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Click for more Dodge Challenger SRT-8 pics from John McElroy's drive

A couple of weeks back I wrote a bit about the new Dodge Challenger SRT-8. But to honor the embargo that the Public Relations people put on driving impressions, I had to hold the best stuff until now. And man, was it worth the wait!

Despite a sagging economy, sinking car sales and soaring gas prices, the SRT-8 version of the Challenger is going to do just fine. That, despite the fact it only averages 15 mpg and costs $40,000. No worries, mate, it's the other numbers that are going to sell this car.

Check 'em out:
0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
¼ mile: 13.7 seconds
0-100-0 mph: under 17 seconds
60-0 mph: 110 feet

When it comes to top speed, the SRT people have had the car up to 170 mph, but that was on an oval. Since the Challenger is not speed-limited in any way except for its aerodynamic drag, they believe that out on the Salt Flats it will go even faster.

Click here to continue reading after the jump.

John McElroy is host of the TV program "Autoline Detroit". Every week he brings his unique insights as an auto industry insider to Autoblog readers. Follow the jump to continue reading this week's editorial.

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We drove the Challenger from Pasadena to Willow Springs race track through the winding Angeles Crest highway northeast of Los Angeles. It's a great combination of fast sweepers, long snaking esses, and clear-to-the-horizon straight-aways. Perfect for putting a car like this through its paces.

And the Challenger is definitely up to the challenge. Even though you've heard how porky this car is, tipping the scales at over 4,000 pounds, out on the open road or lapping on a big open race track, you don't really notice it. Maybe an autocross would be a different matter, but other than in very tight turns, this car feels good.

In fact, there are certain styling tricks the designers used to help make the car actually look lighter, as chief exterior designer Jeff Gale explains here:

You sit snugly in a Challenger SRT-8. The seat bottoms and backs are well bolstered, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, so you can tailor the driving position to your personal taste. Well, almost. I wish it had adjustable pedals because I found the brake pedal a tad high for my liking. Sure hope they get it right for heel-and-toe shifting when they offer the manual 6-speed next year.

There is good effort in the steering, almost on the brink of being heavy, but not quite. And it has excellent on-center feel. The thick rim makes it comfortable to grab the wheel with your whole hand, or just make light adjustments with your fingertips.

The brakes are exceptional. Big 4-piston Brembos with 14-inch rotors up front and 13.8-inch ones in the rear. It'll haul this car down from 60 mph in only 110 feet, which is extremely impressive and helps explain why you forget that this car is heavy.

SRT Engineering added an interesting refinement to the brakes that they call knock-back mitigation. When cornering at very high speeds in many cars, the wheel bearings will flex, and the rotors will tilt outboard, actually pushing the pads away. Then, the next time you jump on the brakes, you'll get you a long pedal since the pads have to travel farther. To get rid of that disconcerting feel, anytime you go over 0.6 g's, the Challenger slowly runs the ABS pump to push the pads back into position. Actually, ESP systems use this same feature when its rains so the pads will wipe water off the rotors. The wrinkle that SRT Engineering added is to have it cycle through this feature based on g-load. They have a patent pending.

You can hear first-hand how it works from Eric Heuschele, the Supervisor of Vehicle Dynamics at SRT Engineering:

Besides the raw power roaring out of the engine, and the extraordinary sound of the exhaust note that I wrote about last time, the ride and handling of this car deserves to be singled out. At Willow Springs race track I was surprised to see how flat the Challenger corners. And on the sinuous and heaving Angeles Crest highway I was surprised to see how supple the car rides. There's a very good balance between the two, which must be thanks to exhaustive suspension tuning and the fact that this is the fourth car to come off the LX platform. They just keep building on their body of knowledge.

There's so much more to write about this car but I'm out of room, except to make one last point. The customers who buy this car will not be put off by its price tag or the fuel economy. They've got the dough and they want the go, so they're going to buy it anyway.

But fuel economy legislation is about to take cars like this out of the market. Sad to say, but it looks like this muscle car was revived just in time to go right back into extinction.

More from the Dodge Challenger team is on John's Journal.

[Photos by FPI Studios]


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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      The performance stats aren't impressive. I want a 12 second muscle car.
        • 7 Years Ago
        M3 + double clutch + launch control.
      • 7 Years Ago
      What a bunch of stupid comments. The Challenger SRT-8 isn't the only model Challenger. If you want a somewhat fuel efficient Challenger, get the V6 model. The V6 in the Charger gets a respectable City 18/hwy 26. The Challenger's V6 should get the same exact fuel economy.

      A stock Mustang GT is on average .5 seconds slower than a Charger SRT-8. "Yeah, but, but, I ran a 13.1 stock." If you could get your completely stock Mustang GT to run a 13.1, you could probably drive a Challenger SRT-8 to a 12.6. On AVERAGE, Mustang GT's run high 13's and Charger SRT-8's run low 13's. The Mustang GT is a slower vehicle than the Charger SRT-8, that's a fact. Now, it's well known the Charger and Challenger will be the exact same weight. The Challenger will also have a 6-speed. That should make the Challenger R/T with a 6-speed a drivers race with a Mustang GT. The Challenger SRT-8 with a 6-speed should be a full second faster.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I drove this vehicle at Laguna Seca as a Media Coach, and have to say I was not impressed. The SRT-8 Jeep Cherokee (AWD) actually was quicker around the circuit than the Challenger, and the braking was far superior. So being out done by your own Brand's SUV division when you are supposed to building a "Modern" Muscle Car is actually kind of sad.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm not phucking impressed. The design lines are messy; the rear arches are shared by Avenger and Charger -- plebian and bland.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Actually its sad that the same comments here are posted over and over. Its been said already, you either like it or dont. Now, go find a Mustang post.
      • 7 Years Ago
      once in awhile comes a car that makes your ears perk up, your eyes sparkle and you pitch a tent pole in your pants. All your common sense goes out the window and you just gotta have that car. Even tho gasoline is expensive and is only going to be atrociously more expensive.....this challenger is something i would buy if i had a well paying job or won a lottery. This car is for those people who saved long and hard or who are financially comfortable enough to treat themselves to a great looking/sounding/feeling car! Every time i see these pictures or watch another new challenger video, it reminds me of being a boy and riding in my cousins old cuda, challenger and '69 roadrunner. It reminds me that cars were something other then appliances and futuristic fuel saving safety nerd-mobiles . Its a big world out there full of so many varieties and choices, if you got the money to spare...enjoy yourself if you aint hurting anybody.
      • 7 Years Ago
      4000 lbs? It's an overweight pig of a car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Nick, what a blowhard, your comparing finished cars as a Mustang fanboy to an unreleased car and even a unreleased Mustang at one point. Really. Shut up already. I like Mustangs too, I bought a Challenger, frankly any of the cars can be easily modified to be 10-12 second cars, so your really arguing stupid manufacturer stats for the most part since as mentioned, the Challenger is not out yet. Enough already.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Nick, my man, get out more. I mean spelling corrections and just one on a silly ass reply form on Autoblog? I certainly did not read all of yours to proofread, nor do I enter mine into Microsoft Word, as you did. I have a 01 Viper, 87 Grand National and soon the Challenger, my point is that these type of cars could all be brought down to 10-12 seconds roughly, something but you keep arguing with everyone. As for other comments, its funny you mentioned going over 140 MPH is pointless, well, my Viper can hit 140 easily and does frequently, try it sometime. You have me bored to tears with frankly arguing over nothing. Go to bed and dream of Mustangs because your fanboy love is obvious to everyone... but you.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I'm far from a Mustang fanboy, I just happen to think the Mustang is better executed all around. You don't have to be a "fanboy" to not be blind.

        As far as comparing it to "unreleased cars", the only comment I made about a car that has not yet been put into production is the Camaro, and that was simply to show that a cookie-cutter interior is not a prerequisite for a car like this. The prototypes have clearly shown that the interior will be far from anything else in Chevrolet's (or GM's) line-ups thus far. As for the "unreleased Mustang", I have no idea what you were talking about there.

        With regards to these cars being "easily modified to be 10-12 second cars", do you even have a clue of what you're talking about? I mean come on, if you had the smallest inkling of knowledge about drag racing, you would be quick to realize that there is a -massive- difference between a 10-second and 12-second car. A 500+ horsepower, 3100 pound Z06 is -barely- able to crack the 10's on street tires...It's far from "easy" to turn a 2-ton brick like this into a 10-second car.

        And two things to think about: First off, the Challengers which are being tested are production models, thus they are the same thing you will find on the showroom floor and perfectly valid to be compared to other cars, and second, learn the difference between "your" and "you're".
      • 7 Years Ago


        • 7 Years Ago
        Brandon, I believe you meant to say:

        'I may be crazy, but here is an idea.
        Please make cars that reflect the current state of gas prices.

        I would prefer cars that have 15 gallon tanks that are able to achieve 50 to 80 mpg. Despite the fact that they may be overkill for the average consumer who is happy with 30 mpg.

        People would probably rather ride a bus than buy an expensive car that will get poor gas mileage, despite numerous affordable, frugal options that are already available to sane consumers that operate with a level head rather than emotion when purchasing a vehicle.'

        Edited for moronic statements, diction and font.
        • 7 Years Ago
        i think he's a non native english speaker folks...
        • 7 Years Ago
        As you wish, you're crazy.
        • 7 Years Ago
        aside from your misspellings and grammatical errors, turn the freaking caps lock off man, sheesh.

        and if people want to pay for the gas, what's wrong with having a car that they'll enjoy instead of some boering hybrid?
        • 7 Years Ago

        yea, gas prices have risen, but it's still cheaper than water!
        fact: if you buy individual bottles of water, you're paying more per gallon for your water than you are for your gasoline.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "CAFE only ensures that if someone wants an "entertainment vehicle" it's not available. Of course, all the enviro-nuts don't care, they think everyone should be issued a government-standard Prius and damn anyone who thinks differently."

        That isn't necessarily true. The vehicles currently on the CAFE hit list, like the Challenger, fail the CAFE test not because they're fun and stylish, but because they're massive gas-guzzlers.

        There's a reason the Ford Mustang doesn't get hit as bad by CAFE. It's the same weight as other midsize cars with a lot more engine. 18 mpg may not be anyone's idea of "efficient", but it's better than the Challenger's 15, and it'll probably run rings around the Challenger too, including in 1/4 mile times for around $15,000 less.

        Don't get me wrong--I like big trucks and muscle cars as much as the next guy. But they don't have to get atrocious fuel economy like the Challenger does. The Dodge's fuel efficiency comes from a hefty curb weight that not only reduces efficiency, but makes the car slower and less agile. That's hardly what I'd consider fun.
        • 7 Years Ago
        LOL!!! Ease up on this dude, fellas (and any ladies).

        I'm sure his comments were meant well. But you can bet your last dollar he'll proof-read and ease off of those caps before he sends anything else!
        • 7 Years Ago
        is he a non-native caps lock user too?
        • 7 Years Ago
        What are you, ten? Get off the caps lock button.

        I can't ride a bus to work, it's 25 miles away. I drive a truck, but thanks to a little research before my purchase I get 27mpg. What if I made twice what I do now and wanted a fun car to burn around in? The Challenger is a very tempting option, and I continue to commute to work almost every day in my little truck while the beast comes out for weekend jaunts.

        CAFE only ensures that if someone wants an "entertainment vehicle" it's not available. Of course, all the enviro-nuts don't care, they think everyone should be issued a government-standard Prius and damn anyone who thinks differently.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Brandon, just give up on life.
        • 7 Years Ago
        boreing*, oops grammar police mispelled a word

        Screw non-enthusiasts trying to tell us what to drive, I think it's rediculous that the "weekend racer", or whatever you want to call it, it in danger.
        • 7 Years Ago
        ok then, you're crazy.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I have to say that I am getting tired of all the hybrid bashing on the comments section. What's wrong with fuel efficiency? It's not about affording the gas if they'll only sell/ration you a few gallons like in the 70's.

        To be honest, there are times when I wish I had a hybrid for all the bumper to bumper to traffic, but it'd hate to drive one for everyday.

        If it's about whose is biggest, then cars moot point. I have a friend who has an evo IX and now a 335 coupe and he still strikes out with the opposite sex. He can't stop talking about those cars though...
      • 7 Years Ago
      This is more or less a halo car...Like he said, people who buy this don't care too much about mileage. This is exactly the type of vehicle and reviews Dodge needs to get back in the car game.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I agree that the people who buy this car new won't care about the gas MPG. For many, it probably won't be their daily driver. Beyond the initial sales enthusiasm, I wonder how long its sales shelf life will be if they only offer a $40K plus model. Dodge certainly doesn't offer the brand image and cachet a BMW 135i or 335i would offer.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I find the styling of the Challenger to be "timeless." The same could be said about the current and original Mustang. They will always look good no matter their age. And yes I will be buying a Challenger R/T as a weekend toy.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well, those numbers identical to the Charger SRT-8, so they shouldn't come as a surprise in any way. In fact, this car is a Charger SRT-8, with major exterior rework and minimal interior rework. Beautiful car for sure, no doubting that, but not really anything new other than the appearance. Can't wait for the 6-speeds next year, hopefully that will help gas mileage a bit too...
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