Resto-modders, listen up: stop tearing apart perfectly salvageable classic muscle cars, fitting them with wide wheels and tubbed fenders, and instead go straight to your nearest Dodge dealer. There, you’ll find the Challenger SRT8 392, a classic 70s muscle car disguised as a brand new, modern five-seat coupe with a warranty. The Challenger looks as tough as those resto-modded vintage rides, hunkered down the way it is on its 20” 5-spoke wheels, a deep chin spoiler splitting the flies up front and a pair of over-the-roof vinyl stripes the only decoration on what is otherwise a totally throwback body.
Ray Wert, the Jalop of Jalops over at www.jalopnik.com, recently wrote a piece about the HEMI brand and the upcoming 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee. For those who aren’t scrutinizing the JGC’s launch on the same level as us know-it-alls, let me catch you up. Essentially, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee will no longer have a 5.7L HEMI engine. Instead, it will have a 5.7L OHV MDS V8 with Variable-valve Timing… and an engine cover emblazoned with enormous, embossed “HEMI” branding.
It’s okay if you’re confused, but it boils down to this: Jeep will no longer feature the HEMI branding within its vehicle lineup. The same engine will be branded as a HEMI in other Chrysler Group LLC products (as Jeep Brand Marketing Head Honcho Jim Morrison put it, they’ll be leaving it to “the Dodge and truck guys”), but not in a Jeep.
But why? Mr. Wert proposes that this is green-washing–an effort by Chrysler to minimize the enthusiast value of their vehicles in front of an ever-more-environmentally-focused media. It’s not a poor argument. Just look around at the rest of the industry. Ford’s twin-turbo, 350+ horsepower V6 monster is dubbed “EcoBoost,” for crying out loud. If that’s not green marketing, I don’t know what is. But in the context of Chrysler, I think Wert’s assessment, while not unreasonable, isn’t quite on the mark.
Photography by Byron Hurd.
Price as tested: $44,365 (Incl. $950 destination charge)
Major equipment: Crew Cab SLT (Base Price: $38,480). 5.7L HEMI Gasoline V8, Preferred Package 25T ($1,030), Premium Cloth Seats ($900), Media Center ($1,565), Luxury Group ($680), Technology Group ($495), Roof-Mounted Lamps ($80), Remote Start ($185).
In the fleet: April 2010
B. HURD: Narrow streets. Traffic lights. Pavement. Parking lots. Trees surrounded by neatly-manicured grass and concrete curbing. This is home. So what do you do when you have a week to play with Chrysler’s highly-praised new Ram 2500 in Suburban Maryland? Well, as it turns out, you do exactly what 90% of the area’s truck-driving population does: go from stoplight to stoplight at full throttle in smug, satisfied comfort.
Carl Modesette: The thought hit me somewhere along the lazy, post-rush-hour, 12-mile drive home from picking up the 2009 Challenger SRT-8: “This may be the last fun car Dodge, as we know it, ever makes.” It’s not exactly the kind of thought that cheers you up, but, as Barney Stinson so wisely admonishes on How I Met Your Mother: “When I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome instead.” And how to be awesome instead in a 425 horsepower car? Drop 3 gears and flatten the accelerator, of course.