I *heart* this thing! Yeah, it’s huge and heavy, but it sounds great, looks great, and goes like stink. The steering is inexcusably numb and slow. The clutch will break your left knee, and it transmits driveline vibes to the pedal – audibly – through the throw-out-bearing. I’ve never heard a clutch pedal sing before. The shifter is way too high-effort but is bolt-action precise and fits the personality of the car. Engine management and ESP are tuned so well around the car’s numbness that you don’t even know when you’re sliding. I love the pillowy ride but surprisingly not-awful body control. I hate the nav interface and the turn signal indicators in the corners of the cluster. The brakes feel okay, but started smelling a little before I expected them to. The ratios are so close together that you find yourself shifting constantly; the soundtrack is unreal. If only all transmissions were geared like this. What a fun, fun, hot car. It drives as fun as it looks, and that’s pretty damn impressive.
Jason Cammisa, West Coast Editor
It’s hard to take this car seriously. It’s huge, it’s plastic, and it gets terrible fuel economy. But people still whip out camera phones for it. It is immune to the bad feelings that cause Hummer owners such grief.
The Hemi provides the best, best engine noise. The exterior is quite clean and shapely. Nay, lovely. All in all, it’s the baddest of bad dogs.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
A $40,000 Dodge! The brakes have no feel and shudder. You can hear the engine through the clutch. The 5.7-liter Hemi is not all that powerful – with a soft low end and a lazy high end. It also hates changing direction. This car feels antiquated. This car is solely for the pickup truck set who would mistake this for a “sports” car.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor
I know it’s a shameless and enlarged copy of the original 1970 Challenger, but I really dig this car’s exterior styling. The interior is disappointing in its banality. I’m fond of the “pistol-grip” shifter, which is less pistol-grippy than those of yore but still fun to mash. I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable a cruiser the Challenger is, with comfortable seats, Bluetooth, navigation, iPod inputs, and Sirius.
Most noteworthy, though, is the attention that this car attracts. My waitress at Waffle House wanted a ride; the cook wanted to know how it compares with the Camaro. A dude in the Lowe’s parking lot asked all the pertinent questions and then reminisced about grabbing gears in his buddy’s ’70 Cuda with a 383 and a four-speed.
It’s certainly not the swiftest at the back-road boogie, but the big Dodge is a huge hunk of fun (“huge” being the operative word).
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I had zero expectations for this car. I thought, “Two-door Charger: So what?” But then I got in, the Doobie Brothers’ “China Grove” came on the radio, and within half a mile I was Wooderson from Dazed and Confused, asking rhetorical questions about high school girls and wondering where to find the next keg party. My sideburns started growing like a Chia Pet doused with Miracle-Grow.
This car isn’t about numbers, because it’s pretty obvious that it wouldn’t keep up with a BMW 128i on any sort of back road. This car is all about the exhaust note, the six-speed pistol-grip shifter, the way it lights up the tires through third gear in the rain. I love it. It’s not a sports car, and neither is it very practical. The Challenger is whimsical, and it makes me nostalgic for an era that I don’t even remember. The high point of my day was probably when I ripped a doughnut in the Challenger, slewing sideways while I blasted “Space Cowboy” on the stereo. Eventually, I pulled into the parking lot, but I didn’t get out of the car until the song ended.
Ezra Dyer, Contributing Writer
Dodge Challenger R/T
Base Price (with destination): $29,995
Price as tested: $39,055
Fuel Economy: 15/23 (city/hwy)
Size: 5.7-Liter OHV V-8
HP: 375 HP @ 5800 rpm
Torque: 404 lb-ft @ 4200
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 4041 lbs.
Wheel/Tire Info: 245/45VR-20