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2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Road Test and Review
The “Mustang versus Camaro” battle has been ongoing for years, but it wasn’t until Dodge resurrected the Challenger nameplate in 2008 that the Muscle Car Wars really started to heat up. The Mopar camp delivered what is easily the most retro-styled car on the market, and gave it plenty of smoke-inducing power to boot. Under the new Fiat leadership, Dodge reworked just about every part of the 2011 Challenger other than the exterior styling. After this weeklong review, it’s clear that Dodge’s efforts to improve the Challenger have paid off as this stylish coupe is now just as exciting to drive as it is to look at. More than anything, the 2011 Dodge Challenger can finally be considered a modern muscle car thanks to its improved acceleration, handling and cabin technology.
Assembled in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, the 2011 Dodge Challenger is on sale now with a starting MSRP of $24,895, but stepping up to the high-performance Challenger SRT8 almost doubles that price to $42,555. This test vehicle came with the 392 Inaugural Edition package plus a handful of other options which raised the as-tested price $47,565 including destination. Even more impressive is the fact that the new Challenger has been a surprising sales success so far this year with dealers having a hard time keeping them on the lots. While Dodge doesn’t seem interested in competing with the Mustang or Camaro for sales figures, the reworked Challenger should have no problem beating its Blue Oval or Bowtie rivals where it counts: on the track.
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2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Review: Exterior
While the new Camaro and Mustang designs attempt a balance of modern and retro, the 2011 Dodge Challenger does little to hide its retro design. In fact, from the inset quad headlights and turn signals to the full-width taillights, every inch of this car is a tribute to the 1970 Dodge Challenger. Keeping this classic styling intact, the exterior of the 2011 Challenger remains almost the same as the 2010 model with the distinguishing cues limited to the vent in the front fascia which has more of a frowning appearance on the new car while the 2008-2010 models have a sort of smiling look to them.
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2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8: Packages
Just as Ford is cashing in on its new 5.0-liter V-8 on the Mustang GT, all Challenger SRT8 models will also wear the iconic 392 badges for its 6.4-liter V-8, but this test vehicle was also equipped with the 392 Inaugural Edition package. This $1,995 package inaugurates the return of the 392 Hemi that has been one of the most memorable of Chrysler’s Hemi engines since it was introduced in 1957. On this test vehicle, which came in Deep Water Blue Pearl Coat exterior paint, the package includes everything from dual white racing stripes and gorgeous 20-inch, five-spoke aluminum wheels. On this dark blue color, the bright red “392 Hemi” fender badges not only stand out even more but, along with red brake calipers, it also give the car a red, white and blue paint scheme to back up the car’s American past.
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2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Review: Interior and Safety
Like most of the other 2011 Dodge models, the interior of the 2011 Dodge Challenger has received much-needed improvements. Save for the new three-spoke steering wheel, the overall styling of the 2011 Challenger really hasn’t changed too much from the previous model years, but the addition of soft-touch materials throughout the cabin really help improve the perceived quality of the updated car. The SRT8 gets even better with the aforementioned optional 392 Inaugural Edition package which adds unique silver metal center stack trim and leather-wrapped seats that feature a blue on white color scheme that is the inverse of this car’s exterior colors. Opting for the SRT8 model also adds better comfort for all occupants in the five-passenger cabin with power seats with lumbar adjustments for the front passengers and revised seats that make rear seat ingress and egress even better. Compared to the Mustang and Camaro, the Challenger’s added size gives it a big advantage in rear-passenger comfort.
The new Challenger won’t be getting Chrysler’s gigantic 8.4-inch Uconnect Touch (found in the new Charger and 300) just yet, but this test vehicle did come with the affordable $395 Media Center 430N package that includes a 6.5-inch touch-screen display, Garmin-based navigation system, 30-gigabyte hard drive and Sirius Travel Link. The SRT8 also comes standard with Chrysler’s fun-to-use Performance Pages in the Electronic Vehicle Information Center. These pages measure everything from zero-to-60, eight-mile and quarter-mile times to braking distance and g-force meter. Seeing some of these numbers on the display really help visualize just how fast this car is. In regards to other cabin technology, this car also added the $695 SRT Option Group II which upgrades the audio system with 13 “high-performance” speakers, a 200-watt subwoofer and a 322-watt amp.
In terms of safety, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has only rated the new Challenger with a four-star rollover rating so far, it has yet to be tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Still, the all 2011 Dodge Challenger models come standard with plenty of safety features that include six airbags, active front head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, tire pressure monitoring system, traction control and Electronic Stability Program.
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2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8: Performance
In addition to a new interior, Dodge also dropped some new engines under the hood. While the base 2011 Dodge Challenger now uses Chrysler’s new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, the Challenger SRT8 uses an equally new 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that produces 470 horsepower and 470 lf-ft of torque. The only disadvantage of this new engine is that it further moves the Challenger SRT8 into a no-man’s land for performance with a power rating less than the top Camaro and Mustang models (Camaro ZL1 and Shelby GT500) but still plenty more than a standard Camaro SS or Mustang GT. Converted to cubic inches, this engine has a 392 cubic inch displacement which just so happens to be the size of one of Chrysler’s most well-known Hemi engines. Like other historical Hemis, this one also features its engine block painted in Hemi Orange although most of the color is hidden beneath all of the black plastic and bright aluminum engine components. One key departure from old Hemi designs is the use of Chrysler’s Fuel Saver cylinder-deactivation technology which helps to improve fuel economy. This Challenger with the manual transmission is rated at 14 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. Although this is not bad for a car that can also run the quarter mile in the mid-to-high 12s, it is still enough to require a $1,000 gas guzzler tax.
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2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Review: Performance
Not only was this test model equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, it also had the pistol-grip shifter which made grabbing gears even more enjoyable. Between the clutch and the Tremec gearbox, the Challenger felt just as good in everyday driving as it does when pushed to its limits. Fortunately, for 2011, the Challenger has received significant upgrades to the suspension tuning and components to help raise the car’s handling thresholds even further, and despite a curb weight of just over 4,100 pounds, the SRT8 feels surprisingly nimble in corners and is fast off the line. Chrysler says that the 2011 Challenger can run from zero to 60 miles per hour in “the high four-second range,” but using the Performance Pages in the digital display, we managed a run to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds. Chrysler also claims the Challenger SRT8 has a top speed of 182 mph and can come to a complete stop from 60 mph in just 117 feet thanks to larger brakes that include vented and slotted rotors and four-piston calipers at each wheel. Speaking of each wheel, this test vehicle upgraded to the three-season performance Goodyear tires for an extra $100.
To make sure its new owners are comfortable pushing the car to its limits, buyers of the 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 (and any other Chrysler SRT model) will be able to attend a one-day SRT Track Experience which is put on through the Richard Petty Driving Experience and gives drivers professional track instruction.
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2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8: MPG
Between gasoline prices and new fuel emission regulations, there is a growing popularity with new-car buyers for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, but the 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 proves that there will always be a market for fun and exciting automobiles in the United States. With its classic styling and powerful Hemi engine under the hood, the new Dodge Challenger will allow some drivers to relive the glory days of American muscle while allowing a whole new generation to appreciate the beauty of cars from the 1960s and 1970s. Dodge has even managed to make its updated Challenger an everyday driver rather than just a weekend sports car.
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2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Review: Summary
The increase in engine output now makes the Challenger more competitive against some of its range-topping, muscle-car rivals such as the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and the all-new 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, but there could also be some cross-shopping with other sport coupes like the Nissan 370Z. After spending a week behind the wheel of the heavily updated 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8, it was surprising how much this car felt like a grand touring car at times with its new refined suspension, more detailed interior and upgraded engine.
- more powerful engine
- redesigned interior
- classic muscle car styling
- SRT8 performance doesn’t match up well with Camaro ZL1 or Mustang Shelby GT500
- heavier than competition
Dodge provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross
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