So many things in life look better in hindsight. You’d probably never be caught dead in the outfit you wore to the prom. And remember the moves you mastered back in the disco days? The same is true with the muscle cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Those lumbering lumps of metal just wouldn’t cut it today.
Not without a dramatic update, anyway, as Dodge has done with two of its classic nameplates, the Charger and Challenger. We were pleasantly surprised when we got a long weekend behind the wheel of the 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8, discovering a remarkably modern take on the classic American muscle car that delivers not only gobs of power and a distinctive retro style but also the sort of ride, handling and braking one would expect in 2012.
When it comes to a muscle car, let’s face it, the most important thing really is muscle. And the new Challenger SRT8 comes through. Parent Chrysler has done a great job with the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 shared by all four of the new Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep SRT models.
Tip the throttle and you’ll be rewarded with neck-snapping acceleration and the sort of rumbling exhaust note that is, for muscle car fans the equivalent of popping an automotive Viagra. As the kid in the next lane looks on in awe, the Hemi’s 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque will launch you to 60 in just 4.8 seconds. And if you’re willing to risk a night in jail, keep your foot on the floor as you accelerate to a 180 mph top speed.
This is the sort of Motown metal that could even intimidate the gold-chain Ferrari crowd.