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Dodge Challenger SRT8 - The best of the retrocars?

The Dodge Challenger is a throwback car like its current competitors, but unlike the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang you can actually use the rear seat for people and not just groceries. Essentially unchanged from the 2012 car, the 2013 Challenger offers comfort and a smooth ride owing to its shared platform with the Chrysler 300. Offered in three different trim levels (SXT, R/T, SRT8) the SRT8 represents the ultimate performance option; the top gun of Challengers.

The base V6 is a 3.6 liter rated at 305hp/268lb-ft, which motivates the large car well enough, but is only available with a 5 speed automatic transmission. The next step up in the R/T is the 5.7 liter Hemi V8 rated at 376hp and 410lb-ft (slightly less for the automatic-equipped car). The top option is the SRT8's 6.4 liter V8 with its 470hp and 470lb-ft torque rating. The 6.4 motivates the SRT8 from 0-60 in the mid-four second range, which for a 4,100lb+ car is impressive. Braking results are equally impressive at 106 feet from 60-0

The vehicle reviewed is the 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8. EPA ratings, if an owner is really concerned, are 14 city, 23 highway and 17 combined. Base price for the SRT8 is $44,195 with the test car having a total MSRP of $49,820 including a $1,000 gas guzzler tax. Major options on the car include the excellent Harman Kardon Audio group ($1995), the Uconnect entertainment system ($790) and 20" black chrome wheels ($695).

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The standard equipment is extensive, and includes front and side airbags, electronic stability control, 4 wheel antilock brakes, keyless entry & ignition, a rear park assist system, 6.5" touch screen display and HID headlights. The interior while comfortable and functional is a tad bland and doesn’t compliment the car’s exterior look. The beveled dashboard and pistol-grip shifter recall the original Challengers from the early 1970's but the retro design cues end there. The entertainment system proved to be simple to operate, and the 18-speaker premium Harman Kardon audio provided excellent sound quality at virtually any listening level.

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The seats are quite comfortable, with good lateral support, although this is probably not a big issue with a straight-line car like the heavy SRT8. The back seats are roomy with good head and legroom, owing to the car’s shared platform with Chrysler’s 300 sedan. The enormous trunk is 16 cubic feet with the subwoofers, battery and tire inflator tidily stowed beneath the floor.

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On the road, the Challenger felt like the heavy car it is, but the SRT8's suspension is up to the task as the car remained composed during fairly aggressive cornering with minimal body lean. One small disappointment was the exhaust which was barely audible until the accelerator was hammered and the big Hemi wound past 4000 rpm; at that point the engine note was intoxicating. The forward thrust was relentless, and accelerating up onramps was truly a grin-inducing event. On most occasions the car had to be slowed down to merge with traffic as it would easily reach 90mph at the top of the ramp. One just never tires of this kind of exuberance.

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The Challenger is a niche car, and the SRT8 even more so with its neck-snapping performance. This car exists to go brutally fast in a straight line, but isn’t intimidated by corners. Of the three retro pony/muscle cars in production currently, it is easiest to live with and makes the fewest compromises - if you disregard fuel economy.

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