Friday, December 9, 2011

Challenger lineup brings the horses, and fun

This review originally appeared in the November 2011 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California -- There are some invitations that you just don’t turn down – like a Halloween Party at the Playboy Mansion, a skybox weekend at the Super Bowl and a Bay Area buddy who wants you to take some short romps in the 2012 Dodge Challenger lineup.

He didn’t have to ask twice.

Let me preface this by saying that if I had all the money in the world, my “drive around fun car” would not be a Bentley or a Ferrari or a Bugatti Veyron. I’d opt for a Dodge Challenger. Competition Orange if you please.

While my seat time was brief, I can tell you that the Challenger name has not been cheapened by the 2012 model year offerings.

Horsepower ratings on the SXT and R/T versions remain admirably high, and performance reflects that. The Challenger equipped with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 (305 horses) feels a little heavy off the line and adds a little engine grunt noise at the top of a steep climb. But the overall throaty roar of the engine at full song is gratifying.

Dodge is touting an 18-speaker, 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system, and that is certainly an impressive piece of sound equipment to ponder. But the Challenger’s interior remains comparatively plain and uncomplicated.

I don’t have a big problem with that as I know the automaker wants to make the Challenger available for the high $20,000s to middle $30,000s set. I can sacrifice some interior luxury for high performance.

And then there’s the new Challenger SRT8 392, which delivers omigod-are-you-kidding-me performance through a 392-cubic-inch Hemi V-8. The max horsepower and torque numbers on that engine both come in at 470. And yes, your on-road fantasies will come true with this power plant.

Classic American muscle? Oh, yes sir! This coupe makes big smoke going zero to 60 mph in less than five seconds. And yet, the big-brute engine delivers an advertised 23 miles per gallon on the highway.

Please note that the interior of the 392 is a mind-blowing mixture of retro flash and modern-day dash. And the 392 also starts around $44,000.

Does the latest Challenger make the muscle car grade?

Let’s put it this way: I begged my buddy for a return trip the next day.

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