Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Souped-up Charger takes sting out of Viper

DAVID GRAINGER, Canwest News Service

Published: 6 hours ago

The Dodge colour Plum Crazy has a very special significance for me. When I was a kid in the 1960s, my mother saw a Dodge sporting that colour when it first premiered.

She had just bought a '65 Chevy Impala in need of paint, so she decided to paint her car that shade. It ended up looking spectacular as the car had a turquoise interior. It also became a problem as the colour drew a lot of attention to her.

In less than a year and much to our mutual sadness, she had the car repainted a metallic brown, which drew very little attention.

Plum Crazy, especially in the age of any colour you want as long as it is silver, still demands attention. I recently spent a week in a limited-edition Plum Crazy Dodge Charger Daytona R/T and I had a really surprising amount of positive comments, even from the people at drive-throughs.

The Charger design in any colour is striking. While the interior is Spartan in some regards, it is also tasteful, culminating in a really pleasant vehicle to be in as well as be seen in.

I know that a lot of people have been down on the Charger because it is a four-door, but clever design with the roofline and rear post allows the rear doors to almost disappear. That leaves one with the convenience of a four-door and the looks of a coupe.

Handling and power are quite good, especially for a car this large. Fuel economy is surprising, especially in light of gas prices. If driven conservatively, fuel consumption is bearable. The Charger is as roomy and a touch more comfortable inside than most SUVs and the trunk is immense, so the argument for load carrying that proponents of city-driven SUVs often make is really rather moot.

I could easily see myself driving a Charger R/T as an everyday vehicle until I was offered and accepted a test in the Charger SRT8.

The SRT8 is evil. At 425 horsepower, it is as powerful as the first-generation Viper. The truth is, it probably handles better, even with the traction control off.

The fuel economy, if you care, is a lot better than any Viper's. And, unlike a Viper, you can take four friends with you. I did find that I spent a lot of my driving time with the traction control off simply because I was on a lot of slippery, icy roads and I like to have a feel for what is under me.

The traction control - even the tweaked system that's used in the SRT8 - has a bit of a tough time deciding what to do on glare ice so it opts for going slow. Perhaps it's not a bad thing, especially if you are not a drifting champion.

In my first 10 minutes of driving, I was already in trouble. I was accelerating on the ramp to a highway and looked down to see that I was rapidly approaching the 50-kilometres-over-stupidity mark. As I would have then been considered racing and performing a stunt, I backed off immediately.

Stealth is great, but if you can't use the car even close to its potential on roads, you should at least be able to show off the fact that your car, four doors and all, can give most Porsches a run for their money.

The SRT8 was black, which was attractive. But I have an even better idea.

The SRT8 would be irresistible if it were painted Plum Crazy or the other equally flamboyant special-edition colour, Sublime, a brilliant lime green.

I would be pulling on the bell bottoms right now if that were the case.

National Post

1 comment:

MrDolomite said...

FYI, there was a special run of Plum Crazy SRT8's, 300 of them. They were originally to become Daytona R/T's, but were changed over to SRT8's. But they were never listed on the Dodge.com Build-Your-Own portion of the website.