By on January 19, 2009

The hand held radio crackled, “Pace car, flag’s on the white RX-7. Get in front of him.” I was at the first ever 24 Hours of LeMons race to be held in Kershaw, South Carolina. I was behind the wheel of a Vitamin C Dodge Challenger SRT8 with a 6.1-liter Hemi good for 425 hp. We were using it to pace the race. My job was to get in front of a 1981 Mazda RX-7 running under yellow. No problem. 370 cubic inches of American muscle against a wretched 26-year-old rotary? I was about to be the Godzilla to his Japan. Hell, I’d even light it up a bit– give the crowd something to cheer about. Yeah right. I could barely get in front of the Mazda, let alone woo the teeming masses.

Grossly obese and saddled with perhaps the worst automatic transmission in recent memory, the piggish SRT8 struggled to get in front of a $500 beater. Sadly (for the Dodge) the road wasn’t perfectly straight and the acceleration featured more bog than a swamp. Forget about smoking the tires; I could barely keep the beast from sailing off into the mud. I was stunned; horrified, too. Really? This is the car everyone was making such a fuss over? Long story short, the emperor was quite naked. And fat.

Look at the numbers for a moment. You have the aforementioned 425 horses along with 420 lb-ft of twist. Huge power, on paper. Yet a 0 – 60 time of just 5.4 seconds. And a price tag of $41,045. Compare this to the Ford Bullitt, which stickers for $10k less, produces “only” 315 hp/325 torques yet can hit 60 mph in 5 seconds flat. I know (trust me, I know) that there’s more to a car than it’s zero times. But these are straight up muscle cars. There’s not really much more! I just told you what happened when you turn the wheel (numbest steering ever). One more number to chew: 4,170 pounds. No, really — that’s what this blob weighs.

I won’t even mention the Chrysler-grade interior. Instead, let’s talk exterior. Or rather, the part of the Challenger that causes so many people to be so forgiving of the car’s multiple weak (and fat) spots. Not me. I’m just not into fraud, and the Challenger — even gussied up in SRT8 trim — is a phony. A fake. It looks like the car Kowalski ran flat out from Denver to (almost) San Francisco. But it isn’t, by any stretch.

First of all, unlike the real Challenger which was smaller than the Charger, this imposter is just as big as its stable mates. Making the appeal akin to those who bought PT Cruisers because they looked like old hot rods. Ridiculous, by all accounts. There’s been some grumbling that the new for 2009 six-speed manual redeems the SRT8. I guess I’ll have to see for myself, but I’m neither holding my breath or, frankly, even thinking about it. For the record, two stars.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

73 Comments on “Review: 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Take Two...”

  • avatar

    i do like the way it looks in pictures – in person its way too big, looks all puffed like a bad night on ‘roids.

    I expect I could have more fun in a base VW Polo.

  • avatar

    Thank you Jonny!
    One of my colleagues got one, and for the life of me, I couldn’t understand what was to like in that car. Even TTAC had 2 4-star reviews for various versions, and the 5.7 in which I rode was fat-looking, wore its love handles all over the place in curves, was ugly inside, and the transmission seemed both slow and jerky. I couldn’t comment on the steering, since said colleague was far too proud of his new car to let anyone else drive it, but it sure couldn’t turn for crap.

    And most of my friends predicted it would be a home run, slobbering all over its pudginess. Right… at least the Mustang (and hopefully the Camaro) is done right, and feels tight enough for its price.

  • avatar

    The steering and transmission were both gifts from Daimler, and Chrysler even got to keep them after the divorce. Amazingly enough, the steering system fitted to the SRTs (and cars with the R/T package) is actually an upgrade over the standard unit. Which is even more numb. So this system isn’t the most numb, just close.

    The rear seat is roomier in this car than in the Mustang, and especially than in the Camaro (where even at 5-9 I can’t fit). You don’t get many points for a roomy rear seat in this segment, though.

    During media days at NAIAS I told every manufacturer who cared to listen (and a few who did not) that the largest unfilled hole in the market is a 3,000-pound RWD compact sedan with a base price in the mid-twenties. (I’d like the same with a stylish hatch myself.)

    In terms of reliability the big Chrysler cars have been managing an average rating. Which is better than most more recent Chrysler products.

  • avatar

    The Dodge Challenger is best left where it can succeed: teenagers’ wall posters and showroom pedestals.

    Getting in it, let alone driving it, sucks every ounce of excitement right out.

    Can’t wait to see the inevitable Camaro/Challenger head-to-head tests. I’m guessing quite one-sided.

  • avatar

    Chrysler doesn’t have the engineering to match their lightweight competition. Like the M5. Err, how about the CTS-V? Scratch that, the aluminum-bodied S8! Uh, what about…

  • avatar

    Its a cool yacht, that’s about it. Driving it on a tight, LeMon-worthy road course is like telling Sinatra to sing with Britney. (ok, that’s a little mean but you see my point)

    Now that the initial demand (and its relative newness) has wore off, I wonder who will be buying these. I think this is the 1978 Corvette Silver Anniversary/Indy 500 Pace Car for the coming decade. There will be a lot of low mile originals sitting around for years and very few buyers.

  • avatar

    Chrysler doesn’t have the engineering to match their lightweight competition. Like the M5. Err, how about the CTS-V? Scratch that, the aluminum-bodied S8! Uh, what about…

    The difference between those cars and the Challenger is that they are designed by people who are competent enough to take a heavy car and still make it handle great.

  • avatar

    i do like the way it looks in pictures – in person its way too big, looks all puffed like a bad night on ‘roids.

    It looks like that in photos, too. The problem is twofold: the fat-guy-on-tiptoes imitation retro stance, and those ridiculous hips. The Camaro has a bit of it, too, though not as much.

    I like the current (previous?) Mustang. It has retro cues without actually being a throwback: the proportions are timeless instead of anachronistic. The front overhang is short, the sheetmetal clean, the wheel gap and stance befit a modern car. The Mini is similar: retro design cues, modern shape.

    The Challenger uses retro cues (the hips, the stance, the overhang) that existed on old cars because of design limitations (bias-ply tires, crude mechanicals and suspension) and don’t need to exist today. And they look silly for it, much like the driver of New Beetle has to contend with that car’s ridiculous seating position, a position that exists to ape the look of a rear-drive, rear-engine car on a front-drive, front-engine platform.

    This is a stupid car. Most of all, it pisses me off that it replaced the Magnum, which may have sold poorly, but at least wasn’t a joke.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Jonny, ya know I love ya (in that purely friendship type of sense). But I can’t see the scenario you mentioned playing out.

    A base RX-7 will typically have about a quarter of the horsepower of the Challenger (about 105hp depending on who you believe). 0-60 for those is about 9 to 10 seconds.

    If you move it up to an SE, you cut it down to about an 8 – 9 second without serious mods. Now maybe this model was juiced up. But at 0-60 in 5.4, the Challenger should have caught up to the RX-7 like it was standing still. That is unless you didn’t put your foot all the way down and had to take a few curves at an unexpected apex.

    As you’re right to point out, the Challenger is not our type of sports car. It primarily appeals to folks who are in their late-40’s and beyond who have a strong domestic orientation in the first place. I can see a Dodge Truck enthusiast or old muscle car aficionado buying one of these.

    Now cut a thousand pounds off of it, throw in AWD, and have the car magically morph into a Celica All-Trac turbo. Now we would have something serious for the TTAC folk. This is just a Grand Touring vehicle for those who are interested in the look, the Hemi, and the exhaust note. Heck it IS an automatic with a plain jane interior and with it’s dimensions, you’re really looking at a car that’s designed to run on highways regardless of the smoke and mirror’s behind Dodge’s curtain.

    I could see this car as a half-assed competitor to a base Vette, the Mustang Bullitt, maybe even a G8 fully loaded. The Challenger will find it’s audience for perhaps a year, and then be quickly forgotten once the Camaro and next gen Mustang come into being.

    Like Chrysler, it’s days are seriously numbered.

  • avatar

    If the SRT8 interior is in any way related to the base car, I would pass on that alone. When is Chrysler going to figure out how to do a decent interior. Why can VW put an interior in a base Rabbit at 15k that puts any Chrysler built at any price to shame in terms of fit and finish?

  • avatar

    Steven Lang: Everyone cheats at LeMons, the RX-7 is pretty far from a stock car, and the Dodge Challenger isn’t made for the (JL, correct me if I’m wrong) tight roadcourses designed to keep people from dying in $500 clunkers.

    Hell, the Challenger wasn’t designed for most any roadcourse, no matter how many straights they give ya. Even the 6-speed model isn’t gonna make any friends.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Sajeev and Steven: Imagine an RX-7 with 1,000 pounds chopped out of it.

    And as I wasn’t launching the Challenger in a straight line, it just bogged.

  • avatar

    Chrysler has always been a laggard when it comes to their transmissions. Behind anything with a lot of torque the 42RLE and 545RFE is a turd. The torque converter is the weakest link.

    When the one in my Jeep goes it will be replaced with a good 6 speed manual.

  • avatar

    I will know of a used ’08 Mustang Bullitt available for about half the price. The Bullitt sounds like the better choice.

    The SRT8 (previously misidentified by me as an R/T – it would help if they washed it) at the dealership near me appears to be going nowhere fast.

    It would be funny if this flops, the Camaro never materializes and the Mustang reemerges as the ‘the one’.

  • avatar

    Thanks Jonny – while most if the motoring press was in love with the retro looks of the Challenger, everyone I know who has driven one was disappointed and your review has just confirmed that.

    Re: the RX-7 story, I totally believe it – the 81′ RX-7 can be turned into a respectable track weapon with very few mods.

  • avatar

    So after this totally hawt review, how many of you are amped up to use the “get dealer-free purchasing now” button?

  • avatar

    The only way the Challenger would work is for a major tuning company to come in and rebuild it from the ground up ala Callaway.

    New interior, better steering, better suspension, less weight. It’s quite a task to make this car any good.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen this car move pretty quick from cruising at 50mph to flying up to probably close to 100mph on the highway. But I can see how that is probably the only way you would get to use the hp. They are quite big. I do like the way they look, but I can imagine the handling being more than disappointing.

  • avatar

    In my younger days I owned an ’80 RX-7 and ’84 (GSL-SE) RX-7. Never under estimate the power of a rotary in a light weight car (as said above… turned into a “track weapon”). Ah… I loved those little rockets!

    About the Challenger, I wish I could afford the money and garage space for an SRT!

  • avatar

    @ psarhjinian:

    Couldn’t agree more about the Magnum.

    Unfortunately the people in the North American market with the money to purchase that vehicle have a pathological hatred of station wagons or anything that looks like them.

    Unless you lift said wagons 6″, add a smidgen of off-road capabilty, some aggressive styling cues, and call them “SUVs”.

  • avatar

    I’ve mentioned this before, but I doubt that the Bullitt is faster than the Challenger SRT8.

    I’ve yet to see a Challenger or Bullitt at a drag strip, but the fastest I’ve ever seen a naturally-aspirated stock(ish) Mustang run is a 13.53. From what I’ve seen, a well-run SRT8 usually gets between 13.3 and 13.6.

    The closest Mustang to the Bullitt I have ever seen run was a Shelby GT, and it was in the 13.7s. That same day a 300C SRT8 ran in the 13.5s. It’s the best example I have.

    I do think that for an extra $10K, it’s too close a race to justify buying the Dodge, but I don’t think the Bullitt would beat it either.

  • avatar

    The steering may be numb, but at least the new Challenger doesn’t have the 24:1 steering gear ratio of the original.

    That said, it sounds like it could probably use an upgrade to a vintage TorqueFlite instead of that recycled M-B autobox.

  • avatar

    The new Challenger is a lot like the old one, just not in good ways.

    The E-body (1970-74 Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda) was created by basically sectioning the B-body used by Chrysler’s intermediates, which included the Charger. (See here for more info.) The wheelbase was shortened and the rear overhang clipped to create that long-hood/short-deck profile so beloved of vintage pony cars, but it had big-car bulk. The rationale was to ensure that there was enough room in the engine bay for the 440 and the Hemi, which had been a problem with the earlier, A-body Barracuda. The result was a hefty car — even a small-block Challenger weighed more than 3,500 pounds, while a well-optioned Hemi was a two-ton monster. (Yes, that’s still lighter than the new car, but it ain’t good.) Of course, it was still cramped inside.

    E-body handling, especially with a big engine, was basically massive understeer leavened by the occasional lurid power slide. You had the dubious choice between Chrysler’s old full-power steering — which had no apparent connection to the wheels at all — or the very, very slow manual steering, which, with a big block, was a good way to build muscle tone.

    Fuel economy was comical, naturally, and build quality was atrocious. Aside from all the fake wood and hard plastic trim, there were winners like the design defect that made it possible to open the doors of a locked E-body by giving the door skin a solid whack in the right place.

    So…needless bulk, lots of plow, numb steering, crappy interior and exterior finish. Suddenly, it’s 1970!

    As far as I can tell, the Challenger’s main virtue is that it has the kind of head-whirling ability normally limited to the weirder Lamborghinis. If you absolutely must have everyone looking at you, a Hemi Orange Challenger SRT8 is better value than an Italian exotic.

  • avatar

    and build quality was atrocious

    Funny, I have many Moparite friends, and you see just how true that is when you restore one. My favorite is my cousins a body cuda. He found the build sheet under the back seat, stuck there with some tenacious brown guck. He painstakingly removed it and then set about decoding it only to discover it was for a different car. Hard to build the car right when you don’t have the right build sheet.

    I’ve read of restorers findings paper cups, chips bags, fistfuls of screws, and marr connectors underneath the carpet. The paint drips along the bottom of the doors was another favorite kwality feature.

    Anyway, the build quality of the new Challenger is much better…just cheap materials. I wonder what the real price of these is?

  • avatar

    These cars were made for one thing. Stop light to stop light. I find it funny how people who’s vehicles can’t compete with something (usually domestic) from stop light to stop light fall back on “Yeah well my car would beat yours on a track,”. Jeesh. That’s about like me telling a woman “Yeah, I suck in bed, but if we were in outer space I’d be awesome!” Maybe it’s just because I live in Oklahoma City, but I don’t really notice a whole lot of twists and turns out here. Come to think of it I haven’t really noticed a whole lot of them anywhere else in this country where real world driving takes place either. Hmmm…..

  • avatar

    The E-body (1970-74 Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda) was created by basically sectioning the B-body used by Chrysler’s intermediates, which included the Charger. (See here for more info.) The wheelbase was shortened and the rear overhang clipped to create that long-hood/short-deck profile so beloved of vintage pony cars, but it had big-car bulk. The rationale was to ensure that there was enough room in the engine bay for the 440 and the Hemi, which had been a problem with the earlier, A-body Barracuda. The result was a hefty car — even a small-block Challenger weighed more than 3,500 pounds, while a well-optioned Hemi was a two-ton monster. (Yes, that’s still lighter than the new car, but it ain’t good.) Of course, it was still cramped inside.

    I think another reason for the long-hood/short deck proportions had to do with suspension requirements attendant to any big-block Mopar. My guess is that proper capacity torsion bars designed for use with the B/RB block cars partially necessitated that longer hood.

  • avatar

    reclusive_in_nature : Maybe it’s just because I live in Oklahoma City

    It is.

    And a better analogy in this context would be “I may not be able to put away Coors Lite all night, but I can speak intelligible English.”

  • avatar

    reclusive_in_nature, Someday, check out any road in Maine with a route number that isn’t the Interstate. Heck, for the matter of that, anywhere in New Egland.

    You’ll find curves to last you a lifetime. That is, if your stoplight machine doesn’t end up against a tree, a stone wall that dates to 1737, floating in a river or inside a house. For an extra special treat, visit in the winter.

    Or visit the Rockies. Probably closer to where you are, anyway.

  • avatar

    I would like to take back the nice things I said about the Challenger in RF’s post entitled, “Yum?”

    I do not like the car, in fact I cannot stand it. It is 4140 lb in SRT8 trim, and does not even carry four passengers in comfort. Two, yes. Why does a four seat coupe, which weighs in at just over two goddamned tons not have the ability to carry four people? How the hell does any vehicle weighing over two tons not have the ability to carry more than four people; unless it was specifically designed to do so?

    I do not know what hurts more: 1) the fact that the Challenger SRT8 is an affront to everything I learned back in engieering school, b) the fact that Chrysler thinks they did something great, or c) the fact that I almost – almost – fell for it.

  • avatar

    I had a 1967 383 4-speed Barracuda – bought it used after every hotshoe in town had had a trial drive in it. No power steering, and it had the weight distribution of a blackjack, but it would definitely haul ass. If I was going over 35 or so, it wasn’t even really necessary to downshift from 4th to compete with most guys I saw in traffic. My ’76 Dart cop car with its 360 4-barrel engine, rear sway bar etc, was a lot more balanced in its handling capabilities, but it was still a blunt instrument compared to my 1984 RX7. It’s no surprise to me that a new Challenger might find it hard to catch an even somewhat race-prepared old RX7.

  • avatar

    SRT not worth it?

    Why, of course.

    You get the R/T and use the difference for performance mods.

  • avatar

    I drive a Charger Daytona.

    Not a big fan of the Challenger, it is bloated like the Charger, but that posted 0-60 time is ridiculous. My Daytona is achieveing 5.3s 0-60 (pre predator) and it’s 75hp (published) HP less then the SRT, which typically achieves 4.8s 0-60. There is unfortunately a known issue with Chrysler (Mercedes) engine computer and the adaptives. The car goes into granny mode and is a PITA to get back to performance mode. It kills the car’s performance, until a fuse is pulled or the adaptives are reset with the Predator programmer.

    I can tell you the predator on the R/T is an amazing product. I could never understand why there was such a performance gap to the SRT8, with only 75hp difference. Once again, Mercedes screwed up the programming and pulled a ton of low RPM torque out of the car. The predator brings that torque back, creating a car that can now burn rubber at a 30mph roll, chirps tires during 1-2 shift, and is just a blast to drive.

    I would suspect there was another issue with the Chally, even beyond it’s bloated mass. Also, HAL (cars computer) really gets intrusive with traction control if any wheel spin is detected. Tossing the car around on a road course can cause it to “help” you manage the twisties :)

  • avatar

    Detlef: long hood short deck was the style popularized by the Mustang. Very little to do with suspension requirements. Style was the reason for the long hood and everything was designed with that same idea in mind from full size Impalas to Camaros and Novas. The 1970 Monte Carlo was promoted as having the “longest hood in Chevrolet history”.

    Besides, those torsion bars came from using the B Body exactly as Agentla described. Using the same parts in different applications saves money.You gave it more thought than Chrysler ever did, I will bet.

    What I can’t figure is why would Chrysler spend their scarce resources, time and energy to bring back a car that was a sales dog in the first place.

    The AMC Javelin outsold the it every year the Challenger was offered IIRC.

    I guess when Mopar went for 21st Century Road Toad with the Caliber they couldn’t do the 60 Valiant again. Or maybe that’s what the Compass was supposed to be……

  • avatar

    Sajeev –

    Driving it on a tight, LeMon-worthy road course is like telling Sinatra to sing with Britney.

    Wouldn’t that be the other way around, i.e. asking Britney to sing with Sinatra? A monumental task for Britney, and she’s just not up to the challenge(r).

    Maybe a manual transmission would help, maybe not. It’s just too heavy to get out of its own way. I know I’d choose the Bullitt.

  • avatar

    “Better yet, the C’s cavernous cabin continues the glorious Audification of US car interiors. Gilles’ crew has blended chrome, mock tortoise shell and leather to create an understated yet elegant chill-out room. The dash’s four central dials – complete with polished metal bezels, tapered needles and classic typography – are Breitling bling. The switchgear is tactile, functional and discreet. Taken as a whole, the 300C is a deeply funky neo-retro masterpiece.”

    “This particular piece of automotive art weighs in at 4046lbs. That’s a lot of art. Good thing the C’s got a lot of power. More specifically, there’s a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 lurking in the engine bay. With 340hp and 390ft.-lbs. of torque on tap, and a Mercedes E-Class autobox swapping cogs, the C is an effortless cruiser. Better yet, the HEMI’s trick MDS (Multi-Displacement System) helps the fab four-door realize over 20 mpg– provided you baby the go pedal. If you don’t… Chrysler claims the C blasts from zero to sixty in 6.3 seconds. That would be sufficiently rapid to keep pace with a Porsche Boxster. Wrong. My stopwatch clocked the C doing the sprint in 5.6. That’s faster than a Boxster S. The company reckons the C can crack the ¼ mile in 14.1 seconds. If so, the 300C is quicker than a 350Z (14.3 secs.). Word!”

    Robert Farago June 9, 2004 – review of the Chrysler 300c

    “Straight to the brake pedal. We’ve traveled so far so fast we need to slow down RIGHT NOW, and hope that Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology (SRT) knows as much about brakes as they do about big-bore powerplants. Fo shizzle. When caning a 425hp car weighing 4160lbs., there’s no time to ponder the finer points of rotor size, “swept area”, ABS, etc. It’s strictly press and pray.

    “Did I mention that the 300C SRT-8 doesn’t like to let go of its revs? Lift off the gas and there’s no danger of engine braking; starving the 6.1-liter Hemi of dead dinoflagellates has about as much immediate effect as switching off the afterburners on an F15. Not to put too fine a point on it, the 300C SRT-8 is a blat – coast – blat kinda car. Oh, and the five-speed gearbox (a Mercedes E-Class hand-me-down) is as fond of kickdown as the Toyota Prius is of low revs. The big Chrysler can resist anything except acceleration.”

    “Before tackling the twisties, switch off the ESP traction control. I don’t usually recommend thrashing a Nanny-less sedan with 420ft.-lbs. of torque, 20″ wheels and three-season tires (Vivaldi would not be pleased with that concept). But the SRT’s chassis is so well sorted, the power resevoir so deep, instant and controllable, that you can drive this monster like you stole it without an electronic safety net– and not die. Simply steer with your right foot.”

    “Ride comfort? Who you talking to? You talking to ME? Muscle car aficionados know the drill. When you enter a sharp turn, throw the wheel hard over and floor it. As the rear tires spin and the back end drifts sideways, apply the appropriate amount of opposite lock with the steering wheel. Then ease off the gas, let the back end ease into line and keep on going. If it’s good enough for The General Lee, it’s good enough for the SRT.”

    “With the addition of a glorious, pumped-up Hemi and vastly improved driving dynamics, the 300C SRT-8 transforms a great car into an instant (though proletariat) classic. If you’re a horsepower headcase on a budget, go on. You know you want to.”

    Robert Farago April 8, 2005 – review of the Chrysler 300 SRT8

    And we all know that the Challenger is the same car (suspension and drivetrain in particular) as the 300 and Charger.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian wrote:
    Most of all, it pisses me off that it replaced the Magnum, which may have sold poorly, but at least wasn’t a joke

    Chrysler attempted to advertise Magnum to the ghetto crowd as the next best thing to impressed boyz in the hood with. It was styled to match that. That’s why it failed. So yes, it was a joke. If they built it like a proper family station wagon and advertised as such, it would have had a chance at least.

  • avatar

    There’s no good reason why that thing should weigh 4000+ pounds. Yeah, I know, V8, leather, safety stuff, all that. Still, the Challenger is just freaking huge.

    It should have been about as big and as heavy as a G35 coupe, if they made it on a separate platform instead of basing it on an equally huge Charger.

  • avatar

    Your complaining that the Challenger weighs over 4000#?
    Complain that a Jetta weighs 3300#
    At least the Challenger is big.
    Celica AllTrac Turbo, ick,ick,ick
    80s and 90s Japanese sporty cars are the ugliest cars ever sold

    windswords – I’m guessing that RF has a different view on cars than Jonny. Not sure of RFs age but I’m guessing he is older than me (42)and that JL is younger. I have a bit of muscle car nostalgia from growing up so I’d guess RF has some too.

  • avatar

    @ detlef: I don’t think the hood length of the E-body had anything to do with the suspension design. The way Chrysler generally varied front suspension spring rate was by changing the diameter of the torsion bars. A torsion bar’s spring rate increases with the fourth power of its diameter, so a tiny increase in diameter makes the spring significantly stiffer. For example, going from a 0.87-inch bar to an 0.89-inch bar will make the springs 10% stiffer; going from 0.87 to 0.94 inch makes it 36% stiffer. The length of the bar itself is less significant than its thickness and the length of the lever arm on which it’s mounted.

    The earlier A-body Barracuda, which had a dramatically shorter hood (by a full 12 inches, if memory serves), could use a big block — the 440 was a factory option in ’69. The problem was that the B and RB engines were so wide that they had to be shoehorned into the engine bay. Even the 383, which wasn’t quite as wide, was big enough that in ’67 and ’68, 383 ‘Cudas couldn’t have power steering or air conditioning; there just wasn’t room. Late in ’68, Plymouth came up with a special power steering pump that would work with the 383, but adding the 440 sent them back to the drawing board. (The 440 had a deck height about three quarters of an inch higher than the 383.)

    The rationale of basing the E-body on the B-body intermediate was that the engine bay was wider, which made it possible to use any engine Chrysler made.

  • avatar

    While I can’t vouch for New England, I did live in Colorado Springs, Colorado for about 7 years and I can say that some muscle is greatly appreciated (heck, often needed) when going UP those relatively few twisty mountain roads. I can also attest that in those seven years I never once witnessed anyone racing up or down them. Saw plenty of racing at the stop lights though…. Again, I can’t speak for how New Englander’s get their automotive jollies. Perhaps the majority actually do challenge each other to get off the streets and race in track like conditions, BUT I’d be willing to bet that come WINTER time a powerful 4X4 pickup (ironically, one of the aforementioned vehicles capable of beating those very same people stop light to stop light) would dominate a snowy-icy track or road.

  • avatar

    It looks good, but it´s 30 years to late.
    It´s a dinosaur.

  • avatar

    @ argentla:

    I like your explanation better than mine. I’d not taken into account how wide the RB blocks were; I had a ’68 Chrysler eight years ago, and there wasn’t much daylight shining down between the front inner wheel wells and the engine.

    I did know the thicker the torsion bar, the stiffer the suspension, but I figured that there would still be a minimum length for the suspension geometry to work out that would have required the longer hood proportions. You’re absolutely right about the later A-body Barracudas having 383 and 440 power, though, so the torsion bar explanation just falls flat at that point.

    That said, there’s more to the story than simply just claiming that long hood/short deck was the style of the era. There were practical reasons those dimensions were originally used, particularly for the automakers that used different ranges of V8s (AMC, for instance, did not, though they offered multiple displacements based around one basic block). I thought suspension played into that, too, but it makes more sense that the physical dimensions of the big blocks were probably the major consideration.

    Thanks for the great follow-up.

  • avatar

    At least the car looks great. It is better looking than anything out of Japan. Why do Japanese cars look so generic? I call their design philosophy the bar of soap approach to styling.

    I just love how people are nostalgic for old muscles cars. Their engineering was atrocious. If somebody released a 1970 muscle car today critics would think it was a practical joke. The current challenger is a engineering marvel compared to those old muscle cars.

    Both the Challenger, minivan, and 300 make Chrysler’s survival almost worthwhile.

    Comparing a Challenger to a RX-7 is like pitting a powerful F-15 against a small pitt-special acrobatic plane. Of course the tiny acrobatic plane would win in a slow 150 knot dogfight. On the open road the Challenger would blast the RX-7 into another time zone.
    The comparison here is apples and oranges. Why not compare a 1980 Omni with a Lamborghini in finding a small parking space?

  • avatar

    I don’t get the review why the Dodge Challenger cannot catch up with A Mazda.

    I think my legs are being pulled. I have not driven the Challenger and probably will never drive it.

    I still adore this car. It has this classic look but made for the future.
    This car will be a hot seller in Southeast not Asia but United States.

  • avatar

    I can see a Dodge Truck enthusiast or old muscle car aficionado buying one of these.

    I can see the Dodge truck enthusiast, maybe, but why as a “muscle car aficionado” would you buy this overweight modern muscle car for $40k when you could easily get a 67, 68, or 69 Mustang coupe in excellent condition with a high performance 289 or 302 for less money?

    Now that I have seen them in person, they definitely do not live up to the pictures. Big and bloated best describes a modern Challenger. Second, why would you want a muscle car that can’t even do a burnout (see Top Gear’s road trip in a Challenger, a Corvette, and a CTS-v)? A muscle car that only comes with an auto, and from everything I’ve heard a piss poor auto, is no muscle car.

    P.S. I had a completely stock 87 RX7 and it would do 0-60 in well under 9 seconds, had no descernable body roll, and I’m sure would have toasted the new Challenger on any road course.

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s just because I live in Oklahoma City, but I don’t really notice a whole lot of twists and turns out here. Come to think of it I haven’t really noticed a whole lot of them anywhere else in this country where real world driving takes place either. Hmmm…..

    Come to Northern California and drive anywhere other than a few major freeways. I can name at least a dozen highways that are all twists and turns, and boy are they fun in the right car.

  • avatar

    BUT I’d be willing to bet that come WINTER time a powerful 4X4 pickup (ironically, one of the aforementioned vehicles capable of beating those very same people stop light to stop light) would dominate a snowy-icy track or road.

    Yep, right up until the point it went off the road and into a ditch or over a cliff.

  • avatar

    Lumbergh21- airbags and stability control and ABS
    plus sometimes you just want a NEW car

  • avatar

    The only cars of the era that actually needed a long hood were the Olds Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado being front wheel drive.

    The long hood/short deck theme everyone copied from the Mustang was considered stylish, the longer the hood the better. It certainly wasn’t for engineering purposes.

    That same theme is a hallmark of today’s Mustang, Challenger and coming [maybe] Camaro. It has been for more than 40 years.

    The cars of that time were notoriously under-suspended,under-braked,under-tired,way over powered for their capabilities and over styled. Stying is what sold cars at that time.

    The Maverick and Hornet were sold with the same “sporty” styling, the Maverick called a $2600 Mustang for those who couldn’t afford a $3000 one.

    The Challenger is more competent than it was in 1970 but it is still overweight and too large as is the current Mustang.

    Missing segment: small stylish rear wheel drive sporty car of reasonable size, weight and price that can be had with nothing or everything,economical 4 mid range V6 or steaming V8.

    Enough of these intermediates in “pony car” drag.

  • avatar

    The Challenger is quite the looker in pictures. Seeing one in person is like viewing a caricature. Isn’t it supposed to work the other way around?

    saywhat :
    January 19th, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Why can VW put an interior in a base Rabbit at 15k that puts any Chrysler built at any price to shame in terms of fit and finish?

    Because VW dumped all the cost of the car into the interior to wow you long enough to buy one and cheap out on other items.

  • avatar

    God, I love the way this car looks (in pictures). Still haven’t gotten a good look at one in person, so I’ll reserve judgement. One wonders what a decent set of tires and some coilovers would do for the Challenger in the handling department.

  • avatar

    Car and Driver gave it much better numbers than you stated.

    4.8 seconds to 60 and on through the quarter in 13.3 seconds at 108 mph.

    Yes its big, even bigger than its earlier kin. I do not think anyone expected it to handle much better than its predecessor.

    Actually, I would have thought it would have turned in a quicker time with 420hp. The transmission is probably not the best. It should do 4.5 seconds with that much horsepower.

    Still a good looking car on the outside.

  • avatar

    Second, why would you want a muscle car that can’t even do a burnout (see Top Gear’s road trip in a Challenger, a Corvette, and a CTS-v)?

    With the traction control “off”, anyone can perform a major burnout in an auto SRT8.

  • avatar


    Drove across the USA two weeks ago, WA to GA, nasty weather, ice etc.

    WA – Serious mountains, serious twisties, gets straight near Spokane

    ID – I90 is one bowl of spaghetti,

    MT – Western MT is twisty, avoided the freeway in eastern MT so fairly twisty

    WY – Did not do freeway so mega-twisty, I mean fun fun fun

    KS – Whats a bend?

    OK – Bendless

    AR – No freeway and lovely twisties, Hot Springs is a blast to drive around

    MS – Lots of twisties with flat stretches in between

    GA – Again, cut through or around freeways, lots of twisties with flat stretches in between

    SRT8 would have been real scary in WA, KS and MT, due to weight distribution and handling, not sure if it would have done ID at all. SRT8 would have taken the fun factor out of the rest of the states with the exception of KS and OK.

    Oh, I did have an opportunity to try my rice burner against an older Mustang, until I saw that OK has good coverage with its boys in blue.

  • avatar

    With the traction control “off”, anyone can perform a major burnout in an auto SRT8.

    Evidently not everybody, see “Hamster’s” attempt in above referenced episode of Top Gear. Additionally, the car was the slowest at the Bonneville Salt Flats (no surprise given its competition), their destination in the road trip, and even the Hamster, a self-professed muscle car junkie with a 67 (68?) Mustang 350GT, thought it was one of the worst cars he’s driven through the twisties.

  • avatar

    Evidently not everybody, see “Hamster’s” attempt in above referenced episode of Top Gear.

    I’ve seen the episode. I have a feeling that he either forgot to turn off the Traction Control, or directors told him not to because Top Gear decided to take some “creative control” with the situation like how they did with the Tesla test. I also thought that Clarkson’s ZR1 burnout was rather weak. I’ve seen 240hp L98 powered Corvettes do about what he managed.

    Also, there are lots of videos and pictures on youtube, edmunds, Motortrend, etc. showing automatic SRT8 Challengers doing a burnout.

  • avatar

    Yes its big, even bigger than its earlier kin. I do not think anyone expected it to handle much better than its predecessor.…

    With how many years of progress? I certainly expected better when I drove one (no more dealer BS about test drives BTW). This car needs to lose about 700 pounds, 15% of it’s size, and way better steering. Forget the autobox issues, a car like this should be manually shifted…a perfect opportunity to use heritage to one’s advantage LOST.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    I suspect that the main reason the E-bodied Challenger was based upon the mid-sized platform was cost savings. Fitting the big block V8s was presumably an additional consideration, but I doubt these were projected to represent a major portion of overall sales. Remember that pony cars were primarily bought by the likes of librarians.

    In what appears to be another example of frugality, the E-bodied Challenger’s front overhang doesn’t look any longer than Chrysler’s mid-sized sedans. That’s in contrast with the Mustang and Camaro, whose wheelbases were clearly stretched in front of the cowl. The ultra-long hood and short deck was the signature styling feature of pony cars.

    To my taste, the original Challenger would have been a much better driver’s car if it had used Chrysler’s compact platform — essentially a Duster with more modern sheetmetal. Note that while the E-bodied Barracuda and Challenger sold poorly (even relative AMC’s Javelin, as mentioned above), the Duster sold like hot cakes.

    The public didn’t abandon pony cars — the Big Four supersized them to the degree that their original appeal was lost. After 30 years Chrysler still hasn’t learned its lesson. Chrysler would have been much better off giving the current Charger a two-door version than creating an obese faux-pony car. A Charger wouldn’t have been unfavorably compared with the lighter Mustang, and it would have been a much less risky financial proposition.

    Heck, with the money saved by sharing parts with the four-door Charger, Chrysler could have added a convertible and upgraded interior appointments. Subsequent restylings would have also been much more affordable. I doubt the Challenger will generate enough sales to justify even a mild restyling.

  • avatar

    Dr Lemming: “Chrysler would have been much better off giving the current Charger a two-door version than creating an obese faux-pony car. A Charger wouldn’t have been unfavorably compared with the lighter Mustang, and it would have been a much less risky financial proposition.”My sentiments exactly. In fact, I once saw a 4-door Charger that was in the process of being converted to a two-door and it was quite a good looking car. Graft on a retro tunnel-back style roof from the ’68-’70 Charger and Chrysler would have a much better seller than the bloated Challenger.

    The E-body was nothing more than Chrysler’s usual following GM’s lead, meaning they were behind the trend by a couple of years. The big-block F-body Camaros had earlier cleaned up the ponycar/musclecar market and, despite having arguably cleaner (albeit similiar) styling, the E-body’s market had essentially dried up by the time it made it into Mopar showrooms.

    Likewise, as mentioned, the Duster 340 with it’s excellent low price to performance ratio was a huge (surprise) hit for Chrysler. Unfortunately, conquest sales came not from competitors but cannibalized more than a few Roadrunner/Super Bee/Barracuda/Challenger sales instead.

    It’s ironic that the original E-body is held up as a shining example of the pinnacle of Chrysler’s late sixties engineering and styling, when the meager sales the car generated in no way justifed the expense to develop and produce it. While it’s all hindsight, Chrysler would have been much better off if they had simply killed off the B-body musclecars after 1970 and kept the Barracuda/Challenger on the A-body chassis. Of course, the E-body would never enjoy the ‘legend’ status it has today with clean examples going for unbelievable prices.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    Ha! It could barely keep up with an old RX-7? Being a sport compact enthusiast, I can’t help rubbing this one in Chrysler’s face. You see, there’s this thing called “gravity” and it tends to make 425hp feel pretty wimpy when you’re trying to haul 4000+ pounds. Once again, Chrysler thinks it can fool the consumer by advertizing huge power numbers instead of being honest and acually making a faster car. THIS is why they’re a failing business.

  • avatar

    Mr. Gray,

    Jonny’s using a bit of journalistic license. The Challenger SRT-8 is running 12.8-second quarter-miles in owner hands; a 1981 RX-7 ran an 18.5 or thereabouts.

    Put another way, if you and an RX-7 ran a flying mile, you could wait until the RX was just about halfway there before leaving in the SRT-8, and you would still win.

  • avatar

    Most every car made today weights far more than it’s predecessor. An average Camry or Malibu sedan is pushing 3500 lbs compared to 2800-2900 lbs from there 90’s versions. The new 2010 Buick LaCrosse whith it’s bloated Lexus styling weights over 4000 lbs compared to 3500 lbs from the 2005-2008 version. Blame all of todays gadget laden, safety cramed larger sized faster more bloated cars and SUV’s. Government mandated airbags, stability control, tire pressure monitors, saftey cages and side impacts contribute here too. I have personally driven and have seen several SRT8’s at the track and they usually run high 12’s to low 13’s quarter miles and 0-60 is over in well under 5 seconds. The steering is a bit numb but so is anything Toyota puts on the road so that may not be a deal breaker for many. This car is all about style which, along with the Mustang and upcoming Camaro, have in spades and something this computer technology generation that is so used to foreign generic rolling appliances cannot and will not ever understand. Having been lucky to have grown up in the muscle car era, I can relate to those much simpler and fun times when most all cars had style and color, you could walk into a dealership and custom order any car the way you wanted and gas was dirt cheap. From the factory the tires sucked and handling at the limit was scary but bolting on superior tires and suspension components was as easy as pie and could be done for a song. My how times have changed today. And not all for the better.

  • avatar

    Hmmm.. !
    ChryCo aren’t that bad, it’s just odd that they won’t sell the same cars in US as they do in Europe !
    I drive a 2007 Chrysler 300 C CRD Touring, which basically is a Magnum with a 300C front clip and an M-B derived 3.0 litre diesel V6 making 220 bhp & 510 Nm of torque ( that’s app. 380 ft/pound) while having no problem doing over 30 mpg. I have driven almost 100000 trouble free miles, it’s an awesome car driving much better than an M-B W211 E-class. I just bought a Challenger and after having owned a few´70 & ´71 Challengers this is by far the best Challenger ever made, and quite a headturner too !

    As in the US, Chrysler has big problems selling their cars overseas, primarily due to the fact that they are American – many Europeans think of Chrysler as second rate, poorly designed and assembled vehicles, I can only say that the 2 cars I own, both assembled in Brampton, Ontario are absolutely flawless and can be measured by any European car, as a matter of fact they are sold here in Sweden by M-B dealers sharing show – rooms.

    I do not understand why many Americans think of the “ThreeBig” as inferior, they have never built better cars than they do today, so instead off all this European & Japanese cars are better talk, be proud as Americans, and support US manufacturers, I do and I´m a Dane living in Sweden :-) ( Sweden is a small country in Scandinavia mostly known for ABBA & Volvo! )

    Check out and see how awesome the 300 can look after a tweak from the makers of Brabus, mine looks like this and draw more attention than Audi’s & BMW’s twice as expensive !

  • avatar

    It’s not a hole in the market of RWD compact sedans… you can’t buy one here because selling the car wouldn’t make that automaker money.

    Even if someone could pull it off, name one automaker that plays in the market of $25,000 cars that would not cannibalize its own product line when it offered an affordable RWD sports-sedan at that price point. If you truly believe it is brand mis-management to offer 2 cars that are perceived similarly to showroom customers, then you cannot really advocate the need for a RWD sports sedan when most automakers already have a FWD sedan sitting there.

    Furthermore – in regards to those who claim to really want that RWD sports sedan – why have cars in that segment done so poorly in the past? When it comes time for someone to drop their money on a car, they didn’t buy those cheap RWD sports cars. In almost all cases, these mythical car buyers all realized that FWD was cheaper and more pragmatic. A pile of alleged piston heads will not buy enough cars to make economic sense. Sure you’ll see 240SX, MR2, 2nd Gen Supras, etc… but you don’t see enough of them.

    Mazda’s RX8 demonstrates that there is no market for your “ideal” car. Less than 200 units last month and less than 800 unis in January 2008? People are quick to laugh at the Nissan Titan – but even Nissan pushed 1,400 of those things in January.

    RWD is more expensive than FWD to produce, and the customer base for these types of cars is limited. If you want your sporty RWD, you have lots of options. If you want your sporty RWD for cheap – then you’re pleas aren’t going to change anything.

    If you want someone to build your car – then work to put a business case together and convince one of the major automakers they should invest the $billions necessary so dealerships can start selling your car in 2012. Simply pestering people at some dinner isn’t going to get the ball rolling.

  • avatar
    Mr. Gray

    Huh? If the new Challenger runs a 12.8 second quarter mile and a 1981 RX-7 runs a 18.5, then what exactly was Jonny talking about? Does it have to do with the fact that both cars were already moving? Somebody enlighten me.

  • avatar

    Although I’m a bit late to the party, I’d still like to comment. Everything I’ve read on the new Challenger says it beats the 1970 model in fit/finish, fuel economy, handling and braking. The new model matches or exceeds the original in acceleration, while emitting far less pollution. I agree that it’s larger/heavier than it should be. However, many of these hyper critical posts of the car, are apple & orange comparisons. Why doesn’t Budweiser use Shetland ponies instead of Clydesdales to pull those wagons? You need to use the right tool for the job. Don’t pick up a screwdriver when you need a hammer. People that are attracted to the Challenger, especially the R/T and SRT versions, are not exited by Mazda, Subaru, Honda or their Asian cousins. Many of these guys either had, or wanted a muscle car back in the day. Now they can get a modern-day version of an American icon. That’s a bad thing?Several years ago, Chevrolet had a TV commercial that nailed it. It showed some 60’s/70’s Chevys doing burnouts at a drag strip. The music was a Beach Boys-sounding car tune. The voice-over said: “Chevrolet, because they don’t make songs about Volvos.”

  • avatar

    I like your thoughts John Dodge,not everyone in the world wants the same thing in a car. I couldn’t care less if it is heavy or that it has a big steering wheel. I love it because it is made in North America and it has a heritage. It reminds me of a time when muscle was king. I am so sick of the offerings of the Asians and Europeans. They all look the same you have to read the name to know which is which. If I am going to buy a car I want it to turn heads not stomachs. I don’t care if it costs more to run or maybe it will need a clutch in the next couple of years. It is a piece of distinctive iron and I love it. You drive it anywhere and it will get attention. Every time I see one in a parking lot it isn’t long before there is someone giving it the eye. You really have to trick out an import to get it noticed half as much as a stock Challenger.

  • avatar

    I’ve not had the chance to drive any of the 3 models that Dodge is offering but it sure looks like it stacks up well against it’s natural enemy the Mustang:

    Also looked to be pretty nimble in the slalom. Of course the driver had better know what he or she is doing. I’m sure it is a handful.

    Here it was topped out at 167 Mph, so it is plenty quick enough once it gets rolling:

    All in all I think Chrysler did a nice job – at least from the clips.

  • avatar

    i am not sure about all the want to b’s who all probably own forein crap anyways. i went out and bought an 09 srt8 challenger w/ 6 speed. ITS THE BEST CAR I EVER OWNED. HAS MORE BLING FACTOR THAN YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE. I GET RUBBER IN 3RD GEAR, NO PROBLEM AND AM QUITE ABLE TO SMOKE EM AS LONG AND HARD AS I FEEL THE NEED.
    so i think all the honda civic lovers on this blog should simply go home and cry while i go to your house and get your women and go give then the ride they really want.
    steve scholl
    detroit michigan
    no need to hide behind a psyseudonym here

  • avatar

    NOTE: I’m letting killerdecks‘ comment stand. If anyone chooses to respond, please show him the respect he doesn’t deserve. Seriously. No flaming.

  • avatar

    I own a 2009 SRT8. Its big, I like it. Its fast as hell, 6 speed manual is awesome. With exhaust and racing headers I am putting out 455 horses and it is fun as hell. Its a mans car. Mean looking and big and powerful. It gets looks the New Camaro and Mustang cant. I like the big powerful looks. The interior is nice, much nicer than the Camaro, I should know, I have a Camaro on order. The Challenger Hemi Orange car is an instant collector car. Could be one of the last gas guzzler cars ever produced.. Oh and buy the way, I love burning the gas. The more the better. Its not the car the Camaro or the Mustang is on a curvy race track but thats not what I wanted. I wanted a bruiser and thats exactly what I got. Love it boys and girls.
    Take care

  • avatar

    My goodness! This Challenger is much too big and powerful. It seems to have really frightened the person that started this thread. This car also seems to be very threatening to some that have posted their comments. Yes, a Mazda is a much more sensible automobile. Even better, a Mini Cooper, or a Prius! Putting a Green Peace and PETA sticker on the Challenger may help make it more politically correct. However, you still may raise eyebrows at the natural foods store, while getting your tofu and alfalfa sprouts. One final concern – the Challenger must leave a very large carbon footprint. Al Gore would not approve. He’s going to save the planet you know!

  • avatar

    Gas mileage on the 2009 challenger srt8. I have put 23,000 miles on my challenger since I bought it in December, about the 18th,
    22mpg going more than 70 down the freeway
    18.3 in the city, 17 with my foot in the pedal, tires smoking.

    Gas mileage in my ford f250, 12 on the freeway,
    10 in the city.
    Gas mileage in my 4 cylinder ranger, 16/14
    Gas mileage in my e350 van 12/10
    Gas mileage with my 64 malibu ss 283 high performance 4 speed 12
    Gas mileage with 1974 formula 350 firebird 12/10

    I was really worried when i bought the challenger but now i’m so happy I want another.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • la834: The first generation minivans had that feature (it was even lockable), but no glovebox in the usual location....
  • dal20402: I have an easier time seeing a DS in the front than the rear. If I try not to see a J30 when I look at the...
  • dusterdude: Overalll I don’t mind the exterior design – very bold for sure
  • tonycd: Anybody who sees a J30 in this simply isn’t old enough to remember its true progenitor, the Citroen...
  • DenverMike: No they’re just getting better at having them die as they cross the warranty “finish line”. Most will...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber