2010 Dodge Challenger
Base price: $23,460 – $46,655
As tested: $38,170 (RT) $31,175 (SE)
MPG: 16 city/25 highway (RT) 17 city/25 highway (SE)
- Still cool retro styling
- High performance V8 models
- Second chances seldom come along
- Fun but impractical
- Pallid interior
- Just asking for a speeding ticket
By Jim Prueter
Dodge’s modern take on the ‘70s cool muscle car
(This review was written in September 2008 about the 2009 Dodge Challenger. It has been updated to include the 2010 models including the V-6 engine not previously tested)
How many times have we wished for a second chance so we could do things differently than we did the first time around? Had I only known back in 1970 what a Hemi-powered Dodge Challenger would be worth today, I would have bought a garage full of them. Or maybe you’re one of the folks who actually bought one back in the day, but sold it and have been kicking yourself in the behind for the last 30-plus years.
Well, thanks to Dodge, your second chance ticket has arrived with the much-heralded return of the reborn Challenger. And the execution of the muscle car’s design does not disappoint.
Similar to Ford’s treatment of the Mustang revival and Toyota with the FJ Cruiser, Challenger has been revived with a style meant to reflect a look evolved from the original 1970 pony car. It’s completely unlike what GM did with its failed revival of the GTO a couple of years ago, taking an Australian-built Holden and slapping on a Pontiac GTO badge. Heck, they didn’t even bother putting the twin hood scoops on the thing until roars of protest got the better of them.
The first of the Challengers showed up in dealer showrooms in May of 2008 — limited to just 6,400 units. All were 2008 models, and only offered in the high performance SRT8 trim level in a choice of three colors: metallic black, silver and hemi orange. Each came with a numbered plaque on the dash. Base price was $40,158 and they were initially reported to be sold out when we first wrote about the Challenger.
Checking with a few dealers, we found the SRT8 to be available, albeit for a bit over the list price. Dealers claim they want to keep the vehicle around to create buzz in the showroom. Back then, we checked availability on eBay and found 36 for sale with the price averaging around original window sticker. Fast forward to April 2010 and 20 of the original 2008 models were selling on eBay, three of which had less than 56 original miles, and ranged in price from $41,985 to $46,900. The other 18 were priced from as low as $36,000 with more miles registering.
For the 2009 and 2010 model years, more versions are available, including two additional trim levels: SE and R/T. There’s also a 250-horsepower V-6 and a 376-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 when equipped with the six-speed manual shifter; 370 horsepower if you opt for the five-speed automatic transmission. The 2008 SRT8 Challenger was only available with a 6.1-liter V-8 and automatic transmission. Regardless of model, all Challengers share the same basic styling, sheet metal and interior design. The SE comes with 17-inch alloy wheels while the R/T and SRT8 ride on 20-inchers. There are no significant changes for 2010.
Challenger is based on a shortened LX platform that is also used for the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans. Getting your first up-close look at the Challenger, you’ll be surprised at how large it is, especially if you were thinking it was going to be about the same size as the Mustang. Wrong. It weighs in at around 4,140 pounds and is just 2.5 inches shorter than the Charger, with a four-inch smaller wheelbase.
The exterior design is a knockout and retro right down to the black carbon-fiber-looking racing stripe appliqué on the hood, with telltale “6.1 Hemi” chrome letters and, of course, functional twin hood scoops on the SRT8. The name Challenger only appears deep set on the non-Dodge crosshair grille and just above the glove box.
There’s a well executed small front spoiler (with fog lamps) painted in low-luster black, the same color used around the single element headlamps, rocker panels, rear spoiler, taillamp surround and rear valance. Huge 20-inch wheels with Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season tires and dual chrome exhaust pipes complete the exterior look. Our tester came equipped with the optional Goodyear F1 255/45R summer performance tires.
We recently drove a 2010 Challenger R/T equipped with the 376-hp Hemi engine and a six-speed manual shifter. Performance-wise, we noticed very little, if any, power difference between the R/T and SRT8. We didn’t like the manual shifter at all because it has a skip-shift feature identical to the one found in the Corvette where the transmission forces the shift lever to go from first to fourth gear. That alone would have me opting for the automatic.
The R/T models utilize a decal within the grille, and dual exhaust tips. Hood and fender stripes are a $200 option on the R/T, standard on SRT8 editions.
We also tested a 2010 V6-powered Challenger SE. We didn’t much care for the 3.5-liter 250-horsepower V-6 and much preferred the performance of the 2010 Camaro 3.6-liter 304-horsepower V-6 that delivered the power and performance of a V-8 — and 29 miles per gallon, 25 on the Challenger’s V-6. Our V-6 Challenger was equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Unlike the original Challenger, the new edition features a B-pillar rather than a true two-door hardtop. Small rear-seat windows are stationary.
Inside, other than a black headliner, Dodge made no attempt to replicate the nostalgic feel of the ’70s like Ford did with the Mustang. The dash and steering wheel are almost exact duplicates of the Charger’s.
The front sport bucket seats are the same heavily bolstered leather and suede seats from other Dodge and Chrysler SRT8 editions. There’s an orange horizontal insert on the seatback and the embroidered SRT8 logo. We found the buckets in R/T as comfortable as those in the SRT8.
The rear seat is extremely tight and with this extra-tall driver, the front seatback was tight against the rear seat bottom cushion.
Dodge says getting the SRT8 accelerates from zero-to-60 miles per hour in just 4.9 seconds, with quarter-mile times somewhere in the 13s. Top speed is said to be 170 miles per hour. Dodge quotes zero-to-60 times of 7.8 seconds for the V6 Challenger SE tested here.
We were only able to get our hands on a pre-production SRT8 Challenger for three days, but it exceeded every expectation we had behind the wheel. This car moves and moves quickly. Acceleration is like a rocket sled with slam-you-back-in-your-seat kind of power. We loved the unmistakable roar from the huge Detroit muscle V-8. Combined handling and ride quality seemed just right — not too firm, not too much body roll on curves, quiet at highway speeds and superb braking from the massive Brembo brake package with a new ABS system that keeps the pads kissing the rotors at all times.
Other things we liked about the Challenger were the chrome fuel-filler door, massive trunk, the reconfigurable display with performance pages featured on the speedometer face. It can be set to give readings of zero to 60 mph and quarter mile times, braking performance and road holding indicated as lateral g force. Both the R/T and SRT8 get firmer suspension than the SE model, which rides and handles more like a sedan than a muscle car.
Safety gear includes front and side curtain airbags, traction and stability control. Challenger received a perfect 5-star rating in U.S. government crash tests. Now, two full years post introduction, occasional frisson is about all the Challenger generates; the initial frenzy is all but gone. People love the looks of this car. Yet, for all the fanfare, Challenger sales have not met expectations and are tracking at less than 30,000 units per year compared to 60,000 for Mustang and close to 80,000 for Camaro. That aside, Challenger is still a very good car and fun to drive even if it no longer has strangers running up and snapping a photo with their cell phones.