Jalopnik Reviews the Dodge Charger SRT8

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jul 15, 2008.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    While Wert spent last week behind the wheel of the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8, I had the muscle car's big, boorish bear of a brother, the 2008 Dodge Charger SRT8. While the two cars may come off the same production lines, I'm finding myself using a different set of adjectives than the petals of flowery prose Wert scattered in front of the Challenger's tires. The Charger SRT8 is pitifully crude, boorish and obnoxious. As far as high performance goes, it's a complete piece of shit. But it's the most badass, tire-spinning, smoke-billowingly fun piece of shit we've ever driven.

    Where to begin? Well, for starters, you can completely disregard Wert's original review of the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8. That's right, set his overly verbose love-screed aside because the Charger SRT8 is, above all, about testosterone. This is the kind of car that glorifies the years grease-streaked men have spent in dank, dark, sweaty garages squeezing every ounce of power from the profile of an intake cam. Guts this car has got in spades. The engine is a jewel of power and sound. The exhaust note of the big four-door is far more satisfying than the Challengers' more sedate murmurs. Small children cry in its throaty presence; young women faint; even dogs stare.

    But engineers scratch their heads and laugh. How in the hell does a 6.1-liter, computer-designed, computer-controlled V8 provide such atrocious fuel mileage? We've managed to eek out 17 miles per gallon when being gentle, and when we call upon the dogs of war — 12. That's right, 12 miles per gallon. And not only that, but why does the transmission feel like it's getting its signals by way of carrier pigeon? In fully automatic mode, shifting feels less an exercise in maximum performance, and more an attempt at plowing mud with with your tires. Shifting it into manual mode, you gain a lot more control and it gets a lot more punchy, thus more fun, but the E-nannies still kick in too early, and the software fails to blip the throttle like Caddy's code does, making shift transitions awkward.

    Finally, how did someone sign off on a suspension which makes a 1996 Toyota Corolla feel sporty in comparison? Don't get us wrong, the car is predictable at low speed, and extremely entertaining when you're writing graffiti on the parking lot, but at speed it feels unsettled, jittery, and unpolished in places where the Challenger shines.

    The interior is nearly as bewildering as the traction control software. Things start off beautifully with multi-position, leather-clad seats featuring red-contrast stitching, tastefully embroidered SRT8 logos, and a suede-like seating surface. Nice. But then things get weird again. Instead of a purpose-built cockpit, we are faced with a bewildering user interface split between the speedometer and the navigation screen. And whoever thought a rear-seat Sirius satellite kids' TV package would make sense in this car should be rapped across the brow with a baseball bat. The only channels available are Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel. Should it not be The Death Metal Channel, Car Chase Network and Tire Smoke News Channel? The wide swaths of depression-era gray rubberized plastic on the dash help highlight the failed execution of the art-deco styling in favor of the early-millennium "we phoned it in" school of design.

    This is the essential problem with the Charger SRT8. It is both everything you love and everything you hate about American cars all wrapped up in one tough-looking package. It's big and rides smoothly, with plenty of space, lots of luxurious elements, and it's more powerful than stink on a wet mule. But the surprisingly sloppy handling, maddening user controls and tragic transmission make us cry uncle. The car manages to be just controllable enough that you have to be really stupid to get yourself in trouble, but it's powerful enough that if you do, you'll be going down in a blaze of twisted metal and tire smoke — a funeral pyre to the Gods of drag racing.

    I would hate the Charger, but it's just so much goddamn fun.

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  2. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Exterior Design: ****
    Let's not mince words here: The 2008 Dodge Charger SRT8 is the kid that took your sister out to a party and she came back with frazzled hair, disheveled clothes, and smeared makeup. It's a badass car and it looks it. In sedate colors it blends in like a roughneck in a polo, but when properly quaffed, it gets a solid nod as the obvious troublemaker. Something is brewing behind those headlights, and we all know it starts with a capital 'T'.

    Interior Design: **
    Like Wert said said so eloquently in his review of the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8, "the exterior was crafted with pound upon pound of love and care; the interior feels like the ginger-headed stepchild of the design process." As Challenger goes, so goes Charger. Where the exterior is tough and purposeful, the interior is disjointed and nonsensical. A car like this should be a purpose-built missile of power and fury, not some toddler-coddling, middle-American market-research vomitorium.

    Acceleration: ****
    What you get depends on whether the car is in Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde mode. Normal acceleration in "Drive" registered 5.47 seconds to 60 on the computer. Not bad, but it felt hollow. Even though we were never able to best it when tapping the shifter manually, there's a certain satisfaction to wringing the big Hemi all the way out to its redline. Gunning it in this car means managing wheel spin, holding on for dear life and trying to wipe that stupid smirk off your face after you're all done

    Braking: ****
    Brembos. Big ones. And solid ABS software to back them up. With 4100 lbs of bulk, this thing scrubs speed as if an anchor from the Titanic was dropped off the stern. Best be buckled tight, or you'll get well acquainted with the steering wheel, ya land-lubber.

    Ride: ***
    Ride and handling, to our minds, are interlocked elements. If the ride is harsh, the handling better be damn good, and true for the opposite. Unfortunately here, the ride wins while the handling suffers. Considering the huge 20" wheels on the front and back of the Charger, the control exhibited on compression and rebound is respectable. We did notice quite a bit of noise from the suspension on the nasty stuff, but it was quickly muted by the more-than-ample shocks.

    Handling: **
    Yarg. Where to begin? It rolls like a low-level patsy ratting out a mob boss. High-speed corners are met with predictable, if not frightening, understeer. Pop it into 'no nanny' mode and you can turn the rear end around like a cocktail waitress at a Dean Martin convention.

    Gearbox: **
    Possibly the most embarrassing part of the car. If this tranny was in a family of upstate Oregon counterfeiters, they'd hide it in the basement, chained to the wall and fed only fish heads Goonies-style. It's the biggest weakness on the Charger; its greatest shame. But slapping it into manual mode lets you pretend like you're a big boy.

    Audio: ***
    It's an SRT product. If you have to rely on the Kicker sound system to entertain you, you're doing it wrong. During my time with the car, the most use I got out of the radio was it telling me where the traffic jams were so I could work my way around them.

    Toys: ****
    It's loaded. If you're a middle-management type with the requisite wife and two-point-five kids, this car will be magically delicious. The brain-maiming Sirius satellite TV is perfect for keeping those accidents of yours occupied with hour upon hour of Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer. Barring that, they can watch their favorite DVDs, all while wearing wireless headphones so you don't have to communicate with them. Even if you don't have kids, the Sirius radio, 0-60 MPH, 1/4 mile, 1/8th mile, and G-metering systems will keep you entertained no matter where you go. We recommend keeping the optional sunroof open during all exercises in reckless acceleration. It makes the evenings that much more exciting

    Value: ***
    Here I am, making fun of a Chrysler platform (which is like shooting pickles in a jar), and yet I can't help but think this is a fun car. Granted, the mileage is terrible, but it's more than made up for in utility, hoonability, and funulence. Yes, I just made up a word. Just make sure you don't plan on doing any autocrossing while you are in possession of this car or many a cone will meet its tragic end.

    Overall: ***
    Fun? Yes. Uncouth? Yes. An ego extension - you bet. Is this car for everyone? Absolutely not. The Dodge Charger SRT8 is one of those cars that, at the moment, seems obscene, but when the next malaise era rolls around will be remembered fondly as a pinnacle of automotive ballsiness. It is both great and terrible, brilliant and abhorrent, and the Charger SRT8 is everything we love about American braggadocio.

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  3. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    I dunno. I get a kick out of riding up a tough hill on my bicycle, and halfway up realizing that I'm in a higher gear than I thought I was and I'm still not getting winded. 300hp (or however much that thing makes) is fun to command, but it's like candy. Power that comes from me is much more satisfying.

    :( I'm such a dork.
     
  4. BlueApocalypse

    BlueApocalypse New Member

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  5. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    I originally said 400, but I knocked it down afterwards. Oh well.
     
  6. Rich

    Rich New Member

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    You're comparing your legs to a motor.
     
  7. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The baddest looking muscle car since the 4th gen. Firebird.
     
  8. what
    the
    fuck
    are you on about?
     
  9. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    I'm comparing the enjoyment of pushing myself to the limit vs. pushing a machine to the limit. I think it's much cooler when I discover I'm stronger than I thought I was.

    I was in a weird mood last night, okay?
     

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