A muscle challenge for Kiwi car market
There were only five Dodge Challenger SRT8s allocated for New Zealand, and they had the steering wheel on the left, but DAVE MOORE explains why muscle-car nuts wouldn’t have let small details like that deter them.
In the United States, performance car chatlines, Twitter posts and Facebook pages are full of ponycar fans advocating one or the other of the big-three’s offerings in the coupe market.
The Mustang started it all 45 years ago, with the mustang pony in its grille giving the genre its popular title.
The Camaro and Firebird carried GM’s baton into the fray, and Chrysler Corp, or Mopar, was represented by the Barracuda, Charger and Challenger.
Ford and GM have done little to bring their latest Mustang and Camaro models into New Zealand, although plenty of keen private buyers have done so.
Bit Chrysler, possibly keen to give its Dodge division some much-needed exposure here, has brought five examples of its Challenger SRT8 392 into New Zealand, priced at $125,000.
The five cars are a small sliver of 1100 so-called Inaugural Edition units built at Chrysler’s Brampton assembly plant, Ontario, Canada, each with exclusive content and a lot more horsepower than the standard car.
The 392 suffix signifies the car’s capacity in cubic inches, harking back to the 1960s and 1970s when numbers like 289, 308, 327 and 427 were used on stickers and in conversations; and when they were, people knew exactly what camp you came from and what engine you had.
As of last month, four of the five Challengers had already been snapped up,
Todd Groves, divisional manager of the Chrysler portfolio in New Zealand, says New Zealand is such a small market on the international scale, it is often overlooked for the allocation of vehicles like these.
‘‘But this time we managed to make it,’’ he says.
Two colours, complete with distinctive North American striping – deep water blue with stone white stripes or bright white with Viper blue stripes – are available for the limited edition run.
The picture is completed by standard 20-inch street-andracing-technology rims with a polished finish and black inlays, while special ‘‘392 HEMI’’ badges are placed on the car’s forward flanks, advertising the famous V-8 engine.
Mopar quad exhaust tips deliver another styling element, and the right exhaust note and an enlarged front splitter and chin spoiler, and blistered front arches give it other points of difference.
Inside, the inaugural edition features pearl white leathertrimmed seats with dual blue stripes and blue stitching, and the numbers ‘‘392’’ are embroidered just below the headrest.
An inaugural edition ‘‘ 392 HEMI’’ dash plaque also features, showing the sequential build number.
The Challenger SRT8’s 6.4-litre V8, known as the Apache engine, puts out 351 kilowatts – that’s 470 horsepower to those who prefer it that way – and 637 newton metres of torque, which drives through a choice of either six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmissions.
The Kiwi cars are all manual examples.
All that grunt is reined in by recalibrated shocks and dampers, and recalibrated suspension geometry which improves the car’s balance, cornering and responsiveness at the helm.
The latter is helped by quicker steering ratios, a heavy-duty power steering pump and modelspecific negative camber settings.
The high-performance Dodge Challenger is the first modern North American muscle car to be imported here with factory backing.