Dodge Challenger – The Green Missile

The Dodge Challenger R/T I was given
The Dodge Challenger R/T I was given

Recently I was given a Dodge Challenger R/T to drive for 5 days. I enjoyed it immensely, so I decided that should be my next review.

The Dodge Challenger R/T is the mid-range Challenger, above the SXT and SXT Plus, but below the T/A, SRT, and Hellcat. There are a lot of trim levels on the Challenger. It’s powered by a 5.7L Hemi V8 (yep, really) making 375bhp and 410lb-ft of torque (280kW and 556Nm), sent to the rear wheels. This is not the most powerful vehicle I’ve driven, but it’s close.  The Challenger in this guise has a 0-60 time of 5.1s, and a top speed of 155mph, electronically limited. The lower model cars have a 3.7L V6, while the top of the range features a 6.4L V8. Features between version of the car are much the same across the range. The car I had was fitted with the 8-speed ZF automatic. It had something I still find odd, but which seems quite normal on many cars – a footbrake. Instead of a handbrake or an electronic parking brake, the ‘handbrake’ is one pressed on/off with your foot. I still find these very peculiar, although it is common enough.

 

As with my last review, the first thing to talk about is the bad parts. Let’s address the elephant in the room. My car was bright, eye searing green. It looks loud in photos, but I can tell you that photos do not do it justice. It was incredibly bright. There are several other colours available that I feel would be much better choices, but there’s a certain charm to the car being green.

The next thing is that this car is enormous. It’s the size of an SUV in length and width, so it takes up a massive amount of space on the road, and it is incredibly heavy. Which leads to…

The Challenger is horrendously impractical. Yes, it has an enormous boot. But the rear seats (it’s a 2+2) are tiny and completely unusable, which is incredible given the size of the car. The boot, despite being massive, is very far off the ground, no low access at all. The car is also about 50% blind spots – somehow, despite everything, it’s just hard to see out of. My car didn’t have a reverse camera, just parking sensors, so I reversed it as little as possible because I didn’t want to damage it. Coupled with the size, this generally makes parking it an interesting experience.

The last point is fuel economy. This is a difficult one for me, because the fuel economy of the car is bad, but it’s in fact comparatively good for a V8, and so compared to other V8 powered cars making similar power, it’s actually pretty good. The car, over the days I had it, averaged 18mpg around town (21.5mpg UK, 13L/100km) and 24mpg (29mpg UK, 9.8L/100km) on the freeway. This is not bad fuel economy for a V8, in part due to the car having cylinder deactivation – when cruising, half the cylinders are disabled, making the car a 4cylinder, and therefore much more efficient. The on-the-spot efficiency of the car in this mode is around 30mpg (36 mpg UK, 7.8L/100km) which is remarkably good. But, since this is a general car blog, I have to say that comparatively, the fuel economy wasn’t that great.

The Challenger's profile and interior
The Challenger’s profile and interior

So, it’s huge, impractical, and mediocre levels of efficient. Let’s talk about the good stuff.

The Challenger may be massive, but the enormous engine makes up for this in so many ways. First, the thing you notice before you even move, is the noise. The V8 roar is one of my favourite sounds on Earth, and the Challenger’s sound is masterful. Absolutely sublime, and I would put my foot down whenever possible just to hear the V8 roar up the rev range. The other part about it is just how much power there is on tap. Because the car isn’t turbocharged, the power is available in a much more linear fashion, so when you put your foot down there’s no lag, just a building of relentless power pushing you along. It was very, very easy to spin the wheels when pulling off from a traffic light. Equally, because there’s so much power available, overtaking others even at freeway speeds is completely effortless – put your foot down at any speed, and there’s still more power in reserve to get you going. This is intoxicating. The entire time I was driving the Challenger I had a massive grin on my face. It’s not especially grippy in the twisty mountain passes – it’s not a small German hatchback – but I was surprised by how well it handled.

The Challenger is also eminently comfortable. I drove 500 miles in two days, and the Challenger is a perfect vehicle for freeway cruising. The (front) seats are large, nicely adjustable, and very comfortable. I feel that you’d probably not want to cram two people into the back seats for that duration, as they might wish to kill you once their limbs have unfurled.

In terms of equipment, I have to say that the Challenger surprised me with what was available. The R/T has dual zone climate control as standard, and comes with uConnect, an 8.4” touch screen featuring a very complete infotainment system. My car had nav included, and it’s one of the best navigation systems I’ve used. uConnect also supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is nice to see as a standard feature. The system supports SiriusXM satellite radio, as expected, and has full Bluetooth compatibility including control of music from the system. There is a USB port and an Aux in, too. One interesting quirk about this particular system was that on the rear of the steering wheel, where one might expect to find paddle shifters, was in fact the next/prev and volume rockers. This was incredibly confusing, and since they’re not visible I continuously forgot which side was which. I don’t understand why they were placed there, but I thought it was a silly location – why not on the front of the steering wheel in a logical fashion?

The Challenger, as a modern car, featured a great multi function screen in the middle of the dash that displayed all kind of useful information, although I, as usual, set it to display fuel economy and left it at that. The Challenger has a TPMS that actually tells you the tyre pressures of each wheel. On the electronic gizmos, the car features Cruise control, of course, and automatic headlights, but manual wipers.  I tend to prefer this as I don’t generally get on with automatic wipers. The Challenger I was driving had the optional sunroof, which was a great addition to the car.

To summarise:

+Incredible amounts of power

+Very well equipped

+Comfortable

+That V8 noise

-Massive

-Not practical

-Not very fuel efficient

Overall, though, I absolutely loved my time with the Challenger. The intoxicating V8 was completely addictive and it was much more fun to drive than I was expecting. I feel the Challenger could benefit from a reversing camera, however, to help counter the visibility problems.

 

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