2009 Dodge Challenger R/T: Initial Reactions
May 01, 2009
"What is that? It looks like a cartoon car. Do people actually drive that?"
"It looks like it should have an eagle on it and a guy leaning against it picking up girls at a high school."
Well, those weremy girlfriend'sinitial reactions after she pulled into the garage last night. I don't disagree -- the Dodge Challenger is inherently ridiculous. The styling is a 12-year-old's fantasy ... a 12-year-old born in 1960. The size is absurd. The handling doesn't really exist, per se, and the steering lends little confidence when zipping through traffic. The e-brake is a pedal, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it strangely screws you up. Oh, and the power is crazy.
But ridiculous can be good. The TV show Chuck is ridiculous and I like that. All that stuff adds character to a car that is ostensibly a big touring coupe with whopping power. I love the comfy sofa seats and the driving position is excellent. The six-speed manual's clutch is surprisingly light in action and easy to modulate, witha perfectly placed pedal (at least for me). Although I hadrepeated trouble getting intosecondgear from first (thanks to the 1-4 skip-shift feature that I'll go over next week), the pistol-grip gearboxhas reasonable throws and is pretty direct. I also dig the stereo's sound quality, although its interface needs to be chucked into a Dumpster.
My very first reaction to the Challenger was that it was ridiculous in a bad way and wanted no part of it. Now I think it's ridiculous in a good way and can't wait to get the keys again. We'll see how it goes over at high schools.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,132 miles