Dodge’s 2012 Challenger coupe, with its large racing stripes, is an eye-grabbing retro muscle car that can be ordered in hot, hotter or hottest configurations.
Designed to replicate the muscle car of the 70s, Dodge brought this fun car back in 2008 but made loads of changes to compete with rivals Camaro and Mustang.
As for the three performance versions, there’s the SXT (hot) with a 305-hp, 3.6L V6 and starting price of $25,195; the R/T (hotter) with 376-hp, 5.7L V8 and $29,995; and SRT8 392 (hottest) with 470-hp, 6.4L V8 at $44,125.
We tested the SXT with V6 and five-speed automatic transmission. This new Pentastar engine develops a modest 268 lb/ft of torque and is EPA rated at 18 city, 27-highway mpg.
This particular Challenger looks scary-fast, but is intended for folks who care more about economy than speed or quickness. However, the V6 is no slouch. Floor the accelerator and you’ll experience firm, push-you-into-the-seat g-force. And if you don’t believe it, it can be measured. When ordering the Electronic Information Center (EVIC), you get the ability (by pressing a steering wheel button) to clock: 0-60 times, braking distance, one-eighth and one-quarter mile times/speed, plus Instantaneous G-force (lateral and longitudinal along with a friction circle that displays the direction of the forces). This is a super cool feature that beckons to be used over and over (just be sure to use it on a desolate or straight stretch country road). All this information is displayed on the bottom of the speedometer.
With the Pentastar V6 and Auto Stick transmission controllable with paddle shifters on the steering wheel, the SXT offers exhilarating acceleration for a six cylinder. There’s also a sweet rumble and back pressure garble emanating from the twin rectangular tailpipes when goosing the throttle.
Challenger’s interior décor is retro. The red and black seats in my test car were done in tufted leather just like those of yesteryear. There are four gauges with cobalt blue glow and a soft touch dash that should have been on Challengers of old. In addition, there’s keyless ignition and a 6.5-inch touch screen display for Chrysler’s Uconnect, audio and GPS if ordered. My test car should have had a rearview camera as visibility rearward is hampered by a high deck and wide pillars.
The tufted leather seats were supportive and comfy over the long haul. And although Dodge rates the Challenger as a five seater, four’s more the norm.
All HVAC controls are large and easy to use and centered appropriately. Rear seat access is a squeeze with limited leg and headroom. The trunk is surprisingly sizable at 16.2 cubic feet. That doubles when flipping the seat backs whereupon two golf bags can be stowed with room to spare.
Ride and handling are impressive as well. There’s some body lean in sharp turns taken at speed but can be decreased by pressing the “Sport” button which tightens the suspension for more aggressive driving maneuvers.
Ride quality isn’t bad for a short wheelbase coupe. Granted, harsh roads or unimproved railroad crossings will shimmy and shake the innards, but on highways Challenger feels like a full-size coupe.
My test car carried a bottom line of $32,300 after adding a host of options including the Preferred Package 26H that provides a long of goodies like Bluetooth, 3.06 rear axle, performance steering/suspension, 20-inch tires, heated front seats, leather, XM radio, premium audio with Boston Acoustics speakers and more.
Then there’s the Sound Group II that adds $1,195 to the tab and includes the 6.5-inch display, tire pressure monitoring and 40GB hard drive. Uconnect and GPS nav add another $545 while the Electronics Convenience Group tacked on $695 for remote start, tire pressure monitoring, garage door opener, temp and compass gauges, power heated mirrors and more.
So for $33K you’re getting an attractive muscle car that gives driving excitement without the gas-guzzler connotation. Challenger has also been rollover rated for four stars and comes with a 5 year, 100K powertrain warranty.
To test drive a Challenger stop by Rothrock Dodge at 15th Street and Route 22 in Allentown. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.