When it comes to reinterpreted pony cars, Ford has its Mustang, Chevy has its Camaro and Dodge has its Challenger. Of the three, the Dodge Challenger
is probably the most faithful to the original, all the way down to a choice of two different HEMI V-8 engines. While the Mustang and the Camaro have proven to be remarkably competent on a race track, the super-sized Challenger carries a bit too much mass for track-day fun.
Unlike the Mustang and Camaro, which quickly start to feel cramped on the open road, the big Challenger is a near-ideal touring car for two. It’s got ample room inside for the driver and front seat passenger, and either of the HEMI V-8 engines willingly soak up highway miles. Passing slower traffic is a non-issue with V-8 Challengers; press on the accelerator, and forward thrust builds in an impressive manner. While the suspension can be on the stiff side (especially on SRT8 models), the ride quality is never objectionable.
Those old enough to remember the first muscle car era will appreciate the Challenger’s nostalgic looks, but even younger shoppers will admire the coupe’s clean lines. Bright colors and available stripe packages can call unwanted attention to the car, but it’s also available in tastefully subdued hues.
Opt for the SRT8 version
, and you’ll get a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8, good for 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. You’ll also get the most track-worthy suspension and impressively powerful Brembo brakes, but with the largest starting price of the line. The mid-range R/T model comes with a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 that’s still good for 375 horsepower, and even the base model comes with a 3.6-liter V-6 rated at 305 horsepower. While the V-6 delivers adequate acceleration and the best fuel economy, we’d stick to the V-8 versions for their exhaust note alone.
Inside, the Challenger hasn’t received any of the recent updates given to its Dodge stablemates. The interior is in serious need of an upgrade, but Dodge spent its refresh budget on improving the Challenger’s ride and handling. At least the seats, especially in SRT8 models, stand out above those of the competition.
Rear seat passengers have a bit more room than in either the Mustang or the Camaro, but entry and exit require a bit of gymnastic skill. The 16 cubic foot trunk is cavernous, and easily capable of swallowing enough luggage to sustain two passengers for weeks on the road.
All Challenger models come with automatic climate control; keyless entry; power windows, locks and mirrors; an in-dash CD player and cruise control. Major options include navigation, a leather interior, a power sunroof, internet connectivity (via a 3G dongle), a USB port and a 900-watt Harmon Kardon audio system.
For full details on the 2012 Dodge Challenger, see our complete review on The Car Connection