Dodge's Charger/Magnum ads naturally played up the V-8 models, depicting humorous encounters with unwary folks who were smoked by the Dodge, then asked, "That thing got a Hemi in it?" The phrase was soon on people's lips from coast to coast.
Meantime, the small dedicated band of gearheads at Street and Racing Technology couldn't resist taking the R/T models to a higher level. The result was SRT8 versions for both the Magnum and Charger, each with a 6.1-liter (370-cid) Hemi pumping out 425 bhp -- the highest specific output in Chrysler V-8 history, said SRT -- and walloping torque of 420 pound-feet.
More than just a bore job, the 6.1 bristled with premium engineering, including its own block casting, flat-top pistons, higher compression (10.3:1 versus 9.6), larger ports, wider intake valves, sodium-filled exhaust valves, higher-lift cam, headers, and freer-flow intake and exhaust piping. SRT also lowered the suspension by half an inch from R/T spec, substituted harder suspension bushings, reprogrammed the ESP and transmission shift points, and bolted on 20-inch wheels. The SRT8 Charger was treated to a new rear spoiler and a hood scoop to help keep the engine bay cool.
Last but not least were specially appointed interiors, plus deeper front and rear fascias that made both SRT8s look even hairier than "ordinary" R/Ts. The price for all this wasn't exactly cheap, yet the SRT8s, wagon and sedan, were undeniable high-performance bargains, starting at just under $40,000.
Despite their size and two-ton heft, the new Hemi Chargers and Magnums were very fast on the straights, but also Eurosedan-agile through the curves. R/Ts could run 0-60 mph in the mid-five-second bracket and standing quarter-miles in the low 14s at just over 100. Who said the muscle car era was gone forever? SRT8s were more thrilling yet, doing 0-60 lunges in five seconds or less, sub-14-second quarter-mile blasts, and 0-100 mph and back to 0 in no more than 17 seconds. V-6s seemed like sluggards by comparison, posting 0-60s in the low nines, but they looked just as quick -- and mean -- as the Hemis.
Dodge must have been encouraged by the initial response. Magnum alone tallied nearly 92,000 sales from its mid-'04 launch through the end of '05, fewer than the Chrysler 300 but surprisingly good for a supposedly passé station wagon. The Charger seemed poised to do at least equally well.
Still, there's no denying that Dodge (Chrysler, too) seemed out of step flaunting such big, heavy, and thirsty cars in 2005. After all, that was the year many Americans first paid more than $3 a gallon for gas amid new concerns over world oil supplies, soaring demand for fuel-stingy gasoline/electric hybrid vehicles, and more strident calls by environmentalists for tougher fuel-economy standards to slow the pace of global warming. Though it's unclear how those factors will play out, you can bet they won't be going away anytime soon.
For more on the all-American Dodge, see:
- Dodge New Car Reviews and Prices
- Dodge Used Car Reviews and Prices