Since David had done me right on his turn driving, I didn't try to spin the car out or do any 180-degree bootleg reverse-turns on the way down. If that is your bag, however, we have a pretty good feeling the SRT-8 Charger would live up to your expectations (though getting that Auto-Stick up into reverse on the fly would probably require some practice).

Price-wise, the SRT-8 is not going to be a first car for a lot of people. as tested, this example was well over 40 large, and had several options such as a sunroof and optional stereo. On the other hand, it is a lot of car for the money and will take pretty much what is thrown at it; the SRT team did their job putting this package together.

One engineer from headquarters reportedly hustled an early production example out to three east coast race tracks during a weekend jaunt, tuned it slightly, and clocked elapsed times down in the 12.8-second zone. Since NHRA was already busy at Bristol Dragway during the car's stay in Tennessee that weekend, we'll have to wait to prove that one, but with the loose rear gearing, you'll run out of pavement before you run out of motor.

But the price point is the one sticky issue in an otherwise terrific mix of style and performance. The car could well be a Mustang challenger (no pun intended) if it were someplace between the $25,000-$32,000 range, motored-up big time but perhaps not so comfortable. In other words, a 21st century Super Bee with a bigger hoodscoop, different wheels, and fewer accessories. This is an opinion, of course, and it may well be that the price on the SRT-8 is justified by the additional suspension and driving technology that the SRT engineers determined would make the car both fast and safe. The SRT-8 will likely be competing for dollars in the Euro touring car market, where it is indeed economical for the performance level.

Finally, perhaps a note on collectability would also be in order here. There is not any word on how many of these cars will be built; previous SRT package cars have never been in great abundance, and the corporation seems to be tailoring them to a niche of real enthusiasts rather than the "see me" crowd. Due to the upcoming availability of the Challenger that people are now waiting for, it may turn out that SRT-8 Chargers, the version the factory itself has tagged "the ultimate American muscle sedan offering stunning all-around performance at an attractive price," will also join the ranks of Hemi-powered desirables sometime in the future.

It was dark as we finally hit the four-lane back to Bristol, blasting past a couple of prewar coupes that had been at the car cruise. We pulled back into the place where we had started earlier-the Ridgewood Barbecue, world-famous since 1947-to throw back giant pork sandwiches and bottomless glasses of sweet tea. The Charger SRT-8 also hits the spot, and-with the right driver and circumstances-would have no problem teaching a few lessons out on Thunder Road.