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.