2006 Dodge Charger SRT8

I recall reading the press release of the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT8 and there in print was the essence of what this car is all about — “the Charger on Steroids”.

So does the Charger SRT8 live up to its HEMI-powered hype? Well folks, with 425 HP and 420 lb-ft of torque stuffed under the bulging hood and its integrated air scoop, there’s not much you need to ask about Charger SRT8’s performance — it is indeed a seriously fast ride.

2006 Dodge Charger SRT8

2006 Dodge Charger SRT8

To achieve this fire breathing, gas gulping, in-your-face performance, the SRT8 sports a revamped HEMI that bumps displacement from 5.7-litres to an awesome 6.1 litre monster. Although the bigger Hemi still sports 16 pushrod-activated valves, (yes, only two per cylinder), the engine still manages to produce enough pavement punishing horsepower to equal the legendary 426 Hemi engines from the original muscle-car day.

Fire up the engine and you are rewarded with the guttural rumble you’re expecting. Score one smiley face. Put the five-speed automatic transmission, with auto stick, in drive, press the gas and hang on! Yikes, too much gas! Try again with a gentler touch and the vehicle pulls off with a sense of purpose — the engine barely makes a noise, but lurking beneath the surface is that now-familiar SRT rumble. Score another smiley face.

Once out on the highway, I punch the gas to find out how hard the Charger charges. As I roar closer to a court date and automatic licence suspension, I realize that a track is a more appropriate venue to explore the upper limits of what the SRT boys call “race inspired but street legal”. I’m now at 3 smiley faces.

The Charger SRT8 shares a modified Mercedes-Benz platform found in the 300 and base Charger, however, just about everything in the suspension has been massaged by the SRT folks. Peek through the gorgeous, polished, 5 spoke 20 inch rims with optional Goodyear F1 tires and you’ll quickly notice the red Brembo 4-piston calipers that clamp massive 14.2-inch vented discs up front and equally impressive 13.8-inch vented discs at the rear wheels. The ride height has also been lowered a half an inch, which lowers the centre of gravity, improves high-speed stability and reduces the aerodynamic drag. The fact it gives the car a meaner, more menacing stance is an added bonus that packs a wallop!

Although the SRT8 looks like it’s breaking the speed limit standing still in a parking lot, it also attracts attention on the road. On a single trip though a very exclusive neighbourhood, where houses cost in excess of $3-million, men and women alike stopped to stare as my ride rumbled by. However, the moment I realized how powerful this package really is, was when a two year old being pulled in a wagon made his grandfather stop. Pointing at the car, he wanting to know what it was. This tot wouldn’t understand any marketing for this or any other car. Lost on him was the social significance of a vehicle and what it says about you and who you are. All he knew was that the SRT8 looked good and he wanted one! The attraction for him, as for me, is primal!

Inside, the car has not changed much other than some subtle SRT8 badges on the dash and on the supportive sports seats with handsome suede inserts. These things hug the driver without feeling confining. The remainder of layout and the feel it imparts speaks to the Teutonic efficiency expected of a thoroughbred.

During my week with the car, it always felt as though it was ready to vaporize the rear tires. Thankfully, the intervention of the SRT-calibrated Electronic Stability Control (ESP) keeps the tendency at bay. I’ll admit I never did quite muster up the courage needed to turn off the electronic overseer – personal safety and the fact there’s little room for error on a public highway makes for a very good conscience.

Dodge claims a 0-100-km/h time of about 5 seconds and even more astonishing run from rest to a ton and back to rest of about 16 seconds. Stopping distances (from 100 km/h) with the standard anti-lock brakes, come in at 39.44 metres, which is within hailing distance of the lighter Porsche 911. Fuel economy is estimated at 16.5 L/100 kms city or 10.9 L/100 kms highway.

Therein lies the paradox of the Charger SRT8: For the most part, no one in their right mind will ever get close to the immense potential this car offers. However, around town it is as refined and comfortable as any other sports sedan. Its large tires never dart about on uneven pavement, nor do they deliver the bone-jarring ride expected. No, the SRT8 is able to provide enough exhilaration from the occasional romp, but the true satisfaction of knowing that you can pretty much out-drag any other machine at the next light, and without so much as breaking a sweat.

Starting at a base price of $45,120, the Charger SRT8 represents outstanding value. In return owners get a vehicle that rekindles Dodge’s racing heritage and a turn of speed that’s only topped by the mighty Viper and its outlandish V10engine.