One lap of a proving grounds test track hardly provides the basis for a definitive evaluation of a new car.
But if it's all I can get for the moment, I won't turn it down, even if it meant standing out in the 30 degree sun for an hour at Chrysler's Proving Grounds near Chelsea Michigan yesterday, awaiting my shot at the 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8.
You've probably seen a few of these booting around, especially if you live near the Brampton Assembly plant where they're made. Only 6400 2008 models were built, and most of them went to the United States, in a limited roll-out. The 2009s are being built now and a full launch takes place shortly.
Meanwhile, I can tell you that the new Challenger leaves a very favourable first impression. The Hemi V8 is very strong, and sounds fabulous. The car turns in well and maintains a flat, level stance in the corners.
It also looks good. Various Chrysler staffers have told me that when driving prototypes around, both in Canada and the US, they have never had so many civilians wave at them, call to them, come up to them in parking lots, follow them, take cell-phone pictures, as they have in this car.
Challenger always seemed to be third or fourth in the Pony Car Pantheon back in the late-'60s /early-'70. Ford Mustang of course, plus Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird probably ranked ahead of it, at least in image. Mustang is still going strong, and a new Camaro is just around the corner too.
Now there is the issue of introducing a big-engined performance car in the teeth of a fuel price spike and increasing concerns about the environment.
But the early returns suggest that there will be a strong and willing, albeit small, market for this car.
More details when we get a chance to spend more time in the beast.
(NOTE: These photos were not taken in Chelsea, in case you were wondering where Michigan got those desert-like hills.)