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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Dodge gets everything right with Challenger SRT8

I admit it. Even though I am a dyed-in-the-wool car guy, I have been an on again, off again muscle-car enthusiast. Many of the cars produced between 1964 and 1973 were less than exciting for me. Having said that, I do get extremely excited about other cars built during the era of the muscle car.
One such car is the Dodge Challenger. Along with its sibling, the Plymouth Barracuda, it became an icon of American muscle and power. To say I'm happy with the new version of the Challenger would be a colossal understatement. Dodge got this car right in every way. It made an even smarter move of bringing the Challenger SRT8 to market first and creating buzz in the upcoming lower performance, perhaps more popular model. The exterior design brings together all the elements that made muscle cars iconic and mixes contemporary elements that take the Challenger into the 21st century. The early Challenger was known more for its straight-line performance while today's version adds superior handling to the mix, making it a vehicle that travels well on the street and on backcountry roads. The Challenger SRT8 should extract excitement from many generations.
The advancements in the car industry in the past three decades have made it possible for designers and engineers to bring the Challenger to fruition. Dodge designer Jeff Gale says it has remained "true to its heritage while becoming modern." The long hood breaks over the grille in a manner that improves aerodynamics. Modern aerodynamics also create a down force that increases the car's stability on the road. Under the hood sits a 6.1-liter HEMI engine producing 425 horsepower and 420 pounds-feet of torque, of which any Dodge would be proud. Like the original HEMI engine, this one performs extremely well in so many areas, it's hard to find fault. Another accolade to modern engineering is the automatic transmission that transfers the engines power to the road. Adding to the sweet gearbox is the electronic stability control. The engine/transmission combination provides docile use in urban traffic and fluent aggressive changes in a more performance-induced setting. Put the selector in drive and the automatic works extremely well with fluid gear changes that go undetected. Slip the shifter over to manual and bring the shifting responsibilities up the driver's fingertips via paddle shifters on the steering wheel. With just the flick of a finger, I was up-shifting smoothly and down-shifting quickly as I entered quick corners on the country road I followed through the California desert. It's hard to believe 1970 was more than 30 years ago. Yet, today Dodge has been able to combine the power of that era with the finesse of today in the Challenger SRT8. This is a vehicle I'm looking to park in my garage.

Ron Moorhead, a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, can be reached at [email protected]

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