After a great start in third place, our dreams of winning Targa Newfoundland in our nearly bone-stock 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 evaporated with two critical mistakes on days four and five of the six day endurance road race.
Although the mistakes - one timing error and one missed turn - dropped us thuddingly into ninth place, our respect for this great all-around car has grown tremendously. It has everything rear wheel drive muscle car enthusiasts want, plus surprising efficiency and comfort.
With more than 470 horsepower under the hood, our straight-line acceleration was close to the best in our class, and even compared to the all-wheel drive Subarus that tend to dominate road rallies, the Challenger held its own in the corners. However, the last day of Targa Newfoundland was marked by the remnants of a hurricane that dropped torrential rain and created 70 mph gusts, and, in fairness, the Challenger was a bit, well...challenged, in those conditions.
Its incredible horsepower combined with RWD are what make it so much fun to drive when the road surface is dry, but in the rain it became a bit of an unwieldy monster - especially in the tight city stages. Let's call it a fair weather rally champ and leave the winter races to the Subarus.
One glaring problem that cropped up during the six-day race was the rather awful GPS - part of what Dodge calls its ?UConnect' system. Essentially a glorified Garmin, the Dodge GPS has very little benefit above and beyond a standalone unit. In fact, it provided inaccurate directions with regularity, often taking us miles out of our way and forcing us to use an iPhone to get back on track. In everyday use, this would be more than a bit annoying, but during the rally it could have proved catastrophic if we hadn't caught the error.
Unfortunately, UConnect with navigation comes standard on every Challenger but the base SXT, so for most configurations you're stuck with it.
That one issue aside, the 2012 Challenger continually impressed us during our 1,500-mile trek across Newfoundland. At the end of every day, other competitors had their vehicles in for servicing, but our tank of a vehicle never had one hiccup and kept dishing out the fun day after day of grueling competition.
The final tally for fuel economy was a very good 16.5-mpg, especially impressive given that it spent a large part of each day accelerating like a banshee and traveling at speeds above 80 mph.
Although our race-prepped SRT8 392 had lots of its interior insulation removed, the 470 hp V-8 still provided a decent amount of quietness in the long transits between race stages, only waking to produce a satisfyingly deep growl when called upon to perform. This, combined with the comfortable ride made for more rested occupants - which turned out to be an incredible boon given that we averaged about four hours of sleep each night of the race.
In the end, the 2012 Challenger proved itself to be an incredibly good rally vehicle for Targa Newfoundland, as well as a great car for every day comfort. It has shaken off its American pony car manacles of old and proven that it is quite capable in the corners as well as being a great straight-line accelerator. More than that, the 2012 Challenger establishes Dodge as the brand to beat for modern muscle car enthusiasts.