Dodge Challenger: Dodge’s Latest Failure?


So as you read this title you are thinking, “wait a minute, doesn’t Josh love the new Challenger? Didn’t he write a column about how it was going to be amazing to see the 21st Century Muscle Car Wars?” Well, yes I did say that and do still love the car. I did however just get finished reading the latest Car and Driver magazine for April of this year. I was delighted to see the cover with a beautiful red Challenger facing me just ready to spin its rear tires and fly right off the page. I was shocked though when I started reading the article about the new bad boy from Michigan.

Car and Driver does a great job listing the great accomplishments of this car and talking about how it was disguised in a Charger outfit, just shorter, to hide it from the public eye during testing and how that car was a happy camper with its testers. Then they interview Erich Heuschele, the SRT vehicle development manager. He goes through his usual speech about how he loves the car and how they did such a great job and this and that, typical we did a great job, as you would expect. Then he starts really talking about the aerodynamics of the car and this is where I was shocked! Car and Driver reports that there was considerable amounts of time spent on this part of the development, where C&D says “Heuschele pronounces himself satisfied with the final skin” and goes on to quote Mr. Heuschele as saying “our aero target was to be the same as the Charger SRT8, but we wound up with a touch more lift at the front and a touch less downforce at the rear. What we were after was a car you could drive comfortably at 150 mph, if you can find some place to do that. I think we’re as close to optimal as we could get and still keep the styling guys happy.”

So he says he is happy with that? A car that is actually less advanced at racing speeds than an already not so tidy Charger SRT8? Well I am still amazed by this. If Corvette, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari and the likes worked this way they wouldn’t be the best that they are today. Even though the Corvette throughout the years hasn’t necessarily been the car that its competitors were, it at least tried and evolved into a better car every year. Maybe this is why the Viper is said to be getting the big axe after another year or so, because Dodge doesn’t know how to make all things good and not just one thing great and the other stuff bad. Dodge obviously isn’t paying attention. They think the people want big, heavy, clunky sports cars that are only made for a drag strip like they were in the 60’s and 70’s. Not so true anymore fella’s. These days, people want more sport with their car, nice handling and all. Now, I can’t really say how the car handles because I have never driven one, and C&D does report that the car handles well for its size.

Dodge needs to step up to the plate and hit a real home run. They did a great job with the Viper, but it’s almost a pointless car since it has no real spirit unless you are going balls to the wall in it or trying to just hit the gas to impress the ladies. Sure the new Challenger is a great car, and I can’t wait to drive one and would still own one, I just can’t get over that they are happy with such a poor performance standard.

This seems to be the deciding reason on why Mercedes-Benz sold Chrysler. They have no real potential. At least they did, but they’ve lost so much of it and made themselves a cheap car again. At least the performance numbers speak loudly for the new Challenger at 4.7s to 60 and 13.1s through the ¼ mile. Dodge also claims a top speed of over 170mph and pronounced the Challenger great at 425hp and 420lb-ft of torque and with its slotted Brembo brakes, it should stop very impressively. The price doesn’t seem too bad for a car like this at a little over $40,000, but who’s to say that the new Camaro won’t beat these numbers when it comes out? Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the Challenger only comes in an automatic for now. Wee! Such fun for us all. I think it’s time to go back to the drawing boards Dodge.

Sorry guys, I can’t send you to the source of this article since Car and Driver just put out the magazine. All I can say is to go buy the magazine and read the article for yourself.


Source: Car and Driver: April 2008 issue. Volume 53 number 10.

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