Dodge Charger SRT8 races down the track packing HEMI power

2009, Dodge, Charger SRT8

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Tearing out of Turn Four, a banked track's high wall on the front straightaway at Las Vegas Speedway suddenly flashes past about a foot off our car's right window like a stream of bright concrete moving at warp speed.

Actually, that grandstand wall stands perfectly still, as does any concrete barrier.

It's the Charger SRT8 Super Bee muscle machine from Dodge that zips so fast down the home stretch of the high-speed oval track in the Nevada desert.

Dodge's modern muscle car -- flashing the menacing face of a bulldog with shapely body bulges and the sleek profile of a coupe despite a pair of doors hanging off each side -- tracks so fast that it becomes a blur of orange paint in a special shade labeled Hemi Orange.

This one carries the credentials of a street-legal racer: A taut suspension tweaked for performance, 20-inch Goodyear F1 Supercar tires, Brembo brake calipers and a massive V8 engine that's a high-tech rendition of Chrysler's fabled HEMI plant with hemispheric combustion chambers.

And it bears the badge of Dodge's 1966 muscle car icon.

The modern version of Charger has a wheelbase that's ten feet long for big-car scale with the engine mounted up front and all torque applied to the back tires to forge a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) arrangement.

Charger's blunt-nosed hood stretches long too and the body's beltline on flanks seems tall, with a roofline tapering down toward the rear and squeezing window glass to narrow -- and interesting -- proportions.

Dodge builds the 2009 Charger with four different engines and four trims tagged as Charger SE, mid-level Charger SXE, the HEMI-powered Charger R/T and super-powered Charger SRT8.

Charger SE is the entry issue rigged with a fuel-thrifty V6 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission.

The single-cam 2.7-liter six-pack nets 178 hp at 5500 rpm with 190 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.

And EPA fuel economy scores come to 18 mpg for city driving and 26 mpg on the highway.

Charger SXE packs a high-output V6 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission for the RWD version or a five-speed electronic automatic with the optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) edition.

The 3.5-liter V6 runs up to 250 hp at 6400 rpm with 250 lb-ft of torque at 3800 rpm.

With the 3.5-liter V6, mid-grade fuel (89 octane) is recommended and fuel economy figures for the RWD version tally to 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.

Charger R/T carries a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 which produces 368 hp at 5200 rpm and 395 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm through an electronic automatic five-speed transmission teamed with the AutoStick manual shift controller.

The HEMI V8 comes with Chrysler's MDS (multi-displacement system) technology which can switch seamlessly and transparently to a fuel-saving four-cylinder mode when all of that horsepower is not needed for romping.

Fuel scores for the 5.7-liter plant net to 16/25 mpg (city/highway) with the RWD version and 16/23 mpg (city/highway) for the AWD R/T.

But the SRT8 edition is the top-dog for Charger.

The initials of SRT -- signifying "Street and Racing Technology" -- mark high-octane performance cars for the Dodge line developed through an in-house performance engineering organization.

For Charger the SRT8 treatment starts with a big-block engine -- a 6.1-liter HEMI V8 which kicks out 425 hp at 6200 rpm plus 420 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm.

Shifter is the electronic five-speed automatic with AutoStick manual controller.

For base issue Charger's suspension consists of an independent front SLA arrangement with high upper A arms plus the rear independent five-link posted on a cradle for isolation.

But SRT engineers worked on the SRT8 suspension. They lowered it by half an inch and tuned it tightly for performance with tailored spring rates and bushings, big anti-sway bars in place plus new anti-skid controls via an electronic stability program (ESP).

To rein so many horses, the 20-inch wheels on Charger SRT8 carry big disc brakes. Up front, the 14.2-inch rotors team with Brembo four-piston calipers. Rear ones with 13.8-inch rotors also get Brembo four-piston calipers.

All four discs are linked and controlled through an advanced anti-lock brake system (ABS) plus all-speed traction control system (ASTC).

Special modifications of the Charger SRT8 body are designed to enhance the pavement performance.

For instance, special ducts cut into the front fascia pull fresh air in to cool the front brakes and a big scoop on the hood draws cool air into the engine compartment, while a low aerodynamic air dam on the chin reduces front lift at high speed.

At the tail, a spoiler capping the deck lid adds downforce air pressure at the rear wheels to improve SRT8's traction and stability at speed.

Layout of the cabin for Charger consists of two big sport buckets up front and followed by a rear bench broad enough for three but with indented sections for two.

All chairs rise high so it's easy to slip laterally into a seat to climb aboard.

Space for heads and legs is more than generous -- and riders on the rear bench may sit with crossed legs and still find room to stretch.

Up front, the driver fits in a comfortable sport bucket seat, which adjusts in multiple directions -- and with power controls for SXT and R/T models.

For SRT8, the front buckets use thick side bolsters to hold your body in place during high performance maneuvers.

Instruments in the dashboard cluster include large round analog gauges with bright white faces and chrome rims.

Charger SRT8 for 2009 adds the limited-edition Super Bee in Hemi Orange paint with a serialized dash plaque, decals on hood and rear quarter, silver Brembo brake calipers and orange accent colors on the leather buckets.

Dodge structures the MSRP figures for Charger's 2009 models in a range spreading from $24,500 to $38,700.

By Bob Plunkett

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Images of the 2009, Dodge Charger SRT8

2009 Dodge Charger SRT8
2009 Dodge Charger SRT8
instrument panel
instrument panel
the charger console
the charger console
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