2012 Dodge Challenger

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Flash Drive: 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T

This 2009 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By Staff of MSN Autos

I've always loved traditional muscle cars from afar. But now that I've tried a modern one up close, I love them even more. The Dodge Challenger R/T looks, sounds and feels exactly the way a muscle car should. The engine has a deep, rumbling sound, can spin up to the low rev-limiter with ease and has plenty of torque. All that torque came in handy when the gearbox repeatedly made it impossible to select second gear, forcing an unwanted first-to-third up-shift instead. The big engine also forces a high dashboard and makes the Challenger a large and intimidating environment for the driver. The dashboard is very square and looks primitive, and the cheaper plastics on the center console had visible scratches after just a short time in the Dodge fleet of press vehicles. But in spite of the cheap materials used in the interior, the Challenger has massive charisma, and I relished every moment behind the wheel. -Paul Hagger

The 2009 Dodge Challenger R/T is really fun to drive and appreciated by those who remember the original, as well as those who weren't born yet when the Challenger nameplate was new. Powered by a 376-horsepower 5.7-liter Hemi engine combined with a 6-speed manual transmission, the R/T is fast but has an Achilles' heel: It gets only 13 to 14 mpg. The shifter is reminiscent of the "pistol grip" from the original, but that is where the similarity ends, with shifts that are crisp and clean like a modern sports car. The brake and throttle pedals could be positioned better for heel-toe downshifts. Even though it's a coupe, the Challenger is big and feels heavy. But the chassis is balanced and well-controlled, the steering is direct and the handling is predictable. It seems odd to have a foot-operated parking brake with a manual transmission, and there is no seatback release for the driver's seat to allow rear-seat access. -Mike Meredith

It may not be politically correct, but there's something about the sound of squealing rubber and the rumble of a V8 that just gets my heart pumping, and the new Challenger excels at making these lovely sounds. Dodge has done an excellent job of capturing the essence of what made muscle cars so popular — a big V8, rear-wheel drive, aggressive styling - and has even gone so far as to include the authentic cheap-looking plastic interior and somewhat balky shifter. Challenger is also quite large, just like its forefathers from the 1970s. That means there's a usable back seat and decent room in the trunk. It's incredibly satisfying to drive — there's plenty of power, and it's easy to control, even with the traction control turned off. No, the R/T doesn't have the sound or power of the flagship SRT8, but for 10 grand less, it's not a bad compromise. -Perry Stern

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BB03 - 4/21/2014 5:49:16 AM