The Challenger was never as popular as the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro, but that didn’t stop the enthusiasm of Mopar fans when a revival of the pony car was announced for 2008. Unfortunately, Chrysler’s perilous financial situation meant the new car wasn’t all it could be. After an influx of cash and some major technical advances, the 2012 model finally delivered on the promise of a retro-styled pony car with all the performance and comfort of a modern vehicle.
Classic Looks of the 2012 Dodge Challenger
Despite a full redesign, the coke-bottle styling, quad headlamps and chrome-trimmed grill remained, referencing the look of the original Challenger. The SRT8 took this a step further with a bigger chin spoiler, matching the one off the ’70 R/T. Contemporary colors were available, but so were throwbacks like Stinger Red and Header Orange.
More Power, Even without the HEMI
The predecessor’s lackluster V6 was replaced by the new Pentastar, producing 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque, while the HEMI V8 increased output to 379 hp and 410 lb-ft. of torque. At the top of the lineup, the new SRT8’s “392” 6.4 liter HEMI is rated at 470 hp with 470 lb-ft. Both V8s get cylinder deactivation when coupled with automatic transmissions for better fuel economy, but this wasn’t enough for the 392 to avoid a $1,000 gas-guzzler tax. Buyers could pair any engine with a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual with a dual clutch.
Modern Technology for Major Performance
The capstone of the 2012’s performance wasn’t the amount of power but how it was applied. Electronic Stability Control, brake assist, all-speed traction control, rain brake support and a hill-start assist system were now standard. That gave the car FWD-like traction in bad weather and made it easier to launch. Thanks to this added tech, the SRT8 can do the quarter mile in under 13 seconds, easily beating even the fastest classic Challengers.
Despite a curb weight well over 4,000 pounds, a five-link rear suspension originating from Mercedes’ E-Class and new Bilstein shocks provide sports car-like handling. Coupled with trim-specific features, such as limited slip differential in the Drag Pack and active damping suspension in the SRT8 392, it was possible for buyers to get a car that would serve as both a daily driver and be ready for any type of racing from drag to autocross.
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