Dodge Challenger Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
We've seen Channing Tanum's new movie, Magic Mike. We can't imagine someone in the audience not yelling, "Take it off. Take it all off," as the Hollywood hunk struts his stuff across stage and lets us peek at his fabulous six-pack abs from behind the folds of a shirt. Same could be said for the 2012 Dodge Challenger, the newest of the pony car revivalists that is sultry, sexy and sizzling from any angle. Gorgeous. But lacking in convertible mode. A hunk in coupe with top up, we wanna see it with the "take it off" top down. Don't you think? (A little hooting would be appropriate here.)
It isn't that Challenger enthusiasts haven't been clamoring for a top down model or speculating on when it will happen. But so far a drop top is a no show in showrooms and remains a midsummer night's dream for the flush and frustrated. And think about it for a moment. A car company can juice up an engine and suspension with mostly the same exterior sheet metal as used for a less endowed power plant's version. But cutting off the top takes more than a few swipes with an oversized can opener. It takes a lot of changes to maintain the structural integrity of the coupe version without losing the ability to bully its way through the crowd on the road.
Bully it can, and does very nicely in the hormone-laden Challenger versions wearing the 2012 stamp. Dodge knows its fan base pretty well. Its gussied-up SRT rear-drive road monster for 2012 (designed to satisfy the muscle car part of the crowd) uses the old 392-cubic inch displacement term for its 6.4-liter, 470-horsepower HEMI V-8. With a gut wrenching torque that launches a vehicle out of inertia at 470 lb. ft. -- it can travel from 0 to 100-mph in a scant 15+ seconds and slam up to 182-MPH with the same six-speed manual transmission first used on the Dodge Viper, or 175-MPH with five speed automatic with paddle shifters as an ersatz manual transmission, especially in sport mode. (Look for your booty's imprint in the seatback when you get out.)
With its pony competitors Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro hitting the highs with horsepower this year, this newly spiced up Challenger keeps the dust off the playing field. And does it want to play. We were so enamored with this new generation Challenger when it first came out as a revival of last century's muscle car, and the fun handling that just took one's breath away, we couldn't imagine such improvement. But this slam dunk, weak in the knees edition woke us up. We think it will wake up the juices in any true pony car enthusiast, or her main squeeze.
Lest you plan to auction off the Mercedes to pay for gas for this guzzler, be aware you won't need to. The long-heralded HEMI designation means the engine can lope along on four cylinders at highway speeds. Does 23-MPG with manual or automatic transmission on express roads get your attention? We can't imagine it wouldn't. That kind of makes up for the 14-MPG city rating (Yes, some people actually drive it in town.)
And if you don't think Dodge means in-your-face business, consider some of the exterior color choices for 2012. Try "Header Orange," "Redline Red," or “Yellow Jacket,” with lots of sting, accented with available dual, full-body striping and of course the 392 HEMI badge and four-inch rectangular exhaust tips. Plan on a $43,995 plus $825 destination charge investment to join in the fun.
If the idea of going topless is still fogging your rear view mirror, our best suggestion is to let Dodge's parent company Chrysler know how you feel , and then "Yearn, baby. Yearn."
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