I will be the first to admit that I was not around during the beginning of the pony car wars. Luckily for me, I am around at the rebirth of the pony car wars. The Ford Mustang really never left , while the Challenger had been off the market for some time. The Challenger beat the new Camaro to market, but the Camaro is making up for lost time with killer sales numbers. So back to the Challenger SRT8, is this beast one blast from the past or should it just be left in the past?
The exterior really is a retouched 21st century take on the original formula. The exterior lines and design is unmistakably Challenger. The SRT ups the formula with a chin spoiler, larger wheels and brakes, along with a small trunk lid spoiler. Up front you have what almost looks like a sucker mouth front clip with four round lamps, the two inner lights being parking lights while the outer two are the headlights. The fog lights below put out a surprising amount of light. The character line that flows from the headlights down the side of the fenders and door flows into the rear haunches, which are exaggerated and quite large. They look terrific. The rear end is somewhat tall but stays true to the retro recipe set forth by the rest of the styling. The rear tail light is a strip across the back that is really three pieces – but usually if you look quick, you would not notice. Two squared off polished exhaust tips peek out from the bottom of the bumper to let you know, “hey I’m here, I can and will let you hear me.” From the retro metal fuel cover to the raised hood with functional air inlets, I love the exterior lines. They are classic – pure and simple.
Some have called the Challenger’s interior bland or boring. I really actually feel it fits the car. It is not over done, but the materials are all soft touch and have a feeling of quality. The seats are nothing short of terrific. I did note the seat bottoms were a little flatter then the seats in the Charger SRT8 I recently tested. That said, they are terrific ,with great bolsters for your backside. They were all-day comfortable and then some. The gauge cluster consists of four round barrels with the tachometer and speedometer in the center and the fuel and engine temp gauges to the side. The SRT8 model had a built in performance meter set up. This included everthing from the ability to time 1/4 miles and 0-60 runs, to braking and even a G meter. I must say this is very trick. The head unit in this Challenger was the optional Uconnect system. It is hard drive based and easy to use. Something of note is that automatic climate control is not currently available in the Challenger. While this does not bother me, it seems to irk some when they see the price tag on this particular car. Did I mention the seats? Overall, I liked the interior.
Like the other SRT8’s, the engine bay is filled with a 6.1 liter HEMI V-8 pumping out 425 horsepower to the rear wheels. The power is channeled through either a pistol-grip six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. I had the later and it was acceptable. I noted the block of the engine was painted orange in a nod to the history of this vehicle , and I really liked that little detail.
I drove this car in town during the week and went up north during the weekend. On the open highway the car was a very comfortable cruiser. Composed at any speed, it enjoys straight lines. When the turns start coming the car can handle it, but this is no light weight. The car weighs over 4,000 lbs! On the way back from up north I had my mother, girlfriend and sister all in the Challenger SRT8, along with a full trunk. After the nearly four-hour drive I asked how they fared. Only the person behind me (the driver) said it was cramped. I still managed to average 22.7 mpg on that highway jaunt with the cruise control set at 77 mph. In the city I averaged 16.5 mpg, and that included downtown stop and go along with suburb and highway driving. The car is rated at 13/19, which I easily exceeded.
So what do I make of this modern day remake of the Challenger? It’s big, it’s comfy (did I mention the seats?) while being somewhat practical for what it is. A ton of fun, but at a price. Ringing in at $44,940, this is no cheap trick. That is a lot of coin considering what Ford and Chevrolet are offering now with the new Mustang and Camaro. Still, this car has a different personality then both of those cars, and I think it sells on its own merits. Would I recommend the Challenger? In a heart beat! Now, if you asked if it is better then the Mustang or Camaro? I would say that is all in your definition of better.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Dodge