Dodge Challenger (2008) outed

Published: 18 January 2008

The production-ready Dodge Challenger is on the prowl, and CAR has caught it undisguised for the first time. The official launch is at next month’s Chicago Auto Show, and it’s almost a carbon copy of the concept we drove back in 2006.

In fact, it’s not far off the 1970’s original and is a much more faithful rendition of its iconic dad than the Mustang. The car in our pictures is the SRT-8 version, identifiable by the badge on the front grille and those lovely red brake callipers.

It’s the first one that isn’t bathed in the HEMI orange we are now well acquainted with from the concept . While losing some of the immediate impact, the silver looks sleeker and stealthier. It brings out details such as the ‘thrust’ line running the length of the car, with that kick-up at the rear window – just like the 38-year-old original. Incidentally, over half the orders Dodge have received so far are for orange cars.

Changes over the concept include the addition of a subtle black rear spoiler, tweaked five-spoke alloys, and some slightly more conventional rear lights and door handles. Other than that, it’s a pretty smooth transition from motor show to showroom.

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It’s a muscle car, so what’s the power like?

The SRT-8 runs a 6.1-litre HEMI V8 under that striped, twin-scoop hood. The engine pumps out 425bhp, enough to dwarf the 315bhp V8 in the Bullitt Mustang, but right on par to match the upcoming 424bhp Chevrolet Camaro. Transmission will be a choice of five-speed automatic or a six-speed stick shift.

Two other engines look set to join the 6.1. A 3.5-litre V6 (with a four-speed auto) will be introduced to rival the base-spec Fords, while a 5.7-litre V8 is expected in 2009, wearing the famous R/T badge and with the same gearbox options as the SRT-8. Rumours are that a 6.4-litre variant could join the range by the end of the decade - the same time Dodge are expected to introduce a soft-top Challenger, previewed as a concept last year.

When does it launch in the UK?

Officially, never – and that’s a real shame. The launch price in the States will be $37,995, or sub-£20k in our money. If you want one it looks like a left-hand drive import is the way to go. Expect to pay around £35,000 for the privilege. Compare that to an identically priced, similarly powered Vauxhall VXR8, and you have yourself quite a deal. It would also put the Challenger in direct competition with the Chrysler 300C SRT-8 it’s based on.

With the Camaro set to follow shortly and a facelifted Mustang in development, it’s a good time to be an American sports car buyer. While the rest of the world worries about global warming, the battle of the retro muscle cars is hotting up.