Fully Charged That revised front fascia on the SRT-8 does more than look good. It increases downforce at high speeds while directing cool air to the front brakes. By Karl Brauer Date posted: 09-26-2005 Driving the new 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 you find yourself thinking, "Sure it's fast, remarkably nimble and capable of stopping from 60 mph in 120 feet, but the average wife will never go for it. She'll only harp about the harsh ride and cringe as the exhaust system makes its Hemi-powered belch every time the tach swings past 4,000 rpm." Most automotive enthusiasts would like to see this new Charger earn the sort of widespread appeal that the 1968-1969 models did. Those cars were good enough for Frank Bullitt, Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry, plus a couple of good ol' boys from Hazzard County sporting a rebel flag and the words "General Lee" painted on the roof. But what sort of self-respecting better half is going to sign off on this 425-horsepower beast? Today's Muscle Car A 180-mph speedometer, heavily bolstered front seats with suede inserts, and contrasting red stitching are some of the more obvious upgrades to the SRT-8's interior. That's an important question, because the new Dodge Charger now sports four doors, a roomy backseat and a large trunk (16.2 cubic feet), so it's obviously meant to appeal to more than just the testosterone-charged youth Dodge was targeting back in the late 1960s. Those guys are all grown up now, and many of them have to answer to that aforementioned wife. To our eyes, injecting this vehicle with a louder, more powerful 6.1-liter Hemi V8, not to mention a stiffer suspension, aggressively bolstered front seats and large "SRT" emblems on the grille, trunk lid and head restraints seems a bit contradictory. But after spending a week with the Charger SRT-8 we can assure you it has mastered the art of the 21st-century muscle car. It's got a fully independent four-wheel suspension, and Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team has upgraded items like the front and rear sway bars, as well as the bushings and the spring rates, to better deliver on the car's promise of high-performance handling. Dodge claims to have tweaked the settings of the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) as well, but we found it to be overly intrusive in "on" mode, and still bothersome in "off" mode. This was particularly annoying because the big car often wanted to go faster around corners than the system would let it, but it didn't stop us from ripping through the slalom at 64.5 mph (faster than the new Mazda MX-5 Miata and Pontiac Solstice). Parts That Equal a Whole Shot Those chrome 3.5-inch exhaust tips produce quite a howl when the tachometer swings past 4,000 rpm. SRT also added a variety of exterior upgrades that, according to the group's director, Dan Knott, "…don't just look great, they're also functional." The most obvious exterior changes are a set of five-spoke, 20-inch aluminum wheels wearing Goodyear Supercar F1 tires (245/45s in front, 255/45s in back). Peer through those five spokes and you can't miss the massive 14.1-inch front rotors (13.7 inches in back) grabbed by red four-piston Brembo calipers. These hauled the 4,200-pound Charger SRT-8 down from 60 mph in a confident 120 feet while displaying no fade after three repeated panic stops. With a front fascia directing air to those brakes it would appear Mr. Knott's "functional" comment rings true. There's also a functional hood scoop that brings cold air into the engine compartment — plus it looks cool. But the most important upgrade remains the Hemi engine under that scoop. Bumping the standard Hemi V8's horsepower from 340 to 425 meant bumping displacement from 5.7 to 6.1 liters through a bore increase of 3.5 millimeters. The SRT boys also upped the compression ratio from 9.6-to-1 to 10.3-to-1 while adding high-flow cylinder heads and a more aggressive camshaft. Exhaust pipe diameter also increased from 2.5 inches to 2.8 inches. The 425-hp V8 hooks to a five-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode. It also uses a sturdier prop shaft, beefier rear differential and stronger axles, making it identical to the drivetrain used in the Chrysler 300C SRT-8 we tested last year. That car pulled a 5.7-second 0-to-60 time and ran through the quarter-mile in 14.1 seconds at 105 mph. Putting the Charger through similar testing netted a 5.4 0-to-60 time while taking 13.5 seconds to clear the quarter-mile at 105 mph. With curb weight, tire size and gearing the same in both models we can only conclude that the Charger's cold-air induction is really working. Well, that and the usual variances between test vehicles and testing conditions. Not Just for Boys Classic Hemi engine trademarks, including the black valve covers and orange block, pay homage to perhaps to the most successful race engine in Chrysler's history. What hasn't wavered is our enthusiasm for SRT products that live up to the division's goal of being top-performance offerings in their segment. With a mid-5-second 0-to-60 time, not to mention braking and handling characteristics that would embarrass many European performance sedans that cost thousands more, the 2006 Dodge Charger SRT-8 is a modern muscle car marvel. And despite its somewhat choppy ride quality and baritone exhaust warble, it still passed the most important test: the wife liked it. Actually, she really liked it. "It's the first modern car to remind me of your 1970 Plymouth GTX," she beamed enthusiastically. "And while it's more refined than that car it still has plenty of attitude — and it's really fast. Can we get one?" Looks like Dodge has figured out the secret formula. What Works: Excellent steering and brakes, successfully captures the spirit of a classic American muscle car, the wife wants one. What Needs Work: Stability control intrudes even when it's "off," ride quality suffers as a result of suspension tuning, lower front fascia scrapes easily. Bottom Line: A muscle car you — and your family — can love.