May 17, 2010
Plenty of cars to choose from in the ol' Inside Line garage last week and I picked the Challenger to make a run from L.A. to Tucson late last week. Why?
Pretty easy actually. For starters, it's a big, comfortable coupe that lets you stretch out behind the wheel. No need to jam anything in, just spread everything out and relax in the nicely bolstered seat. Unlike the Camaro where you feel low in the car, the Challenger's seating position puts you up high which makes the view that much better.
Once on the road, the Challenger is a big cupcake. No stiff ride or twitchy handling and it's dead quiet in sixth gear at 80mph. I did notice a little too much gear whine at some speeds, but it faded in and out so I'm not sure if it's a problem or not.
Solid electronics is another reason the Challenger is such a great road trip car. There was a navigation system to tell me where to go and how long it would take me to get there along with an iPod connector and a strong stereo. Bluetooth is part of the package as well so I never had to reach for my phone.
I've now done a road trip in both the Camaro and the Challenger. Both were enjoyable, but if I had to do another one next week I would pick the Challenger again without hesitation.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor, Inside Line @ 24,678 miles
April 26, 2010
My two younger sisters came out from the East Coast to visit so I took them on the requisite cruise up the Pacific Coast Highway here in So Cal (from Santa Monica, through Malibu and on up to Oxnard). We left my 'hood, Culver City, at 9:30 am Sunday. There is a stop sign right at the bottom of the on-ramp to the 10 freeway and it was completely empty. Too good to resist, I treated them to a quick blast through the first four gears.
Reactions? Lori thought it was cool -- she's more into cars and used to drive a Dodge Stealth with a manual tranny. That's Lori in the photo doing her Price is Right impression next to the car. More conservative Jeanne didn't care for the completely intended acceleration -- it put butterflies in her stomach and reminded her of riding in my old '69 Chevelle SS (built 396, TH400, 4:11 posi, headers and glasspacks) except the Challenger wasn't nearly as noisy. She used towhackmy leg when I stuffed my foot into the Holley's secondaries. It was a long time ago, and not exactly a warm and fuzzy memory for her.
Once we were cruising on the freeway and then the PCH (both refreshingly free of traffic), both sisters thoroughly enjoyed the other side of the Challenger, that being a spacious, comfortable and quiet touring car. All the better for them to enjoy my '80s catalog on my iPod.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 24,068 miles
April 05, 2010
Our Dodge Challenger looks like such a quintessential badass that it's easy to forget it's one of the friendlier muscle cars on the market. Wide, comfortable seats? Check. A rear seat with decent legroom? Check. A suspension that's reasonably communicative, yet won't leave you shaken like a martini? Check.
The end result is a coupe that pours on the fun without leaving you starved for practicality. This tiger has some tabby in its veins -- enough to allow it to serve as a decent daily driver. And that's alright by me.
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 22,452 miles
March 16, 2010
Due to beingunder the weather for the last few days, I haven'texactly been a happy camper.I was, however,thankful for theChallenger'ssplit personality. Sure, reliving my muscle car days ('69 and '70 Chevelle SS396s) by ripping through thegears is a blast(especially with the windows open so you can hear the engine's wail). But when you just want to kick back and get somewhere in low-stress comfort, the Challenger is equally up to the task.
The plush, heated seats, compliant suspension, quiet cabinand effortless low-end power were soothing amid the chaos that is known as driving around L.A. And it all alsoreminded me what a great daily driver this car is. The only thing missing is a reverse park sensor or back up camera to makeparking this beast on my increasingly crowded street easier.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 21,658 miles
February 22, 2010
When I first got the keys to our 2009 Dodge Challenger as my weekend car on Friday, I have to admit I was kinda bummed about it. "If I change my mind, I'll let you know," I told Mike Schmidt, the keeper of keys, so he could pass them on to the next person in line for cars. The Challenger is too big for my urban lifestyle, I'm not crazy about driving stick in the omnipresent L.A. traffic and ever since I got in a car accident last year (different car) I've been extra skittish about its blind spot via the passenger-side B-pillar.
But then things changed over the course of the weekend. I LOVE this car. It's so bad-ass. People actually move out of my way. Yesterday when I was on the freeway on the far left lane, I was at least two or three car lengths behind a 350Z. We were going the same speed and I wasn't putting pressure on him or anything but inexplicably he moves out of my way. And when I drive past him, he jumps back into the lane right behind me. Weirrrd and neat! This happened with other cars, too, even SUVs.
I wouldn't mind having this as a road-trip car. The seats are comfortable; score that there are seat heaters. And it has satellite radio.
My only beef is with the navigation. It feels like it takes forever to plug in an address. But no biggie. Anyway, I'm glad I didn't hand the keys over to someone else this weekend.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 20,341 miles
January 14, 2010
Dodge really nailed it when it comes to the seats in the Challenger. They're super comfortable -- not too mushy, just nicely firm. And the black stitched leather looks amazing -- these photos don't even begin to do it justice. Every time I slide behind the wheel, it's as if I'm settling into one of these things...
December 09, 2009
OK, this is the one thingI don't like about driving our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T hundreds of miles in a sitting: There's too much road noise.
And while that doesn't stop me from hearing the engine (fortunately) or my music (thanks to the upgrade amp and Boston Acoustics speakers that came with our tester's $1,260 Electronics Convenience group), it does detract from the car's otherwise luxurious cruising character. I don't mean to suggest the Challenger's road noise reaches 370Z levels. Rather,our Dodge is agreat road trip car that could stand to be a couple notches quieter.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 16,140 miles
November 30, 2009
As I mentioned this weekend, I had the opportunity to drive the Challenger at night through the desert. This was a perfect test of its headlights, which I thought were sufficient for the desert's pitch black darkness. Despite not being xenons, the wash of light was consistent and bright enough. I wasn't as enamored with the high beams, though. They aren't particularly brighter than the regular lights, just whiter in light and the beam casts itself higher toward tall shrubs and big reflective signs. I didn't find the high beamsuseful and stuck with the regular headlights.
Fast forward several days when I was driving in a torrential downpour on I-10 just east of Palm Springs. The cabin was quite noisy.I was concentrating on the treacherousroad ahead. The turn signal indicators are buried on the far left and right of the instruments and in a dim yellow color. You guessed it, I turned into Grandpa with his turn signal on for 157 miles.Thankfully, I didn't get that farbecause the Challenger has a pleasant feature that dings you the standard warning chime shared with the low fuel light and displays a "Turn Signal On" warning in the trip computer. What a smart feature.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,562 miles
November 27, 2009
Greetings from that mecca of global culture, Goodyear, Ariz. Home to a Target, a Macaroni Grill, the Cleveland Indians and the parents of one James Tiberius Riswick.
In the past twoThanksgiving journeys out here,I've written letters to myself in the future to warn against repeating that year's calamities. Leaving stupidly on Wednesday in the G35 for one, and leaving my wallet behind the other. This year, I'm happy to report that I heeded my own advice and no such letter is warranted. I won't need to reiterate to myself next year that I should just celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving.Outside of an unfortunate accident-caused traffic jamjust outside of Ontario, my Tuesday trip went muck-up-free.
November 25, 2009
I soooooo didn't want to like the new Challenger
I even brought it home and invited some friends over so we could all sit around and mock its gargantuan proportions, completely uncreative and uninspired throwback styling and downright depressing interior. But after a few hours and more than a few cheap tacos, something very unexpected happened.
We all liked it. It's just so honest.
Especially in our car's R/T trim, there's no pretense made by the styling. It's not some over styled street-tough like the Camaro. The interior's nothing special, but it works. Dodge didn't try to trick you into thinking this car is sporty either by leaving that huge steering wheel in your lap. The suspension's soft and the sidewalls are tall, but in return you get a pretty nice ride on ANY surface and side benefit, you get to squeal and spin the tires around slow corners. Did I mention you can hear the tires break loose as you grab third gear? Yeah, that doesn't hurt either.
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 14,306 miles
November 25, 2009
Over the weekend, I put 1,100+ miles on our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T. It was a rushed trip, but an enjoyable trip, and I'll be posting a couple more entries about it this week.
For now, I'll say that the Challenger is an excellent road trip car when you'retraveling solo. Is it too much car for the task? Oh, most definitely. But the combination of big, usable torque (401 pound-feet at 4,400 rpm, but plenty below that), a compliant ride quality and soft but adequately supportive seating (for the driver) make for a blissful journey up the interstate.
And frankly, the 19-gallon gas tank is great, too. If you're disciplined enough to keep it at 75 mph in this car, you're looking at close to 500 miles of range. Even at my worst, 400 miles on a tank was easy. Gas mileage bragging will come in tomorrow's post.
There's also a big sensory component to driving the Challenger R/T. You look out over its long, black hood, as you hold its oversize steering wheel, as the sun fades north of Sacramento, and is life really so bad? I think not.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 14,221 miles
November 14, 2009
386 miles each way. Assuming I don't, intentionally or not, get lost.
A few weeks ago, I took this drive northward, girlfriend in tow. The Challenger, I thought, would be a great partner:excellenthighwayride, good stereo, nav, comfy seats,passing power,doesn't draw the ire of theHighway Patrol.
And I was, as usual, correct. The 2009 Challenger R/T was a great pick. Each time I do along drive in this car, I'm glad once again that we didn't opt for the harsh, silly-looking SRT-8.Unfortunately my passenger, who was along for the ride when I took the Long Term Flex back to Boston, wasn't so thrilled.
"Up until the 500-mile mark, this was one of my favorite cars."She says.
"What happened then?"
"The seat. It's fine for a short trip. But the back doesn't line up with the bottom right and there aren't enough adjustments to makeit livable."
While the driver seat is 8-way power adjustable, the passenger seat is not.
So next time I go cross country--unless i go solo-- the Challenger is, unfortunately, off the list.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant
November 13, 2009
"WWTD," right? Isn't that what those bracelets say? Well, in any case, I know what I'd drive if I were a Texan: a Challenger R/T. No question about it.
The Challenger is frankly out of its element in the concrete jungle, as you might expect from a coupe that's longer than a Pontiac G8. Parallel parking is a particularly harrowing experience. But on the open road, are you kidding me? Short of maybe a Benz CL65 AMG or something comparably ridiculous, what would you rather be driving? The Challenger R/T is extraordinarily smooth and quiet at speed, its looming visagereliably scares the hoi polloi out of the fast lane, andits sonorousV8 deliversa burly low-end punch that's conspicuously absentfrom the Camaro SS. Oh, and it also seats four adults in comfort and swallows everyone's luggage with ease.
Forget full-size pickup trucks -- this thing should be the official vehicle of Texas.
Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor @ 13,366 miles
October 08, 2009
Last week we were asked how much room was in the back of the Camaro. Last week I answered that question: Not much.
This week I thought you'd be interested to see how the Challenger fares.
October 06, 2009
"I've got the Challenger tonight. It was that or the 2010 Camaro and I'll take this one every time."
I'm in our parking garage with Oldham and I press on, "It's the kind of car I just want to get in, roll the windows down, plug in my iPod and drive north on PCH until the highway stops or time does."
The pistol grip shifter isn't the most accurate, nor does it have the smoothest motion, but there's no shifter that's more fun to manhandle. Each shift is like opening the floodgates on a dam or flipping the switch on Old Sparky; it's mechanical and raw and when you grab it the muscles in your forearm get all veiney. You shift the Camaro as fast as possible to avoid touching that knob for any longer than is absolutely necessary. The Challenger's shifter belongs in a factory, the Camaro's belong in a kitchen stirring soup.
And then there's the Challenger's seat (which I'll get into in another blog later this week), steering wheel (slightly too wide, but still...), legible gauges, and super-smooth ride (18's > 20's).
There is no competition when it comes to engine, though. The 5.7 here pulls hard and sounds good, but the Camaro trounces the Challenger from the V6 to the SS to the hopefully-someday Z28. The 2010 Camaro might need more aggressive gearing, but there's no denying the merit of that mill.
There are two cars in our fleet I feel this way about. Two cars that whenever I see them I want to hop in, pack some clean clothes and just drive until I'm out of road: One of them is the 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T, the other is the 2009 Ford Flex.
What that says about me, I'm not sure.
Mike Magrath, Vehicle Testing Assistant @ 11,090 miles
September 18, 2009
Sometimes I play a mental game when I get stuck in traffic. As I migrated down Santa Monica Boulevard at a glacial pace last night, the game was afoot. The question posed from one brain hemisphere to the other (yeah, I've got two hemis!) was, "What is the motorcycle equivalent to the Challenger?"
Previous mental meanderings concluded that a Ford Mustang = Ducati Monster, Nissan GT-R = Honda RC-51, BMW M3 = BMW K1300S. Our Challenger's equivalent came to me fairly quickly and allowed me the rest of my drive home to ponder the reasonings.
Dodge Challenger = Harley-Davidson Vrod
1. Both sound great in stock form. A low burble at idle, a loud, brash burst low in the rev range and a muscular chorus higher up.
2. Every time the light turns green, my impulsive little brain stem turn it into a brief drag race, just to feel the initial hit of torque.
3. Both seem to be made for older, bigger pilots. Their seating positions are nearly identical.
4. Both have soft floaty suspensions and low handling limits. Still, they're fun up to, and just past those limits.
5. Long sweeping curves are better than tight twisties in either vehicle.
6. Other drivers seem to give either a bit more respect. I get cut-off a lot less.
7. Both look and feel pretty long.
8. Hundreds of miles in either seat would be no problem.
9. Both represent something unique to their respective brands. The Challenger is the first real retro-styled model for Dodge. The Vrod is Harley's modern interpretation of its past.
10. Both will go through rear tires and fuel like the State of California goes through cash.
Have you got any auto/moto equivalents?
Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 11,117 miles
September 16, 2009
In case you didn't know, our Dodge Challenger R/T has a great fuel saving feature known as a skip shift. And by great fuel saving feature I mean TOTALLY WORTHLESS, ANNOYING PIECE OF &*^#!
If this were my Challenger, I'd pull the skip shift wire out, piss on it and send it back to Dodge.
Don't get me wrong, I like this car; it's a total rip. It's so much fun that something as stupid and archaic as a skip shift just becomes that much more annoying. Good thing it's easy to 'fix'.
I know that 4th Gen F-Bodies had this 15 year ago. That's 15, one - five, years ago. I would've thought that would be enough time to make a slightly more efficient 5.7 liter V8. Guess not.
I'm sorry, what? The Camaro still has one?
Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 11,086 miles
September 14, 2009
I always knew the new Challenger was big, but the point was really driven home when I parked it the other day in a standard, not "compact car only" street parking box. Look at the picture and you can see the beefy Challenger takes up nearly the whole space. At 197.7 incheslong, it's only about fourinches shorter than a Chevy Tahoe!
I was also struck with what a laid-back cruiser this thing is on the freeway -- with thattall sixth gear, at 75 mph the engineis just loafing along at 1,750 rpm. With such long strides, it's no wonder thismuscleboundmonster earnsan estimated 24 mpg on the highway.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 10,966 miles
September 11, 2009
For reasons unknown, I've been driving our long-term 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T for the last 5 days. OK, actually, it's because thebig coupegot covered in ashfrom Southern California's Station Fire and I kept neglecting to getit washed.
Yet, I think my laziness might be a window into my growing affinity for the Challenger R/T. I can't quite figure it out. This is not a sporty car. Suspension is soft, steering feel is not really there, and I'd never takethe Dodgeon a back road for the sheer fun of it. And with its 5.9-second 0-60 (5.5 with 1 foot of rollout) and 14.1-second quarter-mile, it's hardly the quickest car out there.
But somehow, every freeway drive I take in our Challenger R/T feels a little bit special.Mostly, I think it's the nicely executed exhaust(see video link below)for the 5.7-liter V8 (376 hp, 410 lb-ft) and the pistol-grip shifter. I've never driven a late-'60s/early-'70s muscle car, but with these two things, I can imagine it and feel a little of what it might be like.The oversize, un-nimble feel of the car and the broad, flat seats add realistic elementsto the experience -- or at least in my imagination they do.
And when I get tired of this (not that I ever really do), I can fall back on the Challenger R/T's very compliant highway ride and powerful air-conditioner.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,727 miles
September 03, 2009
So last night I was the designated driver for a birthday outing in Long Beach. Figured our 2009 Dodge Challenger would be the perfect vehicle in which to transport the birthday girl and our friends. It's got lots of elbow room, sounds bad-ass...plus it's all sinister and black, to poke fun at her sadness about turning 30.
Well, that was fun but the only glitch was that at first we didn't know how to get the girl sitting behind me out of the car. For some reason, unlike the front passenger seat, the driver seat doesn't come with a lever on the seatback to move the seat forward. Just the power buttons. And we all know how long those take.
So she ended up exiting and entering through the passenger side at every stop. A minor annoyance but I wondered why it's that way. Does Dodge really think that people have the patience to work the power button to slowly slide the seat forward? And is it a "No one touches the driver seat" thing? You know, because the driver has it all configured the way he/she likes it, so why inconvenience them? Who knows? The owner's manual makes no mention of a secret driver-side lever. Just that, yes, those are the power buttons on the driver seat and that's the lever on the passenger-side seatback.
July 29, 2009
I don't know how this is possible but I just drove home on the freeway at about 70 mph, with the windows down and didn't feel much more than a gentle breeze in the cabin. I'm sure it has to do with aero... something something. I don't really care about the science of it but I do knowthathearing the engine is a total bonus. I'm leaving the windows down everyday.
Brian Moody, Automotive Editor
July 28, 2009
The great hotrodder Hamlet once said, "To R/T or SRT? That is the question."
He then went on a vengeful killing spree, but that's not relevant here.
What is relevant for me is the first question, as I am considering getting a Challenger in a couple of years. Perhaps.
But which one shall I pull? -- as there are two Challengers from which to choose, and both are bad mothers.
Well, I was fortunate to drive both of them in the last few days, and I think I've made up my mind.
July 21, 2009
I've mentioned in a previous post that the shifter in our Challenger is a little on the spongy side and I still feel that way. But after driving it again last night, I couldn't help but notice how comfortable the shifter itself feels.
There have been a thousand different shift handle designs over the years, everything from chrome balls to T-handles to the ol' pistol grip emulated here, all with their own quirks. But as derivative as this shifter is of the original, it's about natural feeling as a handle gets. Between its shape and the canted position, it's just about perfect. Makes getting the same car with an automatic all that more of a travesty.
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 7,895 miles
June 22, 2009
I read in a magazine a few months back that, "A man likes to drive--alone." While I've always felt this to be true, I had never seen it spelled out so succinctly. It's true. It gives a man time to think, sort things out, prioritize in silence and arrive with a clear head. There's a particular Zen to driving alone: Putting miles behind you with the sound of a V8 burbling in the background, or with music of your choice playing as quietly or loudly as you care. That's why I jumped at the opportunity to drive our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T for an extended weekend drive up to the central coast. Problem was that I started my drive on a Friday afternoon from Orange County.
June 01, 2009
I've put about 600 highway miles on our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T during the past few days and have found it to be a pretty agreeable companion. Credit goes to the quiet interior, relatively soft suspension tuning, long wheelbase, tall overdrive gearing (about 1,700 rpm rpm at 75 mph) and relaxed seating. And thanks to the 19-gallon fuel tank, you can go about 400 miles between fill-ups.
If I had to do a cross-country trip with one of our long-term cars, our Challenger would be pretty high on my list.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,952 miles
May 12, 2009
My first reaction after firing up the Challenger is to lower the windows. Its 5.7-liter HEMI rumbles like a V8 should and I want to hear it. But only until the speedo hits 45 mph.
Beyond 45 mph wind starts to reverberate in the cabin and pound the eardrums. We've all experienced this before. Crack another window or the sunroof and the beating stops. We can't do that in our sunroofless Challenger. Our only options are to tough it out or roll 'em up.
This thing needs wind wings.
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 14,600 miles
May 06, 2009
The above picture is for those of you who asked what the rear visibility of our 2009 Dodge Challenger looked like. BTW that passenger seat is tilted all the way back. As for backing out, I myself haven't experienced any real issues with that. There was this concrete pillar in our parking garage that I couldn't see when I was in reverse but let's just say it was a good thing I already knew it was there.
But driving this car, for some reason I'm not intimidated by its blind spots. Could be attributed to its seat height adjustability, the well-positioned side mirrors which allow me to see really far to the sides and its power. This morning on the commute to work there was this BMW 135i behind me switching to the right lane at the same time I was about to and I quickly checked him in my mirrors, stepped on the gas and no sweat. That's saying something since there are some cars with blind spots that either make me not want to switch lanes ever or that make me feel like I need to triple check before I switch lanes.
On a completely unrelated note, apparently my neighbors are scared of the Challenger. Frank, an old man who lives across the street from me, stopped my roommate when she was leaving the house this morning to ask her if she knew whose black Dodge that was parked in front of his house. He said it had been parked there for two days (note: this was the first time I've ever brought it home) and then told her he was going to call the police and report a stolen vehicle. "I think he was nervous because there was no license plate," she said. We live in a neighborhood of family cars so I guess a sinister-looking Dodge Challenger would be some cause for alarm. Heh.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 4,454 miles
April 30, 2009
It's often mentioned aroundour office that the seating position in our 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T is too high -- that the high-mounted seats force you into a chair-like seating position reminiscent of a crossover.
There's little way Chrysler (er, the company formerly known as Chrysler) could have avoided this without major design changes, of course. The Challenger has the same comically high beltline and short glass area as other LX cars. Mount the front seats any lower and it'd be unsafe to drive.
However, I'm here to tell you that I don't mind this seating position a bit. I'm all legs and no torso, so I jack the seat-bottom cushionall the way up and enjoy the view over the big black hood. It's a fine view, it's relaxing, and yes, it's like sitting in some kind of SUV.This setup isn'tthe least bit true to the original Challengers, I realize, but in nearly all respects, the reborn Challenger is a modern-day homage to the old car, not an authentic, 1:1 copy.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 4,165 miles
April 21, 2009
After a weekend in the Challenger, this is what I remember.
1) That cool looking shifter with the retro slant? Yeah, that sucker gets hot in the sun. It's also a little too "damped" for my tastes. It feels good when you're just cruising around, but when you try to rip it, the gates feel too spongy.
2) The tires are a little soft. They make for a comfortable ride, but they feel a little too wobbly when you're on it.
3) A guy walked by the Challenger parked on the street and said the following to his buddy. "Look at the front end of that thing. Now that's tough looking. I bet a guy driving that car would whoop your ass."
Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 3,609 miles