Dodge Challenger Blows into Windy City
Limited Edition SRT8 Arrives First
Ford launched the latest Mustang to a resounding critical and sales success, and its retro theme got GM and Chrysler thinking fast about a new-century take on the pony car wars. At the 2006 Detroit auto show, the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro concepts tested the waters for a full pony-car revival. Both companies were inspired by both pride and the success of the latest Mustang, and both the Challenger and Camaro will arrive on market. Eventually. Really. Both companies hope that the initial enthusiasm for these projects survives the gestation period. In Chicago, Dodge launched the Challenger, jumping the generation gap between by enlisting the help of the father-son Orange County Choppers team. And while the HEMI Orange paint scheme was front and center, the SRT8 Challenger looks mean and sinister in black, a look that matches the 425HP engine’s burble better.
Dodge‘s Challenger arrives this spring as a late 2008MY product, while the Camaro doesn’t arrive for another year or so. The catch is that the first Challengers are in limited edition $37,995 SRT8 form, introduced at the 2008 Chicago auto show, assisted by the father-son team at Orange County Choppers and Jim Press. The first units are specially numbers and available in Hemi Orange, black, or silver. By fall, for the typical 2009MY start, a more substantial range including V6 and 5.7L HEMI options will be available. Contributing to the hype and (hopefully) fueling demand, the first Challenger SRT8 was auctioned at the 2008 Barrett-Jackson auction. The winning $400,000 bid, of which all proceeds go to a charity called notMYkid, was posted by Craig Jackson, Chairman/CEO of the Barrett-Jackson Auction Company.
For an image car, launching with the hottest version first can contribute to the hype. Following that strategy, the news from Chicago is the first production reveal of the Challenger SRT8. As promised, the Challenger looks pretty much like the historic pony car, updated for a modern context. The SRT8 sports the same 425HP 6.1L HEMI that helps make Charger, Magnum, and Chrysler 300 SRT8s so much fun to drive. Because of the SRT team, the power is backed up by refinements to the brakes, chassis, and looks, compared with the standard Challenger, as well as some specific interior and exterior cues.
Visual elements specific to the SRT8 include “carbon fibre like” hood stripes, functional dual hood scoops, cooling ducts in the front fascia that bring air to the brakes and engine compartment. Styling elements, like the functional rear spoiler, call to the past, but serve modern functions. Lead designer Jeff Gale says the side mirrors even started from a mold of the original Challenger, though the mirror design was put through today’s aero testing to create a mirror with the historic look but today’s needed aero performance.
Modern convenience features include keyless go, MyGig, UConncect, and a navigation system. Challenger has an independent front and rear suspension and benefits from the thirty-five years of vehicle development since the passing of the first pony-car Challenger. The Challenger SRT8’s interior can’t shake the basic shapes shared with the Charger, but its use of accent materials gives it a more purposeful and strong look than the silver plastic of the Charger.