This year's hottest American muscle car is big, brash, and a bit rough around the edges

Our Verdict

Dodge Challenge SRT-8

A remarkably comfortable take on the classic American muscle car with masses of power

What is it?

Dodge’s new version of its classic muscle car, coming to the North American market this April. This two-door coupe competes with the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet’s forthcoming Camaro, the latter due in early 2009.

A remake of the 1970-1974 Challenger (of Vanishing Point fame), the new Challenger is based on a cut-down Dodge Charger (a version of the Chrysler 300C, itself based on the long-gone W210 Merc E-Class).

The Challenger comes in SRT8 form only for the 2008 model year, meaning it’s motivated by the same 425bhp, 6.1-litre pushrod Hemi V8 you’ll find in the 300C SRT8.

What’s it like?

It’s big and bulky but cool nonetheless. Import one into the UK in the best hue, Hemi Orange, and you’ll instantly feel a part of the old school, smokey burnout club.

Using a big four-door saloon as a starting point kept the cost down, but it’s also resulted in an urgent need for the Challenger to visit fat fighters. 1878kg is really heavy, especially when you consider a Mustang GT weighs 1522kg.

At least the oversized dimensions result in good interior space and room for four, even five adults at a pinch. Also, the boot can swallow a load of kit and the rear seats even split and fold.

Dodge let us lose in two near production ready prototypes on a track outside Dallas, Texas for some hot laps to see how the Challenger stacks up at high speed. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and wet, but we got some good early impressions.

The engine sounds fantastic and the big Brembo brakes are powerful and fade-free. The Challenger’s excessive bulk shows around the tighter corners, but it feels buttoned down and well-developed in the higher speed sections.

The steering is accurate but lacking in feel, and could use a slightly quicker ratio. Also, the five-speed auto ‘box, your sole choice at launch, can be slow to downshift and its manual control isn’t really that controlling. If you’re into driving and really want one of these, you’d be well advised to wait for the manual box that is due later in the year.

Should I buy one?

If you like ‘pony cars’, yes – the Challenger will surely be that car genre’s star attraction of 2008. However, as you’ve probably read by now, there will be no right-hand-drive versions or official UK imports of the car, so you’ll have to either import one yourself, or go a third party importer and pay a premium. And that’s assuming you can get one: these cars are selling fast in the USA at the moment.

American Car Imports of Wood Green, London, is one of those firms who can help with the import process. It has six Challenger SRT8s arriving in the UK in June. Four are already sold, but either of the remaining two could be yours for £49,995.

That looks like a lot considering that this car has a US price of only just over $40,000; it makes the Challenger a BMW M3 rival for UK buyers, when in the US it costs little more than a BMW 335i Coupe.

Needless to say that the M3 is the better driver’s car without question. But if you value scarcity and retro-cool more highly than razor-sharp dynamics, this new Dodge may just win you over.

Marc Noordeloos

Join the debate

Comments
7

17 February 2008

Thank you for an unbiased road test and review of this car. While I really like the car, I would not buy it because of the price. 40,000 American Dollars is just way too much for a Dodge vehicle, no matter how much power it has. It's ancestors of the 1970s were the muscle cars for the poor boys, MOPAR power meant equal competition for the construction worker at the drag strip when he went up against the Camaro owner who had his rich daddy pay for it all. And that is saying a lot, because I am a Chevy man through and through, and always had respect for the Dodge boys when they showed up. Horsepower came out from their engines through ingenuity and endless testing and more importantly, they communicated well amongst themselves in a collective effort to beat the more famous and expensive Chevys and Fords.

Dodge has lost that contact with the buyers. Now a Dodge muscle car will cost you about 10-20 percent more then its competition, and there is no room for backyard mechanics to play around. You have to be a computer engineer or an electronic technician to work on one now, gone are the days of carbeurators, timing and gear ratios.

Thanks for putting up with my rant about Dodge and it's muscle car program. All in all, it is a great car. Just too expensive

15 April 2008

i agree i would love to own one if it was just 10,000 down then i'd pay but 40 near 50 is just too much for this amazong muscle car .

thank you

15 April 2008

Looks fantastic, but £49,995 seems an awful lot of cash. And I can't imagine anyone in the UK seriously taking one to pop-down to the chippie...

17 April 2008

GB£50k is waaaaay too much for an American car. American cars are basically built to average quality and feel. Pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap. If you don't sell 'em cheap then there's no point. Get an M3 which is better in almost every respect if the cost is the same.

US$40k is bloody good value, providing you can get one (aren't they a limited edition ?) and then transport it over here relatively cheaply and pay our taxes. 425bhp in that beautiful body is superb value at US$40k, I reckon.

You can buy the standard 300bhp V8 Mustang over here for GB£23k. That's maybe the best buy of the lot.

I'm not sure about comparing todays Dodge's with those of yesteryear. It seems little naive to expect to be able to service a modern car just because you used to be able to do it 40 years ago. The Dodge ethos nowadays has to compete with other brands. American car history is full of examples of brands that have gone under because they did not move with the times.

2 May 2008

[quote James Read]I'm not sure about comparing todays Dodge's with those of yesteryear. It seems little naive to expect to be able to service a modern car just because you used to be able to do it 40 years ago. The Dodge ethos nowadays has to compete with other brands. American car history is full of examples of brands that have gone under because they did not move with the times.[/quote]

James,

I just finished up driving a new Challenger over 3,000 miles, 1,500 of them side-by-side with a perfectly restored 1970 Challenger R/T Hemi. You can read all about the drive, which covered the route the film makers took back in 1970 when making Vanishing Point, over at:

https://www.automotivetraveler.com/index.php

Hope you'll drop by and leave your comments.

I can't figure out why, even after factoring in shipping and taxes why American cars are so expensive in the UK. A loaded SRT8 has a US MSRP of $40,000, which is just 20,000 pounds. Of course greedy US dealers are tacking on $20,000 added markup for being the first on the vlock, but that still raises the price to 30,000 pounds.

I've often thought that I should go into the business of helping Brits buy cars here in the US, then facilitate shipping to the UK. When the car lands at the dock, then you could walk it through the process or independently hire someone experienced to do it for you. Would seem to me a good way to save about 10,000 pounds.

Richard Truesdell

Editorial Director, Automotive Traveler

www.automotivetraveler.com/magazine

24 May 2010

I also have been a fan of chevy rather have seen many a lifted chevy trucks nearby and had a ride but still dodge has its own place.

24 May 2010

Nice to look at but that's it,until these types of American cars come into this Country at a sensible price they can stay in the states, with the rate of exchange the way it is now it's way too expensive too import.

Peter Cavellini.

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