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. Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 Track Analysis: Challenger V6 Track Pack, HEMI Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/track-analysis-challenger-v6-track-pack-hemi-scat-pack-srt-hellcat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/track-analysis-challenger-v6-track-pack-hemi-scat-pack-srt-hellcat/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:45:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871714 Getting decent conclusions from very limited data is the sort of thing of which Nobel Prizes are made. What you’re about to read won’t be Nobel-worthy; however, I believe it will help you understand how fast the Hellcat and how it compares to both the other Challengers and the external competition. I got a total […]

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Getting decent conclusions from very limited data is the sort of thing of which Nobel Prizes are made. What you’re about to read won’t be Nobel-worthy; however, I believe it will help you understand how fast the Hellcat and how it compares to both the other Challengers and the external competition.

I got a total of six flying laps at PIR, a place to which I’d never been, in three different cars. I had traffic in my face for all but two of those laps, and I had no truly clear laps in the Hellcat. But let’s start with the basics. I drove these three cars in this order:

Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack 6MT: lap time of 1:38.9 with a top speed of 122mph on the back straight.
Challenger V6 Super Track Pack 8AT: lap time of 1:38.3 with a top speed of 112.5mph on the back straight.
Challenger SRT Hellcat 6MT: lap time of 1:33.7 with a top speed of 136mph on the back straight.

So let’s start by eliminating some of the variables. The only clean lap I got in the Scat Pack was my first-ever lap of PIR. There’s no way I was going to turn a brilliant lap time first time out. Analysis shows I was 6mph slower going into the turn before the long straight than I was in the average of the other cars. My line in the V6 which I drove afterwards was better. After looking at the data and assuming that the Scat Pack can turn about as well as the V6, I’ve guesstimated a 1:36 at 127mph for the Scat Pack.

How did other people do: This video shows SRT’s Vehicle Dynamics Engineer Marco Diniz de Oliveira running a 1:33.0 with the same spec car that I drove. Compared to my videotaped 1:33.7 lap you can see that he didn’t have to lift for a frightened journo like I did on the front straight, and he also didn’t goatfuck the chicane the way I did. (My excuse: I was so annoyed at being balked that I held throttle too long.) I’m reasonably confident that I got about as much out of the Hellcat as I was going to in two laps. Given ten more laps, I think a 1:31.5 was well within reach. Keeping pinned on the straight is worth half a second, doing the chicane right is worth a second and a half, and I could have shortened the braking zone in back.

Another journalist whom I won’t name was kind enough to let me “run data” with them in the V6 Challenger that I drove. He turned a 1:58.3 with a top speed of 105.5mph on the back straight. That two-minute-ish lap time is approximately representative of what most people were doing out there and it’s why I kept running into traffic.

So those are the caveats. Now let’s look at some stats.

First off, acceleration. The corner before the back straight shows the Hellcat with a low speed of 43.5mph against 41.7mph for the V6. That’s the extra tire you get with the Hellcat which is only partially canceled out by the weight of the engine. As we pass the access road on the back straight, the V6 has accelerated to 87mph and the ScatPack to a corrected 93mph. How fast is the Hellcat going? Survey says: 102mph. That is brutal acceleration. More impressively, the gap widens as speeds increase. Supercharged cars often feel breathless at the top of the rev range because they are optimized to push air at low speeds and unlike turbo-supercharged (to use the old phrase) cars there’s no compound effect as the exhaust gases push the turbo faster. As an example, when I drove the GT500 at VIR I found myself dueling a Porsche GT2 on the back straight. The Shelby had legs on the GT500 in the first half of VIR’s long stretch but the GT2 picked up as speeds increased and it wasn’t all due to frontal area.

Now for braking. A similar push of the brake pedal produced a .78g retarding force in the V6, a .86g one in the four-piston Brembo Scat Pack, and .98g in the Hellcat. These numbers have to be understood in context, not as absolutes, because of the way my phone was mounted in the car and the general issues with Android accelerometers. Only the V6 ever felt underbraked in these short lap situations; it doesn’t have enough thermal capacity as supplied for two hard laps. The others were fine, with the Hellcat having a considerable edge in feel and response. My experience with the Z/28 at Thermal Club for last month’s Road&Track showed me that it’s possible to put enough brake on a ponycar, but you have to be willing to spend a LOT of money on it. As expensive as the Brembo system on the Hellcat must be, it ain’t carbon ceramic and when you’re slowing two tons down from a considerable velocity it’s worth getting the right material for the job.

v6lap

This is the V6 lap.

hellcatlap

This is the Hellcat lap.

Cornering isn’t exactly an open and shut case, which is why the V6 might be a satisfying track car if you could upgrade the brakes a bit via pads and fluid. Data for all three cars shows that they are capable of about the same max cornering g and speed, with a slight edge going to the Hellcat in pretty much all the corners. What the data can’t show you is that the Hellcat feels like it’s from a different class with regards to body roll control and suspension dynamics. Given enough time on a racetrack, you’d feel comfortable pushing the Hellcat harder in quick transitions and in long high-g turns. There’s a superiority of feedback that is no doubt due to better tires and higher-quality suspension. With that said, however, this is primarily a laws-of-physics thing. Big heavy cars are never eager to change direction. Unsurprisingly, the V6 is best in transitions and the Scat Pack has the lowest cornering speeds.

As I stated earlier today, you really do get your money’s worth with the Hellcat’s engine and brake upgrades. It’s also a solid handler for its size and class. Let’s do some subjective rankings as far as track-fitness goes, based on things I’ve driven recently:

Viper ACR (previous gen)
Viper TA (current gen)
Mercedes AMG SLS Black Series
C7 Corvette Z51
C6 Corvette Z06
C6 Corvette Z51
Camaro Z/28
Boss 302-LS
Boss 302
Jack’s raggedy old 2004 Boxster S with 48,000 miles
GT500 (not counting the brakes)
Hellcat
The old SRT8 392
Camaro SS
Mustang 5.0 Track Pack
Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack
Mustang V6 Track Pack
Challenger V6 Track Pack
Challenger R/T 5.7 Track Pack

The higher you go up that list, the more comfortable the car feels on track, but at a cost.

I wish I’d had time to drive the standard SRT8, which has 485hp now and offers the big brakes as an option. I believe that car would feel most “balanced” since you wouldn’t be arriving at corners as quickly and therefore the brakes would hold up even better and it would be easier to select the absolutely perfect corner speed — but I’d choose to spend my own money on the Hellcat, plain and simple. There are no downsides. You can pretty much instantly turn it into an SRT8 6.4L just by laying off the throttle a bit on the long straights.

At this point I normally like to talk about what the cars do when they are “out of shape” on track. The truth is that with this little time on an unfamiliar course I didn’t spend too much effort getting the Challengers past their envelope of tire grip. I can say that the Hellcat and Scat Pack can be reliably turned on the throttle and that no Challenger has ever had bad habits on track with regards to overly quick responses in extreme handling situations. If you’re good to the Challenger, it will be good to you. If you’re bad to it, you will still have plenty of time to get things right.

Ponycars are about compromise. They’re about what you’re willing to give up in order to have the admittedly minimal but occasionally mandatory backseat. With the Hellcat, the answer is simple: you’re giving up Mustang-style direction changes but gaining more power at each trim and spec level than the not-so-small Ford can offer. It would be frankly absurd to buy a Hellcat if you primarily planned on using it at the track. But for the low percentage of owners who will try it there, their experience will be positive — even if their tire bills won’t.

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Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT “Hellcat” 6MT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-6mt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-6mt/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:21:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870522 To some degree, it’s about the number, right? Seven hundred and seven. The Dodge people certainly made the point again and again about how the Hellcat stacks up to everything from the Z06 to the Murcielago. Mine’s bigger than yours. And that other number — 10.9 seconds with drag radials and 11.2 without. That actually […]

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To some degree, it’s about the number, right? Seven hundred and seven. The Dodge people certainly made the point again and again about how the Hellcat stacks up to everything from the Z06 to the Murcielago. Mine’s bigger than yours. And that other number — 10.9 seconds with drag radials and 11.2 without. That actually isn’t such a big deal; there are people out there who have put stock C6 Z06es with draggies into the tens. Still, they closed the freaking road course after just ninety minutes so the journalists could line up and try their hand at quarter-miles. I didn’t bother to do that. Nor did I get any street time in the Hellcat. What I got was this: four laps, none of them unimpeded. When you come back in the afternoon, I’ll tell you what my TrackMaster data showed about the Hellcat vis-a-vis the 6.4L. But for now let’s talk about what the Hellcat is and what it does.

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine

Here’s how you make a Hellcat: Start with the 2015 Challenger and it’s improved interior. Add Hellcat-specific visual cues, most of them related to increasing the amount of air coming through the nose. Then drop the bore size a bit, redo the motor with “91 percent new” engineering and parts, and supercharge the hell out of the cat.

Here’s the press release, there’s no sense in rewriting it:

The 2,380cc/rev blower features integral charge coolers and an integrated electronic bypass valve to
regulate boost pressure to a maximum of 80 kPa (11.6 psi). Its twin-screw rotors are specially coated
with:

• a proprietary formula of polyimide and other resins
• nanometer-sized, wear-resistant particles
• solid lubricants, such as PTFE (Teflon)

The coating accommodates tighter tolerances between the rotors. This reduces internal air leakage and
helps deliver improved compressor performance and higher efficiencies. The coating not only can
withstand the temperatures generated by compression, it provides a superior corrosion resistance.
The new supercharged V-8, sealed for life with premium synthetic oil, boasts a drive ratio of 2.36:1 and
a maximum speed of 14,600 rpm. The drive system’s one-way clutch de-coupler improves refinement,
while allowing for precisely the kind of auditory feedback SRT customers find alluring.
The supercharger gulps air through an Air Catcher inlet port, which replaces the driver’s-side inboard
marker light and connects to a patented twin-inlet, eight-liter air box. The blower further benefits from a
92-mm throttle body – the largest ever used in a Chrysler Group vehicle.
The fuel system keeps pace with an in-tank pump that accommodates variable pressures, half-inch fuel
lines and eight injectors each capable of delivering a flow rate of 600cc/min – enough to drain the fuel
tank in approximately 13 minutes at full power.

The transmissions were re-engineered; the eight-speed automatic has bigger clutches and more gear surface throughout, allowing it to bang out 120-millisecond shifts that, on the drag strip, sound close to dual-clutch. The Tremec TR6060 has a bigger clutch, a relatively light flywheel, and stronger gears. I believe, although I cannot say for sure, that this transmission, like the Hellcat’s HEMI, is made in Mexico.

To stop the car, there’s a 15.4-inch rotor Brembo brake package with 20×9.5 inch wheels. It would appear that there are now three Brembo brake packages on these cars: the four-piston setup on the Scat Pack 6.4L with Super Track Pack, the six-piston SRT8 14.2-inch package, and this high-power six-piston setup which is optional on the SRT8 and standard on the Hellcat.

Other fun features: an available flat-black hood, a removable lower grille for track use, (“Seven screws,” we were told, “it will take owners five minutes”) deliberately plain “SRT” badging, and a track key/valet key setup that also features a user-selectable “valet PIN” to limit the car to 4000rpm. A sunroof is optional, as are a couple of different color-coordinated seat packages.

It’s good value for money; the Scat Pack with a few options runs $46k so this Hellcat at $59,995 feels like a screaming bargain. And you’re almost certain to get your money back when you go to sell, assuming you don’t take too much of a beating at the hands of your dealer.

Okay. It’s late at night and you want to know how it drives. I’ll put video up later on today, but the short version is this: It is to the GT500 as the old SRT8 was to the Boss 302. The clutch is low effort, as is the shifting. The thrust is plainly massive but there’s enough tire under it to make it controllable on a racetrack. It’s very quick, but it doesn’t feel noticeably quicker than a GT500. There’s a certain viciousness you get with a ZR1 or GT500 that is blunted by the Chally’s weight here. Big motor, pushing a big car, and as a result things feel under control. It never occurred to me not to give it full throttle in a straight line on an eighty-degree Portland day. Change this to a Kentucky backroad with accumulated oil and grit, and drop the temperature to fifty, and we’ll talk about it again.

All the Challenger SRT8 virtues survive intact to the Hellcat. It really is just an SRT8 plus power. That’s what you really need to know about it. It’s not compromised or changed in any significant manner. It’s just faster, and unlike the naturally aspirated 6.4L it’s hellaciously strong everywhere, not just when the tach sweeps past four. At 1200rpm it has as much torque as the old SRT8 did at peak. So yeah — fast, effortlessly so, like a literbike.

But it also feels long-legged through the gears in a way that the GT500 doesn’t. My impression, which I’d need to check through a bunch of a documentation to confirm, is that it’s geared longer than the Shelby or the Boss or the Z/28. There’s more room to run in each gear, which given the fact that the Ford 5.4L revs higher than this 6.2L means that it’s geared higher.

On the track, the brakes and tires proved sufficient to the task, as I’ll explain later today with numbers. Unlike the Shelby, it’s far from underbraked, for a ponycar. Don’t expect Corvette-level braking performance here. There ain’t a disc brake big enough for that unless it’s on a triple-seven Boeing. This is a big car with good solid damping and big brakes, but it’s not a Corvette.

Neither is it a Z/28, not that you expected it. The Z/28 has better brakes and a lot more tire compound and it’s a bit smaller. I wouldn’t expect the Hellcat to see the nose of a Z/28 on a track, unless you’re on Road America and it’s the first lap.

I realize it’s a disappointment to say that the Hellcat is merely a faster SRT8, but that’s a hell of an accomplishment. Power like this has never been this accessible and the fact that it’s delivered in this big, comfy package is a technical knockout. You literally give up nothing by taking the high-power option, except perhaps your home equity. The Hellcat has no drawbacks except fuel economy and price. It is fully, thoroughly, completely recommended to anyone who wants a faster Challenger. Drivers who want the on-track aplomb of a Mustang or Camaro need not apply.

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Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Pricing Leaked – $60k For 707 Horsepower http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-pricing-leaked-60k-for-707-horsepower/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-pricing-leaked-60k-for-707-horsepower/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 14:25:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866906 If you squint really hard, you can almost make out the $59,900 figure next to the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat’s 707 horsepower figure. Reddit users managed to save this image, which was apparently removed from AutoSpies.com. Our man Jack Baruth is en route to Portland to test drive the Hellcat, along with the rest of […]

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If you squint really hard, you can almost make out the $59,900 figure next to the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat’s 707 horsepower figure.

Reddit users managed to save this image, which was apparently removed from AutoSpies.com. Our man Jack Baruth is en route to Portland to test drive the Hellcat, along with the rest of the 2015 Challenger lineup.

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Cain’s Segments, July 2014: Muscle Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/cains-segments-july-2014-muscle-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/cains-segments-july-2014-muscle-cars/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:31:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865873 It feels like we’ve known a lot about the 2015 Ford Mustang for years. There have been stories on its alleged weight gain, then stories that suggested the gain wasn’t nearly so bad. Its independent rear suspension makes the idea of serving global markets so much more tenable. Its turbocharged four-cylinder should, on paper, offer […]

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TTAC_Muscle-Car-sales-chart-June-2014

It feels like we’ve known a lot about the 2015 Ford Mustang for years. There have been stories on its alleged weight gain, then stories that suggested the gain wasn’t nearly so bad. Its independent rear suspension makes the idea of serving global markets so much more tenable. Its turbocharged four-cylinder should, on paper, offer a new blend of performance and efficiency.

But it’s not here, and it won’t be sitting at the forefront of dealer lots (alongside The Used Car Deal Of The Day! Call Tom @ 555-4321! and its accompanying neon sign) for a few months yet.

It was therefore not surprising to see that Mustang sales in the United States dropped sharply in June 2014, even though sales of the venerable Ford had reported improved sales on a year-over-year basis in January, February, March, and May of this year. Could Ford really maintain a high level of interest in a departing pony car?

In a word, no. And yet, with 7631 sales in the sixth month of 2014, one could argue that Ford did, in fact, maintain a high level of interest in the Mustang, as they always do. Naturally, deals on an outgoing car improve as it ages. Some who perhaps thought they may want to wait for the new car have decided they prefer the current car. But 7600 units for a relatively impractical rear-wheel-drive muscle car, is actually a very high figure, if not for the Mustang itself than for cars which compete in a performance-oriented corner of the market.

Volkswagen announced a terrific GTI sales month: 1927 were sold. Subaru sold 2065 copies of their WRX and STi. Jaguar sold 428 F-Types. Aside from the Countryman and Paceman, Mini sold just 3238 cars in June.

The Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and even the Dodge Challenger aren’t low-volume cars. They attract lifestyle buyers – whoever they are, whatever it is they do – as well as performance car buyers. And they most certainly attract loyalists, the kind of buyers who, while acknowledging that these three cars are direct competitors, wouldn’t actually cross-shop.

After consecutive years with declining sales in 2012 and 2013, Camaro sales are up by 4360 units through the first half of 2014. If this sales pace holds, General Motors could see Camaro volume rise to a 2011-besting level, the highest since the nameplate returned in 2009. In this three-car category, the Camaro’s market share has risen from 36.7% during the first half of 2013 to 39.8% so far this year.

Since the Dodge Challenger nameplate returned in 2008, sales have always risen, doubling between 2009 and 2013, when 51,462 were sold. That streak is in danger in 2014: could the improved 2015 Challenger arrive in time for the year end results to improve from the current pace which would see fewer than 46,000 sold?

Even with its decreased volume and its third-place status in the category, the Challenger highlights the high-volume nature of this trio. FCA has sold more Challengers than Chrysler 300s this year; more Challengers than total Fiats.

The Viper, on the other hand, has clearly struggled in its latest form. June volume slid 63% to just 36 units. As for the Chevrolet Corvette, sales are booming, with 2723 sold in June and 17,744 in the first half, making it more popular than the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Jaguar F-Type, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Porsche Boxster, Porsche Cayman, and Porsche 911 combined.

Auto
June
2014
June
2013
%
Change
6 mos.
2014
6 mos.
2013
%
Change
Chevrolet Camaro
7721 7236 +6.7% 46,672 42,312 +10.3%
Dodge Challenger
4377 5101 -14.2% 26,281 29,982 -12.3%
Ford Mustang
7631 9243 -17.4% 44,231 43,111 +2.6%
Total
19,729
21,580 -8.6% 117,184 115,405 +1.5%

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You Owe Me A 10-Second Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/you-owe-me-a-10-second-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/you-owe-me-a-10-second-car/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 18:23:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863729   We try not to blindly re-post content created by OEM PR teams, but Dodge has thrown down the gauntlet here. According to them, the all-new Challenger SRT Hellcat will knock off a 10-second quarter mile time, and we’re not about to let that claim slide. Our own EIC Jack Baruth will be off next […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

 

We try not to blindly re-post content created by OEM PR teams, but Dodge has thrown down the gauntlet here.

According to them, the all-new Challenger SRT Hellcat will knock off a 10-second quarter mile time, and we’re not about to let that claim slide. Our own EIC Jack Baruth will be off next week to test out those claims, on a drag strip at the 2015 Challenger launch event. Let’s see what JB is capable of pulling off both there and the road course. Anyone care to take bets?

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Capsule Review: Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi Shaker http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-dodge-challenger-hemi-rt-shaker/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-dodge-challenger-hemi-rt-shaker/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848114   Among the TTAC staff, the consensus is clear: the Ford Mustang is the top choice in the pony car segment. For cheap thrills, the Mustang V6 with the Performance Package is the most comprehensive “performance per dollar” option on the market. The 5.0, Boss 302 and Shelby GT500 represent increasing levels of performance that […]

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ExteriorFront1

 

Among the TTAC staff, the consensus is clear: the Ford Mustang is the top choice in the pony car segment. For cheap thrills, the Mustang V6 with the Performance Package is the most comprehensive “performance per dollar” option on the market. The 5.0, Boss 302 and Shelby GT500 represent increasing levels of performance that rival the best of the sports car world, at prices accessible to the common (or, slightly better off) consumer. The Camaro is not as highly regarded, but of course, what would this site be without a dissenting voice.

So what about the Dodge Challenger?

Enigne1

Within days of picking up the model you see above (a Challenger R/T “Shaker”, a special edition with some extra Mopar goodies, the “Shaker” hood, a 5.7L Hemi and a 6-speed manual transmission), TTAC was invited to test out the heavily revised 2015 Challenger, including the highly anticipated Hellcat model. The Shaker fell under my jurisdiction, but with the Hellcat being introduced at a race track, those duties were assigned to our EIC pro tem. Frankly, that opportunity would be wasted on anybody else.

ExteriorBack2

So what of the soon-to-be-obsolete 2014 Challenger? My only experience has been with an SRT8 model, equipped with the venerable 5-speed automatic. The 2015 model will get, among other upgrades, the wonderful new ZF 8-speed, as well as chassi tweaks and an all-new UConnect system. Chrysler PR cautioned not to get my hopes up for the Shaker, suggested it was less “track-focused” than the SRT model. I held out hope that it would be, at the very least, a loud, obnoxious, attention-getting special edition.

Enigne2

I was in for a disappointment. The “Competition Orange” (not Dodge’s name for the color, but one that’s been ingrained due to repeated viewings of Boogie Nights) Challenger is visually loud, with its orange paint, black hood scoop and alloy wheels. But the 5.7L Hemi could emit little more than a muted bellow. Having heard countless uncorked 5.7L engines in all manner of Rams, 300c’s and Charger R/Ts, I know that the standard Chrysler V8 has aural merit, even if it’s not as glorious as the big 6.1L and 6.4L SRT V8s. If you opt for one of these, make sure you get a Mopar exhaust system baked into the financing deal. It deserves no less.

Interior1

On the other hand, the Tremec 6-speed was a pleasant surprise, with tight gates, short throws and a crisp action. The clutch was easy to modulate, and the V8’s torque made it nearly impossible to stall, even with the laziest applications of both clutch and throttle. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that the transmission is not the ideal choice for the Challenger.

ExteriorBack1

No doubt, this is heresy for most readers, but hear me out. The Challenger is a big car. So are the Mustang and the Camaro, but the Mustang manages to disguise its bulk with a modern, high hood and a tall beltline, while the Camaro lets you forget it because you are too busy cursing how dreadful the overall package is.

ExteriorFront8

The Challenger is a different beast. The hood is low and long, the beltline is low, the doors are large and forward visibility is excellent. You feel like you’re sitting in a car from a different era, a sensation that is congruent with the car’s styling, which is utterly faithful to the 1970’s version. When piloting something with such immense stature, I tend to prefer a more relaxed driving experience. The 6-speed manual, as nice as it is, feels out of place in a car like this. Rowing gears and pushing clutch pedals doesn’t quite fit with the “one hand on the wheel, one hand resting on the door sill” nature of this car, but that’s just me. Plenty of people have bought large cars with manual gearboxes, otherwise BMW wouldn’t have offered the E38 740iL with a manual, right?

Interior2

The generous proportions carry over to the interior too. The  cabin feels large and airy, with lots of room for two up front to lean back, stretch their legs and enjoy the effortless torque of the V8. The long wheelbase and long travel suspension allow for serene highway cruising while the Hemi spins at less than 2,000 RPM in 6th gear, even at 75 mph. Handling is not its strongest suit. You can take corners in aggressive manner, but the Challenger R/T is clearly happier in a straight line, letting you enjoy the view out front, while epoch appropriate music belts out of the stereo (Live at Filmore East is absolutely glorious on this stereo).

Interior4

The 2015 model will get the updated UConnect system with the 8.4 inch touch screen, but even the “old” system is pretty damn good, even if the UI is a bit dated. The trunk is enormous for a two door car .A weekend roadtrip for two allowed for one full-size suitcase and one overnight bag with plenty of room to spare. Small wonder that they are so popular with rental fleets.

ExteriorFront9

Aesthetically, the Challenger isn’t a pastiche of retro cues like the other two cars. But it’s not a pony car like the old Challenger. With a 116 inch wheelbase, it’s a full six inches longer than the original Challenger, and nearly 10 inches longer than the Mustang. Even though it looks like a very faithful modern iteration of an old pony car, I’d argue that it’s more of a modern version of the personal luxury coupe.

HemiBadge1

Rather than emphasize outright performance, the Challenger emphasizes style, comfort and cross-country pace rather than road course times or skipad numbers like the hotter Mustangs and Camaros do in their marketing messages. Even the Hellcat’s press photos show emphasize drag strip runs and smoky burnouts over images of Laguna Seca and the Nurburgring.

ExteriorBack5

And for me, that’s just fine. Not every American car needs to bring the fight to the Europeans. Globalization and changing tastes are forcing American cars to become globalized to the point where body-on-frame trucks are the last truly American vehicles. It’s very likely that the next Camaro will follow the Mustang in adapting for European tastes. Chrysler took the other route, using old Mercedes bones to create something truly American: a big, no-excuses coupe with big V6 and V8 powertrains and the kind of styling that has no hope of meeting European safety and fuel economy standards.

Bring on the Hellcat.

Enigne1 Enigne2 ExteriorBack1 ExteriorBack2 ExteriorBack3 ExteriorBack4 ExteriorBack5 ExteriorBack6 ExteriorFront1 ExteriorFront2 ExteriorFront3 ExteriorFront4 ExteriorFront5 ExteriorFront6 ExteriorFront7 ExteriorFront8 ExteriorFront9 HemiBadge1 Interior1 Interior2 Interior3 Interior4

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Ur-Turn: An Ode To The Hellcat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/ur-turn-an-ode-to-the-hellcat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/ur-turn-an-ode-to-the-hellcat/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 16:24:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828258 TTAC reader and Charger R/t owner Rich Murdocco pays tribute to the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. I’d say 6.2 liters is plenty of engine. Too much, in fact, especially if you’re trying to save the planet one bike lane at a time. It’s simply too much engine that consumes too many gallons of gasoline, which […]

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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Supercharged

TTAC reader and Charger R/t owner Rich Murdocco pays tribute to the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

I’d say 6.2 liters is plenty of engine. Too much, in fact, especially if you’re trying to save the planet one bike lane at a time. It’s simply too much engine that consumes too many gallons of gasoline, which causes all sorts of problems down the road. Every time this 6.2-liter behemoth starts, I hope the driver, who is probably some man-child who never grew up, thinks of the plight of the polar bears. Shame on Fiat, the spunky Italian auto giant, who bought Chrysler, for creating this anachronism. Those peppery Italians have some nerve.

And then they added a supercharger.

The name of this testament to outdated American stubbornness? The Hellcat. This monster is named after the Grumman Hellcat, the naval fighter plane that helped secure America’s air superiority in the Pacific Theater during World War II. And what a name it is.

Husband: Honey, let’s go to the theater. I hear that “Waiting for Godot” is divine.

Wife: Oh darling, once I am done increasing our portfolio’s yield I’d be happy to.

Husband: Shall we take… the Hellcat?

Cue the wailing guitar solos and pyro, as every window in their mansion shatters at mere mention of the beast’s name.

That burble at start up; it stirs the soul. Listen, and picture volcanoes erupting, the earth quaking, and lightning piercing the blackest of skies.

What was once the realm of legends is now, somewhat approachable to us common men and women. For about $55,000, us mere mortals can pilot these rocket-sleds to oblivion. What an incredible time to be an auto enthusiast.

The Hellcat will compete in the Parthenon with a bevy of epic creatures – the Mustang, with Shelby’s coiled Cobra emblazoned on it, the Chevrolet ZL1. Each with enough horses in their stables combined to supply a glue factory for a decade. The bible got it wrong: There aren’t four horsemen to signal the end of times, but rather, the end will be brought by these three American-made chariots that run on the fossilized remains of our ancestors. How metal.

For perspective, in the 1990s, a McLaren F1, a million-dollar supercar had 627 horsepower. That power is now in a Dodge, the company that birthed the Neon. Incredible.

The Hellcat – what a name. One can imagine how the fine folks at Dodge came up with it. What creature can beat a Cobra? A panther? A mountain lion? Nay, only a hellcat. For less than the price of a BMW M3 or a Corvette, you can drive a leather-clad rocket that eats both tires and souls.

Baby boomers pine for the muscle-car era of the 1970s. In the age when a basic Camry can outrun Magnum PI’s Ferrari, when a mere Dodge can run with the best of them, as it’s been said before, we’re truly living in an automotive renaissance. Enjoy it my friends.

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Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat: Meet America’s Next Top Muscle Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-meet-americas-next-top-muscle-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-meet-americas-next-top-muscle-car/#comments Tue, 20 May 2014 14:43:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826794 Mopar fans, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Dodge has officially announced the 6.2L Supercharged SRT Hellcat Challenger with “more than 600 horsepower”. Now that the Shelby GT500 is gone, this is officially America’s most powerful muscle car.  While Dodge announced a whole new Challenger lineup at this year’s New York Auto Show, […]

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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Supercharged

Mopar fans, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Dodge has officially announced the 6.2L Supercharged SRT Hellcat Challenger with “more than 600 horsepower”. Now that the Shelby GT500 is gone, this is officially America’s most powerful muscle car.

 While Dodge announced a whole new Challenger lineup at this year’s New York Auto Show, the Hellcat was notably absent – perhaps due to the reorganization of FCA’s brands, and the suspicion surrounding the Hellcat’s place in either the SRT or Dodge brand.

But now that SRT is no longer a standalone brand, the Hellcat remains a dodge, and the 6.4L Supercharged engine will make its way into other SRT vehicles. The Challenger Hellcat will get a choice of either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic, and buyers will get two key fobs. A red one unlocks full power, while a black one limits the engine’s power, while also allowing for a valet mode to disable launch control, lock out first gear and impose a lower redline.

hellcatinterior hellcat1 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Supercharged

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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   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 […]

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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

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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 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 – […]

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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%

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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 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 […]

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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.

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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 […]

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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

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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 […]

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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.

 

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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 […]

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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.

 

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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 […]

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“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.

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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 […]

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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.

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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 […]

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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.

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