Of all the retro-modern muscle cars, it’s easy to make the case that none has stayed as true to its roots as the Dodge Challenger. Not only does it look remarkably similar to the Challengers that hunted lesser pony-car prey in the 1970s, it’s also available with a pair of HEMI V-8 engines, long considered an essential ingredient among the Mopar faithful wishing to quickly convert rear-tire rubber into billowing clouds of smoke.
While the reborn Challenger works well as a muscle car, it also works as a grand-touring coupe. In fact, all versions can effortlessly devour highway miles, while treating occupants to composed and (relatively) quiet comfort. If speed is your thing, though, we can tell you from first-hand experience that the Challenger SRT8 models are quite impressive around a road course, driving a thousand pounds lighter than they actually are. We’d still take a Mustang or Camaro if our primary focus was shaving seconds off of lap times, but neither would be as comfortable for a cross-country journey as the Challenger.
Base SXT models get the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 instead of the available HEMI V-8s, but that really isn’t too much of a compromise these days. The V-6 versions still produce 305 horsepower, but come only with a five-speed automatic transmission. The combination is good enough to get the SXT version from 0-60 mph in under seven seconds, while returning an acceptable 27 mpg highway fuel economy.
Stepping up to the R/T trim gets you a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, rated at 375 horsepower. Buyers get a choice of six-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearboxes, and opting for the automatic will get you up to 25 mpg on the highway. It will cost you some straight-line speed, too, since manual transmission cars can run from 0-60 mph in around 5.5 seconds, which is 0.3 seconds quicker than the automatic transmission.
If you’re going to go in for a V-8 Challenger, however, we’d suggest going all-in for the Challenger SRT8 if your budget allows. The extra money buys you the 6.4-liter HEMI V-8, which cranks out 470 horsepower and offers buyers the same transmission choices as the R/T. The 0-60 time drops to 4.5 seconds, but the bigger V-8 is a thirsty beast; even with the more fuel-efficient automatic transmission, the best you can hope for is 22 mpg on the highway. SRT8 versions benefit in other ways, too, like the adaptive suspension that allows drivers to choose from Normal and Sport modes, depending upon mood and driving conditions.
Inside, all Challenger models serve up reasonable comfort for up to five adults. Front seat passengers get the best head and leg room, while climbing into the rear requires a bit of gymnastic ability (though no more so than with the Mustang or Camaro). There’s a huge trunk to work with, so we suspect that a long weekend for two couples will pose little packing drama.
The Challenger has not yet been crash tested under the revised NHTSA or IIHS standards. A full complement of airbags are standard equipment, and available safety extras include features like a rearview camera system and a blind spot monitor.
Even base models come well-equipped, sporting features like automatic climate control; power windows, locks and mirrors; a trip computer and keyless entry. Trim package options abound, and major options include navigation and in-car wireless internet.
For more details on the 2013 Dodge Challenger, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection