Friday, August 18, 2006

Dodge Magnum SRT-8 vs. Boeing 737

Traveling by air the 370 miles from my home in Phoenix to San Diego now is a four-hour-plus trip, measured by door-to-door elapsed time. That includes driving to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, parking, wading through the tedious security checkpoints and, at the other end, enduring a lengthy wait for luggage (the new ban on liquids in carry-on bags almost guarantees you’ll have to check your bags). Then there’s the process of lining up a rental car and driving to the final destination.

Nuts to that. Instead I drove a Dodge Magnum SRT-8 and despite Sunday traffic and road construction delays, covered the distance in 4.5 hours. And the trip was a whole lot more enjoyable than standing in lines, then sitting folded-up in a Kerosene Queen for the journey.

The standard Hemi-powered Magnum, like its LX-platform stablemates, the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300C, is a terrific ride. But with a 6.1-liter Hemi, revised suspension, killer Brembo brakes and 245/45-ZR20 footwear, on trips shorter than 400 miles the SRT-8 is a viable alternative to air travel.

It’s basically a last-generation E-Class Mercedes: same suspension architecture, 5-speed manumatic and a lot of other common parts. But it follows a traditional American recipe for speed: cubic inches, a lot of them. The 6.1-liter SRT-8 Hemi is rated at 425 hp but it feels stronger. I saw 166 mph with the speedo still climbing before I had to back off due to traffic. Given enough room, I’d estimate the Magnum SRT-8 is probably good for 170 mph. It wasn’t particularly difficult to drive at that speed either.

And in a game of tag with a new 438 hp, V-12 BMW 760i along I-8 through the eastern California mountains, the BMW was left for dead. The Magnum SRT-8, complete with optional satnav, sunroof and side-curtain airbags, cost $41,400.

Nice work, Dodge.