By Shari Prymak
2016 Dodge Challenger – No contemporary muscle car is more authentic to the classic muscle car era than the Dodge Challenger. Where the Mustang and Camaro make an effort at technological sophistication and leanness, the Challenger is content being a big, heavy, tire-shredding brute. It’s no modern engineering triumph, but it’s not trying to be. In terms of look and feel, it’s as close as you can get to a muscle car from 1970.
Even though the Challenger isn’t exactly the most sophisticated muscle car on the market, there’s something endearing about the fact that it hasn’t moved with the times, otherwise it might have become some sort of autopilot 4-cylinder turbocharged hybrid. In a world where cars of all types are downsizing, the Challenger continues to preach “go big or go home.”
My test car was the SRT 392, which comes with a 6.4L V8 that produces 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque. It sits between the cheaper 5.7L V8 R/T model with “only” 375 horsepower, and the top dog Hellcat, with a supercharged V8 and an ungodly 707 horsepower. 6.4 litres is a ridiculous amount of displacement for an engine in this day and age, but damn is it ever good. The acceleration and the accompanying noise that come from winding it out are outstanding. It feels like an animal gone feral and barely containable. God only knows what the Hellcat is like. Either way, keep a healthy reserve budget for tires.
You’ll need to throw quite a few dollars in that reserve for fuel as well, because the Challenger guzzles gas at an alarming rate. I averaged 19.0L/100km over a week of mostly city driving. It is anti-fuel efficient to the point where you might just want to leave it parked for a while to take a break from the gas station. That, however, would be no punishment, because then you’ll get to marvel at just how cool it looks.
My test car came in a retro hue called “Go Mango,” which is a vibrant shade of orange. Flashy paint options like Plum Crazy Purple and Sublime Green tend to be popular choices and suit the car well. The interior, however, is a somewhat less spectacular sea of black. The front buckets are also ridiculously chunky and take up a fair amount of rear seat space. Overall though, the cabin is quite pleasing, and Chrysler’s straightforward UConnect remains the benchmark for infotainment systems, offering both a responsive touchscreen with easy to use buttons and knobs.
Downsides? Well, aside from the insane thirst for premium fuel, there’s the sheer size and weight of the thing. Both are a total buzzkill when exploring the Challenger’s handling with any kind enthusiasm. The hugeness is also an issue in the city, where it can feel downright ungainly and cumbersome. Finally, there’s the ambitious pricing, which is higher than that of the equivalent Mustang or Camaro at most trim levels. The SRT 392 has a starting MSRP of $57,495. That’s a bit of a hard sell when a well-optioned Mustang GT can be had for a lot less.
Then again, the Challenger is a lot of car. I drove all sorts of serious machinery leading up to this test drive, including an F-Type, 911, and an M2, and yet, the Challenger still impressed me. It excels at being both a sinister tire-melting monster and a comfortable long-distance cruiser. It’s less about track finesse and more about living life a quarter-mile at a time. It excels at being a muscle car, which is all that anyone can ask of it. What it does best, it does the old way, the American way, and in so doing, manages to be the most faithful muscle car of all. If that’s what you’re after, nothing else will do.