2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 in my driveway

2008 Dodge Challenger Srt8 Front View

Beast is right! I drove home in the same brand-new Challenger recently after a very late night at the Automobile Magazine office, and the car still turned heads after midnight. Of course, with the Hemi Orange paint, the latest SRT8 pretty much glows in the dark, no matter the time of day.

It’s quite surreal to see the 2009 Challenger in your driveway or on the street, because it still looks very much like a futuristic concept car, even though its styling cues were so closely copied from the original 1970-74 Challenger.

From inside the car, it doesn’t feel nearly as special as it looks from outside, since the remarkably dark interior isn’t as interesting as the Ford Mustang's. And based on what we know right now, the upcoming Chevy Camaro’s cabin will be even cooler. One cool--if gimmicky--interior feature is the Dodge’s g meter, which measures the g forces you generate (braking, acceleration, cornering left and right) and can record your personal best from session to session. It can be almost as distracting as the video-game-like displays on Toyota’s hybrids. This toy also will record your 0-to-60-mph time, quarter-mile time, and braking distances. Another disappointment from our particular Challenger’s interior is its absolutely laryngitic stereo system.

But seriously … who cares about the stereo when the SRT8 roars like a wild animal? It sounds a bit more restrained from inside the car than perhaps it should, but the American V-8 rumble sounds heavenly nonetheless. The loud engine isn’t all bark, either, as the Challenger SRT8 pulls hard and then pulls harder; in our tests, it reached 109 mph in a 13.5-second quarter mile. Like a vintage muscle car (and a contemporary Mustang, for that matter), however, the Challenger is no purist’s sports car: the steering has only a hint of sporty feel, and the car feels incredibly heavy (which, at almost 4200 pounds, it is).

I’ll be pretty surprised if the new Camaro doesn’t beat the Challenger in just about every realm, but most proud Mopar nuts will probably love this car despite its faults. In fact, our associate editor Sam Smith found some big-time new Challenger fans on the NASCAR trail; read about it soon in our June 2008 issue.

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