Once upon a time the Dodge Charger stood brawny shoulder to brawny shoulder with other 1960s-era muscle cars.
Most of them remain mourned, but the Charger has been reincarnated as a pulse-pounding, pavement-punishing, politically incorrect blast.
Overlooking the addition of rear doors, the new Charger is a worthy successor to the early ones. Not in its tamer versions, but in the SRT8.
The SRT8 (for street and racing technology) puts out a massive 435 horsepower from an equally huge 6.1L V-8 engine. Front-wheel drive can't handle that kind of power, of course. So the Chargers are on a Mercedes-Benz-born rear-wheel drive platform. The M-B RWD is a great launching pad for the Charger.
That combination shotputs the 4,000-pound sedan to 60 mph in just over 5 seconds -- accompanied by a soul-satisfying rumble and roar. A quick-shifting five-speed automatic transmission is a big help.
The downside is a gas-guzzler tax of $2,100 slapped onto a $45,285 vehicle. Charger SRT8 gets just 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway – less if your foot employs all of those horses. But what's money (even at $3 or $4 a gallon) against a semi-spiritual experience?
SRT8 has tuned suspension dampers, tailored spring rates and big anti-way bars. It rides half an inch lower than the regular Charger. The electronic stability control system is programmed (says Chrysler) for performance. It lets drivers get into more trouble before coming to the rescue.
Other boy racer touches are an air dam rear spoiler, a front facia that directs air to cool the brakes, and a hood scoop that sends air into the engine compartment.
|Dodge Charger SRT8
•Engines: 6.1L V-8
•Dimensions: 120.4" wheelbase; 200.1" length
•Base price: $35,920; As tested $45,285
•Fuel economy: 14/20 mpg
The four-spoke steering wheel is a delight. There's plenty of front legroom, and in fact, the Charger is roomy all over. The 180-mph speedometer is so deeply recessed it's partially in shadow and it needs to be illuminated during the day.
The leather bucket seats are highly bolstered. The steering wheel and shifter knob are leather covered and there's a navigation screen and power sunroof. Those are the sorts of things that up the tag from a base of $35,920 to the tested $45,285.
On the road, the Charger SRT8 rides surprisingly well for a muscle car. Curves bring out a slight understeer (the car wants to go straight), but the Charger muscles its way through the turns with little road feel. Road feel from a Charger? You jest.
There is a Super Bee version as well. It's bright yellow with black bumblebee paint accents and we don't want to talk about it. Or think about it.