SEATTLE, Sept. 3, 2015 — There are plenty of great memories from my childhood that the Challenger strikes a chord with. It represents an era of childhood, growing up with brothers who loved all things Mopar. There wasn’t anything fancy about the hot rods of yesteryear; they were straight-line monsters that were built from the ground-up to chew up asphalt and tires. While today’s Challenger borrows heavily from its distant brethren of the late ’60s and early ’70s, there are many options that catapult it into being a relevant, modern-day asphalt-chewer.
Even with the (as tested) Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine, it is a fun car to drive. The engine is rather responsive and is a far cry from earlier Challengers a few years ago that came with dismal V6 engines that had only 250 horsepower and were mated to an uninspired five-speed automatic.
This Pentastar V6 churns out 305 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, which gets the car moving from 0-60 in around 6 seconds using the standard 3.70 rear axle gear ratio. There’s an option to go to a 3.90 gear ratio if you so choose. If Dodge could figure out a way to trim the weight of this car from its curb weight of 3834-lbs, the car would feel a lot more nimble, for sure.
Dodge mates an eight-speed automatic transmission to the V6 and tosses in some paddle shifters to keep things fun. It’s a very responsive transmission that does a great job of both holding the gears and shifting quickly. It’s easy to forget it’s not a manual.
There’s enough power here to get the tires to chirp a bit, and if you want virtually no tire-spin, there’s active traction control as well – very handy to have in inclement weather regions like here in the greater Seattle area.
Four-wheel disc ABS is standard and does a great job of bringing this heavy 2-door car to a screeching halt – it feels precise and controlled.
Dodge did a great job with the interior, using very complementary contrasting colors with materials that don’t feel low-brow. The combination of stitched leather and a sporty-looking shifter and steering wheel all work together very well. The dash gauges are brilliantly retro yet modern – everything inside this car screams modern hot-rod.
Front seats provide excellent comfort for longer drives with above-standard bolster support and good lumbar, and they are heated as well. Rear leg room. Well, then there’s that. Let’s just say that the rear passenger leg room is very typical of a two-door sports car or performance car. It’s virtually non-existent for adults, and even teenagers may find it uncomfortable.
Our SXT “plus” edition had some electronic upgrades with it, including adaptive cruise control, the high-performance audio system by Alpine. Chrysler has done a lot of improvements to its Uconnect system, which combines voice-commands into cell phone use and navigation. It’s far more responsive now than it was in the past. Also great to see is the large 8.4-inch touchscreen, which is very responsive with little touch-delay at all. It provides clear, easy-to-read and use menus, including a menu for the climate controls.
Overall sound quality of the 18-speaker Alpine system is very good with well-defined bass response, solid mid-range frequencies and highs that don’t feel like they’re piercing your ears. It’s easily one of the better-sounding audio systems you’ll find going these days.
Ultimately, the reason anyone is going to spend nearly $40k for a Challenger is that it’s a Challenger. It’s a modern throwback to great days gone by, or perhaps it ignites a spark from childhood. The appearance pays homage to the old while blending in new elements very well. The only issue is the back-end, which looks “too tall.” Other than that, it’s a cool-looking “hot rod.”
With the V6 we tested, the Challenger does an admirable job of getting up to 60 miles per hour but isn’t going to give you too much whiplash, as you’ll want the V8 option for that kind of experience. It’s a rather tame and nimble car that looks great, will turn the heads of Mopar-lovers and still gets rather decent fuel economy in the process.
In the end, the Challenger SXT does a good job of delivering some good amount of fun trimmed out in retro styling with modern conveniences so many car buyers expect. While this V6 model won’t appeal to the die-hard speed fans, it’s enough for most people to have enough of that “sports car” feeling without guzzling gas and keeping within their budget.
If you’ve never driven a Challenger and have always been curious to see what they’re about, this SXT model is a great place to start and test-drive.
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