Rear, like front, echoes the ’ 70 Challenger. (ABOVE LEFT) Challenger made Tag happy even before he took pole here at Texas Motor Speedway. (MIDDLE LEFT) Interior looks brighter and feels better put together.
with nicely controlled understeer. Take
the traction control o;, and get aggressive
with the throttle and you can neutralize
that with power oversteer – how a racecar
or sporting road car should be. The change
in its behavior is just amazing.”
This is an interesting point, because
some car manufacturers tend to smother
even their most benign-handling cars
with overprotective electronics, to save
the driver from himself.
“Yeah, some cars have terrible traction
control,” agrees Tag. “They cut power to
the wheels in a very harsh way, and it
makes the car behave in a very artificial
way. What you feel through your hands
and backside is not what your instincts are
telling you it should do. So what happens?
You end up being less confident because
you don’t feel you’re controlling your car.
It’s controlling itself and you!
“So that’s why it’s pretty special what
Dodge did with this Challenger. The
traction control is so progressive and so
quick that it continuously gives you the
power, but with that understeer. The rear
end of the car is very stable. But then get
the car on wide pavement, like at a track,
turn o; the traction control, and you can
steer the car on the throttle, because there’s
easily enough power to break traction.”
This flexibility in behavior would have
been unthinkable for a Challenger driver
in 1970, as would how well damped that
rear end is over rough highway surfaces.
Similarly, a Challenger four decades ago
wouldn’t have achieved the impressive
fuel consumption this SRT8 can: at a
constant 75mph, it will register 25mpg
– pretty impressive for an engine of this
size. The 5-speed automatic model even has Fuel Saver
Technology which can switch to running just four of the eight
cylinders in a cruise or in highway tra;c.
What a 2011 Challenger driver does have in common with his
predecessor is the pleasure of driving a car of highly distinctive
appearance which goes as fast as you’ll likely ever need to and
has a very impressive horsepower-per-dollar ratio.
But perhaps most importantly, these days, the Dodge
Challenger has no direct rival. As Tagliani concludes, “There’s
nothing like it – it’s a true performance car but big enough that
you can easily put kids in the back seat and not feel guilty! Lots
of luggage space, too. So once you look at
the fact it’s got 470hp and how Dodge has
improved its build quality, the price is
very reasonable, I think.”
And with that, he’s gone to work on
the handling of his Sam Schmidt
Motorsport IndyCar. A few hours later,
Tagliani has taken his second straight
pole position of the season. Yup, I think,
if this Challenger impresses even Alex,
it’s got to be good.
IMPROVED POWER, GAS MILEAGE AND SUCCESS
Why the Challenger is Chrysler/Dodge’s best flag-waver
Overall, Gilles declares himself very pleased with
the public enthusiasm for the Challenger. “It’s done a
lot better than we expected, especially
during a recession, and it was right to
position ourselves a little higher in the
market than our competition. The
Challenger is more practical: it has a
substantial trunk, and it’s very
comfortable for taller people but it has
a lot of presence on the road, too. It’s
been excellent for the Dodge brand overall, and a car
along these lines should always be in our portfolio.”
lot better than we expected, especially t r
While the Challenger SRT8
and the R/T use Hemi V8s,
V6 produced just 250hp, this year
the car gained a 3.6-liter Pentastar
unit of 305hp (BELOW RIGHT).
But Dodge’s president and CEO
Ralph Gilles (RIGHT) is also keen to
emphasize the 2011 improvements to the SRT8.
“We’ve done a lot to make this car relatively
efficient for a V8,” he states, “and in the 2011 car,
even though it has more power and torque, its fuel
efficiency has improved. The automatic model has
full Fuel Saver Technology and so someone who
hasn’t got their foot on the gas all the time could
consider running this as a commuter car.
“Having said that, the reality is that these are
weekend cars for a lot of buyers, so they’re not
concerned about fuel economy as much.”