Some things don’t really change. They just get faster.
For anyone who came of age during the heyday of the unfettered big-cubic-inch American V-8, the feeling is deliciously familiar.
Stab the throttle, and there’s that rocket sled pressure across the shoulder blades as a 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 transmits its massive thrust to the pavement, provoking smoke and shrieking from the rear tires as they scrabble for grip.
The sounds and sensations after pushing the keyless-start button ignite memories of those thrilling days of yesteryear when an original Hemi V-8 lit up its Goodyear Polyglas rear tires and sent an original Challenger hurtling down the highway—or maybe Woodward Avenue—with a heady rush.
Whooma! Is that the ground trembling? Now, as then, the experience is seismic. Whooma! There’s almost nothing in the internal combustion inventory that can match the visceral experience that goes with exploiting the punch of a big ol’ American V-8.
And now, as then, a big V-8 can produce some pretty impressive acceleration numbers.
The Hemi Challenger we tested almost 40 years ago was able to smoke its way through the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 103 mph on tires that were considered hot stuff back then but would be only slightly better than linoleum compared with the performance rubber available today.
The latter-day Challenger, with its Goodyear F1 Supercar tires (245/45-20 front, 255/45-20 rear) is expected to rumble to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, with a quarter-mile time of 13.3 seconds. To follow the action, the car gets a performance display similar to the one in the Caliber SRT4 that measures 0-to-60, quarter-mile and g-force.
We must add here that we have yet to put a new Challenger through its paces at a test track, and don’t expect to do so until April.
Our experiences with a pre-production development mule were accumulated at the Texas Motorsports Ranch, about 14 miles west of Houston, experiences that were tempered by intermittent rain showers.
Rain and 425 horsepower on a twisty road circuit isn’t a great combination for max lap times or blistering acceleration, although we did learn that the chassis engineers have set the stability system threshold commendably high, and that the Goodyear F1s deliver surprisingly good grip on wet pavement. So our acceleration forecasts are based on our test of a Chrysler 300C SRT8 in June 2005.
This in turn adds up to hefty curb weights. The Dodge boys forecast 4150 pounds, which is just 62 pounds lighter than the 300C. With the same 6.1-liter Hemi V-8 (425 horsepower, 420 pound-feet of torque), the same five-speed automatic, and the same final drive, and the same tires, drag strip numbers figure to be pretty much the same, too.
Still, you might wonder why the smaller coupe—at 197.7 inches it’s 2.5 inches shorter than a Charger and almost an inch lower—is nearly as heavy as the sedan.