2009 Dodge Charger SRT8

Fortunately, the roads were bone dry for my night with the SRT8, and I was able to enjoy it in all its glory. I've spent lots of time with Charger R/Ts and can confirm the SRT8 is indeed a very worthwhile upgrade. The extra 0.4-liter of Hemi muscle turns what is a merely quick big sedan into a ferocious monster, fully capable of spinning its tires from 30 mph. I know because I did it. Three times. Laughing hysterically.

Perhaps more surprising is the improvement in handling. I drove the SRT8 after spending a weekend with our long-term Jaguar XF - one of the best riding and handling large sedans money can buy - and wasn't nearly as disappointed with the Dodge as I thought I'd be. The ride is rough, but never unbearably harsh. The stiffer dampening suitably dispenses with the pitching and front-wheel tire squealing that's all too prevalent in lesser Chargers. At more than 4000 lb, it's still far from tossable, but it can hustle through highway off-ramps and tight turns quite well, assisted, of course, by liberal doses of throttle. The only real letdown is the five-speed automatic, which has a limited, awkward manumatic function and no sport mode. If only we could order this beast with the Challenger R/T's six-speed manual.

There are clearly no Jaguar pretensions in the Dodge Charger's interior, which feels cheap and dated even in the base model. The last freshening did some good, as there appear to be more soft-touch materials on the dash, but this is still a dark, Spartan environment. On the bright side, the seats are supportive and the navigation system works well.

All in all, the extraverted Charger SRT8 remains a bright spot in Dodge's lineup.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

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