Jeff Thisted: Though it looks like a throwback to the Seventies, the 2012 Dodge Challenger is really making a name for itself as a modern American muscle car.
Amanda Salas: This third generation of the Challenger was reborn in 2008, but Dodge has maintained the car’s connection with a bygone [era] in both style and performance.
Jeff: Whether you’re driving the touring-oriented SXT or the performance-tuned R/T Classic, which we’ve got here today, or even the drag-racing-inspired SRT8 392, the look is all muscle.
Amanda: From the large front splitter to the body-color rear decklid spoiler, the aerodynamics on this coupe spell S-P-E-E-D.
Jeff: Add some classic racing stripes, a functional hood scoop and some bold 20-inch aluminum wheels like we’ve got on the R/T Classic today, and the Challenger’s got more charisma than most drivers can handle in their everyday life.
The racing-inspired look continues on the inside with a four-gauge instrument cluster highlighted by chromed accent rings and the pistol-grip shift handle.
Amanda: I like the retro-look dashboard, but it takes some getting used to.
Jeff: Yeah, but it does house some very modern technology inside, like the optional 368-watt, seven-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system with MP3-compatible CD player and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with navigation.
Amanda: That’s a nice nod to the 21st century. I just wish that these seats had something better than this manual adjuster. It’s like the’70s all over again, but not in a good way.
Jeff: Well, there are other nice, new touches like this Keyless Go with push-button start/stop. And with the optional automatic transmission, you get paddle shifters right here on the steering wheel.
Ah, the mightiness of the muscle car! Acceleration is just what you expect from a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that puts out 375 horsepower.
Amanda: Think that’s impressive? With 470 horsepower, the SRT8 392 leaps from 0 to 60 miles per hour in just over four seconds.
Jeff: Yeah, but if you don’t need that much power, you can always opt for the nice little V6 in the SXT.
Amanda: With all Challengers, the power goes right to the rear wheels, and you can really hear that power in the cabin. Daily drivers might not appreciate that.
Jeff: I’ve noticed that shifting the six-speed manual with the stock short-throw shifter takes a little bit of strong-arming, but on the other hand, it does feel solid and precise.
Amanda: The modern suspension helps the Challenger to really hug those curves, and it has just enough understeer to help keep those rear wheels on track and its nose pointed wherever you want to go.
Jeff: That’s thanks to the optional high-performance suspension. It works with the three-mode electronic stability system. But I wish there wasn’t as much play in the steering wheel at dead center. It’s a little squishy in the straights.
Amanda: I have to tell you, with all this power I’m surprised that the Challenger gets 23 miles per gallon on the highway with the six-speed manual and 25 mpg on the highway with the five-speed automatic. City driving will cost you, though – only 15 miles per gallon with the manual.
Jeff: If fuel economy is what you’re after, the little V6 in the SXT gets 18 miles per gallon in the city, 27 on the highway.
Amanda: Price will be a factor, too. This R/T Classic strikes a balance at $33,595.
Jeff: Part of the SRT-8 price pays for a day’s professional track instruction. It’s designed to maximize driving knowledge and skills. Incidentally, the Challenger carries a full array of front and side curtain airbags.
Jeff: Yeah, improvements to handling, safety, comfort, in-car technology aside, all-out performance is where the Challenger truly shines.