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Just because the Charger is all grown up, don’t infer that unmitigated muscle has been traded for daily-driving practicality. The standard V6 is a strong motor, and the Charger R/T includes a 340-horsepower Hemi V8 engine that successfully delivers on the muscle-car promise. But Dodge hasn’t stopped there. The mad scientists at DaimlerChrysler’s Street and Racing Technology division (SRT) have cooked up another version of the Charger, one for consumers who think there’s never enough power under the hood. Their latest creation is the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8.
With 425-horsepower on tap, Charger SRT-8 isn’t for everyone – it’s simply way too much car for the masses. But if you think you can handle it and you’re in the market for a car that’s equally adept at hauling both passengers and, ahem,booty, you’ll find this to be a package that’s hard to beat.
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In its sporty-looking but mild-mannered versions – namely the SE and SXT with the standard V6 – the Dodge Charger is a likeable car with a decent power, above-average ride and handling, and one of the most spacious back seats in the business. Step up to the Hemi-powered R/T and Daytona R/T models and you have a car with all the chutzpah any ordinary driver could ever want or need.
With this new version, however, the full SRT treatment takes the Charger into a whole new category, making it a true high-performance automobile capable of turning in acceleration and braking numbers on par with some pretty pricey European nameplates. Which, when combined with a relatively modest $36,000 price tag, makes it look like a deal. Just remember to add the $2,100 gas guzzler tax, because 6.1-liters of displacement is simply not going to use fuel efficiently.
The 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8’s upgrades are mainly under the sheetmetal. Outside, there’s a giant hood scoop and huge 20-inch wheels to announce the Charger SRT-8’s additional firepower. Inside, special seats and trim accompany a fully-decked out cabin. Even when optioned up with side airbags, automatic climate control, a power sunroof, navigation radio, Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth wireless communications hardware, and SRT Kicker speakers, the Charger SRT-8 comes in around $45,000 – including the gas guzzler tax. Compared to, say, a Cadillac CTS V-Series, that’s a screaming bargain.
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Nuts and Bolts
The 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8’s transformation from meek to magnificent began just like all good muscle car stories do, with the SRT team’s decision to stuff the biggest honkin’ V8 engine possible under the hood.
In this case it’s the automaker’s already potent 5.7-liter Hemi, which gets a thorough going-over starting with a 3.5-millimeter larger cylinder bore that bumps displacement up to 6.1 liters. The compression ratio goes from 9.6-to-1 to 10.3-to-1, while redesigned camshafts, high-flow cylinder heads, larger sodium-filled valves, and reworked intake and exhaust plumbing make for better breathing. The result is an impressive 85-horsepower jump to a total of 425 ponies and 430 lb.-ft. of torque which, on a power-per-liter of displacement basis, makes it more potent than the legendary Hemi engines of the 1960s. For a touch of nostalgia, the motor is also treated to an orange-painted engine block and black valve covers.
All that power is routed to the rear wheels through a five-speed AutoStick automatic transmission which has been massaged to deliver quicker shifts as you manually run through the gears. Completing the drivetrain upgrades are a stouter driveshaft, differential, and axles designed to handle all the punishment the massaged motor can dish out.
Because one of the goals was to create a muscle car that did more than just go fast in a straight line, the Charger SRT-8’s suspension received an equally thorough makeover. Ride height has been lowered by a half-inch, while specially-tuned shocks, springs, bushings, and larger diameter sway bars have been bolted in to help the Charger SRT-8 put in a more well-rounded handling performance when the road gets interesting.
Handsome 20-inch alloy wheels wear wide Goodyear Supercar F1 tires. Like other SRT projects, the Charger SRT-8 sports bright red, four-piston Brembo brake calipers with humongous 14.2-inch vented discs up front and 13.8-inch vented discs in the rear.
Leaving no performance-oriented stone unturned, the electronic stability control has also been specially tweaked for this application. There are now three separate positions: fully-on, partially-off with fail-safe intervention available at the limits of directional stability, and fully-off which also dials up both increased throttle response and a more aggressive shift program from the transmission.
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Even a quick glance at the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8’s menacing snout tells you this is no ordinary suburbanite sedan. The most visible changes to the car’s exterior are more than just cosmetic, however. SRT engineers report that the bold front air dam, side sill extensions, and rear spoiler actually bolster high speed handling by adding a significant amount of downforce at speed.
In a similar form-follows-function vein, the small ducts in the air dam’s lower edge and the nicely integrated hood scoop serve to funnel fresh air to help those components keep their cool under hard use. Topping off the these racy body mods are three surprisingly subdued colors, Bright Silver, Brilliant Black, and Inferno Red Crystal Pearlcoat.
Inside, the Charger SRT-8 gets better-bolstered driver and front passenger seats with suede inserts designed to keep your backside planted during enthusiastic driving. Other interior changes – like the 180-mph speedometer and carbon fiber-patterned leather on the steering wheel – add to the high-performance ambiance.
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Safety and Technology
Given the fact that the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 is as capable of unleashing mayhem as it is sedately shuttling your kids to school, it’s not unreasonable to expect it to be as safe as it is fast. To their credit, SRT engineers understood this dichotomy and gave their newest four-door hot rod a long list of safety features that results in top-notch crash-test scores.
On the active safety side, the Charger SRT-8 includes standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Brake Assist, a bit of technology that helps bring maximum braking power to bear in panic stops. Traction control and electronic stability control, which can detect an impending skid and automatically intervene to keep the car pointed in the right direction, are also standard.
If things do go from bad to worse and a crash is unavoidable, multi-stage front airbags with an occupant classification system that matches the force of the airbags’ deployment to the size of the passenger and the severity of the impact should help soften the blow. An Emergency Accident Response System that turns on the inside light, unlocks the doors, and shuts off fuel flow to the engine after an airbag deploys also add peace of mind.
Two other important safety features on the options list are worthy of mention. Power-adjustable accelerator and brake pedals allow shorter drivers to position themselves a safe distance away from the steering wheel-mounted airbag.. Side-curtain airbags reduce the chance of head injuries for occupants of both rows, and are a must-have option.
Crash-test results for the 2006 Dodge Charger are impressive. According to the NHTSA, the driver and front passenger locations get five-star protection ratings, and in side impacts the front seat occupants get a four-star designation while rear seat riders benefit from five-star levels of safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls the 2006 Dodge Charger a “best pick” in its class for its exceptional protection in an offset, head-on collision.
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Like its original incarnation, this new 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 has power to spare. Fire up the big V8, and a rumble resonates throughout the cabin. Plant your right foot and that relatively subdued sound is replaced by a glorious roar reminiscent of old-school muscle cars. The SRT folks claim the car will do 0 to 60 in a bit more than five seconds and come to a dead stop from 60 miles per hour in 110 feet, allowing the Charger SRT-8 to best all comers without a European supercar badge on the hood or a slew of aftermarket upgrades under it. While we didn’t have the opportunity to verify those impressive performance numbers for ourselves, they seem about right based on our time behind the wheel.
On the road, the Charger SRT-8’s stiffer suspension creates a car that is a joy to drive on a twisting ribbon of mountain road. Body roll is minimal and the car feels well-planted even at excessive velocities. What’s even better is that this upgraded suspension manages to achieve that level of handling performance while still delivering a livable ride-quality, making this a car that can function well as a daily driver. Steering is reasonably precise, with good heft and just a bit of vagueness on-center. Likewise the massive disc brakes haul the car down from unreasonable speeds with authority, though we’d prefer a firmer pedal feel that would make the brakes a bit easier to modulate.
On the racetrack, the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 performed quite well for the heavy street car that it is, though it never really felt light on its feet. In short, the Charger SRT-8 is better suited to a spirited street drive than running flat-out at the track, though a controlled environment, like a closed race course, is the only place you’ll be able to get a real feel for the SRT-8’s true performance potential.
In the final measure, the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 is a fitting heir to the original Charger’s muscle car legacy. The fact that it balances all that raw power with a healthy dose of practicality makes its purchase that much easier to rationalize.
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Is the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 the real deal or is it just another poseur? With a 425-horsepower V8 under the hood, not to mention all the other drivetrain, suspension, aerodynamic, and interior upgrades, the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 has serious high-performance cred. While its size and weight wouldn’t make it our first choice to play with at a local track day, for street use this may well be the most fun-to-drive Charger ever.
Is the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 version worth the price bump over the 5.7-liter equipped Daytona R/T model? Given the impressive levels of performance the 5.7-liter Hemi-powered Daytona R/T is capable of, we’d say the answer for most folks would have to be no. That being said, we also have to admit the bang-for-the-buck the Charger SRT-8 delivers does make it look like a relative bargain.
Is the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 too high-strung to really be practical? Well, that depends on your definition of practical. Driven sanely, the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 can be perfectly pleasant to drive. Unleash its power, however, and we think it’s definitely more car than most people will ever need and likely more than many can handle.
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Test Vehicle: 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8
Base Price: $35,995 (including $675 destination charge)
Gas Guzzler Tax: $2,100
Engine Size and Type: 6.1-liter Hemi V8
Engine Horsepower: 425 at 6,200 rpm
Engine Torque: 420 lb.-ft. at 4,800 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic with AutoStick manual shift feature
Curb Weight, lbs.: 4,160
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 14/20 mpg
Length: 200.1 inches
Width: 74.5 inches
Wheelbase: 120 inches
Height: 58.2 inches
Legroom (front/rear): 41.8/40.2 inches
Headroom (front/rear): 38.7/36.2 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Five
Max. Cargo Volume: 16.2 cu.-ft.
Competitors: Audi S4, BMW M3, BMW M5, Cadillac CTS-V, Cadillac STS-V, Chevrolet Impala SS, Chrysler 300C SRT-8, Dodge Magnum SRT-8, Infiniti M45 Sport, Jaguar S-Type R, Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG, Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG, Pontiac Grand Prix GXP, Volvo S60 R
Photos courtesy of DaimlerChrysler
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