2015 Dodge Challenger SRT8 UK Road Test
As a secret Americanist I do rather like cars from across the pond, and if there is one type of car that screams America it’s a muscle car. I’ve driven loads over the years but always in the states, so this will be my first ever road test of a real American muscle car conducted here in the UK.
The first thing you notice about this car is how different it looks to European cars. There is no hiding which country this car comes from and that’s a good thing. Car makers nowadays seem to get accused of their models all looking the same. And let’s face it, if you are in the market for a car like this in the UK it’s because you want to stand out isn’t it? In the Dodge you will stand out. It’s very imposing and very mean looking, because it’s such a rare sight on the streets in the UK you will get lots of attention, and nearly all of it positive. Everyone I spoke too throughout my day with the car said it looks amazingly cool.
Inside is a nice place to be, it looks sporty and the seats are wonderful. European car manufactures seem to be making the seats harder every year, so to have a soft, but supportive seat makes a nice change. The dash and the screens actually look really good for the first time in American car. Overall it’s an attractive package.
Hit the starter button and you are rewarded with a treat. Nothing is as evocative to a petrol head as the sound of a huge V8 engine roaring in to life, and who could resist revving it hard and disturbing the neighbours?
As I was doing this on a busy main road I had attracted a little crowd, mostly of men obviously, who were all interested in this impressive car so I thought it was about time I get out on the open road and see what’s it made of.
The first thing you notice is the power and the torque of the engine, pulling away you really are tempted to spin up the rear tyres all the time. I should imagine this will habit would cost an owner in tyres, but they aren’t my tyres so I can enjoy myself at the lights a little bit.
My location for this test drive is the home of fast cars in Essex, UK.. Southend on Sea. It’s been a tradition pretty much forever for car enthusiasts to circle the seafront, known as ‘doing laps’. It didn’t take long before the Challenger attracted some attention, so I pulled over to let people have a look around and take a few selfies with it. I was genuinely surprised at how many people liked the car. Maybe there is a real market for Dodge to sell this directly in the UK?.
Anyway soon I was bored of standing there looking at the car so I was back behind the wheel and out in the gorgeous countryside of rural Essex, away from the towns and the seaside. Here I could really get to know the car, and once the thrill of smoking the rear tyres and listening to the engine had faded I could get down to thinking about day-to-day life with a Dodge Challenger and I came to a conclusion which surprised me……. It’s rubbish.
In America these cars work fine, out there you need something that jumps between the lights quickly, that’s how enthusiastic drivers have fun there, I’ve done it many times and it really is good fun. But here though it’s different, we have amazing country roads in the UK and nothing is more fun than barrelling along them. This is how the classic British sports car came about. Small power and lots and lots of handling, that’s what we want here.
The Challenger is the complete opposite. Loads of power but on a winding road you just can’t use any of it because it will not corner properly. The handling really is that shocking. You push in to a nice solid sweeping bend that I know my old Jag would take with ease at 60mph and in the Challenger I’m fully clenched, I didn’t know whether I was going to understeer into a tree if if the back was going to break loose and i’d go backwards in to a ditch. Ok it still had rubbish American tyres on the car and they played their part in the handling, but the big issue was the lack of feel through the steering wheel, I’ve never driven anything like it. You have no idea what the front wheels are doing.
I don’t want to put a huge downer on the car because I do like it, and I think it is very cool. The huge V8 gives it an amazing soundtrack and for an American car it does feel well bolted together. If I lived in America I would be tempted to have on my drive. But here in the UK, no. I’d end up wrapped around a tree in my first month of ownership.
If you are in the UK and want some American muscle that you can actually use then I would suggest a Cadillac CTS-V. It has the ridiculous engine, but also the handling to deal with driving conditions in the UK.
One of these freshly imported to the UK today will cost you nearly £50,000 ($75,000) would you pay that for it? Here you can buy an Audi S5 for that money. Still big power but you get the handling too. That’s what we would have. If you aren’t worried about having a brand new car then spend the 50k on a Jaguar XFR.