2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 Road Test Review
"How do you plead?
Guilty, your honor. Guilty as sin! Just lock me up, throw away the key and have someone slip me a piece of stale bread once in a while to soak up the water in my bowl.
Okay, nothing like that really happened. It was just the kind of feeling I got every time I fired up that blisteringly fast, 425-horsepower NASCAR wannabe the people at Chrysler call the 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8.
I mean the cops have to assume youre up to no good if you are rumbling along like Harley Davidson in the one car they cant miss, its color long known to the authorities as arrest-me red. And you have to assume theyre not liking it, right?
You think youre dealing with paranoia here, do you? I think it was more a result of what actually happened the second time I was behind the wheel. I pulled up to my driveway in the big brute and spotted a patrol car half hidden on the property next to mine. In the seven years I have lived in my home I have never seen another radar check from that exact location.
Anyway, I took the policemans presence as an omen and decided that discretion would be the better part of valor in the police-infested North Jersey communities through which I frequently travel.
And, in exercising caution, I learned a few things about the Dodge that might not have come to my attention if I had piloted Big Red with the kind of reckless abandon that tends to end up badly.
I learned that it is not just a car for those Talladega Nights. It is a real full-size sedan with real room for five people and a real trunk that will hold their luggage.
I learned that 425 horses and 428 pound-feet of torque can be tamed for family duty and, when handled with care, will return more than 20 miles per gallon of regular unleaded fuel in highway travel and no less than 15 on those trips to the store, the pre-school or the soccer field. Theres nothing great about those numbers, I admit, but they look good next to the figures that can be obtained from those big, thirsty SUVs.
I learned that the performance-tuned independent suspension offers reasonable comfort unless the road is severely pock-marked.
Finally, I learned that the passenger cabin can be a pleasant place to spend time. The engines muted presence under light acceleration allows easy conversation among the passengers. In addition, a generous amount of convenience features are standard, including air conditioning, cruise control, leather seats with suede inserts, six-speaker sound system with CD player and satellite radio hookup.
Of course, if you want to upgrade to first class, you can add such items as dual-zone climate control, navigation system and an upgraded audio package.
Okay, those last few paragraphs were for the wife (or hubbie). Now lets get on with what you really want to know.
I confess at the outset that I did not verify most of this personally. I had some occasional neck-snapping excitement behind the wheel, but I never once waved the red Dodge in front of an angry cop. These figures come straight from the archives of Road and Track magazine.
The famous V-8 Hemi, bored out to 6.1 liters for SRT duty, can team up with the shiftable five-speed automatic transmission to produce 0-60 mph times of 4.9 seconds. Those crazy enough to try it can scream from a stop to 100 mph in 11.5 seconds. And, for an even wilder ride, they can hold onto their hats, or whatever, and cover a quarter mile in 13.3 seconds at a top speed of 108.2 miles an hour.
At any sign of trouble the big Brembo ventilated disc brakes will scrape off speed from 80 mph to a stop in a mere 215 feet, or from 60 mph in a mere 122. Thats not only an important safety feature, its one that just might keep the trouble thats brewing from boiling over.
A two-ton, rear-wheel-drive, four-door sedan will never be mistaken for a sports car, but the Dodges performance-tuned suspension and reasonably precise steering, combined with stability and traction control, manage to keep the big Dodge on its intended path with no unexpected surprises.
There is one thing you cant sneak past the spouse, however, and that is the SRT8s appearance. Its not just the color. Its the rear spoiler, the hood scoop, front air dam, sinister mesh grille, twin 3 -inch tailpipes, sport seats with sticky suede inserts, instrument cluster graphics. Its also that sound, which ranges from a background rumble to an ear-piercing, full-bore scream. Sometimes, other cars do automatically get out of your way.
Base price of the Dodge Charger SRT8 is $35,920. Add the upgrades and the total comes to $42,795, including that nasty $2,100 gas guzzler tax.
After spending a week and more than 500 miles behind the wheel of the Dodge Charger SRT8, I must say I enjoyed the ride, but I also have to admit that I may have outgrown the thrills inherent in such a hard-charging brute.
There was a time, back in the Golden Age of the American muscle car, that I would have given almost anything to own the 1960-something Pontiac GTO convertible that a friend occasionally let me drive. It was really nothing more than a tarted-up Pontiac Tempest, but I was so captivated by its straight-line acceleration that I allowed myself to ignore its scary, erratic handling.
The SRT8 is infinitely more competent than that raw-boned racer, and it did its job so well it never really scared me. Dodge has definitely brought the muscle car into the modern era and I can appreciate that appreciate it but no longer covet it.