Exterior Design: ****
Let's not mince words here: The 2008 Dodge Charger SRT8 is the kid that took your sister out to a party and she came back with frazzled hair, disheveled clothes, and smeared makeup. It's a badass car and it looks it. In sedate colors it blends in like a roughneck in a polo, but when properly coiffed, it gets a solid nod as the obvious troublemaker. Something is brewing behind those headlights, and we all know it starts with a capital 'T'.
Interior Design: **
Like Wert said said so eloquently in his review of the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8, "the exterior was crafted with pound upon pound of love and care; the interior feels like the ginger-headed stepchild of the design process." As Challenger goes, so goes Charger. Where the exterior is tough and purposeful, the interior is disjointed and nonsensical. A car like this should be a purpose-built missile of power and fury, not some toddler-coddling, middle-American market-research vomitorium.
What you get depends on whether the car is in Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde mode. Normal acceleration in "Drive" registered 5.47 seconds to 60 on the computer. Not bad, but it felt hollow. Even though we were never able to best it when tapping the shifter manually, there's a certain satisfaction to wringing the big Hemi all the way out to its redline. Gunning it in this car means managing wheel spin, holding on for dear life and trying to wipe that stupid smirk off your face after you're all done
Brembos. Big ones. And solid ABS software to back them up. With 4100 lbs of bulk, this thing scrubs speed as if an anchor from the Titanic was dropped off the stern. Best be buckled tight, or you'll get well acquainted with the steering wheel, ya land-lubber.
Ride and handling, to our minds, are interlocked elements. If the ride is harsh, the handling better be damn good, and true for the opposite. Unfortunately here, the ride wins while the handling suffers. Considering the huge 20" wheels on the front and back of the Charger, the control exhibited on compression and rebound is respectable. We did notice quite a bit of noise from the suspension on the nasty stuff, but it was quickly muted by the more-than-ample shocks.
Yarg. Where to begin? It rolls like a low-level patsy ratting out a mob boss. High-speed corners are met with predictable, if not frightening, understeer. Pop it into 'no nanny' mode and you can turn the rear end around like a cocktail waitress at a Dean Martin convention.
Possibly the most embarrassing part of the car. If this tranny was in a family of upstate Oregon counterfeiters, they'd hide it in the basement, chained to the wall and fed only fish heads Goonies-style. It's the biggest weakness on the Charger; its greatest shame. But slapping it into manual mode lets you pretend like you're a big boy.
It's an SRT product. If you have to rely on the Kicker sound system to entertain you, you're doing it wrong. During my time with the car, the most use I got out of the radio was it telling me where the traffic jams were so I could work my way around them.
It's loaded. If you're a middle-management type with the requisite wife and two-point-five kids, this car will be magically delicious. The brain-maiming Sirius satellite TV is perfect for keeping those accidents of yours occupied with hour upon hour of Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer. Barring that, they can watch their favorite DVDs, all while wearing wireless headphones so you don't have to communicate with them. Even if you don't have kids, the Sirius radio, 0-60 MPH, 1/4 mile, 1/8th mile, and G-metering systems will keep you entertained no matter where you go. We recommend keeping the optional sunroof open during all exercises in reckless acceleration. It makes the evenings that much more exciting
Here I am, making fun of a Chrysler platform (which is like shooting pickles in a jar), and yet I can't help but think this is a fun car. Granted, the mileage is terrible, but it's more than made up for in utility, hoonability, and funulence. Yes, I just made up a word. Just make sure you don't plan on doing any autocrossing while you are in possession of this car or many a cone will meet its tragic end.
Fun? Yes. Uncouth? Yes. An ego extension - you bet. Is this car for everyone? Absolutely not. The Dodge Charger SRT8 is one of those cars that, at the moment, seems obscene, but when the next malaise era rolls around will be remembered fondly as a pinnacle of automotive ballsiness. It is both great and terrible, brilliant and abhorrent, and the Charger SRT8 is everything we love about American braggadocio.
Photo credit to Fabrizio Constantini and Alex Conley