 86
Chrysler Hellcat V8 Could Unseat Viper V10 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/chrysler-hellcat-v8-could-unseat-viper-v10/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/chrysler-hellcat-v8-could-unseat-viper-v10/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:09:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=780489 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

For over a year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been working on a Hemi V8 dubbed the Hellcat, which set to debut in a revised Dodge Challenger. However, the Hellcat could prove a challenge to the SRT Viper’s V10, possibly unseating the venerable monster from the throne.

Automotive News reports the rumored V8 has caused an internal debate within FCA, in particular what it would mean for the Viper when the Challenger receives the engine. SRT brand boss Ralph Giles told Hot Rod magazine:

We have a situation where, you know — we may have a situation — where the flagship car is not the most powerful car in our arsenal … how do we explain that to ourselves? So we have an internal horsepower race as well as an external one.

While the Viper’s naturally aspirated V10 pushes 660 horsepower, the SRT variant of the Challenger — pitted against the Ford Mustang GT500 and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 — is rumored to put out as much as 700 horses .

The 2015 Challenger is rumored to debut in New York next month.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/chrysler-hellcat-v8-could-unseat-viper-v10/feed/ 53
Review: 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 16:28:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472956

Last time we had a Challenger SRT8 to review, well, we didn’t review it so much as we burnt the rubber off the rear wheels. Sorry Dodge, we couldn’t help it. After a few Facebook requests, we put Dodge’s 470HP retro coupé back on our wish list and someone at Chrysler decided to trust me with their retro cruiser. If you couldn’t afford that Challenger in the poster on your wall when you were in college, click through the jump to find out what Dodge’s 470HP two-door is like to live with for a week before you throw down 45-large on this retro bruiser.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Designing “retro” sounds easy to me. You pull out a picture of ye olde Challenger from 1972, put it next to a picture of your largest sedan and make the shapes fit. Next you round things off a bit, tack on some 5MPH inspired bumpers, spray it with metallic paint and hey-presto, you have a modern Challenger. You also have one enormous coupé. Sure, Chrysler says the “LC” platform Challenger is shorter than their “LX” platform sedans, but you’d be hard pressed to say where inches were excised. The result is a heavyweight muscle car with a wheelbase 9-inches longer and a body that’s 10-inches longer than Ford’s pony car.

Parked next to the Camaro and Mustang, the Challenger dwarfs them both like the Jolly Green Giant next to Little Pea. This means comparisons between the three muscle cars is difficult. It doesn’t make rational sense either because I have a hard time believing anyone will seriously cross-shop a Mustang Boss 302 and a Challenger SRT8. Why? They’re just not the same kind of car. While the Challenger’s portly dimensions are likely to turn off some shoppers, I was strangely intrigued. But then again, I have a soft spot for big Chryslers having owned both a Chrysler LHS and an Eagle Vision. The size (visual and on paper) of this beast brought another vehicle to mind: the BMW 650i. Blasphemy? Perhaps, but they’re about the same size.

 

Interior

2008 is an important year to keep in mind as it was post-Mercedes but pre-Fiat. It was in that Cerberus window that the Challenger was born. As a result, the cabin’s plastics aren’t as awful as the first generation 300/Charger, but neither are they as good as the 2011 revisions of the same. Still, the Camaro and Mustang don’t exactly come covered in the best plastics that money can buy, so while the Challenger feels a little rubbery and low-rent, the American competition isn’t much better.

On the bright side, the SRT8 392 version of the Challenger is brought up-market by standard leather upholstery with Alcantara seat and door inserts, high levels of standard equipment and one of the best OEM steering wheels available. The new SRT wheel is chunky, deeply cushioned, covered in soft leather, heated, thoroughly addictive and enough for me to forgive the rubbery dash and oddly positioned door handles. Of course, only a few days before the “publish” button was pressed on this review, Chrysler announced a “core” version of the SRT8 Challenger that drops the price by removing the leather and other options. Full details on the low-cost model have yet to be released at this time.

Front seat comfort proved excellent for long trips, although the seat design suffers from the same problem as the Chrysler 200: the bottom cushion is shaped like a “dome” making it feel as if you’re sitting “on” the seat and not “in” the seat. To hold you “on” the leather clad gumdrop during the inevitable shenanigans 470HP will invite, Dodge severely bolstered the seats. Thankfully (and unlike the Mercedes C63), Chrysler was kind enough to make the seats wide enough for normal Americans. Back in 2011 when the 392 debuted, an ivory/blue leather interior was offered, but for 2013 your only options are black on black or the red and black interior our tester wore.

Thanks to the proportions and long wheelbase, rear accommodations are large, comfortable and “normally” shaped. What do I mean by that? Sit in a Mustang, Camaro, or most other two-door four-seat coupés and you’ll notice the seat backs are set at an odd angle to “improve” the headroom and legroom numbers in an otherwise small rear compartment. Despite having (on paper) only three inches more legroom and two more inches of headroom than the Mustang or Camaro, the rear cabin feels cavernous. It’s even possible to squeeze a third adult in the rear of the Challenger, something you can’t do in the four-seat Camaro or Mustang. Chrysler also designed the optional $995 sunroof so that it doesn’t cut into rear headroom.

When it comes to cargo schlepping, Dodge went retro with a trunk lid rather than a modern trunk “hatch.” The result is a high lift-over making it difficult to lift heavy suitcases into the trunk without scuffing the rear bumper. On the bright side, the cargo hold is a cavernous 16.2 cubic feet, a whopping 44% larger than the Camaro. While the Challenger lost points in our exclusive Trunk Comfort Index (see the video segment) for having cheap trunk fabric, it gained more for having trunk hinges that don’t cut down on usable trunk space.

Infotainment

Dodge’s snazzy new engine didn’t bring Chrysler’s new uConnect system with it leaving shoppers to choose from three retro radio and navigation options. We start off with a base 6-speaker Dodge-branded audio system and a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit with a standard CD/DVD player, Bluetooth phone interface aND USB/iPod interface port. $595 buys you the 6.5-inch touchscreen Garmin-based navigation system and Sirius Satellite radio. The system is as easy to use as after-market Garmin systems but doesn’t have the ability to enter a destination address via voice commands. Chrysler’s “730N’” navigation head unit adds the ability to voice command your navigation wishes but the cost is dear at $2,190 because it must be ordered with the optional Harmon Kardon amplifier/speaker package.

The $1,995 Harmon system used their Logic 7 surround processing engine (as seen in the BMW 6-Series), 18 speakers and Green Edge amplifiers. The system can be added to any of the infotainment options on the Challenger. (No, the irony of power efficient “green” amplifiers on a vehicle that wears a gas guzzler tax was not lost on me.) In terms of sound quality, the base system is barely average while the Logic 7 system wouldn’t be out of place on a $60,000 luxury vehicle. Before you check any of the option boxes however, you should know this generation of uConnect system doesn’t exactly love USB/iDevices and browsing your tunes is a drag. Compared to Chevy’s MyLink system or the older SYNC system in the Mustang, the Challenger’s interface is ancient and a distant third place.

Drivetrain

HEMI. 392. Almost, but not quite. Chrysler (like everyone else) designs their engines with metric measurements and the chief engineer at Dodge claims the displacement translation to English units was done after the fact. That’s why this 392 is really a 391, but that’s close enough for the marketing department. If we’re splitting hairs, the heads are only partially hemispherical. Does any of that matter? Nope.

Any complaints about the rubbery interior evaporate you look at the engine’s numbers. Chrysler didn’t just bore out the 6.1 to get more displacement. Instead, the 6.4L shares its tech with Chrysler’s revised 5.7L V8. Unlike the competition, you won’t find any overhead cams, no special direct injection sauce and only 2 valves per cylinder. Despite that, the 6.4L engine is far from retro. This pushrod V8 gets variable valve timing thanks to a trick camshaft, a variable length intake manifold and cylinder deactivation (with the automatic transmission only). The changes vs the old 6.1L SRT engine are transformative. Power is up 45HP to 470 while torque takes a 90ft-lb leap to a horsepower matching 470. More important is the significant improvement in torque from 2,000-4,000RPM. The old 6.1L engine had some odd power peaks and felt out of breath at the top end. The 6.4 on the other hand feels eager at almost any RPM.

Dodge made the Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission (borrowed from the old Viper) standard, a surprising twist in a portfolio that’s automatic heavy. The manual’s shifts are short, the engagement is near perfection and the clutch pedal is linear with predictable engagement and low effort. Should you be a left-leg amputee, a Mercedes 5-speed automatic is available. Don’t do it. While the automatic transmission enables Chrysler’s Multi Displacement System to function, the 6-speed manual is better in every way including fuel economy. Speaking of economy, the Challenger wears a $1,000 gas guzzler tax because of its 14/23/17 MPG numbers (City/Highway/Combined). However, thanks to an extremely tall 6th gear we averaged 19.5MPG over our week with the Challenger and averaged an impressive 25MPG on a long road trip. Real world economy numbers with the automatic appeared to be 1-2MPG lower based on a short drive with a dealer provided vehicle.

Drive

At 4,200lbs and 198-inches long, the Challenger is a GT car at heart, much like BMW’s 4,368lb 193-inch 6-Series. That means (if you haven’t figured it out by now) that being behind the wheel of the Challenger SRT8 is more like being behind the wheel of BMW’s two-door luxury barge than Ford’s pony car. Is that a bad thing? Not in my book. Sure the Challenger cuts a circle 5-feet bigger than the Mustang, doesn’t handle as well on the track, and delivers straight line performance numbers similar to the less expensive Mustang GT, but it’s the car I’d rather drive. Why? The Challenger delivers the most polished ride of the high-horsepower American trio thanks to a standard computer controlled suspension system. If that makes me sound like an old man, let me remind you that Mustang/Camaro vs Challenger is always going to be an apples vs oranges comparison.

No performance car review would be complete without performance numbers. Before we dig in, it is important to keep in mind that the test car had a manual transmission. This means the driver is the single biggest factor involved. The 2013 SRT8 has “launch control” but it proved too cumbersome so it wasn’t used in our tests. You should also know that a single shift (1-2) is required to get the Challenger to 60 while four are required for the 1/4 mile (1-4). Traction is also a problem with any 2WD vehicle and this much power; the more control you have over your rubber burning, the faster your 0-30 times will be.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in. Our first test resulted in an 8.1 second run to 60… Because we only used third gear. That should tell you the kind of torque this engine produces. When not joking around, my best time was a 4.4 second run to 60 with a respectable 2.0 second 0-30 time. You can see from these two numbers that traction is the issue. I estimate with wider, grippier tires in the rear, a 1.8 second 0-30 and 4.2 second 0-60 would be achievable. If you opt for the automatic, 60MPH will take a few ticks longer, but because the Mercedes slushbox only needs gears 1-3 for the 1/4 mile (1-4 in the manual) Chrysler says the time will be about 4/10ths faster.

With a starting price of $44,775, the Challenger is about $2,000 more than a Mustang Boss 302 and around $5,000 more dear than a Camaro SS when comparably equipped. Of course for the price you get dynamic suspension, a larger trunk, bigger back seat and one of the best exhaust notes in the industry. In an attempt to even the playing field, Dodge just announced a new “core” model which will start just under $40-large. When pitted against the competition, the Challenger may march to a different drummer, but this is a beat I dig. The SRT8 392 is ginormous, impractical and eats like a teenager with the munchies. It’s also comfortable, powerful and put more smiles per mile on my face than I had expected. It’s hard to go wrong with those results. Just don’t race for pinks, ok?

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30:2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.4 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.8 Seconds @ 115 MPH

Observed Average Fuel Economy: 19.5MPG over 829 miles

2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, 392 Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear Spoiler, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Door Panel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, 6-Speed Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, 6-Speed Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Infotainment, uConnect, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Passenger Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard Driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L 470HP HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Fuel Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/feed/ 61
Chrysler’s “Wildcard” In Labor Talks: Marchionne http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/chryslers-wildcard-in-labor-talks-marchionne/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/chryslers-wildcard-in-labor-talks-marchionne/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2012 17:13:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457665

Chrysler is coming off a strong year sales-wise, but negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers will force the company to make a tactical decision; should Chrysler take a tough line in an effort to reduce costs, or look for a quick settlement in order to hold off a strike, maintaining their sales hot streak.

All of Chrysler’s minivans and rear-drive cars (such as the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger) are built in Canadian plants/ With 27 percent of its vehicles made in Canada, a strike would have serious ramifications. In its native market, the Dodge Grand Caravan is a top-selling nameplate,while in the U.S., Chrysler’s double-digit sales gain could be in jeopardy.  Chrysler is thought to be the automaker being target for a strike by the CAW, but other observers feel that the company will take a hard line in negotiations.

Chrysler’s potential “wildcard” (as industry observer put it) is CEO Sergio Marchionne. A report in The Globe and Mail claims that

Mr. Marchionne has been vocal about how wage rates at Chrysler’s Canadian operations are uncompetitive and how Canadian workers need to accept so-called two-tiered wages that provide new workers with pay that’s about half of what established workers earn. The $7-an-hour gap between Chrysler’s Canadian and American plants arises mainly from the wage structure in its U.S. factories. Newly-hired Chrysler workers in that country will earn between $15.78 (U.S.) and $19.28 an hour between 2011 and 2015, compared with $29.11 for established workers…The Canadian plants of the Detroit Three also pay lower wages to new employees, but after six years, those workers are brought up to regular union rates.

Chrysler’s Canadian operations are expected to deliver nearly a third of the company’s $3 billion profit in 2012 alone. Aside from vehicle assembly, a strike at the Toronto-area casting plant would put a major crimp in the company’s production pipeline. But with Chrysler looking to cut labor costs while getting workers to accept a profit sharing deal, it’s tough to predict how the showdown between Marchionne and CAW President Ken Lewenza will go down. If Chrysler is the first automaker to negotiate, the deal will likely set a precedent for future negotiations with the other two domestic automakers.

 

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/chryslers-wildcard-in-labor-talks-marchionne/feed/ 14
QOTD: Can Muscle Cars Do More With Less (Cylinders)? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/qotd-can-muscle-cars-do-more-with-less-cylinders/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/qotd-can-muscle-cars-do-more-with-less-cylinders/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2012 15:52:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451419

The Wall Street Journal’s Driver’s Seat touches on the muscle car segment, and whether they’ll fall pitfall to rising gas prices in the future, CAFE regulations or some combination of the two. Among the solutions brought up in the article – by Chrysler executives, no less – is “a high output four-cylinder engine”.

There’s no doubt that the current crop of V6 muscle cars is better than ever; the constant chorus of “V6 Mustang $19,995 FTW!!!111″ may get tiresome, but there’s no doubt that the value proposition is there – and it really is a good car. The V6 Challenger with the Pentastar V6 is an often overlooked entrant, and the Camaro V6 is an honest effort, even if it’s not very good.

But to me, and many others, a true muscle car always has been and always will be about the V8 engine, and the intangible qualities that surround it. There’s the sound, the knowledge of all that power under the hood, but also the sheer profligacy and belligerence of the whole package. For an urbanite like myself, the V8 muscle car is a blatant rejection of the current zeitgeist; “sustainability”, the foodie movement, cycling, the push towards mass urbanization, doomsday theories of catastrophic climate change and fossil fuel depletion.The Mustang 5.0 (or the Boss, or the Shelby, or the Challenger SRT8) is unapologetic about being enormous, offensively loud and a deliberate misallocation of precious resources.

The irony is that while the wackier proponents of those theories are seeking a Rousseauian return to a mythical state of nature (where we live in harmony with the earth and our fellow man in a communitarian, kale-saturated paradise) that never really existed, I feel the same way about muscle cars. They evoke feelings of that era in between The Pill and the discovery of HIV, when optimism, not irony, was the spirit of the times, when my Grandfather left his MG Magnette in England and came to this continent. Without fail, he ordered his cars with a V8 engine, because he could, whether it was his first American car, a 1962 Pontiac, or his last, a 79 Caprice with a 350.

Even as someone who grew up during the apogee of the import tuner movement, who finds the same intoxication in a shrieking VTEC four-cylinder that a Boomer would in a big-block V8, the idea of a muscle car with fewer than 8 cylinders just doesn’t sit right with me. A V6 muscle car is a a 370Z. A turbo 4, as great as it is, is still something I associate with Nissan 240SXs and long nights in a damp garage trying to make it “JDM”. There are exceptions; the Buick Grand National is a legend, full stop. A Mustang with the 3.5L Ecoboost is a dream of mine. But then, you’d turn the key, and rather than hear that sublime gurggling, and the machine gun blatt as you leave the light, all that’s there is the subtle whistle of compressors and bypass valves. The F-150 Ecoboost I have now is just fine without the two extra cylinders. The blown V6 does just what I need and may even be better than the available V8s. But a muscle car is not a work truck. I don’t need to tell any of you this. But you can keep telling me how great the V6 ‘Stang is. I won’t disagree.

 

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/qotd-can-muscle-cars-do-more-with-less-cylinders/feed/ 77
Capsule Review: 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/capsule-review-2012-dodge-challenger-srt-8/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/capsule-review-2012-dodge-challenger-srt-8/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2012 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=448887

“Dude, everytime I get back in this car, it reminds me of how great new cars are. In the Grand National, if I turn the A/C on, the engine starts bogging.”

Poor Joey.

Joey bought this Challenger for himself before he discovered the Grand National. Now the Challenger is being sold. One muscle car is enough. After taking the GN out, Joey suggested I try the Challenger for comparison. It’s fully loaded, with a few hundred miles on it. It’s also automatic. Joey describes it as “a Cadillac with 470 horsepower”.

A quick drive through the industrial back roads near Joey’s place seems to re-affirm his assessment of the car. It’s big. It’s quick. It makes all the right noises. While Mustangs like to hop, skip and jump all over the broken pavement when you hit the throttle, the Challenger stays planted and poised. The steering is nice and heavy but doesn’t provide a lot of feedback. “It’s fast,” says Joey “but it’s really all about the cruise.”

The Mustang may be the track-rat’s pony car of choice. The Challenger is sculpture without being sensual or feminine. There are no organic lines. Some may find it to be bloated simulacrum of what Dodge sold 40 years ago. For myself, Joey and the rest of us who grew up in a world of transverse, front-drive, three-box utilitarian jelly-bean transportation, staring at the Challenger is one of the few automobiles that really evokes something carnal and visceral deep inside. It’s the rare car that inspires admiration without jealousy and manages to be desirable without being inaccessible. It’s immediately identifiable as American, just like a navy Brooks Bros sack suit. And while your Brooks suit is probably made in China, the Challenger is made just outside Toronto with old German technology.

Even without driving it for too long, it’s easy to tell that this is a special car. There aren’t too many vehicles on sale today that might be rescued and lovingly restored in a quarter-century by a young man with more passion than automotive knowledge. But this is one of those cars. I wonder if anyone felt that way about the Grand National.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/capsule-review-2012-dodge-challenger-srt-8/feed/ 40
Review: 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2011 16:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419291 When you’re a 24 Hours of LeMons judge, it’s expected that you’ll roll up to the track in a righteous Judgemobile. Perhaps it’s a fenderless, three-wheeled Amazon, or maybe it’s a woodie Roadmaster… Sometimes, though, you need to call up a car manufacturer’s PR flack and get something new and shiny, then stand by helplessly as it gets T-boned by some LeMons racer’s runaway Winnebago see how the budget-challenged racer crowd responds to its presence. The ’11 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid Judgemobile was sort of terrible (though it did have great presence) so this time I decided I’d spend the race weekend with a manly, tire-smokin’ V8-powered vehicle that ought to make heartland American car freaks— for example, the sort we get at the Showroom-Schlock Shootout LeMons in Illinois— start chanting teary-eyed Pledges of Allegiance to a fiery sky full of imaginary F-111s. That would be the Challenger SRT8, of course, in Vanishing Point white.
So, I called up the Chrysler flack: “Hey, Giuseppe,” I didn’t say, “Remember all the nice stuff I wrote about your cutesy little Euro-eco-socialist commuter car? You owe me, paisan’! Now gimme something worthy of a real American, and make sure there’s a goddamn Hemi under the hood. Capisce?
So, next thing I know there’s a couple of heavies with wafer-thin watches and suspicious suit bulges handing over this baby at Midway Airport. Of course, the whole Italian schtick fell apart for me the moment it occurred to me that the Challenger’s chassis ancestry goes all the way back to the Renault 25 (via an illustrious Eagle Premier/LH platform/LX platform lineage), with a bunch of Mercedes-Benz W210 and W220 suspension bits thrown into the mix. Chrysler, AMC, Renault, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat, maybe even a bit of hidden Mitsubishi genetic material here and there— I’m liking the Challenger already!
It’s a good-looking machine, though I could rant for endless paragraphs about the psychological-voodoo/no-doubt-focus-grouped-to-death reasoning behind the choice of the E-Body Challenger as the inspiration for this car’s appearance.
Chrysler never really had a true head-to-head competitor with the original Mustang and Camaro, great as the original A-body-based Barracuda was. It doesn’t matter, because Plymouth’s demise meant the Barracuda nameplate was off the table, so the current Mustang/Camaro rival would have to grab its retro-ized look from the fatter, sales-failure E-body. The ace in the hole was the hagiographic Vanishing Point, which managed to cast the Challenger in a role symbolizing the individual’s victory over The Man’s oppression, breaking the downward-spiral sense of Vietnam-War-fueled American diminished expectations that led to the Malaise Era… or something like that. Freedom.
Personally, I think Vanishing Point‘s brush strokes are far too broad to really capture that early-70s proto-Malaise sense (though the chase scenes are pretty damn cool); Two-Lane Blacktop, also released in 1971, does a much better job. OK, meandering historio-cinematic digression over— let’s talk about now.
I suppose I’m a member of the target demographic for this thing; I got my first driver’s license in 1982, which was the Golden Age for cheap Detroit muscle in California, and the car stuff from Dazed and Confused might as well have been a documentary about the street-race-obsessed car culture at my high school. Battered-but-fast 10-to-15-year-old big-block Chevelles and Satellites and Fairlanes could be had for not much more than a grand. Back then, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to buy a new Cutlass 442 or Super Bee… and now Detroit can sell me the much faster, much better-built 21st-century version.
Right. So, what does this car do best? Burnouts! In all of my many years blowing the treads off junkyard bias-plies and rental-car rubber, I never experienced any vehicle that makes perfect, totally controlled burnouts anywhere near as easy as this car does. I’m willing to bet cash money that Chrysler’s engineers made this feature a design priority, and they deserve a healthy bonus for succeeding so admirably. This car had the automatic transmission, which made burnouts easier, but I have a feeling that the manual-trans car has no problem in that department. I also tried some hard drag-style launches and the car hooked up quite well; it wouldn’t be much of a trick to knock out some good dragstrip passes in this machine.
Seriously, you can create elaborate burnout novels with the Challenger SRT8… character development, climax, resolution, the works. The folks at Autobahn Country Club were kind enough to let me use their skidpad for a tire-smokin’ photograph session, and the clouds of tire smoke completely obscured the entire paddock, a quarter-mile downwind. I heard later that the smogged-out LeMons racers were cheering the car’s amazing burnout performance, and several were heard to state that they’d be visiting their nearest Dodge dealership and shopping for Challengers as soon as the race was over.
Unfortunately, the Challenger-as-Judgemobile got upstaged by a far superior Showroom-Schlock Shootout Judgemobile. Let’s face it: when a LeMons judge gets the choice between a 2012 Challenger SRT8 and a Reliant Super Robin for leading the penalty parade, there is no choice but to take the Reliant.
We did put both of them on the track as co-pace cars, which I feel certain is the first time a Robin and a Challenger have served together in that role.
Judge Sam agreed with me that the Challenger SRT8 was far nicer for real-world driving duties (i.e., driving between the hotel and the race track) than the Escalade Platinum had been. So, burnouts aside, how is it to drive?
The front seats are very comfortable and the quality of materials in the interior is quantum leaps ahead of the “unfit for human consumption” interiors that so horrified Sergio Marchionne. The suspension did a fine, Renault/Mercedes-Benz-style job of smoothing out the Stalingradian pothole-O-rama road surfaces in Chicago and Joliet. I’m sure I could take one of these things on an exurban-edge-city commute for hours every day and feel pretty good about the ride and comfort.
Granted, it’s something of an ergonomic disaster. You can’t see diddly-squat behind you, with the vast C pillars creating maddeningly huge blind spots. Your hands obscure the turn-signal indicators when they’re on the steering wheel. The back seat is all but useless; maybe it could hold a couple of small adults, but you won’t be able to get them into the seats in the first place (I gave up even on putting my LeMons Supreme Court bribe booze in the back seat, opting instead for the trunk). The lid for the center-console storage compartment can’t be operated by human hands.
The controls for the navigation/audio features are frustratingly unintuitive, with the lengthy response time for input that seems to be the norm for automotive computer interfaces. Why a $90 cellphone made by Malaysian sweatshop inmates can produce instant results from four memory-hog applications simultaneously while a simple choice of song title brings a $48,000 car’s computer to its knees is beyond me.
But who gives a shit about nickel/dime irritants like that? Not me! More burnouts!
In fact, I should be reviewing this automobile for the pages of Gnarly Burnout Magazine. Wooooooooooo!
Detroit has really lost its way in some areas over the last few decades, but not when it comes to V8 engines. GM and Chrysler are making some miraculously good pushrod V8s these days, and this 392-cubic-inch/470-horsepower powerplant isn’t even a member of the same species as the rough-idling, non-cold-starting, clattery, single-digit-MPG relics of the so-called Muscle Car Golden Age. This engine starts up instantly, idles in most civilized fashion, manages highway fuel mileage well into the 20s… and manages to drag a two-ton-plus car down the quarter-mile in under 13 seconds.
Speaking of tons, the big-block ’70 Challenger scaled in at nearly 3,800 pounds, so we can’t be too hard on the ’12 SRT8 version for weighing more than 4,200 pounds. Still, I can’t help but think of the two ways in which Chrysler might have built The Greatest Mopar Of All Freakin’ Time instead of a flawed-but-lovable burnout-king commuter car. The first way would have been to put this engine in a car weighing 2,900 pounds. We can all think of a dozen reasons why this could never happen, but just imagine it.
The other way would have been to use the 1971 Plymouth Satellite instead of the ’70 Challenger as retro-inspiration, bringing the Plymouth marque out of retirement if necessary. I’d buy one right now.
Image source: Old Car Brochures
As for handling and brakes and all that stuff them decadent Yurpeans seem to care about so much, I didn’t get a chance to take the Challenger out on the Autobahn CC road course, nor did I pound it at 11/10ths on the mean streets of Joliet. It seemed perfectly competent at my usual 3/10ths pace. Anyway, you don’t buy this car for going around corners, commie (though Baruth managed to do pretty well with the ’11 at Infineon).
Yep.
The LeMons Supreme Court decided that there was one way in which the Challenger made a superior Judgemobile: as the centerpiece of the Hair Of The Dog Air Guitar Penalty. Miscreant drivers were required to air-guitar their way through the entirety of Nazarath’s Challenger-centric Hair of the Dog, while waving a large American flag.


Look upon our works, wannabe superpowers, and despair.
Nazareth, a Hemi, and “AMERICAN MADE” tattooed on your back. Chrysler should hire this guy as their spokesman.
As for the quality of the little bits and pieces in out-of-the-way places, all the connectors and fasteners that I could find looked to be several notches above the quality of the parts I’ve seen in Chrysler products of a few years back. It appears that the days of the sub-low-bidder vendors may be over.
There were a few mildly flaky touches, such as this Neon-style weatherstrip seam, but nothing that felt like it was about to snap off in one’s hand.
The verdict: On the one-dimensional side, well-built, engine absolutely top notch. Would make a good real-world daily driver. King of the Smoky Burnouts.

BurnoutMagazineCover 12Challenger-01 12Challenger-02 12Challenger-03 12Challenger-04 12Challenger-05 12Challenger-06 12Challenger-07 12Challenger-08 12Challenger-09 12Challenger-10 12Challenger-11 12Challenger-12 12Challenger-13 12Challenger-14 12Challenger-15 12Challenger-16 12Challenger-17 12Challenger-18 12Challenger-19 12Challenger-20 12Challenger-21 12Challenger-22 12Challenger-23 12Challenger-24 12Challenger-25 12Challenger-26 12Challenger-27 12Challenger-28 12Challenger-29 12Challenger-30 12Challenger-31 12Challenger-32 12Challenger-33 12Challenger-34 12Challenger-35 12Challenger-36 12Challenger-37 12Challenger-38 12Challenger-39 12Challenger-40 12Challenger-41 12Challenger-42 12Challenger-43 12Challenger-44 12Challenger-45 12Challenger-46 12Challenger-47 12Challenger-48 12Challenger-49 12Challenger-50 12Challenger-51 12Challenger-52 12Challenger-53 12Challenger-54 12Challenger-55 12Challenger-56 12Challenger-57 12Challenger-58 12Challenger-59 12Challenger-60 12Challenger-61 12Challenger-62 12Challenger-63 12Challenger-64 12Challenger-65 12Challenger-66 12Challenger-67 12Challenger-68 12Challenger-69 12Challenger-70 12Challenger-71 12Challenger-72 12Challenger-73 12Challenger-74 12Challenger-BurningTireClose2 12Challenger-BurningTireClose3 12Challenger-BurningTireClose 12Challenger-Top 71-Satellite Challenger-thumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/review-2012-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/feed/ 108
Trackday Diaries: OSB, ESP, SRT. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/trackday-diaries-osb-esp-srt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/trackday-diaries-osb-esp-srt/#comments Mon, 14 Jun 2010 23:10:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=358869

OSB. “Other Sports Beckon”. It’s what Skip Barber instructors reportedly used to write on the report cards of utterly feckless driving students. While the phrase may be long gone, the attitude persists among the instructing community that some people just shouldn’t be in the car. I often hear instructors at various events talking about just how horrible/dangerous/contemptible their students are. That’s not right. We are supposed to be coaching the driver to his or her best possible performance, not humiliating them by listing their flaws.

With that said, some drivers present an active danger to themselves, and to their instructors, on the racetrack. I’ve come up with a few guidelines to keep you, the reader, from becoming one of those people, should you decide to give this open-track business a whirl.

Do some reading. Everyone — and I mean everyone — who wants to set foot on a race track should read Speed Secrets by Ross Bentley. It will cost you ten bucks and possibly save your life. Read it. There will be parts about which you do not care, like the sections on passing during a race and all the parts where Ross complains about his Champ Car being a piece of junk. That’s okay. Read the whole thing. You may not understand it all. In that case, find your instructor before your first track session and ask him. Or you can contact me, personally, using the contact form at TTAC.

Practice the three phases of a corner on the street. The three phases of a corner are: brake, turn, accelerate. We don’t mix them on the racetrack unless we are working to do something very specific with the car’s balance. Practice getting all of your braking done before you turn the wheel into a corner. Don’t accelerate until your steering wheel is straightening out. In the middle of the turn, hold the throttle steady. Do it until it’s a habit. Do you want to kill yourself on a racetrack? The easiest way to do it is to steer and brake at the same time.

Learn to heel and toe, or don’t. It’s okay if you cannot heel and toe. If you cannot, we will keep you in fourth gear for the whole track. Don’t laugh. I did five full trackdays in fourth gear only when I started out. If you complain that you want to shift to “go faster”, I will explain to you that, of the forty-five seconds separating you and me around a racetrack per lap, only two of them are due to gear selection.

This is a race you cannot win. Because it isn’t a race. It’s an open lapping day. I know you will forget this. I know you want to pass people. That’s fine. If you listen to me, you will at least pass the students who ignore their instructors. Then you’ll “win”. Kind of.

Leave your friends, your significant other, and your camera at home. You cannot impress them. All street cars look slow on a racetrack. And you might kill yourself in the attempt. They can come to your first race, and you can then drive into the sand trap on Lap One because you’re so nervous about your friends being at the track.

The above is what I would tell people if they asked me about being prepared for the racetrack. However, they never do. They ask me which car they should buy/borrow/rent and bring. It doesn’t really matter. You will be slow on your first weekend, no matter if you have a Citation or a Corvette ZR1. So don’t worry about it.

That hasn’t satisfied you. You want to know what you should bring. Okay. The most important thing to do is to bring a “stock” car. Slower is better. The guy who spends all day lapping in a rented Camry finishes the day as a better driver than the one who missed two sessions fixing boost issues with his AMS Mitsubishi Evolution 1000XXX. If I could issue a car to every new trackday driver, it would probably be a four-cylinder Accord. They rarely break and you can learn a lot from the feedback provided by the controls.

I’d like you to have ESP/PSM/DSC/whatever. Some people absolutely panic and do the wrong thing on a racetrack. Normally, it’s a bad combination of brake and steering, often in the middle of a turn. ESP can sort that out most of the time. A bad driver “drives on the system”, continually overcooking into turns and brake-steering his way out with all four calipers chattering overtime from the stability system. Don’t be that guy. Use ESP as a safety net, not a crutch. Your instructor will show you how.

Some cars are exceptionally tough to learn with. My student yesterday had a Challenger SRT-8. Big, fast, two-ton cars present a lot of problems for instructors. The brakes fade without warning. The available power upsets the car and engages ESP at the slightest throttle misstep. It’s far too easy to arrive at the next corner at a deadly speed, and the student doesn’t always understand why I feel he is entering the corner too quickly.

By the end of the day, Mr. Challenger was doing just fine, but we spent two of our available four sessions fixing problems mostly brought about by the availability of 425 horsepower in the middle of a slow corner. Had he brought a Chevrolet Cobalt LS, he’d have finished the day a better driver.

I finished my day by driving the five-hundred-something miles home, arriving at 3am. In a few days I’ll be driving at a Grand-Am test day. Driving against the guys you see on Speed TV can be a bit scary. One time last year, during a Koni race, I had a GS-class Porsche run me off the end of the Climbing Esses at VIR. It was somebody I’d cheered on while watching World Challenge races. To this day, although I know I was in the right in that situation, I feel bad about it.

I thought a lot about my test day on the drive home. Long trips alone will make you think. I’m not always sure where I’m going, or why. There’s one thing I do know. For me, this is the sport that beckons.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/trackday-diaries-osb-esp-srt/feed/ 33