This week, Chrysler's charismatic leader, Sergio Marchionne, put the future of the muscle car on notice when he said that V8-powered muscle cars "will be as rare as white flies." This was his comment after the Obama administration set in stone its 2025 mandate for a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon. Sad news indeed for muscle-car enthusiasts.
So it made my week-long drive of the 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee all the more timely. Here is exactly the car Marchionne said was on the endangered species list: a two-ton, 470-horsepower ball of automotive fire that embodies everything evil about the automobile, at least as far as the greenies would like you to believe.
There's nothing subtle about the Charger SRT8 Super Bee. From its deep-dip front spoiler, its 20-inch wheels, the bold graphics, and, of course, its Stinger Yellow exterior, this is a big, brutal car. And it's a car with no direct, domestic, rear-wheel-drive competitor. The only exception might be the Cadillac CTS-V, a smaller high-performance sedan (and wagon) that, like its European and Japanese competitors, is priced tens of thousands of dollars more. Is the Charger SRT8 Super Bee a credible alternative?
To answer that question, a little history is in order. When the first-gen Dodge Charger was introduced, it was no secret that much of its underpinning consisted of hand-me-down Mercedes-Benz E-Class components mated to a high-performance version of Chrysler's reborn Hemi V8. It was one of the few good things to come out of the failed DaimlerChrysler merger. And that first-generation Dodge Charger featured an SRT8 version, a bang-for-the-buck sports sedan that was (I'll be charitable here) a little rough around the edges. But with a price well under $50K, could we expect more?
The second-generation Dodge Charger, launched in 2011 without the cost-cutting imposed by its German overlords, was refined from bumper to bumper. The most noticeable change was that the designers had ditched the low-rent interior, its cheap plastics replaced with materials of much, much higher quality.
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