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Car Corner
Dodge Charger SRT8

June 1, 2007
By Scott Lewis

How often do you get to take a low volume, high performance car for a test drive? How about a solo test drive? Well that happened to me with the Dodge Charger SRT8.

The Car

For those that don't know, the Charger SRT8 is Dodge's highest performance version of the Charger. In fact, the SRT series are Chrysler's counterpart to mother Benz's AMG cars. The SRT folks crank out the baddest of the bad in the good old U.S. of A.

In the case of the Dodge Charger the SRT8 mainly gets you a 425 hp version of the Hemi V-8 engine. It is hooked to a 5 speed automatic. Sorry, no manual is available. You also get some great seats, more aggressive bodywork and beefed up suspension and brakes. Overall it is the engine that makes the car in this case.

How to get a solo drive in an SRT8

The President of my company bought a Charger SRT8. He had to fly to St. Louis to pick it up. I have been teasing him that he needs to take me for a drive. It is not his primary transportation, so he only drives it to work once a week or so.

On a particular Thursday he had the Charger with him. I ran into him in the halls a little while before lunch. I said I would take him to lunch if he drove. He said he was too busy and needed to eat in the cafeteria. I said that would be perfect, just go for a drive and then eat a the cafeteria at work. He laughed it off.

After lunch I had a long meeting. When I got out of my meeting the President came up to me at my cubicle. He said he was looking for me after lunch, but I was not around. Then he reached in his pocket, pulled out the keys to the Charger and said "take it for a ride."

I am no fool, so I took the keys and headed out to the parking lot.

The Drive

Granted, he is my boss's boss's boss, so I couldn't be completely abusive on the car. I value my job. But I did give it a good run through. I only drove a few exits up the highway and back, but I got just enough of a taste for the vehicle to share with you.

For starters I found the car too comfortable. Considering the level of power I expected the ride to be firm. It was not. In fact, it was just a little like the old American "boats" of yester-year. However, grip was not a problem. When I got off the highway there was a big clover style loop, and I pushed it pretty hard. No tire squeal and minimal body lean at just over 70 MPH. Not bad at all.

Since there was construction near my work, I had the chance to ride over some pretty bad pot-holes. The Charger takes the bumps just fine. I had read that the SRT8 version of the 300C was rough riding. That seems odd since this car rode pretty well. I have no complaints about the ride stiffness or ability to drive it daily... even through construction zones. Granted, it is an expensive car, and I expect most of them to be driving like this one... as a part time car and not sole transportation. But it would handle daily work just fine.

I got the car up to just over 100 mph (don't tell the police). I was not impressed. It made lots of noise when I floored it, and it moved pretty well. But my wife's 1999 Porsche 911 seems to gobbles up highway speed faster. 70-100 mph comes like nothing in the 911, where as it seemed like I had to wait for it in the Charger. After work I even gunned my 93 Z-28 from 70-100 and sure felt closer to the Charger than I would have thought. My Camaro is about 600 lbs. less than the Charger, but has 150 less horsepower (275). Are they that close? I would need a stop watch to tell them apart.

The Charger is equipped with traction control... that you can't turn off. At least you can't turn it all the way off. In my short stay I did not find the way to turn it "almost off." It sucks. This kind of torque needs to spin the tires some. I could not get a single chirp out of them. The car felt like it was bogging down... until it was moving along beyond the need of traction control. Then watch out. It does run strong, but considering the gas mileage (it comes with a gas guzzler tax and no cylinder deactivation) and overall size I am not as impressed as I expected.

One thing of particular note... the interior is very quite... when you are cruising. If you stomp on the gas it makes lots of noise, but otherwise it is very pleasant inside. The seats are excellent, if a tiny bit soft. Not a problem. I would rate the seats better than the seats in the 2004 GTO (which are a lot better than the 2005 GTO seats), but not as good as the Recaros in the 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt SS.

Conclusion

Overall I was not that impressed. Oh, it is a fast sedan. But I enjoyed driving the Cadillac CTS-V more. That's saying something for the Caddy since I only drove it for a few seconds on a pylon course. Since the Charger is about $40K give or take a few grand I think I would prefer a used CTS-V than a new Charger SRT8.

Sorry Pres.

Next month I will talk about the Acura RL and the Chrysler 300. One I rented while in New York, the other a friend teased me with. Until next time.

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