SIZING THEM UP
Challenger SRT8
 
Mustang GT coupe
6.1-liter HEMI 425-hp V8
Engine
4.6-liter 315-hp V8
197.7 in
Length
187.6 in.
75.7 in
Width
73.9 in
116 in.
Wheel base
107.1 in.
4,140 lb
Curb weight
3,356 lb
39.3. in
Front head room
38.6 in.
37.4 in
Rear head room
34.7 in
16.2 cu fit
Luggage cap
13.1 cu ft

“What kind of a super car is this?”

That’s the kind of comments I got for a solid week driving the Chrysler Challenger that came our way this spring. Frankly, we were surprised to see it. As part of bailout shenanigans, Uncle Sam reduced what Chrysler wanted to spend on advertising. But apparently cars sent out for reviews aren’t considered advertising.

That was lucky for us. Though the Challenger is a politically incorrect muscle-car gas guzzler, it is a blast to drive. I can’t remember the last time I’ve driven gotten so many thumbs-up from other drivers or appreciative nods. The SRT means the car was enhanced by Chrysler’s Street and Racing Technology group, and it shows. Touch the throttle and you’ll get instant acceleration from the 425-hp 6.1-liter Hemi V8. The throaty notes coming out of the tailpipe are just awesome. The 0-to-60 mph time is less than 6 sec, and the car does a quarter mile in about 14 sec. The top speed is something like 170 mph, though we did not want to chance a hefty speeding ticket to verify this spec. Interestingly, the review vehicle sported a five-speed automatic tranny but still delivered plenty of oomph. This makes the vehicle sort of a muscle car okay for stop-and-go traffic.

Though the car looks like it belongs on a drag strip, it drives surprisingly well. It handles curves and bumps reasonably. It also stops with authority thanks to its big Brembo disc brakes, visible through the 20-in. aluminum forged wheels.

The user controls in the cockpit are simple —the climate control is just three knobs. Gages are easy to read and modern looking. Seats are comfortable and firm. The steering wheel is leather wrapped for more comfort in cold weather. Our only gripe with the coupe’s interior was the access to the backseats. Only the front passenger seat slides forward. The driver’s seat is motorized, and the only means of getting it out of the way for access to the back is to motor it all the way forward. In a nutshell, it’s a hassle to clamber in back. And backseat space is not one of the car’s strong points though it is fine for pets and kids.

Our review vehicle carried sound system, GPS, satellite radio, and a sunroof which boosted the final sticker price to $45,130. This included a destination charge and a gas-guzzler tax. (The car gets 13/19 mpg in city/highway driving. This is not a Prius.)

You might wonder whether Chrysler’s financial woes make dealers more willing to bend on price. We checked prices on TrueCar.com and found that the selling price for Challengers with these options in our area recently averaged $44,172. According to TrueCar, the time to buy the Challenger was in February when the average selling price dipped to $42,063. But if you’d like to drive a modern-day version of a muscle car, the Challenger might be worth a look.

— Leland Teschler