PRO’s: Great power, comfort and size make this a muscle car you can live with everyday.
CON’s: To big to be a great handler, high price, cheapish interior, manual transmission.
FINAL THOUGHT: More of grand tourer than an actual muscle car, the Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 combines big grunt and heritage with all day usability and serious open road prowess.
If you’re into muscle cars then you no doubt know that there are three main contenders in the marketplace. There’s the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro and of course, the car you see here, the Dodge Challenger SRT8 392. Dodge however has taken a little different approach to Challenger than it’s competitors by not trying to make a sports car out of a muscle car, but instead, just making a really good muscle car with great grand touring properties. How do I know this you might ask? Well, in a quest to find out I drove this sucker 1,100 miles in 3 days by running from San Fransisco to Los Angeles and back over a beautiful California weekend.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. The Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 is powered by a 6.4-liter, 392 cu-in HEMI V8 that pumps out 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. That means 0-60 mph runs of around 4.5 seconds, a quarter mile in under 13 seconds and a top speed of 182 mph. People this is one FAST automobile. It also manages fuel economy of around 19 mpg hwy while traveling at between speeds of 75-85 mph which really isn’t too bad in a car that weighs in at over 4,100 lbs.
This particular car was outfitted with a 6-speed manual transmission, which, to be honest, wasn’t my favorite. I found it to be ill fitted to the Challenger and felt as though it was installed off-center which makes smooth shifting well, not smooth. Your other option is Chrysler’s aging 5-speed automatic which is a direct carryover from the first line of SRT’s dating back to 2006. Most people hate this transmission, and yes, it could use the 8-speed unit out of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, but with all that power and torque on tap, believe me when I say that it still works perfectly fine.
Park the Challenger next to it rivals and you’ll immediately notice one thing – IT’S HUGE. In the past pony cars where considered to be mid-sized at best. The Challenger however is every bit as full-sized as its Chrysler 300 SRT8 brother.
The pro’s of all this size and weight are that out on the open road, the car drives beautifully. It’s a GT car of the finest order making it a joy to drive on the open road. The suspension is firm enough so you feel you’re driving something sporty, but soft enough that you’re not floating down the road. This is an autobahn cruiser, a machine that wants to roll at a constant 100 mph and gobble up as many miles as it can.
Jump on some twisty roads and you’ll find that for all of it’s SRT8 goodness, the Challenger is simply too big to be competitive with the Mustang or Camaro. For instance, the car rides on 20-inch rims shod with a 245/45 series tire up front and 255/45 series out back. Yes, these are performance Goodyear tires, but there’s simply not enough rubber down there to hold this thing in place under hard cornering.
In fact compared to the Charger and Chrysler 300 SRT’s, the Challenger just feels like a big behemoth even though they’re running gear and geometry is very similar. No one will question the power, however this thing is more like the muscle cars of yesteryear then the engineers may have intended.
Braking comes from large four pot Brembo brakes that will haul the car down in no time flat. I seriously flogged this thing through the Canyons of L.A. and never once did I notice a hint of brake fade – a good thing in a 4,100 pound automobile.
To its credit, the Challenger is the only one of today’s Pony cars that is big enough for a family to use. It’s got a nice size trunk, usable rear seats and front seats that offer wonderful lateral and lumbar support. Plus, when you option it out with things like the UConnect system which offers navigation, a 40 GB hard drive and an 18 speaker Harman Kardon audio system, the cabin of this thing isn’t really a bad place to be. However for $48,705, I would’ve liked the interior materials to been of a little higher quality. Yes the door panels and seats have suede inserts, but that’s unfortunately where it stops. Get rid of those and you’re surrounded by a sea of soft-touch plastics.
The Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 is, and always will be, a gentleman’s muscle car. It’s more luxurious than the Mustang or Camaro, it’s larger and gives a nicer ride. On the flip side, it doesn’t handle as good as either of them, costs more and is starting to look a bit dated. If however you’re a MOPAR fanatic, want a wonderful and plenty fast grand touring coupe, then look no further, because the Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 is your new Pony.