by Marty Padgett
The world is full of guilty pleasures, but few of them are as obvious as the 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8. Gas is $4 a gallon? So what—not only does this thing have a HEMI, it has an uber-HEMI V-8 with 425 horsepower and an appetite for unleaded like a frat boy’s appetite for Pabst. The planet needs saving? The Challenger’s great at recycling tires–one power launch at a time.
The Challenger’s basics are pretty intimidating, even if you don’t follow NASCAR like a disciple with loads of free time. There’s the 425- hp V-8, a sturdy five-speed automatic that bangs off shifts with drill- team precision, big-ass brakes that burn off speed in supersize chunks. And because it’s really a Charger sedan in two-door king drag, the Challenger has a fundamentally fantastic chassis with grip to spare. You can count on 0-60 mph times in about 5 seconds, with a top speed of about 170 miles per hour if you’re brave enough to hang on.
From a distance, the Challenger makes you believe it’s 1970 all over again. The hood is wide and flat, and so’s the trunk, which makes dodging in and out of traffic and shaving corners close a snap. It begs for a rebel flag on its flanks, but Dodge’s color choices— shocking orange is a favorite—are stunning enough. Inside it’s a little more pedestrian, but the Challenger can be decked out with Sirius satellite radio so you beam in a steady stream of funkadelic flashbacks without the accompanying 8-track.
And with the Challenger, Dodge finally has something to hold over Ford’s Mustang: not only does it outpoint the Mustang on retro-perfect looks, the Challenger also has a thin veneer of practicality about it. There are back seats back there, and they’re actually adult-sized—like anyone will want to ride with you after the first time.
If you have a thing for dirty redneck boys with even dirtier minds, the Challenger SRT8 is big fun. Sure, the Mustang has history behind its back, and Chevrolet’s new Camaro is just months away from stealing headlines. The Challenger’s here now and it kicks quite a lot of ass.
Wait until 2009, and you can even get a six-speed stick shifter with it. It’s like they were reading my MySpace page.
Editor’s Note: We’ll be driving the 2009 Challenger in the near future in all trim levels including manual transmissions and the SE V6. With that in mind, we included some photography of the 2009 Challenger below. Enjoy.
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