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Dodge Challenger SRT-8

Reborn American muscle car is back in Britain, but can it live up to the original?

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With high fuel prices and environmental concerns, now might not seem like a good time to invest in a recreation of an American muscle car legend. However, with its impressive performance, low US price and distinctive looks, there are plenty of reasons why the Challenger should be on every performance car fan’s must-drive list. Best of all, straight-line speed is matched by a reassuring chassis and strong brakes – a must for making the most of the UK’s winding roads.

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It's among the most famous American models ever... and after a 35-year absence, it’s set to return to the UK! What’s more, the Challenger currently looks like one of the best-value performance cars on sale today.

Although Dodge UK has yet to confirm its plans for the big machine, this SRT-8 range-topper has a 6.1-litre V8 and costs the equivalent of just over £20,000. In comparison, its 0-60mph time of 4.9 seconds matches the Maserati GranTurismo 4.7 – and that will set you back £90,000! The engine is the same as in the top-of-the-line 300C SRT-8, but with new twin rectangular exhausts, the 425bhp unit sounds even more spectacular. Press the starter button and a deep burble fills the air. Every dip of the throttle gives a deafening bark – it sounds every bit the archetypal American muscle car.

It looks the part, too. While it’s much longer and taller than the original, it has taken many design cues from its predecessor such as the hooded headlights, long bonnet and even mirrors moulded from the first car’s.

At nearly 2,000kg, the new Challenger is a brute. But, with all this bulk, can it handle the UK’s twisty roads? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. Its Brembo brakes are fade-free and do a great job, while the Goodyear F1 tyres are very grippy.

The body is remarkably stable and everything is controllable. However, this is with the ESP on. There are two ‘off’ modes. The first reins in the rear end when it gets too lively, and it’s this we’d choose for the public road. Turn off the ESP altogether and the Dodge becomes more tail-happy than an over-excited puppy.

Unlike the exterior, the cabin isn’t particularly authentic, but it’s very well screwed together and the controls are simple to use. One advantage of the Dodge’s oversized dimensions is its good interior space. There is room for five adults and the boot can swallow a load of kit.

As you’d expect, running costs are high. Even with the ‘fuel-efficient’ 3.5-litre V6 diesel due next year, the car still musters only 22.5mpg. Dodge doesn’t publish economy figures for the SRT-8 – which tells you something. But then, who buys a 6.1-litre performance car to conserve petrol?

Next year’s line-up will also include a 5.7-litre petrol engine. In the meantime, a small number of left-hand-drive Challenger SRT-8s are on sale in the UK, but these are going at a whopping £49,995. We’d wait until the fever dies down and import one ourselves for much less in 2009.

If you value rarity and retro-cool more than anything else, and you want a supercar-slayer at a fraction of the cost, this new take on an American classic could well be the model for you.

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