Capsule Review: 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT-8

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

“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.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Zackman Zackman on Jun 14, 2012

    My problem with these cars, specifically the Camaro and Challenger are the cave-lke interiors. To me, not prcatical at all. When a car is larger than, say, a Cruze or Civic and is a coupe, it needs to have a "useful" rear passenger area, meaning, of course, openable side glass so passengers can get some fresh air and not be dependent on the driver or front passenger. That is the sole reason I'l never buy one. I'll shut up on that topic, now... You do know who I am, don't you?

    • See 1 previous
    • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Jun 15, 2012

      @nrd515 Zackman has a thing for pillarless hardtop coupes, so pretty much every two door car that gets reviewed that DOESNT have rolldown rear windows gets a post by Zackman recognizing that fact, and pointing out that he will never buy one. I suspect its all an elaborate ruse he puts on to justify keeping his Impala, which he LOVES. Hows that for an intro?? :) Of course, the entire point of the muscle car is to not be practical, so of course the cavelike back seat isnt practical. It is all about the look on the outside. As for the need to roll down the back window without rolling down the front window?? I dont do that on my 4-dr cars, why would I on my muscle car that really wont ever have people in back anyways??

  • AJ AJ on Jun 15, 2012

    He's selling a Challenger he just bought? Oh boy...

  • M B When the NorthStar happened, it was a part of GM's "rebuilding" of the Cadillac brand. Money to finance it was shuffled from Oldsmobile, which resulted in Olds having to only facelift its products, which BEGAN its slide down the mountain. Olds stagnated in product and appearances.First time I looked at the GM Parts illustration of a NorthStar V-8, I was impressed AND immediately saw the many things that were expensive, costly to produce, and could have been done less expensively. I saw it as an expensive disaster getting ready to happen. Way too much over-kill for the typical Cadillac owner of the time.Even so, there were a few areas where cost-cutting seemed to exist. The production gasket/seal between the main bearing plate and the block was not substantial enough to prevent seeps. At the time, about $1500.00 to fix.In many ways, the NS engine was designed to make far more power than it did. I ran across an article on a man who was building kits to put the NS in Chevy S-10 pickups. With his home-built 4bbl intake and a 600cfm Holley 4bbl, suddenly . . . 400 horsepower resulted. Seems the low hood line resulted in manifolding compromises which decreased the production power levels.GM was seeking to out-do its foreign competitors with the NS design and execution. In many ways they did, just that FEW people noticed.
  • Redapple2 Do Hybrids and be done with it.
  • Redapple2 Panamera = road porn.
  • Akear What an absurd strategy. They are basically giving up after all these years. When a company drinks the EV hemlock failure is just around the corner.
  • Graham The answer to a question that shouldn't have been asked LOL