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SRT Review

Old 09-11-2009, 06:28 PM
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The reviewed the 2009 Challenger SRT. Here is the review:

If it’s time to grow up, but you still want a car that will turn corners and heads, and raise your heartbeat with its RPMs, read on. If you’re a Camry shopper, skip this one.

For me, the Challenger SRT8 put a smile on my face before I got in. The retro good looks, updated with muscular proportions, projects Gravitas (the most over- and mis-used word of the 2004 Presidential election).

The Challenger is a big two-door, with frameless windows. The doors run high, and the windows low. Visibility suffers, but you get over that quickly.

This car is not small. There is plenty of trunk room. Really. Load whatever you want. Front interior room is bigger than you’ll ever need, even if you shop at “Big and Tall” stores. The rear-seat is another matter; we put an adult back there on a longer drive, and felt kinda bad about it. We slid our front seats up to give a little extra room, but the rear windows are tiny triangles, and don’t roll down, prop open, nothing. Make sure you call “shotgun” if someone offers you a ride.

There is enough practicality and modern convenience on this car to let someone justify its purchase as a little rational. Our tester optioned up to more than $44,000, including $1,300 gas guzzler tax. The federal punishment is a little surprising, being that the 6.1 liter V-8 gets 25 mpg hwy. I guess 14 mpg city is nothing to feel green about, even when you can seat five. That leads us to my first collectible car prediction: when the new federal guidelines go into effect in 2012, these big V-8 cars will be rare, fun, unique, and sought after. Don’t consider this investment advice, rather “if you want a big, bad car you’d better buy it now” advice.

The SRT-8’s 425 horsepower can go through a five-speed automatic (yawn), or a six-speed manual. The manual was surprisingly user-friendly. The pedal/grab action was very smooth, and it has a hill-holder so you don’t roll back moving from brake to gas after stopping on an incline. Helping you shift smoothly is 420 ft/lbs of torque; the car really doesn’t care what gear it’s in. On the freeway, fifth and sixth gears are tall enough that the Hemi just cruises at freeway speeds. And in Utah, our freeway speeds are probably higher than yours, unless you live in Montana.

The white-face instrument panel has some cool performance extras. It will time you in 1/8 mile, 1/4 mile, and 0-60, give you your braking distance from whatever speed you decide to stomp on the Brembo brakes from, and give you g-force ratings for front, back, and both sides. All of it is automatic; when you find yourself alone on a freeway onramp, stop a second, wait for the ready signal, and let the horses out of the barn. It starts the timer when you hit the gas, and stops it automatically when you hit a mile a minute.

We found a couple of suggestions for this modern bodybuilder. First, the audio system packs some impressive numbers, but we hate how it interfaces. Skip the option and head to a stereo store. Worst of all, this car has a foot-operated parking/e-brake. What the!?! There we were, decimating the loaner’s tires with acceleration and lateral gs, and we can’t grab the e-brake to bring the rear end around. If you slide your left foot over to try, you leave the clutch open for stalling. And if you try to move your right over to cover, you’re going to trip and fall down. Trip while driving? Yes, while driving.

Other coolness comes from the projector-beam headlights. When you switch from low to high beam, you hear a mechanical sound, like a lens being moved over the bulb. On a dark mountain road, they were lighting up the tree tops (apologies to the owls that night).

The SRTs rides a half inch lower than the Challenger R/T and SE models, has better tuned suspension, sway bars, etc. It’s big, but never feels big. The SRT also has 20-inch fully-forged Alcoa aluminum wheels.

The 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 is well-tamed beast. Most people will look at it, some people will talk to you about it, and a few will ask you to show off.

There are very few changes planned for 2010 (a different audio interface with UConnect phone and navigation), so don’t wait, get 425 practical horsepower now.

For photos, see:
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Old 09-15-2009, 01:08 PM
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I like "If you're a Camry shopper, skip this one."

The reviewer really seems to understand the appeal of the Challenger (not that it should be so difficult to understand, but with some reviews you wonder).
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