What it is: Dodge Challenger SRT 8 is the showiest car in Dodge’s lineup.
Base price: $44,995
Mileage ranges from 14 miles per gallon in the city to 23 miles per gallon on the highway.
What’s worth knowing: The muscle-car revival began a few years ago, when all three domestic automakers breathed new life into storied nameplates from the 1960s and ‘70s. The Challenger is arguably the most retro of the bunch, with the high-performance SRT 8 trim line packing the power and handling to match its rowdy looks.
Who it’s for: Showroom gawkers meant to be impressed that Dodge would build such a rambunctious vehicle. Plus old-school muscle-car devotees who reminisce about drag racing and might actually buy one.
What’s good: This “halo vehicle” at the top of the Challenger trim line proves that Dodge can build a car that holds its own on the track. The SRT 8 houses a 470-horsepower Hemi V-8 under the hood, which moves the car from 0 to 60 in about four seconds and makes it one of the most muscular of the new muscle cars. A high-end suspension and decisive Brembo brakes provide handling to match the punch. The upscale yet minimalist interior includes nicely bolstered leather sport seats and an intuitive touch screen that centralizes many dashboard controls.
What’s bad: Since the SRT 8 is optimized for performance, tradeoffs include a stiff ride that may upset achy backs and a throaty exhaust, even at school-zone speeds, that may irritate the neighbors. Rear visibility is poor, thanks to raised haunches and tiny rear windows. There’s also a $1,000 gas-guzzler tax.
How it stacks up: The SRT 8 is a rip-roaring rocket of a car, but the Chevrolet Camaro SS and Ford Mustang GT are both lighter, nimbler and considerably cheaper. The Challenger boasts a bigger back seat—but this isn’t the sort of car you buy for the comfort of your passengers.
What to do if you want one: Drive the competition and if you really love the Challenger, start by sampling the five lower trim lines, which start at $24,995. You might find a better mix of fun, nostalgia and affordability.
Rick Newman is the Chief Business Correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a longtime car buff. He covers corporate and consumer trends from the magazine's New York bureau. Rick is also the magazine's car reviewer and writes his "micro-reviews" here on a regular basis, as well as writing about all things vehicular.
Follow Rick on Twitter, @rickjnewman.