2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Core

Challenger SRT8 puts 470 ponies under you

Muscle is one thing. Looks are another. But I still expect a boatload of amenities at $41 grand.

This is the RT version and the SRT8 just takes it to a whole new level ... yes, it has a HEMI.
This is the RT version and the SRT8 just takes it to a whole new level … yes, it has a HEMI.

The “TorRed” Dodge Challenger SRT8 Core that I blasted around town in last week targets the fanatical muscle car lover. It packs a 6.4-liter V8 SRT HEMI that punches out a nasty 470 horses. You don’t think that’s enough? You may want to get your noggin checked.

Slapping the 6-speed manual shifter through its gate you can squeal the rear tires in any gear, exploding up to 60 mph, or beyond, in just under five seconds. You can embarrass about any other vehicle you want with this wild child of a car.But even at $41 grand, including delivery and a Gas Guzzler tax (the price for all that power), you won’t have a navigation system, back-up camera, automatic lights or leather seats. I guess that’s why this is the Core SRT8.

SRT is Chrysler Corp.’s high-performance team and it makes any of the Fiat-owned firm’s vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee, into land rockets. Certainly performance is SRT’s main focus, along with some street-ability, but many daily driver features and comforts are side-stepped.

Oh there’s a monster 16 cubic foot trunk that is reminiscent of the 1970s Challengers. But you’ll need to be tall or have ape arms to reach all the way to the back for any luggage or boxes. However, the rear seat backs do fold down, so you could carry a fair-sized load back there.

Did I mention the gas mileage being poor? Challenger SRT8 is rated 14 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, less than many pickups these days. I got 16.8 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway, so felt pretty fortunate. At least it’s happy to drink regular gas.

HEMI, HEMI, HEMI ... this is the 392 version and it's a mechanical monster.
HEMI, HEMI, HEMI … this is the 392 version and it’s a mechanical monster.

But then you have a 470-horse HEMI under the hood, that’s 50 more ponies than a Mustang GT, but then at 4,170 lbs., the Challenger is 500+ lbs. heavier than the Mustang.

Power is instantaneous and impressive. Ironically, the exhaust note is tame with only a slight grumble at idle or early in the launch sequence. Mostly you won’t know you’ve got a growler under the long hood, because it doesn’t growl all that much.

Handling is fairly responsive and while the steering effort is on the high side, the car handles well and is fun to drive on winding roads. Yet its ride is on the stiff side and can become jiggly on cement streets with an uneven surface. Both the Mustang and Chevy Camaro offer better real world street rides.

Braking is hard core, with giant disc brakes on all the corners. Traction and stability control are standard and grip is good as the test car added 20-inch 3-season performance Goodyear tires. If you intend to drive your Challenger in winter, snow tires would be best to put the power to slippery pavement and to stop you when needed.

Inside, as mentioned at the outset, the upscale Challenger comes with cloth seats, spiffed only by gray stitching and the SRT8 logo on the front seat backs. The dash is a plain black textured number with no trim, just white-faced gauges to break the monotony. Dodge also puts some fake carbon fiber on the console, but otherwise Challenger’s interior looks are rather drab.

No denying this interior looks a little racy.
No denying this interior looks like it’s all business. But at this price a little color would help add some cool factor.

The cloth seats are contoured, but rather confining in the hips and this being a 2-door, wedging an adult into the back seat isn’t a pretty sight. Rear quarters are fairly cramped once a person is aboard too. But the driver’s seat is powered and has a power lumbar support, both pluses.

I also like the chrome metal pedals and the four gauges on the dash, plus the tilt/telescope steering wheel and an inside trunk release. Challenger also delivers big radio and climate control knobs and buttons, so tuning the radio and setting a temperature are easily accomplished while driving. Not all cars can say that today.That said, the turn signal is noisy like in the Dodge Charger and the car’s doors are huge, a bit of retro that make them heavy and an effort to pull shut or open in a tight parking lot space. Again, there are no automatic headlights, navigation system or back-up camera here.

This is on a car that starts at $38,995 and with the 20-inch tires, delivery charge and guzzler tax this one hit $41,140.

Dodge offers a Challenger SXT for $26,295 and it carries a milder but still plenty powerful 305-horse 3.6-liter V6. That’s for the buyer who mainly is after the style or look a Challenger will draw. Moving up to an R/T model with a 5.7-liter, 375-horse V8 moves the expense needle to $29,995 and the highest end SRT8 jumps to $44,195 with the bigger V8.

This is what it looks like, comin' at ya!
This is what it looks like, comin’ at ya!

I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Challenger is a striking looking car because it reflects the long sleek look of its ancestors. But to me it still stands a little too tall and appears a bit chunky compared to the original. My advice? Buy it in black, that’s a slimming color!

FAST Stats: 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Core

Hits: Big power, good handling and huge trunk so you can carry some gas cans to keep it fueled. Like the big radio and climate control knobs and buttons and there’s a power driver’s seat with power lumbar.

Misses: Challenger still looks a little too tall and a bit chunky compared to the original. Its gas mileage is poor and ride is on the stiff and jiggly side. There’s no navigation, automatic lights or backup camera at $40+ grand. Plus the cloth seats are too confining and the turn signals are noisy, like in Charger.

Made in: Brampton, Ont.

Engine: 6.4-liter V8 SRT HEMI, 470 hp

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Weight: 4,170 lbs.

Wheelbase: 116.0 in.

Cargo: 16 cu.ft.

MPG: 14/23

Base Price: $38,995

Dealer’s Price: $37,901

Major Options:

Preferred Package 21V (20-inch 3-season performance Goodyear tires), $150

Gas Guzzler tax: $1,000

Delivery: $995

Test vehicle: $41,140

Sources: Dodge, www.autos.yahoo.com

Photos: Courtesy of Dodge

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