EXPERT REVIEW

Star-Telegram.com's view


The 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee has arrived. And while the Super Bee designation probably will further alienate old-time Charger fans who hate the modern edition, the new Super Bee is a great performance sedan, and lots of fun to drive.

Those of us who aren’t saddled with the baggage of nostalgia for the old two-door Chargers can appreciate the newest rendition of this famous Mopar nameplate for what it is – a very nice family sedan with extraordinary good looks.

We also can enjoy variants such as this year’s limited-edition Super Bee without worrying about how many doors it has or whether it’s true to the original.

The original Super Bee, though, wasn’t even a Charger. It was a part of the Dodge Coronet line beginning in 1968, according to Chrysler’s history of the vehicle. But the name did appear on a Charger in 1971, the last year the Super Bee name was used until now.

“As the newest member of Dodge’s ‘Scat Pack’ performance group, the ’68 Super Bee originally carried an MSRP of just over $3,000,” Chrysler says.

Today’s version is a bit more expensive: Base price is $40,595, which includes the $35,920 for the Charger SRT8, $1,900 for the Super Bee package, a $2,100 gas-guzzler tax, and $675 freight. With options, though, our test car – number 402 of 1,000 – rang up at $46,960, including freight.

Even accounting for inflation, that’s a lot more than the original Super Bee.

But I can’t say it’s not worth it. I suppose that if I had an extra $47,000 lying around, I might be tempted to buy one. That’s still less than the $80,000-$100,000 that a restored original Super Bee would cost, according to Chrysler.

This car gets lots of attention wherever it goes, and nearly everyone I passed who was driving a Mustang GT wanted to race me.

I don’t do street racing, though, and I don’t recommend that anyone else do it, either – it’s illegal, dangerous and juvenile. So those guys will just have to wonder whether their Fords could have taken the Super Bee, or try to find someone with a Super Bee (or just the Charger SRT8) at a track where a little head-to-head competition would be legal.

I doubt that a stock Mustang GT would stand a chance, though. The Super Bee comes with the same 6.1-liter V-8 engine used in the regular SRT8 Charger, rated at 425 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds of torque. That compares with 300 horsepower and 320 foot-pounds of torque for the 2007 Mustang GT (not to be confused with the ’07 Mustang Shelby GT, with 500 horsepower and a pricetag similar to that of our Super Bee).

Dodge officials say the Super Bee can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in just over five seconds, and can reach 100 mph in 17 seconds.

It has high-performance Brembo disc brakes that will stop the Super Bee from 60 mph in just 110 feet, the automaker says. I didn’t try to verify the zero-to100 mph time or the braking performance, but the car has more zip than most of us will ever need, and the brakes are impressive.

Beyond the attention the car gets and its muscle-car performance, the Super Bee is a practical family sedan as well. And that’s where the Charger SRT8 wins me over. In the old days of muscle cars, you usually had to live with two doors and a tiny back seat, making the vehicles impractical for family use.

This car, though, has four full-size doors and a roomy rear seat that is comfortable for up to three adults – with easy access through the rear doors.

OK, the fuel economy – or lack thereof – might throw a wrench into the “practical” argument. EPA ratings are 14 miles per gallon city/20 highway.

But my first car, a 1962 Corvair Monza coupe with a 95-horsepower six-cylinder engine, averaged only 13 miles per gallon, so the Super Bee’s mileage doesn’t seem so far out of line. Gasoline was about 30 cents a gallon then, however.

What you get for the $1,900 cost of the Super Bee option is an appearance package; there are no performance enhancements.

Included are the special “Detonator Yellow” exterior paint with black striping on the hood and deck lid, Super Bee logos on the front and rear fenders, a Bee logo on the right side of the dash, and contrasting yellow stitching on the charcoal suede/leather seats, steering wheel and shift knob. The logo includes a cool little sketch of a bee in the middle of it.

Underneath, the car is the same as the base SRT8, a performance variant of the regular Charger developed by Chrysler Group’s Street and Racing Technology team. Dodge calls the SRT8 the “Charger on steroids.”

The car comes only with a five-speed automatic transmission; no manual gearbox is offered. I prefer an automatic for everyday driving, though, so that’s OK with me. For the track, though, I suppose most enthusiasts would want a manual. The automatic does have Chrysler’s Auto Stick manual-shift feature however.

The SRT8 has 85 more horsepower than the Charger’s regular 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, and 175 more horsepower than the Charger’s 250-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6.

A base Charger, with a 190-horsepower 2.7-liter V-6, costs less than half as much as our Super Bee tester.

Charger prices begin at $21,575 (with freight) for the 2.7-liter model, $26,580 for the rear-drive 3.5-liter model, $28,830 for the 3.5-liter with all-wheel drive, $30,890 for the 5.7-liter rear-drive R/T model, and $32,890 for the 5.7 R/T all-wheel drive.

The SRT8 and Super Bee come with rear drive; the all-wheel-drive system is not offered.

Standard features on the SRT8 and Super Bee include a front air dam, hood scoop and rear spoiler, which Chrysler says “are not only visual hallmarks of a true muscle car, they’re also functional performance enhancements.”

The SRT8’s front fascia has ducts that direct fresh air to cool the brakes, and the air dam is designed to reduce lift that would otherwise occur at high speeds.

The air scoop on the hood isn’t just for looks – it funnels outside air into the engine compartment.

At the rear are dual 3.5-inch exhaust tips, and the rear deck spoiler is designed to push down the rear end at high speeds to help increase stability and traction.

Inside, the “race-inspired” features include power-adjustable, deep-sculpted, bolstered leather sport bucket seats up front, with suede inserts. The rear seat also has matching suede inserts.

There is a 180-mph speedometer, a tachometer and a temperature gauge. The gauge cluster has LED lighting, and offers oil temperature, oil pressure and tire pressure readings.

Special chassis features for this high-performance model include SRT-tuned dampers, tailored spring rates and suspension bushings, and large-diameter anti-sway bars, Chrysler says. The ride height is a half-inch lower than that of the regular Charger to enhance roadhandling.

Also included in the base SRT8 price are special 20-inch aluminum SRT wheels. Other standard features include power windows/mirrors/door locks with remote, electronic stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, fog lights, air conditioning, cruise control, halogen headlights, universal garage/gate opener, solar-control glass, and Sirius satellite radio.

Extras on our vehicle included the SRT Option Group 1 ($675), which added automatic climate control, automatic headlights and heated front seats; Option Group 2 ($845), which tacked on an upgraded audio system with 11 speakers, and a security alarm; Option Group 3 ($2,355), which brought a navigation system, six-disc CD changer, auto-dimming rearview mirror and hands-free communications; a power sunroof ($950); rear-seat DVD entertainment system ($1,150); and side-curtain front and rear air bags ($390).

Trunk volume is 16.2 cubic feet, but the rear seat has a 60/40 split-folding feature that allows for expansion of the cargo area into the rear seat.

The fuel tank holds 19.0 gallons of gasoline, and premium unleaded fuel is recommended.

G. Chambers Williams III is staff automotive columnist for the San Antonio Express-News and former transportation writer for the Star-Telegram. His automotive columns have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1995. Contact him at (210) 250-3236; chambers@star-telegram.com.

At a Glance: 2007 Dodge Charger SRT8 Super Bee The package: Full-size, four-door, five-passenger, rear-drive, special-edition, high-performance, V-8 powered sedan. Highlights: New for 2007, the Super Bee is a limited-production variant of the high-performance Charger SRT8 model with special badging and graphics that revive a name from the Mopar muscle-car days of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Negatives: Gets pricey with all the options; poor fuel economy adds a gas-guzzler tax. Engine: 6.1-liter V-8. Transmission: Five-speed Auto Stick automatic. Power/torque: 425 HP/420 foot-pounds.. Length: 200.1 inches. Base curb weight: 4,160 pounds. Brakes, front/rear: Brembo disc/disc, antilock. Electronic stability control: Standard. Side air bags: Side-curtain bags for front and rear are optional. Trunk volume: 16.2 cubic feet. Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds. EPA fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon city/20 highway. Fuel capacity/type: 19 gallons/premium unleaded recommended, but unleaded regular acceptable. Major competitors: Chrysler 300C SRT8, Cadillac STS-V. Base price: $40,595 (including $675 freight and $2,100 gas-guzzler tax). Price as tested: $46,990 (including freight, gas-guzzler tax and options). On the Road rating: 8.2 (of a possible 10).

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