I reached forward to turn the key, and the powerful Hemi jumped to life. I reached down for the shifter and grasped the modern day Pistol Grip shifter--this shifter is not a '70s-era revolver grip, but a more modern Glock-style grip. I pushed it into first with a solid click and winged the throttle. Instantly, there was a throaty response out of the exhaust; it definitely sounds like a musclecar. As I forced myself to ease out the clutch and pull onto the track, a smile broke across my face as I realized I was actually driving the first new Dodge Challenger to be manufactured in over 30 years. This wasn't some throttled-down, solar-cell-powered "green" car, but a full-on, honkin', 425hp, 21st century, Hemi-powered musclecar. As I accelerated away and shifted into second, I could feel the power on tap. The shifts were short and smooth, and the feel of the modern Pistol Grip shifter is superior. I intentionally slowed down while in Third gear to see how the 425hp engine responded at a low rpm under a load. From an idle, it pulled strongly without a whimper or unfriendly chug. This engine in any of the current SRT8s is superb, but with six speeds of select your own gears, it's even better and a lot more fun.

As I was driving down the backstretch of the EVOC track, I glanced to the left to see a white Chevrolet pickup truck on the road outside that parallels the track. As I looked over, I could see a young guy hanging out of the passenger window with a big grin on his face and pumping his fist in the air as if he'd just scored the winning goal in a World Cup soccer match. He knew what he was looking at. I tried to be as cool as possible and casually waved back, but I felt like pumping my fist in the air too. I still can't wipe the silly grin off my face.

With its LX underpinnings, the Challenger concept has the solid road feel of an SRT8 Charger or Magnum. But it's more fun to drive with its six-speed manual transmission, and the exhaust has a definite rumble thanks to Flowmaster mufflers.

After what seemed like only a few laps around the track, I brought it back for the next lucky journalist to experience. as I forced myself to get out of the car, one thing came to mind--sweet, really sweet.

I kept asking the DaimlerChrysler executives whether or not Dodge plans to build the new Challenger, and I keep getting the reply that DaimlerChrysler does not talk about future production plans. But their recent record of taking a concept show car into production (e.g., Viper, PT Cruiser, Crossfire, and 300), gives me hope that they will, in fact, build another Challenger. And if it's anything close to the Challenger concept I just drove, put my name on the waiting list for a black one with a black interior.