The Dodge Charger SRT8 looks undeniably sexy, with those awesome 20-inch wheels, glossy black paint, big spoiler, and full-width LED taillights. A passing police officer even slowed to stare at the car, slack-jawed and wide-eyed. (That, fortunately, was the extent of our interaction.) The Charger also is a serious performance machine, the 6.4-liter Hemi matching its 470-hp output with a trumpet-like soundtrack. Mash the gas at low speeds, and the tires will chirp in protest even with the traction control enabled. If you pull out of a parking lot too briskly, the rear wheels try to squirm sideways before the stability-control light blinks its disapproval. It's a bit of a hooligan car, frankly.
I really am not a fan of the car's interior styling. I know it's all retro-fabulous and looks just like the Dodge Chargers that your parents and uncles drove in the 1960s and 1970s, but I'm not feeling it. The red upholstery in our tester looks like it came from a cheap, early-1990s General Motors sedan. There is, however, no denying that the Charger SRT8 is a seriously gratifying, grin-inducing sports sedan. Get me a different interior, and I'll be sold.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
All of the sound and fury that you might expect from an American muscle-car sedan are present in this mean-looking, black-over-red Dodge. I love the 20-inch wheel package. The enormous 6.4-liter V-8 has a great throaty V-8 burble and provides instant throttle response on the freeway, no matter your speed. Too bad it brings with it a $1000 gas guzzler tax, and too bad it's still mated with Chrysler's aging five-speed automatic transmission. Hemi models of the Charger and its corporate sibling, the Chrysler 300, won't get the new eight-speed automatic, because it can't handle all the torque that this engine produces. The steering is very heavy, and the steering wheel is a little too thick for my tastes, with a lot of controls mounted at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions, where you want to put your hands. The Charger is big and heavy and it drives big and heavy, but it's still a pretty enticing package for people who want the ultimate in American power in a four-door car.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
When I was handed the keys to the Charger SRT8, I was warned that I wouldn't like the "godawful red" interior So my expectations weren't high when I walked up to the car, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by what I saw. This Charger's interior is not exactly a work of art, but the color was actually more deep red than a gaudy red, and the seats and door panels were swathed in a combination of French-stitched leather and suede that was more tasteful and not nearly as flamboyant as I had expected. The sport seats that Chrysler has installed in all its SRT8 vehicles are very supportive but a touch too firm for me, and the hefty, flat-bottom steering wheel is unique to the SRT8 Charger.
I'm not a huge fan of the Charger's exterior styling, but it is distinctive and immediately recognizable, which is something you can't say about many of the anonymously styled sedans on the road today. You can tell the SRT8 from its lesser Charger siblings by its blacked-out grille, unique wheels, and round dual exhaust pipes.
But of course, the heart of the SRT8 is its powerplant, and the 6.4-liter Hemi doesn't disappoint. It sounds just the way you'd expect a big American V-8 to sound, and its 470 horsepower combined with 470 lb-ft of torque respond to throttle inputs with no hesitation. It's a shame that it's paired with the old five-speed automatic, but at least there are paddle shifters that let the driver select the proper gear for him or herself.
$50,000 seems like a lot of money to lay down for a Charger, but it's more than $10,000 cheaper than a Cadillac CTS-V, so it might actually be considered a relative bargain for people who are shopping for a modern American muscle car.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Holy cop-magnet! It's hard to imagine how Dodge could have made the Charger SRT8 any more conspicuous. From the almost obscene ground-effects and rear spoiler to the massive 20-inch wheels, this car demands attention, most of it unwanted, as Jake experienced. During my night with the Charger SRT8, I was fortunate enough to only be followed and ogled by passing motorists. Yes, I said passing. I was able to have some fun with the big Hemi though, but the Charger as a package instills far less confidence in spirited driving than the Chrysler 300 SRT8. It's planted and stable, even when you hit the dreaded mid-corner bump, but the tail gets a bit squirmy on throttle lift-off. It settles down quickly but could be a bit hairy on slick pavement.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
The Dodge Charger has become a well-rounded beast, but it's still a beast, especially in SRT8 form. Yes, it has sharp, accurate steering and exhibits excellent body control. That's not what makes you laugh though. Stab the throttle and it jumps forward with undisguised ferocity. A transmission with more than five speeds might help fuel economy and track driving. On the street, it's hard to imagine why you'd ever need more than second gear.
The rest of the Charger is a matter of taste - not my taste, thank you very much. The red interior reminds me of the lunchbox I took to elementary school. (I can still taste the soggy cream cheese and jelly sandwiches it contained. How many times do I have to tell you, Mom, that I like my bread toasted? Toasted!) The color cheapens an interior that's actually quite nice. Soft-touch plastics aplenty complement fantastic leather seats.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
By all accounts, the 2012 Charger SRT8 is your stereotypical Detroit muscle car. Heavy? Yup. Powered by a big-displacement V-8? Check. Hairy? You bet. But unlike the Hemi-powered Chargers from decades ago -- or the previous SRT8 Charger, for that matter -- the 2012 SRT8 is more than a bombastic, bad-ass bruiser: it's actually a remarkably well-rounded car.
For starters, it does more than rocket forward in a straight line. In fact, the Charger is surprisingly well suited for the occasional track day. Its agility - aided by an improved steering rack, revised suspension geometry, and some fat, grippy Goodyear Eagle RS-A 2 tires -- belies its 4300-lb curb weight. The oversized Brembo disc brakes do a commendable job of bringing the car to a hault, and offer great bite, decent pedal feel, and little fade. Theoretically, the cylinder-deactivation system promises to curtail the Charger's thirst for 93-octane fuel, but I suspect most of our staff dipped too far into the throttle to record any noticeable improvement: after all, the roar of the 6.4 and the thrust provided by 470 lb-ft of torque is far too intoxicating to ignore.
What's most impressive is how the Charger SRT8 continues to shine when used off the track. The Bilstein-sourced adaptive dampers - used on all 2012 SRT products - essentially are the best of both worlds. The sport mode, accessed through the large touch-screen interface on the dashboard, dials in a stiff setting ideal for snuffing out the last hints of body roll. Switch that off, and the car is rather compliant, even over rough stretches of pavement.
I have no qualms with the interior; as Amy says, it's not necessarily a matter of materials used (they're quite good, actually) but the color ordered. In this case, the red-on-black two-tone isn't for everyone, and it could use a little finesse. The red is more an oxblood, and there are some instances where the red hue doesn't match when transitioning from plastic to suede. I'm happy to report that there's a solution: buyers can opt instead for a cabin that's trimmed in charcoal-colored materials from top to bottom.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor