2013 Dodge Challenger Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
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If all the hype about electrified autos makes it sound like muscle cars are dead, think again. That's not at all the plan of the traditional American Big Three auto companies despite their forays into hybrids and such. And it undoubtedly is not the intent of the burly boys and girls who salivate over them. Our latest drive in the hunky 2013 Dodge Challenger Rallye Redline edition proves our point.
This is one mean driving machine. You get that just looking at it waiting at the curb to be thrust into action. This two-door coupe is no sylph. It demands attention just for its size, as one of the larger, if not the largest, pony cars ever to grace American roads. It not only holds two up front in easy comfort, but has room for three in the back seat, confirmed by the third shoulder harness in the middle. We also easily proved that during a ride for three on our initial test run. From the rear: "There's plenty of head room," said Ellen, the rear seat passenger and a woman of about average height. "I don't feel cramped at all," she added.
That shouldn't be a surprise, really. Like its predecessor some 40-plus years ago during the height of muscle car mania, the earlier generation Challenger was the long, tall Sally of the group, all from homeland auto companies, and all determined to out swagger the competition (such as Ford's Mustang, Chevy's Camaro and the now defunct Pontiac Firebird.) Of the three surviving pony cars (that took their category name from Ford's first kid on the block, Mustang) it's a new backyard brawl that resurfaced when Camaro, followed by Challenger, reappeared in reinvented, more contemporary updates after being earlier dissed by their companies. Ford's Mustang never went away.
For now, the Challenger bears the closest retro resemblance to its ancestral parent, in our case with long snout graced with a wide, red racing stripe that extends the length of the hood then up over the glossy black top to the rear. The hue matches the shiny red paint on the inner surface of the rolling art 20-inch black chrome clad aluminum wheels that would love to be displayed in a modern art museum. How much of a grabber is that? We can only relate that on one single day during our test drive we were perceptibly noticed by police who, two times, proceeded to follow our route for a distance before turning to other duties. And we weren't speeding or breaking any laws at the time.
Considering the current edition is built on the foundation of Chrysler's largest sedan (300) it's also no surprise it omits the shake, rattle and roll of some of those miniature roadsters that can zip in and out of traffic with aplomb but also could launch from an oversized bump in the road.
This is one vehicle that unapologetically announces it has staying power, like Britney, or Madonna, or that sultry champion of them all, Jennifer Aniston. And we could see someone as dominant as a Donald Trump luxuriating on its Dark Slate Gray leather seating with Radar Red Rallye insets, chrome-touched dials of the handsome dash under hand. (That's assuming he actually drives himself from here to there at times.)
And that's not to say the Challenger doesn't deliver during the drive. Our first surprise after taking the wheel was how flexible and limber it turned out to be. It cornered tightly and easily as if it had gone on a diet after we first caught sight of it. We touched the accelerator and felt the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 move it forward with authority, ease and appropriate snarl from the dual exhaust. Our test model with five-speed automatic including steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters generates 305 horsepower. That won't set 0 to 60 world records, but at a time everything on wheels is being scrutinized for its potential impact on our energy future, it provides a diminished guilt playground. EPA fuel economy rated our test model at 18 city/27 highway or 21 mpg combined on regular fuel. Of course there are versions of the Challenger that snarl more, like the R/T with Hemi V-8, or the new for 2013 470-HP SRT8 with a 6.4-liter 392 Hemi engine. But our model proves you don't have to break the sound barrier to have fun.
Leaving history behind, the current Challenger boasts driving features only a futurist could have dreamed about way back then. There's push button/remote start, speed control, ready alert braking, rain brake support (which we had plenty of opportunity to check out during deluges), electro-hydraulic steering, hill-start assist, traction and stability control and the list goes on and on.
Factoring in creature comforts moves the bar even higher. An optional Customer Preferred Package brought with it rear park assist, performance steering and suspension and heated front seats. Additional amenities included Garmin Navigation System and 7-speaker Boston Acoustics with the all the obligatory electronic bells and whistles.
Our Rallye Redline base pricing of $25,795 rose to $33,255 with options and delivery charges added in. That should stack up respectably against its muscle-bound crosstown antagonists, and even more against some of the elitist sports car competitors that can jack up their sticker prices by 10 or 20 thou more. We don't think it's necessary to pay gallery prices for an original, well-appreciated masterpiece. In fact, to paint a vivid picture, we think the Challenger could eat a couple of those miniature roadsters for lunch and still have room to burp.