Do you remember as a kid cresting the highest point of the roller coaster track, closing your eyes and waiting for the incredible rush that you knew would be coming your way as you hurtled down the stomach churning vortex? Want that feeling again? All you need to do is step into a 2014 Dodge Challenger SRT8, put your foot on the accelerator and see what happens. Only I wouldn't recommend that you close your eyes this time!
Is it possible to accelerate from 0 - 100kms/hr (from a standing start) in less than 5 seconds! Yes, it really is in this retro styled muscle car pushing 470hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. The 6.4 L Hemi V8 powering this eye-catcher increases the torque ratio by over 90 lb-ft from the last Challenger version - a huge jump! But don't let all this talk of power and speed lull you into thinking this is exclusively a young gun's racing machine just waiting at an intersection for someone foolish enough to take it on in a footrace. This is a car your father or maybe even your grandfather would be comfortable driving (okay, maybe lose the vertical stripes). The ride is smooth and languorous, descriptors not normally synonymous with vehicles of racing pedigree and the cabin has reached a new level of wrap-around luxuriousness.
What was my first impression as I excitedly began my ride home? Power! What was my second impression? Speed! What was my third impression? Power and Speed! The Challenger is not a happy idler, the engine rumbles and is anxious to be engaged by the driver. Once the drive begins, the powertrain settles in to a happier rhythm and the driver is rewarded with a responsive, willing to please driving machine.
I was cautious as I pulled out of the dealership lot. The length and width of the Challenger are significantly greater than the vehicles I have been driving lately (2000 kms in a Fiat 500 Abarth last weekend!) and it took me a few moments to adapt. I'm glad I spent some time adjusting the rearview and sideview mirrors - as sightlines can be a little tricky when lane-changing. It is easy to see how the Challenger SRT8 is rated as 'Best-in-Class' for cargo capacity. It's also the only vehicle in its demographic that has 5-passenger seating with plenty of room in the back for adults to lounge.
There was no way I was going to drive directly home. I took a few detours along the way finding my usual haunts for testing out the cornering acumen and steep-grade ability of the vehicle. The upgrade of the suspension system that the SRT8 has recently received really makes a difference. The active damping system has three settings that can be adjusted based on driver preference or road conditions.
Finally arriving at home I did a long, slow walkabout of the vehicle (along with several of my envious neighbors) - a vehicle that certainly occupies a large tract of real estate on the driveway. The first comment by someone had to do with the red "thingy" prominently embedded in the 20" aluminum wheels. They were quite impressed when I told them Brembo four-piston fixed calipers (the red "thingy") were grabbing vented and slotted rotors - a nice visual touch, but also highly practical. They also commented on the quad exhaust outlets and the front and rear spoilers. They were also very vociferous about the eye-popping orange color of the body and one of my neighbors said the vehicle reminded him of the pace cars often seen on racetracks. I did tell him that one of the engine tuning modes is called "track" and this sets up the Challenger for this very purpose or maybe even to be a race participant.
The next few days went by in a blur (quite literally) and the Challenger might have been responsible for some whiplash as many curious and envious rubber-neckers turned sharply to see the bright orange projectile going by them. Strangely enough, once family and acquaintances found out about the car I was reviewing (thumbs up to Social Media), they all wanted a ride in it and offered to provide their own reviews. I definitely "trended" this weekend!
First of all there was one of my co-workers, a very convivial and conservative English gentleman who, in typical British 'litotes' (negative understatement) had this to declare after a brief ride in the Challenger: "That wasn't half bad!" Translated into almost any other parlance that would translate into, "That was freaking awesome!"
My father was the next passenger and I could tell he was a little nervous getting into the car. Perhaps he was thinking back to a time when I liked to execute the odd brake-stand or burn a few donuts in a gravel parking lot? When I pulled smoothly and rather conservatively out of his condo lot, I could sense that he had relaxed. Besides, the SRT comes standard with an Antispin differential rear axle to avoid 'burning rubber' every time you take off - but I didn't tell him that.
On Saturday afternoon I headed out of town to visit a friend who has gone into the "trike" business (the pedaling type) so I could try out a couple of these remarkable units. This excursion gave me an opportunity to test out the 0 - 100 km/hr in under 5 seconds claim. I was able to reach 100kms/hr in 5.7 seconds. If I were a more experienced drag racer, I'm sure I could easily have broken the 5 - second barrier!