• Jun 27th 2008 at 1:02PM
  • 12
Click above for high-res gallery of Autoblog autocrossing

Yesterday at Chrysler's annual media gathering to show off new products at the its proving grounds in Chelsea, MI, the struggling automaker wanted to demonstrate the performance capabilities of its SRT branded vehicles. SRT staff set up an autocross course on the vehicle dynamics pad and brought out examples of every SRT vehicle from the Caliber SRT-4 to the mighty Dodge Viper ACR. Before we were allowed to hop in the cars, we had listen to a short briefing that described the course and some safety rules. And before being allowed to climb into the big snake, we had to complete at least a couple of laps in one of the five Challenger SRT-8s to get familiarized with the course. For a big 4,140-lb coupe, the Challenger proved surprisingly nimble. We learned that with the electronic stability control enabled, it's almost impossible to get the back end to swing wide. The stability control has two alternative modes. The first is engaged by a momentary stab of ESP button and allows some extra slip before intervening, while pressing and holding the ESP button for five seconds completely disables the stability and traction control leaving only the ABS. Read what happens (and watch the tire-burning videos) after the jump.

Dodge Viper ACR goes through the cones at Chrysler Media Event

With the stability control neutered, the Challenger really comes alive and is much more of a handful to maneuver. The 425 lb-ft of torque easily gets the modern muscle car sideways in a hurry when the wheels are allowed to break traction. Aside from the absence of slip, the stability control's intervention is actually quite transparent and never really noticeable. If you go into a corner too hot at the limit, the Challenger will understeer resolutely while scrubbing off speed. In the lower part of the tachometer is a display that shows a friction circle, which displays the lateral and longitudinal acceleration from the stability control sensors.

After four laps in the Challenger, we hopped into the ACR Viper coupe. The sinister looking black snake had a pair of silver stripes running from nose to tail and a big high-mounted wing on the trailing edge of its rear deck. The 600-hp V10 has more than enough torque to make shifting almost unnecessary in any gear. Squeezing the throttle makes this monster leap ahead effortlessly. Maneuvering around the cones is trickier with the Viper than the Challenger because of its long nose and rearward seating position. Nonetheless, there is something viscerally exciting about piloting a Viper whether on the street or through an autocross. Hitting the gas a little too soon or too hard gets the rear axle to snap sideways even with the steamrollers that adorn this car. Check out the video for a better idea of what that looks like.

Dodge Challenger SRT8 runs the cones at Chrysler media event

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      They should send the ACR to the 'Ring. I'm sure it would kick some asses and give us all another reason to argue. ;)

      Sure looks badass though.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I can't believe you guys weren't charging that slalom out of the gate a LOT harder. If you gave it a hard run, then laid on a little brake to set up your rhythm through that slalom, you'd have found some real time!

      I mean, they did let you know if your time beat the other scribes at Press Day, right? It'd only be fair if you could do it for bragging rights ...
        • 7 Years Ago
        Nothing was timed at all. We had Chrysler staff watching our every move and only two laps in the Viper because there were only two cars. The run in the video was my first pass in the Viper. The second I managed to keep end in line out of the tight left hander.
      • 7 Years Ago
      good god that viper looks mean! It's still a shame they're gonna stop making it, but i guess it's better to die young than live on into old age and possibly be watered down.

      I'll still own one someday...as soon as i can afford it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Chrysler's SRT8 cars all handle much better than you would think, in fact heavy cars from all sorts of automakers handle great. A real testament to modern engineering. If you purchase one you also get a track day and driving school included in the price.
      • 7 Years Ago
      About time we see somenew viper info. All this talk about the vette and gtr was driving me crazy. Bring on the king snake!
        • 7 Years Ago
        all three of those plus the 911 gt2 are compared in the new C&D, if you're into that kind of thing.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Awesome, Ill have to pick that one up
      • 7 Years Ago
      Looks like a lot of fun and I love both those cars. Hell, I'd take any of the SRT cars. It's good to hear that the Challenger handles well too.

      I agree it'd be fun to see what that Viper can do on the 'Ring.
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