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2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 review

February 3, 2006 12:13 PM EST | Dodge , Sedans | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageProving that upscale sedans don't have to be stale-looking and slow, the high-performance Charger SRT-8 is a testament to all that Dodge can do well.

Pros
A 425-horsepower Hemi, suspension and braking upgrades that complement the motor, chiseled good looks, plenty of luxury and performance for the price.

Cons
No manual transmission available, complex stereo controls, limited visibility.

What's New for 2006
A high-performance version of the regular Dodge Charger, the SRT-8 is new for 2006.

Introduction:
Popularized by NASCAR dominance and later a hokey TV show about fictional Hazzard County, the venerable Dodge Charger has returned. Armchair automotive designers seem to forget that the last Charger was a four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive car based on the deplorable Dodge Omni. First introduced as a 1966 model, the Dodge Charger had a unique look with a sweeping fastback and concealed headlights. But it's the second generation of the Charger that was most popular. This was the one the Duke boys drove, the one that was turned into a race-winning Daytona and the one most enthusiasts associate with the name Charger. In 1999 Dodge started showing an all-new Charger concept that drew heavily on the 1968-'70 look. Although hopes were high for that great-looking show car, it simply wasn't meant to be.

A few years later Dodge introduced the new Charger as a 2006 model without the dramatic sheet metal. But the new Charger is aggressive-looking in its own way. The angled headlights and large grille give the car a sneering look, while the distinctive character line that begins the rear flanks adds some styling flair. Based on the same Mercedes-derived, rear-wheel-drive platform that carries the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum, the Dodge Charger offers a roomy interior and smooth ride. The SRT-8's larger 6.1-liter Hemi V8 is the highest specific output engine ever offered by Dodge. In a fitting nod to the original (and legendary) Hemi of the '60s, the SRT-8 even features an orange-painted cylinder block and black valve covers. Backing up the powerful V8 are other SRT performance-enhancing features like bigger stabilizer bars, a lowered ride height, more powerful brakes and an improved rear deck spoiler for more downforce. A modified front fascia not only helps to set the SRT-8 apart from regular Chargers but also helps with brake cooling by directing air over the discs. The regular Charger is certainly no slouch, but with 85 additional horsepower and upgraded chassis components, the SRT-8 is set to dominate as the ultimate hot-rod sedan. Think of it as a muscle car that lords over the streets while taking care of the family.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The rear-drive Charger SRT-8 is available only as a four-door sedan in one trim level. Standard equipment includes sport seats with perforated suede inserts and power adjustments, a tire-pressure monitoring system, a CD player, a trip computer, cruise control and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The SRT-8 rolls on 20-inch forged aluminum wheels shod with high-performance Goodyear F1 tires (all-season tires are an available option). Tire dimensions are a beefy 245/45R20 in the front and 255/45R20 in the rear. Brembo brakes are also standard, and the rotors measure 14.2 inches up front and 13.8 inches in back. Options include an upgraded Kicker audio system with an in-dash CD changer, automatic climate control, satellite radio and a DVD-based navigation system.

Powertrains and Performance:
The Charger SRT-8 sports a massaged 6.1-liter V8 that pumps out 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. A bored-out version of the regular Hemi, the 6.1L benefits from a higher compression ratio, a higher-flow cylinder head, and redesigned intake and exhaust systems. A five-speed automatic transmission with a specially calibrated AutoStick manual mode is standard. The Charger SRT-8 is capable of 0-to-60-mph times in the mid-5-second range and quarter-miles in the mid-13s.

Safety:
The Charger SRT-8 offers standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes and stability control. While stability control is standard on all Chargers, the SRT-8 uses a modified version to give enthusiast drivers more leeway when hustling the car through corners. Full-length side curtain airbags are optional.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Inside, the Charger's long wheelbase opens up plenty of room for passengers, particularly in the backseat where the SRT-8 offers considerably more legroom than most high-performance sedans. Interior styling is similar the Magnum's, but silver-faced gauges and bolstered sport seats with contrasting red stitching set the Charger SRT-8 apart from its siblings.

Driving Impressions:
The regular Charger R/T is already a blast to drive, and the SRT treatment takes this visceral experience to a whole new level, as the 6.1L V8 delivers enough thrust off the line to bury the driver in his seat along with a guttural exhaust note. But there's more to this car than acceleration, as an aggressively tuned suspension and quick steering allow you to hustle it through turns as if it were a much smaller car, while the oversized Brembo brakes skim off speed quickly while resisting fade. The downside is that ride quality suffers a bit. However, if you're looking for a muscle car that doesn't compromise on performance yet can still transport a family of four, the SRT-8 will be hard to resist.

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