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

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For some, the most important thing about a muscle car is, well, muscle.

And for them the Dodge Challenger SRT-8 392 comes through, its 6.4-litre Hemi V8 delivering 464bhp and 470lb ft of neck-snapping torque.

But spend a day behind the wheel and you’ll realise that what really matters is that wonderful exhaust note. There’s a deep and menacing burble when you’re sitting at a light that becomes a raging roar the moment your foot hits the throttle.

Despite the huge increase in American fuel prices, there’s still a viable market for performance, and the newly updated Challenger is, for Dodge fans, a viable alternative to the incredibly popular Chevy Chevrolet Camaro and familiar Ford Mustang.

Don’t confuse this with a European sports coupé. It’s bigger and badder and made for cruising. The good news is that with the press of a button, the soft and slightly ponderous ride is transformed by the new adaptive damping system.

It tightens up steering and handling in ways you’d never have imagined possible on a traditional American muscle car. You won’t catch a BMW M5 in the corners but will still hold your own. It’s a different story when the road straightens out, though.

Meanwhile, there’s a surprising amount of room in this coupé, both front and rear; there’s room back there for three to ride in reasonable comfort.

Complaints? The styling is a bit too retro for some, but the real criticism is reserved for the cabin, which needs the same level of makeover given to the new Chrysler 300 SRT-8 and Dodge Charger SRT-8.

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And the first two gears on our car’s six-speed manual were too notchy. But once you’ve negotiated that, the Dodge Challenger is quick to plant power onto the asphalt.

Overall, this is a major improvement for 2012 that enhances the look, as well as the sound and fury, of the classic American muscle car.

Dodge Challenger SRT-8 2011-2013 First drives