First Look: 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8

As soon as Dodge introduced the Charger's major makeover late last year, Chrysler's famous Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team had their hands on it for yet another transformation, this time to give it an even more pronounced muscle car persona. Not only is the four-door more powerful than the outgoing (and outdated) model, it's also faster, better to toss into corners, and less of a burden at the pump, preliminary Pentastar data suggests.

The new SRT8 Charger's improved efficiency is achieved in part by the addition of Chrysler's adaptive valve exhaust system and Fuel Saver technology. The latter switches the all-new 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 into a four-cylinder mode that's activated over a wider rpm range, thus minimizing consumption. By exactly how much has yet to be announced, but for a reference point, the last Challenger SRT8 powered by the 6.1-liter V-8 was rated 13/19 mpg city/highway. An active intake manifold and high-lift camshaft on the 2012 Charger SRT8 optimize low-end grunt for even more speed when you want it.

Each of the SRT8's 465 horses and 465 pound-feet of torque are routed to sticky 20-inch rear rubber through the brand's well worn W5A580 AutoStick five-speed automatic. Yes, we know, it's no pistol-grip six-speed manual (say, from the Challenger SRT8 392), or even a six-speed slushbox, but SRT has included a first-ever paddle shifting function to make the aging tranny more entertaining.

Even with the questionable gearbox in place, Chrysler reckons the SRT8 can sprint to 60 mph from a standstill in the high-4 second range, achieve 0.88 g on the skidpad, and top out at an estimated 175 mph. Quarter-mile times should be in the high-12 second range, Chrysler says.

Good thing there are four-piston Brembos to clamp down hard on 14.2-inch front/13.8-inch rear slotted rotors. The massive binders utilize Chrysler's Ready Alert Braking system that positions pads closer to the rotors when a collision is anticipated by onboard telemetry. Each corner also gets redesigned 20-inch forged aluminum wheels that sport black accents to emphasize their mirror-like faces.

An SRT first, the adaptive damping suspension adjusts stiffness levels based on driver inputs and road conditions. When left in Auto mode, the suspension's ECU calibrates all four corners to a softer level; toggle to Sport for a tauter road feel. Engineers installed a beefier power steering system for direct, yet livable communication.

The sedan's Coke-bottle lines are slightly modified with the addition of a full SRT body kit. Meaner looking front and rear fascias, sculpted sills, and a rear trunk mounted spoiler differentiate the model from lesser variants. A gloss black cross grille sits prominently on the nose, while polished four-inch exhaust tips indicate this Charger isn't to be messed with.

SRT designers also had a hand in transforming the passenger environment into one fit for a sport-oriented driver. Uniquely bolstered, stitched, and branded SRT adjustable front bucket seats are vented and heated. To assure that rear passengers aren't jealous, the backseat bench is heated too. Carbon fiber-themed trim pieces replace some of the regular Charger's plastic bits. A 900-watt 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with Uconnect and an 8.4-inch touch screen duly entertains riders when they're not enjoying the sedan in corners. Like the Challenger SRT8 392, the giant central display can be configured to show Performance Pages, essentially all the juicy stats gearheads love to see and measure (like 0-60 mph, average g forces, and quarter-mile times).

Expect the Charger SRT8 to arrive replete with premium bells and whistles as the car will top the lineup. Notable features include keyless Enter-N-Go, adaptive cruise control, and blind spot monitoring. Complete specifications and details (including fuel economy and power stats) will arrive in the coming weeks, but we think it's safe to say that the 2012 Charger has been thoroughly recharged.

BigBlock45
Mmm, nice interior. Overdone front end - magnet for cops and Dale Jr wannabes! Good engine. Big brakes. Then there's "well worn W5A580 AutoStick five-speed automatic". Just go steal one of those 7 spd MB trannies!! NOW!! It's a start but it should have been a homerun.

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