45,000 kilometers of pure musclecar emotion

Push button. Honk twice. Two flashes. Two seconds later, the eight-cylinder naturally aspirated engine wakes up and makes every 40-meter yacht jealous with its deep-bass roar. Whether from a restaurant or the kitchen window at home, rarely has a deserted car caused such astonished looks as when the engine is started by a supposedly ghostly hand. The remote start, as it’s known in Dodge, is just one of the reasons why we fell head over heels in love with this car. But will our love for the Dodge Challenger SRT 392 last over the long-term test distance of 45,000 kilometers?

Premiere in the long-term test

November 21, 2018, 1 p.m. – the muscle car rolls out of the GeigerCars showroom in Munich and becomes a team member of the sport auto squad. This makes the Challenger the first US car ever to undergo the sport auto endurance test. And that’s not the only reason why the US displacement hero is a very special long-term test car.

Normally, we obtain our endurance test vehicles directly from the respective manufacturers. But the European bases of all the U.S. automakers were unwilling to hand over a test car for an endurance test because their European test fleets are extremely manageable. GeigerCars sells around 900 American cars per year. Surely there must be a large-volume V8 in there for sport auto? No problem. Thank you, Karl Geiger, for the uncomplicated acceptance!

Mileage at pickup? Only 66 kilometers! Not only the fact that we are buying the Challenger endurance test car from one of the largest importers of US vehicles in Germany, but also its low mileage reveals that this is not an endurance test vehicle specially prepared by the manufacturer. With its low mileage at the start of the endurance test, this subject definitely passes for a virgin new vehicle.

Why is this special? Most manufacturers hand over test vehicles that have a mileage of around 2,500 kilometers at the start of the endurance test. Many make sure in advance that the endurance test vehicles are well run in before they are trodden on by hot-blooded editorial gas feet. There is no special preparation hoopla for the Challenger in the paint scheme with the martial name Destroyer Grey. “At 2,000 kilometers, please come by for the first oil change,” GeigerCars boss Geiger only asks in advance.

Divine V8 sound

Hemi V8 with 6.4 liters of displacement: Thanks to cylinder deactivation, the V8 can also be driven quite economically. Of course, the thirst is greater when the top speed is explored.

Before we start throwing pros and cons around, let’s give a brief introduction to the Challenger. Although: Actually, it’s enough if we introduce its epicenter. Besides its looks reminiscent of the first Challenger generation from 1970, the main reason to buy a Challenger SRT 392 is its powerplant. More precisely: the Hemi V8 with 6.4 liters of displacement. Behind the number 392, which the Yank proudly wears on its flanks, is the American displacement specification in cui (cubic inches).

First entry in the logbook? “Fuck e-mobility! Great engine! The V8 is simply fun!” wrote our longtime sport auto graphic artist, now retired. Straightforward statement meets straightforward automobile. Whether young or old cranked behind the wheel, everyone without exception paid homage to the 492-hp naturally aspirated eight-cylinder engine. “Divine V8 sound,” “awesome V8 bass,” “glorious engine” – the declarations of love for the blubbering, rumbling and hammering of the 6.4-liter unit, which seems anachronistic and almost nostalgic in this day and age, run like a thread through the logbook.

Whether in terms of sound, power or torque, nowhere else do you pay so little for so much engine. In the USA the Challenger SRT 392 was sold for the bargain price of 38,995 US dollars – at GeigerCars one would have had to shell out 56,900 euros in the year of the endurance test start. For it one does not have to worry then also any longer about the import modalities and the change for the German registration (modification of the rear lights on yellow turn signals, side lighting remove, installation headlight cleaning system in front). And even 56,900 euros are still a cream offer compared to the European displacement competition.

Biturbo, hybrid, or all-electric – the Challenger fights modern concepts with all its might and also dispelled prejudices in our endurance test. Certainly, there are more fuel-efficient cars on our planet, but the Dodge is not the drunkard many people think it is. Different colleagues drove the U.S. buddy several times with the minimum consumption of 10.1 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers determined in the endurance test. The prerequisite for the low thirst: stroking the gas pedal. Then the eight-cylinder engine switches to four-cylinder mode with a now restrained voice.

Shortly before the end of the endurance test, the ignition key was handed over to a young dynamic editor, nicknamed Hellboy in editorial circles. Baggy hoodie, grin from ear to ear, shining eyes – someone was really hot for the Challenger. And we immediately had the right task for him: drive to maximum consumption!

The “hell boy” delivered reliably. 24.3 liters per 100 – determined over 209 kilometers, most of which were driven with great enthusiasm along the winding roads of the Swabian Alb. “Oh, that’s not so much. There’s a lot more to it,” the driver replied afterwards in his delightful Eifel singsong, which always sounds like an invitation to a beer.

All in all, the Challenger is not the kind of car that constantly challenges you to get up to speed. The muscle car from the modern era is not addictive for fast driving, but addictive for leisurely cruising. Compared to the German competition around the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C 63, its driving precision is reminiscent of the “slightly blurred Polaroid in the rain” sung about by “Bosse”.

No wonder! Current model year and facelift or not – the SRT 392 belongs to the third Challenger generation, which was introduced in 2008. This means that it is still based on the LC platform, which has its origins in the Daimler-Chrysler LX platform, which in turn uses components from the Mercedes W 211 series. W 211? That’s right, the E-Class built from 2002 to 2009.

Type? An automotive couch

Dodge Challenger SRT 392, Dauertest

Actually, the Yank is not a racer but a cruiser. It’s a kind of “automotive couch” that allows you to relax in the right lane.

You don’t buy a Challenger SRT 392 to chase lap times. It feels most comfortable when you let its eight-speed automatic change gears leisurely in Eco mode. While the V8 rolls along at low revs in eighth gear, you quickly forget the stress of the German autobahns. The Challenger is more like an “automotive couch” that lets you travel in the right-hand lane in complete relaxation.

The hectic A7 fades away before your eyes, and you imagine yourself in the deserted expanses of the U.S. prairie. Okay, that was a gross exaggeration, but the average consumption of 13.4 liters per 100 kilometers shows that the majority of us experienced the Yank in a relaxed manner and drove with restraint.

Okay, not only Hellboy, but also the author of this story really woke the Dodge up from its relaxation mode. Autobahn A 8 from Munich to Stuttgart, three empty lanes, and a motivated BMW M4 CS passes by. It’s clear that the fast two-tonner from the U.S. can’t do anything about the 460-hp M4 special model weighing 1,575 kilograms, despite its slightly higher rated power. But at some point the muscle BMW gallops into its electronic limiter at 280 km/h. And then it’s time for the great-boosting BMW. And then comes the hour of the daredevil Challenger rider, who zooms past the M4 CS inch by inch at high speed at a top speed of 290 km/h, as if in slow motion.

Don’t ask how the Dodge feels at this hellish speed. In the so-called Street mode, the most comfortable setting of its adaptive dampers, the rear axle bounces like jello on long bumps and teeters noticeably. If you put the car into Track mode, it becomes stubborn and almost jumps in the face of the then exaggeratedly crisp damper stiffness. The steering torque is also excessively tight in Track mode. However, the driving precision doesn’t really increase in this setting.

Meanwhile, you sway back and forth on the sofa-like leather seats during fast highway curves. The urge to repeat the Vmax excursion is kept within limits. Of course, the instrument cluster still exaggerated a bit and proudly stored the Challenger’s heroic highway performance. Highest speed ever driven during our 45,000 kilometers: 302 km/h! The reaction of the M4 CS driver was moving, as he honked his lights and waved goodbye, even though it felt like a tractor had just put him in his place.

High sympathy factor

Dodge Challenger SRT 392, Dauertest

The Yank is forgiven for many things, including the navigation system: Entry in the logbook: “Navigation system not up to date, sometimes lost track of things.

Overall, the Dodge Challenger SRT 392 has a high likeability factor. That’s why you forgive the Yank a lot. For example, the sluggish automatic headlights reacted so late when entering a tunnel that the headlights were only activated when the driver was about to leave the tunnel again. The navigation system was sometimes a bit confused and sometimes presented spellings that made you smile. In addition, a relay always clattered very audibly from the region of the glove compartment when the brake pedal was pressed.

In addition, the Challenger initially presented itself with an unusual speed limiter. At speeds above 200 km/h, wind noise on the right door seal began to whistle at such a high frequency that it was preferable to reduce the speed immediately. No problem for the workshop team at GeigerCars, where we also had all the maintenance work done on the Dodge. Adjusting the passenger door reduced the tinnitus-like whistling and wind noise.

Keyword door. Even in mild sub-zero temperatures, the windows quickly froze to the door seals. In addition, the electronic window lowering system then sometimes no longer worked when opening the frameless doors. So when opening the door, the window pane jumped out of the upper guide.

When you tried to close the door again, the window no longer fit because it had not lowered by half a centimeter as usual. But that’s not so bad – with a little sensitivity, the window could be pushed back under the seal. As soon as the heating had thawed out the frost, the window mechanism also worked again without any problems.

Adventures on snow

Dodge Challenger SRT 392, Dauertest

Not the most ideal winter car, but …: Some called it a nail-biter, others loved the unconventional handling on snow.

Overall, it may be doubted that the Challenger SRT 392 ever saw snow during its development phase. Getting to and from the Swiss town of Arosa at an altitude of 1,775 meters in dense snow drifts was an adventure with the primitive rear-wheel drive car. And that, although GeigerCars had put Pirelli Sottozero winter tires on the 20-inch wheels instead of the standard all-weather tires at the beginning of winter.

With 275 tires all around, the Dodge feels lost and great at the same time in winter – it just depends on how you look at it. Even in wet conditions, one or the other skidding is waiting if the accelerator pedal is treated too over-motivated. With very late regulating ESP, the Challenger drives like an old-school rear-wheel drive car.

In snow at the latest, traction is a foreign word for the Yank. On packed snow, the rear axle loses so much grip even when driving straight at 30 km/h that you should be prepared for a dancing sideways step of the Challenger’s rear end. Not a hectic vehicle reaction, but rather a rather good-natured movement in keeping with the Dodge’s character. Within the editorial team, there were two camps in winter: some called it shivering, while others celebrated the Challenger for its unconventional handling in winter.

Conclusion

There are certainly cars that are supposedly more perfect than the modern pony car – but few cars today still offer as much character and emotion as the Challenger SRT 392.

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