2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392: First Drive

An interesting thing about driving all the SRT behemoths together is that you can tell which one's the least, er, behemothy. The 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392's wheelbase is four inches shorter than the Charger's and 300C's, which translates — using the butt-o-meter — into quicker rotations. Indeed, the Challenger feels far more nimble than its predecessor, by big leaps. Yes, we're surprised too.

While fun to muscle around the track, the Challenger really shines — and I can't believe I'm writing this — on the serpentine trail of Angeles Crest. The joke's on me as I'm slinging the thing around blind esses like it's some Brit sled out of Chapman's workshop. It's definitely a head-scratcher.

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Having driven both manual and automatic versions, I'm going to give this round to the paddle-selected slushbox. Blasphemy, you say? Indeed. And yet, whoever tuned the algorithms on this old Mercedes-Benz 5G-TRONIC deserves a Wall Street bonus. It's responsive, both upward and downward, leaving more sensory cycles available for keeping that giant hood pointed correctly. We'll save our harping on using a transmission from the mid-'90s for another day.

On track, the Challenger is wickedly fun, but I kept finding myself driving it like the mustachioed villain in a car chase through Beantown, Banacek-style — ignoring lap times, while finding opportunities to back into corners with the traction control off. It's stupid fun.

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