x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8

Practicality gives way to pleasure in this modern muscle car interpratation.

If you're looking for fun, this Dodge is it.
If you're looking for fun, this Dodge is it.

It's such a very satisfying sound: the "tick, tick, tick, tick" of a cooling exhaust manifold after you've opened up the full 425hp of the Dodge Challenger SRT8. Few automotive sounds are quite so calming and hypnotic. It's reminiscent of a sleeping beast recovering after the hunt, of water dripping from rooftops after the monumental scale torrent: the sound of raw Motown muscle relaxing.

And if you drive the V8 Hemi-powered 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8 as tradition suggests, it's the sound you should relish every time you switch off the ignition. In fact, it is the engine and drive train that really makes this car. Under a hood with its slatted nostrils is the naturally aspirated 370-cubic-inch Hemi (you can't talk about muscle car powerplants as 6.1 litres - it just doesn't have the same ring). It is absolutely thunderous and the pipes are so beautifully tuned to burble pensively on idle like a purring lion, and to emit a Second World War fighter plane crackle and roar under acceleration.

And that acceleration is effortless. It's a ying and yang combination of the 569Nm of violent torque twisting the rear rubber until it squeals (even with traction control on) and the grace of the nose lifting like the prow of a ship as you head towards a five-second 100kph. Controlled in cabin by a fist-fitting T-shaped, chrome Mopar gearshifter, the five-speed auto gearbox has a range of ratios suited to both city traffic and the occasional burst of horizon-bending forward thrust. Occasionally, the transmission is a bit clunky when you accelerate and lift off, but in my mind that metallic, mechanical element should be present and be part of the character of a true muscle car.

So too should be the sculpted, taut and aggressive body lines, and in this respect, the 2010 Challenger definitely attempts to recall its Seventies predecessor, especially the full-length waistline crease that rises over the rear arches. The original iconic shark nose that dropped away beneath the grille has also disappeared in favour of a rectangular intake and low spoiler. But Dodge designers have at least retained the twin circular headlights that appear partly obscured by the Neanderthal brow of the bonnet lip.

The interior is a modern balance of generic Dodge panels and the occasional unique feature, such as the SRT logo on the seats, the red piping and the white stitching around the sofa-deep seats, which are obviously designed for long cruises. But overall this is a muscle car that looks like it has been created by an IKEA designer rather than a petrolhead.

You also have to assume that the driver of the 2010 Challenger SRT8 doesn't have many friends, especially tall ones. To get a passenger in the rear is just too much bother.

The boot too, is capacious and would be ideal for your weekly grocery shopping or to drop a friend at the airport - but a 20-inch spare tyre plonked right in the middle makes it almost useless.

These may sound like small impracticalities, but they become very tedious on an everyday basis. Which begs the question: why do you buy a 370 cubic inch, iceberg-melting behemoth? As far as I can see, it has only one purpose. Fun.

Cornering is much more capable on this model than its predecessor thanks to an all-round independent set up, including Bilstein monotube gas shock absorbers. And the SRT engineers have balanced the Challenger and set the torque converter tolerances so that if you want to break the rear-end loose and smoke the 20-inch tyres, it remains predictable. With traction control off, the Challenger SRT8 will drift with the best of them.

It is often these most impractical cars that are the most fun - and the Challenger SRT8 is definitely a lot of fun. But it is also hugely impractical: it's as wide as a truck, has a bonnet that gives you no guide of where the front of the car is, has limited all-round visibility, is as thirsty as a herd of camels and worst of all - if you drive it in the spirit of its predecessor, you'll spend most of your disposable income on fuel and speeding fines.

But did I mention it was fun?

 

The specs

Price base / as tested Dh199,900 / same

Engine 6.1L V8

Gearbox five-speed automatic

Power 425hp @ 6,200 rpm

Torque 569Nm 15.2L/100km

Fuel economy, combined 15.2L / 100km