miércoles, 11 de marzo de 2009

2006 Dodge Charger SRT8

When you see an SRT logo on any Chrysler-built car or truck, you know you're in for a wild ride. Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology team always pumps up the power and sharpens the handling. And the latest Dodge sedan to undergo this treatment is the 2006 Charger SRT8. It's Hemi-fired and ready to rumble.

The 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8 is the car that a lot of long time Mopar fans have been waiting for. Finally, a car with the muscle to do real justice to one of Chrysler's most famous muscle car nameplates. And at Dodge, muscle naturally means a Hemi V8. In this case, it's Chrysler's biggest Hemi, the SRT-tuned 6.1-liter. With 425 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque on tap, it's the kind of punch that made the original Charger a legend. Yet even with the modest EPA fuel economy ratings of 14 city/20 highway, it's actually a lot more efficient than its predecessor.

The power charges to the rear wheels, and only the rear wheels, through a 5-speed automatic transmission with Autostick manual mode. Those wheels, incidentally, are big 20-inch alloys wearing 3-season high performance tires. Which when you get them spinning, just enough to activate the standard traction control, will push the Charger to 60 in only 5.0-seconds. The same as the Chrysler 300C SRT8 with which the Charger shares all of its important parts. The quarter mile runs by in only 13.4-seconds, at a speed of 104 miles-per-hour.

As expected, the big Hemi is all torque, but with a much more civilized power delivery than its ancestors. It's smooth, with a big rumbling exhaust note. And the 5-speed gearbox delivers firm shifts in both manual and auto modes.

Matching the SRT engine is a full SRT suspension package, which means a lowered ride height, while the short-long-arm front and 5-link rear suspension is upgraded with stiffer springs and bushings, plus thicker sway bars. Shocks are Bilsteins up front, self-leveling Nivomats in back. Plus, the electronic stability program has been recalibrated to let the driver have a little more fun before it reins you in.

The tuning does an impressive job of turning this 4,160 pound full-size family 4-door into a truly sporting sedan. Spin the 16.1-to-1 rack-and-pinion steering, and the SRT8 turns sharply into the corners of Savannah, Georgia's Roebling Road Raceway.

There is a lot of body roll, but also a lot of grip. Front plow is well controlled, with a lot less push than a standard Charger. But while all of our drivers were pleased with how nimble the big Charger was for its size, they also complained of an overall lack of feel from the steering and suspension.

No complaints about braking, however, as big vented discs with strong 4-piston Brembo calipers and ABS haul the big car down from 60 in a good average distance of 128 feet. Plus, after repeated laps, fade and brake integrity remained solid.

SRT designers took the already muscular body lines and retro roof shape of the standard Charger and grafted on a new front fascia with a deep air dam. There's also a functional hood scoop, a deep rear fascia with cutouts for the big 3.5-inch exhaust tips, and a deck lid spoiler that's shaped to increase rear-end downforce.

The pumped up exterior is matched by a racy interior. Deep leather sport seats with suede inserts deliver both support and comfort, and standard power adjustable pedals provide a perfect fit. The comprehensive instrument cluster features an impractical but suitable 180 mile-per-hour speedometer, while standard front and optional side impact and head curtain airbags supply occupant protection.

Other options include a Kicker audio system with 6-disc changer, Sirius satellite radio, hands free Bluetooth communications, and dual-zone automatic climate control, as well as a DVD-based satellite navigation system. Once you bend down to get under the Charger's swoopy roof, you'll find a roomy and adult comfortable rear cabin with a 60/40 split seat back that expands the already big 16.2 cubic-feet of cargo space nicely.

But to pack all this big bore Charger into your garage, you'll still have to shell out at least $38,095. That includes $2,100 of gas guzzler tax. Add on the options and it can quickly jump to the $43,505 price of our loaded test car.

With fuel prices continuing their roller coaster ride, we're sure that to some the Dodge Charger SRT8 is simply the wrong car at the wrong time. But in reality the hot rod 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8 is not only more responsible than its original muscle car patron, it's an anthem for those who want once again to put some fun back into driving, without throwing caution to the wind.