Thank you, David, for being the first to have a mostly positive spin to his review of the Challenger SRT8. Given my Mopar bloodlines, it might have seemed pretty suspect for me to be the only strong proponent of the brutish Dodge.
I've always loved the 6.1-liter V-8 in Chrysler's SRT8 products (the fabulous screaming retro soundtrack, the gobs of horsepower, even the attractive underhood look), but I'd never had the chance to experience it through a manual gearbox until I got behind the wheel of this Challenger SRT8 test car. What did I think? I totally loved it! Sure, the throws are a bit long and the linkage is ever-so-slightly vague, but the feel is very positive and the pistol-grip handle makes me feel like I was actually alive in 1970 to enjoy the original Mopar E-bodies.
I'd like the Challenger even better, though, if the gearbox felt as nice as the cue-ball-topped units in the newest performance V-8 Mustangs. I also wish the Challenger wasn't burdened by such a feeling of heft, which, as my colleagues have dutifully pointed out, does it few favors in corners. Still, the Dodge feels like it weighs about the same as a Chevy Camaro SS, not the 300 pounds heavier that it actually is. Another bonus is that you can actually see out of the Challenger and use the back seats and trunk more easily, unlike the Chevy (the Mustang is equal to or better than the Challenger in these aspects). I do think that the Camaro is the best looking of the bunch, but I still love the Challenger's head-turning retro looks (although maybe not so much in this "detonator yellow" paint).
Objectively, the Challenger is not the best of the pony-car trio, but I'd still buy it over the Chevy and, hesitantly, the Ford. Why? Because it remains a very good car, and it's much less common than the other two (in the first three months of 2010, the Mustang has outsold the Challenger two to one and the Camaro has outsold the Dodge by more than 250 percent). Personally, I'd rather not see a car exactly like mine at every stoplight and in every parking lot. (Seems like the attitude of Mopar guys from forty years back, doesn't it?)
Nonetheless, I would have a really hard time forking over $44,350 for a base stick-shift SRT8. I'd rather save ten grand and lose 49 horsepower and get a decently optioned R/T; I just went to dodge.com and built a stick-shift R/T with a sunroof, Sirius satellite radio, and deep blue paint, and it came out to $33,950. That seems like a pretty reasonable price for Cool.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor