Now with more HEMI in every bite!
SONOMA, California – At first glance, the 2011 Challenger standing on the tarmac of Infineon Raceway, appears little changed from the previous model.
But a more aggressive front fascia with larger front splitter and chin spoiler, tip to tail racing stripes and signature badging identify it as the new SRT8 392, endowed with the legendary 392-cubic inch HEMI.
According to Dodge CEO and design wunderkind Ralph Gilles, styling was the number one reason that buyers chose the Challenger. Wisely, they left the exterior largely unchanged, other than the addition of dual exhaust pipes from the base V6 on up through the lineup and the SRT8's signature appearance package.
The second reason, said Gilles, is performance.
Traditionally, muscle cars excel at straight line acceleration and not much else. Having spent some time behind the wheel of an original 70s Challenger equipped with four drum brakes and leaf spring suspension, throwing a large, wallowing, under-steering, next-to-unstoppable barge around precariously tight turns is slightly less than appealing.
All the Challengers have had extensive suspension upgrades. But the big story is the SRT8 392: a brawny, hairy-chested muscle car with aspirations of German sports-car agility.
Underhood, the new 6.4L HEMI pumps out 470 horsepower and 470 lb ft. of torque – 50 more horses and 90 lbs more twist than the previous model. That extra torque results in some impressive straight line acceleration: 0-100 km in the high 4 second range.
It's mated to either a standard five-speed automatic transmission, or the Tremec six-speed manual originally developed for the 2008 Viper SRT10.
Deeply bolstered white and blue race-striped seats match the exterior, with signature "392" embroidered into the headrests. The reworked steering wheel is leather-wrapped and grippy. Pushing in the substantial clutch and pressing the "start" button unleashes a husky bellow.
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