It’s a good thing this car appeals to a wide range of people, because this extroverted torch red Dodge Charger SRT8 isn’t easy to hide. Onlookers ranging from a senior citizen to a toddler pointed and stared at this modern-day Mopar muscle car as I idled down Main Street in Ann Arbor.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Charger SRT8 comes with a form of onboard telemetry in the gauge cluster that allows the driver to measure a variety of performance tests: 0-to-60-mph time, lateral g-force, braking distance, and 1/4-mile time, to name a few. It’s by no means as complex as the Nissan GT-R’s graphic system, but it’s fun to toggle through nonetheless. It also became like a video game high score that we all then tried to beat as the keys exchanged hands.
The 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 engine pulls hard, and the carbon footprint left behind is large enough for a Toyota Prius to fall into. The Charger SRT8 comes only with a five-speed automatic, unlike the Challenger SRT8 we had a couple of weeks ago, which was a six-speed manual. But I’d argue that the automatic is the better of the two.
The Dodge Charger SRT8 holds a lifetime membership at the lead-foot club … and subsequently will spend much of its lifetime at the gas station.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
The Dodge Charger SRT8 is an adorable throwback that anyone schlepping through life with a wheezy four-cylinder or an indolent V-6 should experience before the petroleum runs out. The 425-hp Hemi V-8, side-stepping rear axle, and war-whoop exhaust yowl are well worth the $43,730 price of admission. Never mind the $1700 guzzler tax or the $50 pump stops, this is the most cost effective form of mental therapy money can buy.
The seatback bolsters feel ready for the NASCAR high banks. The carbon-fiber trimmed steering wheel is perfect for hanging on for dear life. And there’s a NASA-grade instrument package to document your every maneuver. My best 0-60 clocking was 5.20 seconds.
I’m hoping that the current Charger hands the baton to a replacement within the coming twelve months. Here’s my wish list for changes to the SRT8 and its kin:
- A seriously lower cowl and belt line. The gangsta look came and went. For inspiration, study the sinewy-sleek Chargers of forty years ago.
- Seriously lighter doors. Make that seriously lighter everything.
- A manual mode for the automatic transmission that actually holds gears until an upshift is requested.
- Steering that takes you straight down the road without persistent minding.
But please don’t mess with the Charger’s status as one of the last American-made muscle sedans still kicking.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor
It’s not QUITE as fun and eye-catching as the stick-shift Challenger SRT8 I drove last weekend, but the Charger SRT8 is still more fun and eye-catching than just about every other four-door on the market today. Not that it’s particularly nimble to toss through corners, but this super (and super heavy) Charger can still be enjoyable around curves. Where the Dodge really comes into its own, though, is on the highway, during kickdown gearshifts, or tire-squealing wide-open-throttle drag-race launches.
Mike’s report doesn’t surprise me a bit; I drove the Charger SRT8 on one of the first really nice days of spring, and I overheard one pedestrian say “that’s a hot car.” Another particularly cool bystander gave me a knowing wave and thoroughly enjoyed it when I revved the 6.1-liter Hemi engine for him at a stoplight. Indeed, the Charger looks badass in SRT8 trim. I’d probably skip the red paint, though. If I owned an SRT8, I’d be in enough trouble with the law as it was, thanks to 425 hp and the egging-you-on onboard telemetry that Mike and Don described. I wouldn’t want retina-abusing paint scheme to make me stand out even more.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
We recently tested a Dodge Challenger SRT8 and I was very disappointed with the car. It was big, heavy, difficult to see out of, and felt surprisingly slow. The Charger is just as big and heavy, but it offers better visibility and the automatic transmission’s more favorable gear ratios make the car a lot more fun to drive.
Anyone shopping for a Charger should splurge on the HID headlights. It was cold, dark, and rainy this morning and I was not very comfortable behind the wheel because the standard headlights are hardly visible unless you are in the middle of nowhere on a moonless night. More than once I checked to see if I had accidentally turned off the lights and was running on the daytime running lights alone. The pitiful range of the headlights makes a car with this much power unnerving after dark.
Of course you’d much rather be driving this car during the day so you can watch other people stare at it and check out the huge clouds of smoke that are so easy to produce with a stab at the accelerator. Want proof? Check out this old video from when the Charger launched: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTXJIj4FhlM
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
The Charger may not have badass looks on the same level as the Challenger, but it has the mechanicals to match the two-door and the packaging to beat the coupe as a fun and usable muscle car. Like Phil, I find the Charger’s better sightlines and (relatively) smaller feel to be a big advantage in making this Dodge a better car. The additional 20 pounds of a Charger SRT8 over the Challenger SRT8 are imperceptible, and the suspension of the sedan is tuned for both better handling and a ride that’s well tuned rather than floaty. As others have complained about the automatic transmission’s manual mode, I feel compelled to add that the process of taping the shifter left and right to change gears is unintuitive and just plain annoying. The interior may be characterless, but the important contact points-the seat and steering wheel-are comfortable and natural.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Even if you skipped the red paint on our test car, the Charger SRT8 would still turn heads. Sure, the large 20-inch chrome wheels and the massive Brembo disc brakes beneath catch the eye, and then there’s the massive air intake planted smack dab in the middle of the hood. From the driver’s seat, it almost seems like Chrysler grafted on an engine nacelle ripped from a Boeing 737.
Speaking of the Charger’s debut, I remember Mopar fanatics at the time bemoaning the fact that the nameplate wasn’t affixed to a coupe. Ironically, this SRT8 is much more enjoyable to drive than its two-door sibling, the Challenger SRT8. As Eric noted, the suspension tuning on the Charger does a much better job of handling the LX platform’s heft, and doesn’t wallow in corners like the Challenger does. Better yet, the two extra doors makes it easier to bring your buddies along for some rip-snorting, tire-shredding, back-roads fun.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
2010 Dodge Charger SRT8
Base price (with destination and gas guzzler tax): $40,630
Price as tested: $43,730
6.1L Hemi V-8 engine
5-speed automatic transmission
Anti-lock disc brakes
All-speed traction control
Anti-spin differential rear axle
Electronic stability program
Remote engine start
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Heated front seats
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
6 Boston acoustic speakers
Steering wheel mounted audio controls
Leather wrapped steering wheel
20-inch aluminum wheels
Power heated fold-away sideview mirrors
Options on this vehicle:
SR1 option group II — $1890
– 13 Kicker speakers
– 200-Watt Kicker subwoofer
– 322-Watt Kicker Amplifier
– Media center CD/DVD/MP3/radio
– Driver surround sound
– Auto-dimming rearview mirror
– Uconnect phone with voice command
– iPod control
SR1 option group III — $985
– Media center CD/DVD/HDD/NAV radio
– GPS navigation
– Sirius traffic
Torch Red exterior paint — $225
Key options not on vehicle:
Rear seat video system — $1460
Power sunroof — $950
HID headlamps — $695
13 / 19 / 15 mpg
Size: 6.1L Hemi V-8
Horsepower: 425 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Curb weight: 4160 lb
20 x 9-inch aluminum SRT design wheels
245/45ZR20 Goodyear Eagle RS-A performance tires