Dodge Challenger SRT 392 7-day diary & review

Overcome by the cool charisma of the Challenger, we go in search of the Vanishing Point over seven days with the evocative Dodge

By Shahzad Sheikh

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

This review can start and quite simply end with the following statement: ‘I love this car.’ So now you can just click off and go read something else.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Still here? Good. In that case you can stick with me and submit yourself to an avalanche of text eulogising an archaic machine that pays homage too, and furthers the case for, the fundamental thrill of motoring. A car that celebrates power, wallows in self-extravagance and steps out with flair. A car that hums a deep ode to the mythical freedom of the open road, each time you start it up.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

It takes the crudest of ingredients (big motor up front, drive through the back wheels, tons of torque) and boils them into a magical concoction of automotive nirvana which you’d happily drink till the barrels run dry. On the one hand it’s a mighty muscle car, and on the other it’s Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ song.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

You know what makes me happy? Laying down a pair of black lines on a clean piece of road. It doesn’t take much to achieve this with the Dodge Challenger SRT 392. Even with the traction control on you can overwhelm the electronic driving nannies just by deploying all of the 470bhp and 470lb ft of torque from the 6.4 HEMI V8, available beneath your callously insensitive right foot.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Turn the traction off and you can leave a layer of rubber fused with the tarmac from here to the end of the rev counter. You’ll have to exert some considerable amount of effort to just keep the car pointing in a rough approximation of a straight line, as it wriggles and writhes out of the self-created cloud of smoke.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Needless to say then that it certainly doesn’t want to adhere to the script when it comes to cornering either, with the back stepping out at every bit of steering lock even at walking pace courtesy of a less-than-prudent dab of the throttle. It’s a sideways sensation! If you want it to be. Which you do. Otherwise why are you here?

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Love at first sight

I fell for this car the moment I first saw it when it was launched back in 2007, drawing little heart shapes on the first press pictures much to the annoyance of the then art director. I’ve driven it a few times since then, and you’d think by now the seven-year itch would have kicked in.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

But the classical elegance, retro-style, substantial stance and perfect proportions are actually improving with age. Proof? The 2015 Challenger out next year, barely changes a line and instead we’ll get minor tweaks to the grille and taillights. And a much-needed interior overhaul.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

When Dodge brought back the Challenger after a gap of nearly 35 years (we choose to ignore the abomination that was the rebadged Mitsubishi Galant coupe pretender, which appeared for a while during the interim), it faithfully reprieved the silhouette of the original. Long bonnet, short rear deck, coke-bottle shoulder line, all present, correct and consistent from Michael Carriglone’s concept till now.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

It differentiates from Carl Cameron’s 1970 original in the higher shoulder, and it loses the side crease, finishing with straighter skirts for a more slab-sided profile giving it a squat, planted stance and ensuring the massive wheels don’t dominate. It’s still as sexy as Farah Fawcett though.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Vanishing Point

I gun the engine just for the heck of it, revel in the beefy testosterone-filled thrum, and head out of town, hairs somehow miraculously sprouting on my chest. I drive seeking that which this car represents – freedom. As the cityscape dwindles to low-rise industrial warehouses we, the Dodge and I, find ourselves on a strip of black asphalt slashed into a desert horizon, stretching off towards the ‘vanishing point’.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

If you haven’t seen the classic 1971 road movie bearing that title, you must rectify this at once – for there exists a massive gaping hole in your car and movie culture awareness. The film is one of the greatest car movies there is, not bothering with a point or purposes it proposes an almost mystical glorification of what you and I desire most – to just get in a cool car and drive it, till the planet runs out of roads or resources.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Vanishing Point stars Barry Newman as Kowalski, a man with only a surname and a literally chequered past, on a mission no nobler than wanting to get from Denver to San Francisco in the shortest possible time. As an auto delivery driver he grabs the white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T and embarks with barely a break, on a sleep-deprived, substance-enhanced fateful journey of causeless rebellion.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

On the face of it, he’s doing it for a bet, but it’s an impossible bet, one that he probably knows he’s destined to lose. Despite the fact that he is tanked up on speed, in both senses, Kowalski is a decent man, a man of honour, respect, ethics and, somewhat astonishingly, of willpower – well would you be able to turn down a proposition from a comely naked woman on a motorbike?

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Our antihero’s unstoppable drive becomes symbolic; some think it’s a demonstration of defiance against ‘The Man’. You know ‘The Man’. He’s still around today. He’s the one that keeps telling us to slow down, save fuel, go green, eat leaves, get in touch with our feminine side, walk on the egg shells of political correctness, hug a deer not shoot it and adhere to zombie-like conformity. He’s a master spin doctor, but a dreary drinking buddy.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Massively, gulpingly practical, in its own way

The engine continues its rhythmic beat in tribute to the dying breed of gas-guzzling goliaths that ruled the long-distance expressways when Vanishing Point was made. In an age when alternative fuel is the ultimate quest for car markers and automotive largess is obscene, when penny-pinching is becoming paramount as value-for-money rationalisation is rising to rule above passion, bravado and sentimentality, just how relevant is the Challenger?

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Okay, my 15L/100km isn’t the best average fuel economy, but it isn’t as outrageous as the stupendous hulking engine would suggest. And there’s space in here. It’s a veritable family car and ideal for the school run – well not really ‘ideal’ but if you say it with enough conviction, the wife will believe it. And it would also boast a massive boot, if it weren’t for the face that a ginormous full-sized wheel eats up all the cubic capacity. Still a week’s shopping can be squeezed around the shiny rotational art on display in your trunk gallery.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

All that muscle mass makes it a heavy beast though so it’s not exactly lithe. Or agile – at speed, anyway. Sure the new Sport and Track mode for the suspension and transmission certainly help in stiffening things up and dramatically improving body composure, but then the ride isn’t as good. And the ride is very good.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

The Challenger gamely tackles the twisties with decent grip from its massive rubber and much reduced understeer from before, but the lurches, squeals and hardworking Brembo brakes urge you to cruise rather than attack. Unless, of course you have the skills of a Kowalski – flashbacks reveal him to be both a bike and car racer in his past life. You’ll want to adhere to the convention of slow-in and fast-out, and not rock the boat too much though.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Leave it in regular mode and after a little play with the paddles – it really likes to bang in the ratios with a satisfying smack in the back of the pants – I revert back to lazy-bumpkin mode and just roar down the road winning against all-comers in the imaginary drag races taking place in my head.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

The clocking is ticking

Like Kowalski the Challenger is a non-conformist, choosing its own path and remaining true to the ethos of a bygone, but much-missed era of simple muscular straight-line specialists. But does it also share the inevitability of the early RIP of the original car? Well this was almost its last year. It has earned a stay-of-execution and major revisions for 2015 – such is the passion it engenders.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

In 1970 Challenger was a hit, selling over 76,000 cars, however the success was short-lived; the pony car segment was already in decline. Production stopped prematurely, and only 165,600 had been sold. Stricter pollution laws, oil embargoes, and the energy crisis of 1973 really didn’t help the Pony Car Cause.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

One industry expert recently suggested that V8 engines only have a couple of decades left. Today V6 motors are as powerful as old V8s and four-cylinder Turbo engines are seriously potent whilst they’re both getting as economical as riding around on a camel and the emissions are way less smelly.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Is the Challenger a car out of time and out of place, a lot like the character Kowalski? One of the marginal men of society, he’d failed to fit in and find solace in anything he did. So he chose his own route, behind the wheel of a Dodge.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Today’s Mopar maverick demands haughty independence from the shackles of a society that smacks of Orwellian totalitarianism. If you think the propagandist world bent on controlling the masses depicted in the book, ‘1984’, didn’t happen, you’re deluded. We’re living in it. It’s just way better packaged and more subtly effected than even the creative genius of George Orwell could have conceived. There are even webcams in our computers and TVs – think about it!

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

‘Nanny-state’ philosophy dismisses denizens as too stupid to look after themselves and strips us of our self-determination, thereby fulfilling its own philosophy. This is what Kowalski railed against in his quiet but sensational actions. One day not only will cars like these cease to exist, but even the operation of an automobile will be taken out of our hands by the eye in the sky, and I don’t mean the celestial kind. Imagine how our hero would have felt about that. Frankly it’s just as well he went when he did.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Faced with incarceration – not stopping for the police being his only ‘crime’ – when he finds his pointless pursuit terminally obstructed, he aims for the sliver of light between the two unyielding earth movers and races towards final redemption. The finale is a sudden and brutal release.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Not the end of the road, not today…

As the Challenger and I head back we also encounter a bulldozer parked in the road. We stop and stare at it for a short eternity. Time is surely up for muscle cars, it won’t be long now. Right here, right now, we could make another spectacular statement of defiance. But that would just be silly.

So I take some pretty pictures instead.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

As it sits rumbling expectantly, I recall the thundering power, tail-sliding antics, smooth ride and find myself grinning yet again. I’ve got a week with this two-fingered salute to the twin doom merchants of environment economy and I’m not going to let them spoil my fun. The feel-good factor never felt so good.

Seven-day diary

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Day 1

I’m a happy chappy to have picked up one of my very favourite cars, the Dodge Challenger – this one in SRT 392 guise – that’s my happy face right there. The 392 obviously gets the SRT’s 6.4-litre HEMI V8 with 470bhp, plus Brembo brakes, Nappa leather-trimmed seats with suede inserts, these stunning dark chromed wheels (the best I’ve seen on this car) and the three-mode active suspension.

I play with the suspension settings, discover they improved body control but make the ride too jiggly and leave it in regular mode from here on in – unless I’m chucking it about, then I deploy an evil laugh and stab the buttons. At this point I can neither confirm nor deny that the traction control button was also involved in the stabbing.

And because I have a cool car – not always the case, believe you me – I take it to the Jebel Ali Cool Car Klub (JACCK) meet at Fatburgers. My colleague turns up in a Rolls-Royce Phantom, but we both agree, on this occasion, the SRT 392 is the classier ride to be in. I win.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Day 2

I appear to be getting reasonable economy out of this thing – I MUST be doing something wrong! It’s in the low 15s when it comes to L/100km – with 250km achieved on half a tank. Of course the second half goes quicker, and so does the second tankful. Getting more liberal with the throttle I see economy drop to the high 16s. That’s more like it.

The long drives help though, and a run up to Umm Al Quwain to catch some furious Gymkhana action sees me stopping to take pictures near the famous old Russian plane at the side of the road. But be-warned, now there’s a miserable cop there that simply won’t allow it anymore, and even makes you delete the pictures you’ve taken. Shame that, it was an iconic landmark with tremendous photo-opps.

Leaving there I encounter a bulldozer instead, wisely decide not to drive full-pelt into it, and snap one of my very favourite sunset shots ever.

You’d think I’d be knackered when I get home. I am. But when the need arises to go out and get some bread and eggs, I immediately volunteer – usually blackmail has to employed for this to happen. But I go the long way to Carrefour. Any excuse to drive the Challenger some more.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Day 3

The Sheikh clan proves this is actually a great family car – and you earn mega-bonus points in the daddy-cool scores with the Dodge. The quote of the week comes from my eldest Junaid when I picked him up from school: ‘You see the car, and you think, WOW, THAT’S a cool car. Then you realise you’re about to get in it – and then YOU feel really cool!’

Not only is there enough room for the kids in the back, but there’s plenty of boot space for the shopping too. Well there would be if it wasn’t for the wheel showroom back there. Still, persevere, shopping can be crammed in around the spare. Just don’t do any airport runs in it!

Later I take it to Dubai’s first Swap Meet at the Dubai Autodrome, and it’s a hit with the crowds, as you can see. I decline offers to swap it for a Civic.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Day 4

Ah yes, what was I saying about not doing any airport runs in this car? Sod it. I am not NOT taking it for a very early morning run to terminal 1 on empty roads. Thankfully my brother travels light, so luggage turns out not to be a problem. Otherwise it would have been embarrassing to send him home in a taxi instead.

So as you can see we didn’t quite make 500 clicks on a thankful, but 400 ain’t bad for a just over AED100 to fill her up. That’s the regular stuff, it doesn’t need the fancy Super juice.

And we’re not fancy eaters either, the Sheikh family. Besides, having foot-long hot dogs just seems so right and appropriate in a yee-haw muscle car. Ignore that we got them from Ikea, not a cool Diner type place.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Days 5 & 6

Running out of steam – not the Challenger – but me personally. I don’t normally go out so much. But knowing there’s a Challenger parked out there, compels me to go drive. Kowalski – I get it, I do.

Thank goodness the walls of the radio studio are insulated – I bet that’s what James Piecowye is thinking as I rock up and rev up to Dubai Eye for our weekly show with him on Monday night at studio city. But I’m pumped and ready to Go Live.

It gets its second wash in Mirdif City Centre car park – the black with grey stripes is super sexy, but boy does this thing attract dust.

Dodge Challenger SRT 392 review and 7-day diary

Day 7

It’s going back tomorrow, so this is my final fling. After yesterday’s clean up, it’s ready for its close-ups – that badge gives it such street-cred.

The road is a dead-end I’ll grant you, and nobody uses this bit, but technically I’m still parked right across the middle of it when the Sharjah cops roll up. I sheepishly pull the car over to the hard shoulder and get out to face the music. ‘Sorry officers I was just taking some pictures.’ ‘No problem, carry on,’ comes the jovial reply, and they drive off with a cheery wave. I collapse with surprise. Nice one guys! Guess everyone loves the Challenger.

Unlike the exterior, the dashboard is looking a little dated, particularly bearing in mind the superb cabins in the rest of the Dodge range. It all works well enough, the touch-screen infotainment is one of the best on the market, and quality is reasonable. However this will be the major change for the 2015 car, and I think Dodge is right to focus its efforts on the interior.

Nonetheless, even in 2014 there isn’t a cooler place to be, including when you’re stuck in traffic – you’re just so chilled and pleased with life, that you really don’t seem to mind the endless stop-go.

The paddle shifts are new, they could be bigger and more prominent, but using them is surprisingly satisfying. However they don’t really seem to go with the character of the car. I would so much more prefer a manual shifter with a Mopar pistol grip.

The 0-100kph is short, no wonder this car feels quick. The Challenger officially does it in under five seconds, but trying to set off without wheelspin is hard. I get a best time of 5.17. Perhaps the launch control would’ve helped, but I don’t really believe in those things.

Video verdict

 

2014 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 – The Specs

How much? AED200,000 ($54,500)
Engine: 6.4-litre HEMI V8, 470bhp @6000rpm, 470lb ft @ 4200rpm
Transmission: Five-speed auto with paddle shifts and ‘Track’ mode shifting
Fuel economy: 13.8L/100km
Performance: 0-100kph 4.9 seconds, Top speed 293kph
Weight: 1919kg

Full UAE Challenger range pricelist:

Challenger 3.6L SE AED114,999
Challenger 3.6L SE Sport AED 120,999
Challenger 3.6L SE Sport II AED124,999
Challenger Rallye 3.6L AED148,999
Challenger R/T 5.7L AED149,999
Challenger R/T 100 Anniversary 5.7L AED154,999
Challenger 6.4L SRT8 Manual AED199,999
Challenger 6.4L SRT8 Auto AED199,999

6 responses to “Dodge Challenger SRT 392 7-day diary & review”

  1. Sid says:

    Sounds like an absolute ball!! Watch out fellas, or someone is gonna accuse you guys of having Dodge loyalties!! ;P

  2. Usama Khan says:

    I don’t know why, but this car just doesn’t appeal to me as much as the Mustang or the 370z, i’d go for a Charger SRT8 over this any day. maybe its the interiors, maybe its the absence of a convertible model or maybe I just need to visit a doctor 😉

  3. Sushanth Raghuthaman says:

    Damn! felt emotional reading the review! Must be the music I am playing in the background. But seriously guys, nice review. You’ve also got the best job in the world 😉

  4. Eelco says:

    Hello,

    The colour is pitch black?
    But the stripes are grey?
    Where did you order the stripes and what colour please?

    Thanks Eelco

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