Dodge Challenger Review

2012 Dodge Challenger SXT Coupe Exterior

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The Dodge Challenger was one of the more significant cars to come out of the 1960s and '70s muscle car era. Four decades later, the Dodge Challenger is back. Featuring styling cues similar to the original model and a brawny V8 engine driving the rear wheels, the new Challenger is a true street fighter. But unlike its bare-knuckled brawler of an older brother, this Challenger is loaded with modern-day refinement and safety features.

It's no surprise that the current Challenger offers strong acceleration with either available V8, but even the base V6 is no slouch. Also unsurprising is its bulky feel in tight corners, though its luxurious character on the highway more than compensates. The muscle car has seen a revival in recent years with the retro-ization of the Mustang and the resuscitation of the Camaro, but the Challenger certainly holds its own, and might be the most pleasant to drive on a daily basis.

Current Dodge Challenger
The Dodge Challenger features the exterior styling cues of its iconic '70s predecessor, such as a long hood and a short fastback roof-line profile. Underneath, however, the Challenger is based on a shortened version of the platform used for Chrysler's 300 and Dodge's Charger. Thanks to its generous dimensions and a split-folding rear seat, the Challenger has ample passenger space and impressive luggage capacity.

The Challenger comes in three trim levels: SXT, R/T and SRT8 392. The base SXT features a 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 backed by a five-speed automatic transmission. Upping the ante, the R/T packs a 5.7-liter V8 churning out 372 hp with the five-speed automatic (or 376 hp with a six-speed manual transmission) that's packaged with a recalibrated steering system and a limited-slip differential. The top-of-the-line SRT8 392 model comes armed with a 470-hp 6.4-liter V8 connected to either a standard five-speed automatic or an optional six-speed manual. Other features of the Challenger SRT8 include a stiffer suspension, revised steering, Brembo brakes, 20-inch wheels and exterior enhancements such as the "Power Bulge" scooped hood.

All Dodge Challenger models come standard with antilock brakes, a full complement of airbags and stability control. Major options include a hard-drive-based navigation system with music and video file storage capability, and a sunroof. The R/T can be equipped with a couple of optional feature packages that improve its handling and braking.

In road tests, we've found that there's plenty to like about Dodge's modern muscle car. Acceleration is acceptable with the V6 and quite impressive with the R/T and SRT8. The Challenger remains laudably quiet at speed, with little road or wind noise, and offers an impressively comfortable highway ride regardless of trim level. On twisty roads, the Challenger feels big and heavy, which isn't surprising considering the car's 2-ton curb weight. But the SRT8 and R/T (when fitted with the optional suspension upgrades) still do a pretty respectable job of keeping that mass under control.

Used Dodge Challenger Models
The current Dodge Challenger was introduced in 2008 as the SRT8 only. The SE (now named SXT) and R/T trim levels arrived a year later, as did manual transmission availability for the SRT8. For 2009-'10, the SE came equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 making just 250 hp. The transmission was either a four-speed automatic (2009) or a five-speed automatic (2010). As you can imagine, the SE left much to be desired from both a performance and fuel economy standpoint, so we'd avoid it. The current V6 that debuted for 2011, however, is a decent choice.

From 2008-'10, the SRT8 came with a 6.1-liter V8 good for 425 hp. From a used-car standpoint, also note that the first three years of the Challenger lacked the current model's upgraded steering, retuned suspension and stronger brakes.

Read the most recent 2014 Dodge Challenger review.

If you are looking for older years, visit our used Dodge Challenger page.

For more on past Dodge Challenger models, view our Dodge Challenger history page.


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