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I finally found a local road where I could open her up this afternoon and really start to push the car towards its limits. There were several tight hairpin turns rated at 10 or 15mph, some uphill, others downhill. I found that the ESP kept stepping in and keeping my speed under control tight in the turns as well as exiting. This occurred to a lesser degree in some of the faster turns.

I did the SRT Track experience last summer, and had the same experience with ESP then. I found it to be a valuable teaching tool, as in order to get lower lap times, you had to keep the ESP from activating (you weren't allowed to turn it off). This teaches you how to drive more smoothly, which is a good thing and lowers lap times and increases track speeds.

Today, however, I found it restricting my driving too much and eventually I turned it off. I didn't know the ESP really made that big a big difference in "sport" driving unless you were really pushing the edge of control, but once I turned it off, the car felt more loose in turns and required more steering input to control. Now I know what you're thinking... D'uh, that's what it's supposed to do. I'm not talking "driving on the edge of control" here, sliding through turns, or understeering. I'm talking on the edge where the tires are just beginning to squeal.

I learned a lot about my car this afternoon. I learned that I wish the ESP system had varying degrees of control instead of either on/off. It's nice to have it there in case I make a mistake, but I wish it were a system that could be tuned just like the engine so you could push the car harder on a track or on the back roads before the ECU steps in and becomes a kill-joy... or tuned so you could reap the benefits of single wheel braking WITHOUT the throttle reduction side effects.
 

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I learned that I wish the ESP system had varying degrees of control instead of either on/off. It's nice to have it there in case I make a mistake, but I wish it were a system that could be tuned just like the engine so you could push the car harder on a track or on the back roads before the ECU steps in and becomes a kill-joy... or tuned so you could reap the benefits of single wheel braking WITHOUT the throttle reduction side effects.
The ESP has three modes in SRT8s. The first is on. The second is partial that only disables the traction control system (TCS) and raises the ESP threshold. The third mode disables the TCS and ESP system completely. You do this by holding down the ESP button for 5-8 seconds.

You can also completely disable the ESP system with the aftermarket Predator tuner. The Predator also now has a feature for setting a throttle boost percentage.
 

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Throttle boost percentage? What's that?
 

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I had the exact same experience Saturday up at Fontana during the SRT track experience. I was mashing the gas pedal coming out of the turns with NO acceleration, until the car untwisted and ESP determined it was okay to accelerate. Frustrating, but without it I suppose I'd have spun a few times. You are correct though - it is a good learning tool.

But.... the hot laps with the instructors in the 392 and viper at the end of the day had 0 ESP/Traction control and was awesome... Kinda like how I remember driving my parents car to school...lol...sideways in the corners.
 

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I've spent quite a bit of time on road courses over the years.

Have spent more than a few laps in my SRT8 on road courses. My best lap times come when I leave the ESP all the way on. I can drift and blah, blah, blah, but tire spin or yaw isn't the fastest way around a road course. You do have to learn how the PCM thinks with ESP however; after a while you get pretty good at crushing the throttle right before the apex and letting the car manage max power to the wheels as you focus on an optimal exit line. It takes some practice to learn the car when you're at the edge.

ESP won't save your bacon in a long sweeper the same way it will in a typical brake/roll in/gradual throttle/punch out on the exit line type corner. You can definitely toss it off the track on a sweeper even with ESP all the way on. It won't forgive you from all forms of wrong input to the car.

I turn ESP off but only to the middle setting when I want to clown around in the car. If you have an SRT and turn it all the way off, you'd be well advised to have some safe run off room for your pranks.
 

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Once I kept esp engaged while doing a hwy entrance roundabout, and that was enough to decide to forget about keeping it on again for that scenario. While gently exploring the lateral limits, it would only allow understeer and wanted to plow wide on the circle (not so great, if doing so would simply ensure encounter with a curb at speed). When I set it to semi-off mode, the handling was much more enjoyable on the same curve...just a bit of oversteer allowed in the rear end to keep a tight line. The former destroyed all potential fun in a Challenger as it drove like a "safe-appliance", while the latter allowed fun to occur, while still guarding against big-time disaster (I presume).
 
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