Motor Trend Comparo - Dodge Challenger SRT8 vs Ford Mustang GT500

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, May 5, 2008.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Time Travelers: Nixon may not be in the White House, but among the Big Three it's 1970 all over again.

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    By Arthur St. Antoine
    Photography by Wesley Allison

    Something's wrong. Parked outside is a brand-new Dodge Challenger. Next to it, a freshly baked Ford Shelby GT500. Yet nowhere in the CBS television lineup can I find a listing for that funny new series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Also, what's with all this gray hair? I'm only nine years old.

    Quick check of the morning newspaper: A-ha! It's 2008, not 1970. Those two muscle machines outside sure confused the issue. Hey! Who ate my Space Food Sticks?

    Viva the American retro-car revolution. Three years ago, Ford struck first with its late-1960s-inspired gen-five Mustang and still had the segment all to itself when it released the reincarnated, high-output Shelby GT500 version for 2007. But Ford's solitary rule of the musclecar time machine is over. In six months, the Mustang's most feared rival, the Chevrolet Camaro, will return after seven years of reclusion in a suite high atop a Radisson near Warren, Michigan. Not that the assault against the Mustang's dominion will take even that long to commence: A third time traveler, Dodge's hotly awaited Challenger coupe, has already charged into the fray.

    It was two years ago (MT, August 2006) that we drove the one-of-a-kind concept car that led to the production Challenger you see here. While the concept was a handbuilt showpiece, not sorted for road-testing, the essentials were in place: 6.1-liter Hemi V-8, bulging wheels and tires, an updated interpretation of that unmistakable 1970 shape made iconic by the 1971 cult-hit movie "Vanishing Point." The faithful nodded their collective heads in admiration of Dodge's show-car handiwork, but almost immediately the rumblings began. "You gotta consider the Michael Jackson factor," said many. "The next time we see it, how much of that stuff will have fallen off?"

    Fear not, Mopar mavens: Despite every exterior surface being different, the production Challenger is a near-clone of the fervor-building show star, sporting necessary alterations that do little to diminish the shape's impact. The production version's most significant edit is a three-inch trim in width-a revision you'd notice only if you happen to have the concept car handy for comparison. Whereas the concept's bodywork tucked in dramatically at its lower edges (a feature designers admitted early on would never make it to showrooms), the production car wears a thick black band along the bottom of the body, an addition that both simplifies metal shaping and visually reduces the perceived thickness of the car's flanks. The famed four-headlamp "bandit" grille, borrowed straight from 1970, remains, though Dodge admits to considerable wind-tunnel work and changes to the hood's overhang needed to reduce lift (a new black rear spoiler also appears to reduce rear lift). A thicker B-pillar enhances roof strength, clever design work has retained the "full-width" look of the taillamps, and a new, chrome fuel-filler flap adds exterior drama. Gone is all costly carbon fiber; the production car is crafted in steel.

    Though the concept's interior wore splashes of brushed-aluminum in the dash and center console, the production Challenger will look familiar to anyone who's seen the inside of a Charger or a 300C. The same, huge four-spoke steering wheel greets drivers; it's a shame Dodge hasn't employed a smaller, sportier three-spoke rim-at least in the top-level SRT8 edition. No complaints about the seats, though: They're beefy, leather SRT8 buckets, comfy for extended cruising and ready to embrace max-lat maneuvering.

    For 2008, the Challenger's first model year, Dodge will sell the car only in high-output SRT8 trim: 6.1-liter Hemi making 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet, 20-inch forged-aluminum rims, Brembo four-piston discs front and rear, five-speed automatic. Dodge simply wasn't able to get a six-speed manual ready in time, and that's a glaring omission-the Challenger should've reappeared with a manual first, including the famed pistol-grip shift lever. Still, even before release Dodge had already sold nearly all of the 6400 Challenger SRT8s it intends to build the first year. And the pistol-grip Tremec six-speed version will arrive for 2009-along with an R/T model (370-horse, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with either transmission) and a base car (250-horse, 3.5-liter V-6; automatic only) that should start at under $24K.

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    Even without a manual, the Challenger SRT8 has the hardware to step straight into the corral with Ford's Shelby GT500. Though based on a platform that's showing its age (translation: "live axle"), the GT500 is hardly past its prime. Its supercharged, 5.4-liter V-8 thunders with 500 horsepower and 480 pound-feet, it erases speed with giant Brembo discs (four-piston in front), it shifts with a slick six-speed manual, its blazing-red bodywork and dual racing stripes intimidate like the angry Cobra it wears in badge form.

    At the dragstrip, the Shelby quickly put to rest any notions about cobwebs, blazing to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds and closing out the quarter mile in 12.6 seconds at 114.2 mph-bettering the scorching numbers we recorded with our last GT500 (December 2006). Burdened with 250 additional pounds and fed by 75 fewer horses, the Challenger was outgunned but proved beastly nonetheless: 0 to 60 took just 4.7 seconds, the quarter rushed by in 13.1 seconds at 108.3 mph. Extracting the most from the Shelby takes more skill: In addition to a carefully executed clutch drop and lightning upshifts, the driver needs a deft touch on the throttle-or the rear tires will go up in smoke. Launching the Challenger, in contrast, is child's play: Hold revs at about 1800 rpm with a dab of brakes, then let 'er rip. Leave traction control on; hey, leave the transmission in Drive. The SRT8 will lay down repeatable 4.7s run after run.

    The Shelby's weight and torque advantage helped it circle our figure-eight course a half-second quicker than the Challenger, though the Dodge's beefier Goodyear Eagle F1s (a mere $50 option) and larger Brembos gave it a slight edge in stopping power.

    More revealing differences appear when you hit the road. Everyone's first impression after climbing aboard the Challenger: "Wow. This is a big car." And it is, checking-in nearly 10 inches longer than the Shelby, 2.5 inches taller, and almost two inches wider. The Challenger is truly old-school that way; there aren't many automobiles left that showcase such a brash expanse of hood through the windshield (those hood scoops, by the way, are fully functional). Yet the Challenger is also a grownup car, its fully independent suspension hanging poised over roads that cause the live-axle GT500 to step about, its structure feeling stouter, its interior far more expensively dressed, the big-bore rumble of its naturally aspirated Hemi V-8 a more stirring accompaniment than the Shelby's toy-like supercharged whine. And while the Shelby has a slight edge in steering finesse-the Challenger feels numb and intentionally slow-the GT500 also feels nose-heavy. For such a broad-shouldered car, the SRT8 is impressively balanced.

    Our biggest Challenger criticism: It's almost too well-mannered. The suspension settings feel right (a stiffer rider would cut driving comfort at the expense of a dubious handling gain), but the Challenger could use more crackle and boom in its exhaust. Racier headers will no doubt prove a popular aftermarket accessory; the pistol-fired 2009 SRT8 should have them standard.

    It's one of the closest comparo calls we've made of late, but the nod goes to the all-new Challenger from Dodge. The Shelby GT500 remains a fast and compelling piece, but the Challenger is simply a better-sorted automobile, a 20th-century icon reborn with 21st-century sophistication and poise. It's also a remarkable value, its base price undercutting the Shelby's by more than $4000 and the gap with options even wider.

    Kudos, Dodge, but remember: Don't spare the sizzle for 2009. Retro Round Two, Challenger versus Camaro, will be here before you can say "time warp."

    1st Place
    Dodge Challenger SRT8
    Broad-shouldered good looks, thundering Hemi power, and savvy chassis tuning land Dodge's new old-school muscle machine out front.

    2nd Place
    Ford Shelby GT500
    Still an eye-catcher, and sensationally fast, but archaic chassis and whiney motor weaken its bid for numero uno.

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    TEST DATA
    Challenger vs Mustang
    Acceleration to mph
    0-30 1.8 sec 1.8 sec
    0-40 2.6 2.5
    0-50 3.5 3.3
    0-60 4.7 4.3
    0-70 5.9 5.4
    0-80 7.4 6.7
    0-90 9.3 8.1
    0-100 11.3 9.7
    Passing, 45-65 mph 2.3 2.0
    Quarter mile 13.1 sec @ 108.3 mph 12.6 sec @ 114.2 mph
    Braking, 60-0 mph 117 ft 118 ft
    Lateral acceleration 0.87 g (avg) 0.89 g (avg)
    MT figure eight 26.4 sec @ 0.69 g (avg) 25.9 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)
    Top-gear revs @ 60 mph 1900 rpm 1650 rpm
    Price as tested $41,158 $47,210

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  2. August Burns

    August Burns New Member

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    Though based on a platform that's showing its age (translation: "live axle")

    ugh, mustang fans don't want IRS when will these magazines understand that. The Live axle does amazing well, the FR500C car commonly outperforms and wins.

    The two problems i have with the challenger
    1. Interior - its boring
    2. weight 4200lbs, actually heavier than the GT500.
     
  3. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    ugh, i love both of these cars, they both represent everything hero cars should be about.

    The challengers aggressive looks are almost made boring next to the mustang. Impossible.

    Either way, i'd just have to take the GT500, but i don't think they are exactly comparable in price are they?
     
  4. PUREVIL

    PUREVIL More Money Than Brains Croo

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    The challenger would look 100X better with aftermarket wheels. I hate those wheels they put on them. The 08 chargers come with the same wheels and they look gay.
     
  5. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    it needs more flare from the back of the doors, back. It looks way to flat. The guards are shaped, but it needs airscoops or something.
     
  6. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    On the chance that I decide to get one I might black out the rear quarter panels like the originals. Or the top of the car. It's like a canvas to tweak. :noes:
     
  7. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    I'd get one of these over a G8 GT, no doubt.

    Depends what you want really, this is a real hooligans car, were the G8 is as much as i hate to use the cliche, BMW levels of car for alot less money :o
     
  8. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    I'm not really feeling either car. I actually like the charger more than the challenger.
     
  9. insomnia

    insomnia New Member

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    :ugh::ugh::ugh::ugh::ugh:
     
  10. illusion20

    illusion20 New Member

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    gt500 is such a nice car with a few tweeks it is amazing, Pully, tune CAI and suspension drop. Makes 530hp to the wheels and handles better. Easy way to upgrade power with gt500.

    The challanger has great exterior looks. Seems like a solid N/A motor. And the IRS is nice for a good ride, but die hards use a solid axle.

    Ford guy here what can i say...
     

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