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Auto Spies Review of the R/T

Old 02-07-2010, 05:01 AM
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Post Auto Spies Review of the R/T

REVIEW: The Dodge Challenger Is A Rolling Statement - Sometimes STYLE And FUN Are The ONLY Two Ingredients You Need...

By: Agent00R @ 2/6/2010 2:48:49 AM
Tags: chrysler, dodge, challenger, r/t, srt8, chevrolet camaro, camaro, ford mustang, mustang, muscle car
Looking back on 2009, man, it was one great year. Sure we had one of the worst economic recessions, auto sales plunged, the housing bubble did not find a bottom and a lot of celebrities passed away, but that does not mean it could not have been worse. We are still alive, no?

Something that has been strongly overshadowed by our pursuits to produce greener and leaner automobiles seems to be the horsepower war. I cannot remember the last time I read a story that underlined our irrational desires for speed and recklessness.

Sort of related to that are muscle cars. You know, the ones that could not turn too well and had what were essentially truck motors lodged in the engine bay. Usually compromised in more than one way, they somehow remain the object of many gearhead's affection and are an absolute blast to drive.

There is something about their raucous nature and how a muscle car can be so out of date and out of touch with reality. It's an overwhelming dose of nostalgia.

And that is exactly what the Dodge Challenger is. Take a look at the latest muscle cars, they are not quite living up to that status anymore. Now they can turn, they are easy to shift and even boast a functional interior. The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is more of a GT car than anything else.

That is where the Challenger differs. I hate to sound cliché, but it truly is a blast from the past. Case in point: the pistol-grip shifter. Although the updated car draws some inspiration from its vintage brethren, the gear changer is probably the most obvious for a multitude of reasons. More on this later.

As of late, retro-infused cars continue to be considered "hot" and cool. You would have thought that by this time they would have been given the boot and banished to a land far away. Hardly the case.

Driving around, people's eyes became affixed on the bluest land barge to tackle New York City's congested arteries. Not just teenage boys neither. Attention came from all walks of life; girls, women, construction workers, Wall Street gentlemen and my personal favorite, the homeless.

Stop to fill up at your local gas station and you will cause a scene. Everyone and their mother wants to know about the Challenger. It is amazing.

It is probably because the Challenger has an immense presence on the road, it commands attention. Or, it could be that it is the closest thing to a boat, which is allowable on public roads. It is HUGE.

And, because of the small windows and large size of the car, you feel extra confident and safe at speed. No need to worry about those sport-utility vehicles since you will most likely rival them in size.

When I tried to analyze the exterior design, there is not much -- if anything -- to nit pick at. The only issue that spoke to me were the exhaust tips and believe me, I had to try to find this one. Why put large rectangular tips when you have a teeny exhaust pipe showing underneath? It looks treacherous.

It is not until you open the door, and take a peek at the interior, that you soon realize the car has its flaws. To name a few issues: the navigation is tremendously outdated, the seats are as cushy as a marshmallow, leather seating feels very similar to vinyl, the steering wheel has stitching that is becoming frayed with less than 10,000 miles on the clock, the door panels have a bit of give in them so they feel somewhat frail and the materials used throughout the cabin seem a bit cut rate.

But, I do not seem to care as much as usual. Why?

Probably because there is a 5.7 liter V8 producing 376-horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque, only 10 less than the SRT8 that makes peak torque at 700 more RPM. So, this motor is not a slouch and in my opinion it is a better pick for those not particularly infatuated with owning an SRT vehicle. Additionally, you can add a couple more MPG, since the SRT is rated at 14/22, city/highway as a manual.

Although the R/T has some grunt, it is a bit overwhelmed with its two ton weight. This equates to a zero to 60 time of about six seconds and a rather truck-y feel. Starts and stops are usually coupled with squatting and diving, while taking a turn at speed will provide generous body roll. It is just as sophisticated as a steroid-filled football player trying to perfect his pirouette.

As there is no other way to drive a Challenger, my test car was paired with a six-speed manual. This is where the car really oozes its vintage vibe. Yes, it has a pistol-grip shifter and it is not the easiest car to shift -- it can be compared to pulling the lever on a San Francisco cable car. Driving around during cold mornings makes for a wretched 1-2 shift. It feels as though you are breaking the car. Lacking refinement, you would expect the clutch to provide a calf workout, but fear not because it is actually weighted just right. Finding where the clutch catches is a cinch.

In the corners and switchbacks the Challenger can hang, but it is not all fun and games since the body roll will have you leaning against the door for quite a while. Steering is not precise and numbed out, again, the Challenger shows a more truck-like nature.

Even though it does not provide the greatest feedback, the steering weighting is pretty solid. It does not come off sloppy like the Ford I am currently testing and does provide some more confidence in maneuvers where the body lean chisels it away.

Then there is the suspension. Even though it is fitted with 20 inch rims, you would not know it because it rides smooth and takes bumps really well. The car feels nicely insulated and absorbs road imperfections remarkably well. The stiffness of the set up does not become bouncy on highways nor does it become frustrating around town. This car is a wonderful cruiser on the freeway.

More important than the suspension, however, are the brakes, which are not that bad. They get the job done but I would prefer a bit more bite when applying pressure. Although if need be the brakes will come on strong, you just have to dial in extra force.

At the end of my time with the Challenger, I was surprised. Not only because I actually had a good time with the car, but because it was not as thirsty as I would have expected. You have to remember, this is a 4,000 pound vehicle with a huge, honkin' motor underneath the hood. After doing a week of city driving, I managed to getaway with a righteous 17 MPG. When you consider New York City traffic lodged into that equation, it is not all that bad.

But back to me liking the car.

Sure it does not have the best build quality and yeah we know it is as huge as a blue aircraft carrier, but that is kind of what a true muscle car is all about. Sure the 2010 Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro will outperform the R/T, but they lack the character of the Challenger. Granted, it is not the easiest character to deal with.

Ultimately, it boils down to a couple of things; style and fun. Both of which are overwhelming. This is the kind of car that "bad guys" drive. And, it remains tons of fun just because it is so comically old-school. That reason alone is why people continue to buy this car. Well, that and it happens to be the most loved car by its owners.

Clearly, the boys at Chrysler have done something right. They just went about it in totally different way from the other guys.
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Old 02-07-2010, 07:08 AM
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Quote "In the corners and switchbacks the Challenger can hang, but it is not all fun and games since the body roll will have you leaning against the door for quite a while. Steering is not precise and numbed out, again, the Challenger shows a more truck-like nature."

ummm didn't EVERY muscle car in the 60's/70's feel and handle like a truck, they all weighed more than 4000lbs of steel, they aren't the most nimble of cars to handle, heck they aren't hondas.
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