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.

Kapi-Mana News - - MOTORING -

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.

Ultimate chal­lenger:

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