• Jul 18, 2008

Click the Challenger for a high res gallery
During the recent What's New event at Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Ground, we had the opportunity to sample the new Dodge Challenger SRT-8. For the 2008 model year, Chrysler is only building SRT-8 versions of the Challenger with a combination of the 6.1L HEMI V8 and a five-speed automatic transmission. We first saw the production version of the Challenger earlier this year at the Chicago Auto Show and while we thought the styling was great with perfect muscle car proportions, it is undoubtedly a big car. The Challenger is built on Chrysler's LX platform shared with the 300 and Charger. Compared to the Mustang it looks huge and it hardly seems like it would actually feel sporty.

Fortunately, the dynamic behavior of large cars has made huge strides since the original Challenger went away in the mid-seventies. We first tried out the Challenger on the road at Chelsea before taking it for a hot lap around the evaluation track. The circuit was built back in the early '90s when a certain gentleman named Lutz was still occupying an office on the top floor of Chrysler's headquarters. It's basically a lovely little natural terrain road course, not quite as elaborate as the new road course that Maximum Bob built at the GM Proving Ground, but it's a good way to get a dynamic feel for a car. After lunch we had another opportunity to thrash the Challenger on the autocross course that Chrysler set up on the vehicle dynamics pad. Find out how the Challenger did after the jump, along with some video of our time behind the wheel.


Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.


As previously observed, the Challenger is a massive hunk of steel. It's a mere two inches shorter than its sedan siblings and stretches over 10 inches longer than its closest competitor, the Ford Mustang. It's also hauling around nearly 800 pounds of additional mass. While the Mustang is no flyweight, this thing is positively huge.

It does have some advantages over the Ford. Sharing a platform with the sedans means that it also shares the independent rear suspension inherited from the Mercedes E-Class. The Challenger also has a bit more rear head and shoulder room, although leg room is about the same. Not that it matters because the front cabin is the place to be.



Chrysler only made the 2008 SRT-8s available to drive, with the 09 R/T and V6 models sitting on a static display, begging for our attention. Interestingly, the front seats on the "lesser" Challengers were the same heavily bolstered buckets found in other SRT models. A good thing, considering that the thrones are both comfortable and snug.

The combination of the cozy interior and naturally aspirated 6.1L HEMI V8 helps the girth of the Challenger melt away when you get moving. Peering out over the long hood, the Challenger is by no means light footed or nimble, but it doesn't feel ponderous either.

On the Chelsea ride road, the suspension does a surprisingly good job of moving the 245/45R20 tires and wheels across an accurate reproduction of typical Michigan roads. Even cornering over rough pavement, the Challenger stays well planted and doesn't loose its composure. On the handling evaluation track, the big V8 moves the coupe smartly from one corner to the next, while the stability control does a good job of taming the understeer that is almost inevitable in a big front engine car like this.


Dodge Challenger SRT8 runs the cones at Chrysler m

On our first run around the autocross course, we kept the stability control enabled while learning where to zig and where to zag. With the ESC on it's almost impossible to get the back end of the Challenger to swing wide even with all of the 420 lb-ft of torque summoned by your right foot. At that point we turned it off and quickly discovered the limits of the tires. Needless to say, the grip of the rear rubber was no match for the available torque and the rear easily swung wide.

Overall in just a few minutes of driving, the Challenger proved to be surprisingly capable and fun to drive. It's a muscle car in the classic sense, but with all of the most modern capabilities and conveniences we've come to expect. Look for our full evaluation soon.


Photos Copyright ©2008 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 20 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Wow that is some body roll right up in there, hopefully the aftermarket will take care of that promptly.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I drove one of these Monday...BIG car, lots of body roll and you can really feel the weight in the corners. But it was quick and it did sound very nice. Roomy interior, great seats, just a few cheap plastics here and there but the faux suede in the doors was a nice touch and it had great brakes (Brembo) And this thing has an enormous trunk! All around I liked it, is it a BMW..no, but that was not it's intention, it was a very fun car to cruise around in for a while. And it does stand out going down the road (in a good way).
      • 6 Years Ago
      Rich guys toy.
      • 6 Years Ago
      At first glance, I thought it was the new Camero.
        • 6 Years Ago
        well that figures, being is you can't even spell Camaro
      • 6 Years Ago
      The car doesn't seem to be stable at all.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Exactly! In photo on the front page of autoblog the body roll look's terrible!
      • 6 Years Ago
      Drove mine other day mixed in with at least 500 cars here for the car show. The people on the sides were hollering, screaming, asking me to stop for a picture, I pulled over and the show cars all stopped to see it. I really thought I would blend in there for once. Bottom line for the few insults here about the car (from people who do not own, nor have ever driven one) is that most people love this car, and for all Dodges problems, for what this is, they nailed the design. Admit it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      My local Dodge store had one sitting in the front lawn the other day. It's definitely a sharp car. It was orange, had the optional sun roof and summer tires. With the ~$2200 for gas guzzler (IIRC) it came to $41k. not bad.
      To nit-pic: The fit of the trunk lid could have been better. The carbon fiber look stripes look like they belong on a Caliber. Better would be a proper painted stripe with an extra charge like the two-tone option on a truck. Last, I thought the satellite antenna was a little unsightly. Sirius is std. on the SRT8, so I think you're stuck with it.
      Over all, I think Dodge did an awesome job bringing this retro-concept to production w/o mucking it up. Cheers
      • 6 Years Ago
      I guy here at my work has a Orange one no sunroof. Great looking car but, IMO the orange color just doesn't do it for me. I thought it would look brighter in person. Interior is nice but, still too 300ish as far as the dash and wheel goes.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It's too big and heavy for me. The '09 vette is looking better all the time.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I finally seen one of these on the streets of Atlanta. Same model as the photo above was seen driving on I-20 in heavy traffic. Definitely a nice looking car. And that car definitely stood out amongst all the other car, except the Bentley Continental Coupe that gracefully strolled by.


      Kumail
      • 6 Years Ago
      i prefer the camaro's looks
    • Load More Comments