The 2013 Dodge Challenger lives up to the muscle-car standards it has been setting since the 1970s, starting with the retro-styled exterior and, depending on the model, a beast of an engine under the hood.
Among its cool design features are a sculpted hood with scoops, chrome-tipped dual exhausts, a front chin-splitter air dam, rear spoiler, and the iconic fuel-filler door in chrome.
For this model year, the Challenger comes in three basic versions: the base SXT and SXT Plus with a 3.6-litre, 305-horsepower V-6 (starting at $24,495); the R/T and R/T classic with a 5.7-litre, 372-horsepower Hemi ($35,245); and the awesome SRT ($47,245), my test vehicle for the week with the big 392-cubic-inch (6.4-litre) HEMI.
The large horizontal front air dam protrudes from the fascia and, along with the rear spoiler, assures the correct amount of down-force to maintain vehicle stability at maximum speed -- which is 290 km/h (180 mph).
While I didn't get to check out the aerodynamics at maximum speed, I definitely noticed the "oomph" when I pressed the accelerator at highway speeds. Without cruise control, it would be easy to let the 470-horsepower V-8 take over.
The tester came with the standard five-speed manual gearbox, but a five-speed manual with paddle shifters is available for an extra $2,000.
My SRT was black with striking dark-slate/radar-red top-stitched Nappa leather interior and silver racing stripes. Chrysler's special Street and Racing Technology team designs these SRT vehicles, which are available in a variety of Chrysler and Dodge models, and typically include significant performance upgrades over regular models. Twenty-inch, five-spoke forged-alloy wheels with black pockets and performance tires added more aggressiveness.
In addition to being powerful and looking it, this Challenger is well-appointed and comfortable. The power front bucket seats are heated; the air conditioning has automatic temperature control -- set it and forget it; the leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated; cupholders and interior door handles are illuminated; the power outside mirrors are heated; and the interior rear-view mirror, with microphone, is self-dimming.
Safety features include advanced multistage front airbags, supplemental side-curtain front and rear airbags, electronic stability control, hill-start assist (especially nice with the manual transmission), Brembo performance brakes with rain brake support and ready alert braking, an anti-spin rear axle and park assist.
Front passengers had plenty of legroom (107 cm or 42 inches) and headroom (100 cm or 39.3 inches), while rear outboard passengers were a little cramped with 92 cm (36.2 inches) of legroom and 96 cm (37.4 inches) of headroom.
The rear middle seat was barely adequate for a small person/child, but all three seating positions had three-point seatbelts and anchors and tether hooks for child seats. With only two doors, installing a child seat and placing the child in the seat would be a challenge.
Satellite radio is standard, with a complimentary one-year subscription. The car also has Bluetooth streaming audio, an audio input jack and a USB port.
The basic Uconnect package (a $450 option) includes CD/DVD/MP3 audio with navigation and a 40-gigabyte hard drive, Sirius satellite radio and Garmin navigation system. The navigation system was relatively easy to program and follow and had voice recognition in addition to touch-screen operation.
However, that package requires that you buy the Premium Sound Group for another $1,500, which includes an 18-speaker Harman Kardon audio system and 900-watt amplifier. The sound will blow you away, especially the bass. The subwoofers were under the cargo floor in the trunk and had their own power source.
In place of a spare -- since there was not enough room for it in the trunk -- my Challenger came with a tire inflation/leak stop kit.
The trunk does have 16.2 cubic feet of cargo space and a wide opening. The rear seat folded 60/40 for more space to haul stuff. A stroller, a couple of golf bags, lots of beach stuff or luggage would fit the un-expanded trunk. With the seat folded, the trunk/cargo area could hold lots of larger stuff such as sports equipment or DIY supplies.
As you might expect, the Challenger SRT isn't a fuel-efficient vehicle -- 15.0 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 8.7 L/100 km on the highway with the automatic transmission, and a bit worse with the manual. For this review, I averaged 13.7 L/100 km with mostly stop-and-go, rush-hour highway driving.
-- Fort Worth Star-Telegram