May 24, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Saturday, 24 April 2010 14:52
Having driven two of the three wildly popular retro muscle cars recently, we have to ask: How could companies that can build cars this good wind up in bankruptcy? The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger are the whole package: performance, luxury, even fuel economy and safety, as well as loads of style. We felt right at home in all of them.
The latest example of retro muscle to grace our driveway was the 2010 Dodge Challenger SE. It’s a comparatively big, heavy, rear-drive car, built on the platform of the midsize Charger and Chrysler 300. Consequently, it’s a pragmatist’s special, with room for five, a spacious trunk and big-car ride.Our TorRed Challenger (that’s a combination of “torrid” and “red,” and it’s a $225 option) looked fast, with its true-to-the-original sheet metal and optional 18-inch aluminum wheels, dual stripes and rear spoiler. But under the boldly sculpted hood was a pussycat: a 3.5-liter, 250-horsepower V-6 engine bolted to a five-speed automatic transmission.
There’s a lot to recommend the $30,860 R/T version, with its 5.7-liter, 372-horsepower Hemi V-8 engine (376 horsepower with the five-speed stick shift). Chrysler evidently has put a lot of engineering effort into this power plant, which sacrifices only one mpg compared with the SE’s V-6. True, the R/T costs $8,000 more, but it comes with a sport-tuned suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment. The top of the line is the SRT8, with a 425-horsepower V-8.
With options, our Challenger SE came in at $28,980.
In defense of the V-6, it’s a smooth, quiet engine that delivers consistent power. It might be too quiet. Chrysler engineers would have done better to give it a more authoritative voice via the exhaust system.
For older folks, the Challenger is particularly pleasing because of easy access and egress, as well as its smooth, quiet ride. It’s one of those cars you can drive all day and not feel terribly stiff or awkward on getting out.
Fuel economy is 17 mpg in the city, 25 highway. The Challenger’s safety ratings are exemplary: five stars across the board, except four stars for rollover resistance.
The interior is rather bland, rendered in relentless shades of black, but the controls are logical and conveniently placed. Our major complaint was with the steering wheel. After lowering the seat, tall drivers felt the steering wheel was too high, even when tilted to its lowest position.
The Challenger’s reliability has been average, according to Consumer Reports magazine. That’s an encouraging sign for Chrysler as it emerges from last year’s bankruptcy.
Ideally, the reborn Challenger would be smaller, lighter and more agile, but that would have required ground-up development rather than extensive use of existing technology. The consequences would have been a steeper price and a higher probability of defects. Making the most of the tools at hand, Dodge and Chrysler have done a fine job with this model.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 250 horsepower, 250 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: five-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,720 lb.
Suspension: Short and long arm front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 18x7.5-inch aluminum
Tires: P225/60R18 touring
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 16.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons
Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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