2008 SRT8 Dodge Challenger- Genie In A Bottle
Our Three Wishes Have Come True With Dodge's All-New 2008 SRT8 Challenger.
From the August, 2008 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Johnny Hunkins
Photography by By Chrysler
The dirty little secret in the musclecar hobby is that the key to our automotive happiness (to a large extent) resides in the hands of a few elite. After all, they are the ones who set the prices on our favorite cars, right? Go to any major car show or big-time auction, and you'll discover that a regular Joe can no more afford a Hemi Challenger than he can get a date with Scarlett Johansson. So you skulk back to your two-car garage, and your four-door Slant Six, hoping that some day you'll win the lottery or find Aladdin's lamp somewhere.
Don't blame the rich elite for your woes, though; they're as mindless as the next guy. They can no more control their affection for one of history's sexiest automotive forms than you. Blame it on Dodge if you want. They're the ones responsible for the original 1970 Challenger shape, and they're also responsible for the new 2008 SRT8 Hemi Challenger. Stop for a moment, and look again at the cover date of this magazine. It says August 2008. Remember that date, because it marks your emancipation as a true-blue car guy. No longer will you have to pay seven figures, or even six, for a mint Hemi Challenger.
It's almost as if we found the proverbial genie in a bottle, and got our three wishes: Please bring back the Hemi Challenger, please make it affordable, and please make it fast. We first got wind that there might be a genie in the bottle back in 2006 when the Challenger concept car first rolled onto the scene. Was this thing too good to be true, we asked? The concept looked so good we figured even if they did build it, some major compromises must be in the offing. But then, another improbability: The production car is actually a visual improvement over the concept. Pinch us, just in case we're dreaming.
Until the first week in April, all we had to go on were pictures of the Challenger concept and a few fuzzy spy photos. They looked great from all the predictable angles, but nothing could prepare us for our first face-to-face encounter. At first, your mind isn't sure it's totally real. The shape is there, but your eye darts everywhere-to the grille, the A-pillar, the rear quarter, the wheels, the greenhouse, then back to the overall shape, measuring all the relationships and proportions. Sigh. It's all there like we remembered it.
But we're not here to look, we're here to consummate. The highly bolstered, race-inspired seats have grippy suede inserts that positively suck you in place, and it's a good thing, because we saw max cornering forces from the built-in g-meter hitting 0.99. Stab the push-button starter, and the Hemi comes to attention without drama, producing a low-restriction burble that quickly builds to a crescendo as the 6,400-rpm redline of the 6.1L Hemi is reached. The meaty leather-wrapped steering wheel has a confidence-inspiring feel that is further reinforced by the responsive rack-and-pinion steering and SLA front suspension.
On this day, our Chrysler handlers didn't just provide a friendly little drive through the country. No sir, they booked the high-speed 2.5-mile, nine-turn road course at Willow Springs. And where Chrysler's competitors would have limited ham-fisted journalists to one single high-speed lap at a time, all scribes in our group were invited to turn up to four laps at a time. Are these guys confident in their product, or what?
The Challenger is built on Chrysler's LX platform, which currently underpins the Dodge Magnum, Chrysler 300, and Dodge Charger. All are four-door family sedans with impeccable road manners, a solid feel, lots of interior space, and plenty of power-even in V-6 form. The Challenger differs from these in two significant areas: it has two doors and a wheelbase that's 4 inches shorter. Otherwise, it's mechanically the same and shares many of the same attributes, like being roomy, solid, and powerful. Even with the shorter wheelbase, the back seat accommodates two normal-sized adults without drama.
Dodge chose to release the SRT8 version of the Challenger first, which is contrary to the standard procedure of introducing the bread-and-butter product first. Pure genius, we think. Let the dealers mark up the first glammed-out Challengers so the elitist snobs can pay top dollar, then sell them on eBay to other elitist snobs. By the time you see this, all 2008 SRT8 Challengers will be gone, traded like so many Honus Wagner baseball cards, then you can place your order for an identical 2009 model, for which you will pay no more than sticker. Brilliant.
For your $38K, you'll get the SRT8 package, which consists primarily of the big-inch 6.1L Hemi making 425 hp and 420 lb-ft or torque. You'll also get forged 20-inch Alcoa wheels and your choice of all-season or ultra high-performance Goodyear F1 Supercar tires. (Our test car had the F1s, and that's the only way to go as far as we're concerned.) As with other LX-platform SRT packages, you get upgraded suspension parts, huge Brembo brakes, interior and exterior cosmetic upgrades (don't forget the g-meter!), and performance programming unique to the SRT. We're kind of out of sorts in explaining exactly where the SRT's improvements are relative to the standard R/T package, because we don't actually know what's in next year's R/T. Whether or not you made the right choice to buy now and get the SRT won't be revealed until the other shoe drops, so to speak.
If you can't wait and must have the SRT8 right now, you'll only have to decide a few things: which of three colors you want (black, silver, or orange), whether you want the F1 tires, whether you want to add the nav system with the MyGIG infotainment system, and if you can live without a sunroof. For our money, we'd go stripped-down with just the F1 tires ($50 extra), but the touchscreen navigation system (an improvement over last year's pushbutton unit) was a big help on several occasions during our testdrive.
What SRT's engineers have accomplished is amazing. As we transitioned from normal street driving to hardcore road racing, the SRT8 seemed equally comfortable on both. Most notably, the SRT's 4,140-pound curb weight just melted away when urged by the big Hemi, scrubbed by the huge Brembos, or redirected by the gooey F1s. It was hard to believe I was piloting over two tons at close to a buck forty going into a braking zone. Not only did I do it, but it was easy, too.
For performance figures, Dodge quotes 0 to 60 in 4.9 seconds, the quarter-mile in 13.3 seconds, top speed of 170 mph (governed by aerodynamics), and 60 to 0 braking in just 110 feet. We have no reason to disbelieve them based on our experience here, and fully expect all the minivan magazines to meet these numbers without trying hard. The Challenger SRT8 is light-years ahead of its 1970 counterpart, yet it evokes every bit of the original's passion at a fraction of the price. But if late-model comparisons are your bag, the SRT8 is just a blower kit bolt-on away from Corvette Z06 territory.
Most of us have had to stand by the sidelines for years, while classic Challengers have become the sole domain of the rich and famous. Now the Dodge boys and Chrysler's SRT group have come to our rescue, bringing ultimate performance to the masses at an incredible value price. We predict the Mopar faithful will respond in droves, and even some GM guys (who are tired of waiting) will get behind the wheel of a new SRT8. All this affordable performance will surely have GM and Ford engineers frothing at the mouth to get even. It's a good thing we can't put that genie back in the bottle!
Chrysler's 6.1L Hemi is reserved...
Chrysler's 6.1L Hemi is reserved solely for SRT models, and produces 425 hp from just 370 cubic inches. All this power does come with a cost: a gas guzzler tax, and a combined 13/18 mpg (hwy/city). Unlike its smaller 5.7L stablemate, the 6.1 does not have the Multiple Displacement System (MDS), which shuts down four cylinders at cruise. The addition of MDS would improve economy by some 10-12 percent. Rumor has it that the standard Hemi will get a bump next year to 380 hp from its current 340. Look for that improved plant in the forthcoming Challenger R/T.
The 2006 concept car had the...
The 2006 concept car had the Dodge crosshair grille, which was roundly (and rightfully) criticized. Production designers listened to our gripes and made the production fascia similar to the original 1970 version. Will next year have the split grille loops of 1971?
For now, the only transmission...
For now, the only transmission available is a five-speed automatic with AutoStick manual control. After three years of harping about the slow shifting of Hemi LX cars, Chrysler has finally addressed the issue. We found no lagging shifts on the high-speed road course as we did back in June 2005 at the introduction of the Charger R/T. Look for a six-speed manual to bow in 2009.
Gone is the spaceship interior...
Gone is the spaceship interior of the 2006 concept car, and in its place is a sane and very practical performance cockpit with a pushbutton start, bolstered seats, and beefy steering wheel with tilt and telescoping adjustment. The updated touchscreen navigation system is a welcome (though expensive) convenience.
We really like the retro chrome...
We really like the retro chrome fuel cap, which is positively latched at the rear and hinged at the front. At the press intro, we weren't the only ones asking if we could get one from the factory.
You normally think of 20-inch...
You normally think of 20-inch wheels as being associated with bling, but SRT used forgings by Alcoa to reduce weight by 6 pounds per wheel (compared to a pure casting). That's a huge difference, and allows these big rollers to recoup a ton of performance.
2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8
|GENERAL INFORMATION |
|Body style: ||coupe |
|Assembly plant: ||Brampton, Ontario, Canada |
|EPA vehicle class: ||intermediate car |
|Introduction date: ||April 2008 |
|MSRP: ||$37,995 |
|ENGINE ||6.1L HEMI V-8 |
|Type and description: ||90-degree V-8, |
|Displacement: ||370ci |
|Bore x stroke: ||4.06x3.58 |
|Valvetrain: ||pushrod OHV, 16 valves, |
conventional hydraulic roller lifters
|Fuel injection: ||sequential, multi-port, |
|Construction: ||deep-skirt cast-iron block |
with cross-bolted main bearing caps,
aluminum alloy heads
with hemispherical combustion chambers
|Compression ratio: ||10.3:1 |
|Power (SAE Net): ||425 bhp at 6,200 rpm |
|Torque (SAE Net): ||420 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm |
|Max engine speed: ||6,400 rpm |
|Fuel requirement: ||unleaded |
premium 91 octane
|Oil capacity: ||7 qt. (6.6 L) |
|Coolant capacity: ||14 qt. (13.25 L) |
|Emission controls: ||dual close-coupled |
three-way catalytic converters,
quad heated oxygen sensors
|EPA fuel economy (city/hwy): ||13/18 mpg |
|Description: ||automatic five-speed overdrive |
(W5A580) adaptive electronic control
or AutoStick manual control, electronically
modulated torque converter clutch
|Gear Ratios: |
|1st: ||3.58 |
|2nd: ||2.19 |
|3rd: ||1.41 |
|4th: ||1.00 |
|5th: ||0.83 |
|Reverse: ||3.17 |
|Final drive ratio: ||3.06 |
|Overall top gear: ||2.54 |
|ELECTRICAL SYSTEM |
|Alternator: ||160A |
|Battery: ||630 CCA, maintenance-free |
|DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES |
|Wheelbase, in.: ||116.0 |
|Track, front, in.: ||63.0 |
|Track, rear, in.: ||63.1 |
|Overall length, in.: ||197.7 |
|Overall width, in.: ||75.7 |
|Overall height, in.: ||57.0 |
|Ground clearance, in.: ||5.5 |
|Frontal area, sq. ft.: ||25.3 |
|Drag coefficient: ||0.353 |
|Curb weight, estimated, lb.: ||4,140 |
|Weight distribution, percent F/R: ||55.6/44.4 |
|Fuel tank capacity, gal.: ||19 |
|Layout: ||longitudinal front engine, |
|Construction: ||unitized steel body |
|Type: ||rack-and-pinion |
with hydraulic power assist
|Overall ratio: ||16.1:1 |
|Steering turns (lock-to-lock): ||2.75 |
|Turning Diameter (curb-to-curb): ||37.5 ft. |
|Front: ||independent SLA |
with high upper A-arm,
coil spring over Bilstein monotube
gas-charged shock absorbers
and stabilizer bar, standard lateral
and diagonal lower links
|Rear: ||five-link independent |
with coil springs,
link-type stabilizer bar,
gas-charged shock absorbers
and isolated suspension cradle
|Size and type: ||245/45R20 (front), |
|Mfr. and model: ||Goodyear F1 Supercar |
|Revs per mile (front/rear): ||726/718 |
|Availability: ||optional |
|Size and type: ||245/45R20 |
|Mfr. and model: ||Goodyear RSA/SRT |
|Revs per mile: ||731 |
|Type and material: ||fully forged aluminum |
|Size: ||20x9.0 |
|Rotor size and type: ||14.2x1.26, vented |
|Caliper type: ||Brembo four-piston fixed |
with aluminum housing
|Swept area: ||351 sq. in. |
|Rotor size and type: ||13.8x1.10, vented |
|Caliper type: ||Brembo four-piston fixed |
with aluminum housing
|Swept area: ||316 sq. in. |
|Four-wheel antilock and traction control: ||standard |
|Electronic stability control and brake assist: ||standard |
|Brake knockback mitigation: ||standard |
|Power assist type: ||tandem-diaphragm |