By on June 14, 2012

“Dude, everytime I get back in this car, it reminds me of how great new cars are. In the Grand National, if I turn the A/C on, the engine starts bogging.”

Poor Joey.

Joey bought this Challenger for himself before he discovered the Grand National. Now the Challenger is being sold. One muscle car is enough. After taking the GN out, Joey suggested I try the Challenger for comparison. It’s fully loaded, with a few hundred miles on it. It’s also automatic. Joey describes it as “a Cadillac with 470 horsepower”.

A quick drive through the industrial back roads near Joey’s place seems to re-affirm his assessment of the car. It’s big. It’s quick. It makes all the right noises. While Mustangs like to hop, skip and jump all over the broken pavement when you hit the throttle, the Challenger stays planted and poised. The steering is nice and heavy but doesn’t provide a lot of feedback. “It’s fast,” says Joey “but it’s really all about the cruise.”

The Mustang may be the track-rat’s pony car of choice. The Challenger is sculpture without being sensual or feminine. There are no organic lines. Some may find it to be bloated simulacrum of what Dodge sold 40 years ago. For myself, Joey and the rest of us who grew up in a world of transverse, front-drive, three-box utilitarian jelly-bean transportation, staring at the Challenger is one of the few automobiles that really evokes something carnal and visceral deep inside. It’s the rare car that inspires admiration without jealousy and manages to be desirable without being inaccessible. It’s immediately identifiable as American, just like a navy Brooks Bros sack suit. And while your Brooks suit is probably made in China, the Challenger is made just outside Toronto with old German technology.

Even without driving it for too long, it’s easy to tell that this is a special car. There aren’t too many vehicles on sale today that might be rescued and lovingly restored in a quarter-century by a young man with more passion than automotive knowledge. But this is one of those cars. I wonder if anyone felt that way about the Grand National.

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40 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT-8...”


  • avatar

    I know a couple of young guys who do indeed feel that way about GNs. That was a special car too, back in the day.

  • avatar
    Cleatus

    How much do these things weigh? Like 4000lb?

  • avatar
    phlipski

    Count me as one of those who finds the challenger a bloated version of what once was. That said I think the original was/is a bloated hideous muscle car. So obviously I’m not the target market. I do however think the new charger is beautiful even if it is four doors – as compared to the original.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      The new Charger is OK looking, better than the 2006 to 2011 car, but is nothing compared to the Challenger, looks wise. Nobody pays any attention to a Charger, the Challenger is another story. The 68-70 Charger was probably the best looking car Chrysler ever made, with the Cuda and then the Challenger close behind. The ’70 Cuda is the 1st generation Camaro design, perfected. The new one isn’t perfect, but at least avoids the squashed egg look of most new cars, and looks like it was actually designed by someone on purpose, not just generically.

      I owned a Charger, and now have a Challenger. People are constantly asking me about it. The worst comment anyone has ever made about it is “It’s not very practical”, as he got into an older Honda Accord. My answer was, “At least it’s not just another boring appliance car!” I win!

  • avatar
    mikedt

    Of the three, mustang, camaro, challenger, I think the challenger is the best looking. But I have little love for big bloated “sports” cars. Going from stop light to stop light as fast as possible has never been that big of an attraction to me so the entire muscle car era is lost on me even though I grew up during it. While other men my age are lusting after detroit v8s, I’d rather have an early 70’s Toyota Celica or BMW 3 series.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Of the 3, the Challenger does the whole “retro”/retro-influenced look better than the other 2.

      Sure, the Challenger is a bit of a “pig”, but the SRT-8 can go fast in a straight line and looks the part and that’s all I really ask of a pony car.

      For attacking winding roads or the track, I look elsewhere.

  • avatar
    jenkins190

    No way. It’s good looking, fast, loud AND I can easily load four kids for the car pool.

  • avatar
    mjal

    Other than the chassis loosely based on the old E Class suspension, how can you write that the Challenger is old German technology? The soul of this car is its engine, a push-rod V8.

  • avatar
    kkop

    I love our Challenger. It’s the definition of what a car should look like. Judging by the comments I get just about every day (in the real world, not the intertubes), many agree.

    The Challenger is a cruiser, not meant for the twisties at Deal’s Gap. That’s what motorcycles are for.

    3-series BMW? The soccer Mom’s minivan-upgrade path when the kids have reached driving age.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’m old enough to have purchased a GNX when new, and if economic conditions hadn’t been so lousy I could pop for a Chally. Back in the day, I STILL would have chosen an Olds 442 over the GNX. The GNX had a bad-*ss aura about it, but I never warmed up to it. The best thing in the GNX was the turbo’d motor, and it served it’s best purpose in the original Trans Am GTA.

    Between the SRT8 and and GNX? The Chally, everytime, especially as a DD. The only thing that the GNX will become is older and harder to repair, using it as a DD will only accelerate that phenomenon. The SRT8 is new and potentially has a long life ahead of it. Today’s cars do have better materials, methods and construction than the sleds of the 80’s.

    SRT8 FTW.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      The Trans Am GTA was V8 model originally. The turbo model looked like a GTA but they were called Turbo Trans Ams, and only produced for 1989. The GN was out of production by then.

  • avatar
    skor

    Yup, the Challenger is too big, so is the current Mustang. At least the Mustang and Challenger don’t make me wince when I see them, unlike the current Camaro. The Camaro looks positively cartoonish. From what I’m seeing around here, retired cops seem to be the majority demographic Camaro buyer.

    • 0 avatar
      replica

      The current Camaro has so many lines in the body that go no where and don’t relate to other styling elements on the car. I just don’t get it. Looking at a Camaro is like looking at those stupid blurry color pictures sold in malls in the mid 90’s that, if you stare at them long enough, you see a 3D image, but no one ever does. It just pisses off my eyes.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Momma

        Having seen a Challenger SRT8 parked next to a Camaro SS I was struck by the nuanced and sublime lines and overall harmony of the Challenger. The Camaro in comparison is like visual noise and dissonance. I’ll even call it ugly. The previous generation Camaro was a far better “looker” despite being far more primitive. I never thought I’d give a crap about current MoPar products yet there I stood in that parking lot actually considering buying a Challenger…

      • 0 avatar
        replica

        It’s unfortunate the interior styling of the Challenger doesn’t continue the theme. Feels like a Charger, Magnum or any other car on that line. It just doesn’t feel “Muscle car” or particularly eventful in there.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        The interior of the Challenger is disappointing to say the least. The dash was considered better that the dashes of the other “Daimlerized” vehicles of the era, and it was. But for some reason, the Challenger did not get an upgrade to the interior when all the other Mopars did….

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        The Camaro is like 3 designers all got together and each one did a section of the car. The front quarters, hood, and grill are OK, the doors are tolerable, but the rear quarters and greenhouse are a disaster. I like the Mustang, but I liked the Challenger a lot more, that’s why I bought one. IMO, it’s the best looking new car in existence, that I could possibly afford.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Some may say the Camaro looks like it was designed by committee, I’d say it’s more like it was designed by Cargo-Cult. It’s like they wheeled-in a 1969 Camaro into the studio with a bunch of fresh-from-art-school designers and said, “Alright, do this but cooler.. like, 20% cooler.”

        And the result is that of a bunch of kids trying to improve upon a design philosophy they don’t fundamentally understand or intuitively appreciate.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    I would take the challenger, but there is something special about the Buick GNX–without a doubt. It’s the ultimate sleeper without much cache unless you are running with the right crowd, especially if you happen to have the turbo plumbed to run in the high 10s.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The GNX was also on my wish list when I was shopping for my 1st new car. It was the quickest production GM of all time. Damn I wanted one bad! A little outside my price range though. Roughly two new IROC-Zs or three G-body Regals. WTF, really?

    I got a new 5.0 Mustang notchback that was faster off the line, but if they had enough room to catch me, it was Game-Over.

    The GNX’s brakes and handling were atrocious though. I read a C&D review that ran it on a twisty mountain road. The brakes faded to nothing and one wheel’s center cap melted off into puddle of goo. True muscle car for sure.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I would take both. The Challenger for a modern day fast comfortable cruiser and the Buick for a fast attention grabbing nostalgia trip that gets more valuable over time. There will be parts readily available for G-bodies well into this century so that is hardly a worry. There are tons of online forums and plenty of NOS and aftermarket part companies available too. They look like the mom and dad of Darth Vader.

  • avatar
    imag

    Dead on. You nailed it here:

    “It’s the rare car that inspires admiration without jealousy and manages to be desirable without being inaccessible.”

    I am not a muscle car person at all, but there is something about the Challenger that just gets it right to me. Part of it is that it’s not even trying to be a sports car. It is a big American cruiser. It is the kind of car I would want to drive at 70.

    And my bet is that SRT8s will absolutely be getting the high-dollar Barrett Jackson treatment in 30 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      @imag, you ain’t kidding, history will repeat itself in 30 years and the new challengers will be the kings of Barrett Jackson, just like the 1st gens are now. A grand national will be worth a fraction as much.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I agree that the current Challengers, especially the SRT, are likely to command some value 30 years from now. I don’t know if it will be as crazy as the 70s Mopars are today, only because new cars with all the electronics havent had a chance to prove how they will age in the long run. There is a lot more to go wrong than on the 70s cars.

        But I completely disagree about the GN or GNX values 30 yrs from now. There is nothing to indicate the values will drop, let alone be worth “a fraction as much” of a 2012 SRT8 in 2042. They will be even more rare, and at worst current value should increase with inflation.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I remember when the GN and GNX were new, and yes, they were considered special back then as well. That’s why you can still buy many that were stored since new, in anticipation of them someday being worth big money.

    I wouldn’t want one as a daily driver though, your buddy should keep both. Restore or mod the GN as a toy, and DD the SRT8.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      It doesn’t take a genius, or even a car person for that matter to know all of the reaons why a challenger will be worth more than a GN 30 years from now. Not even 30 years.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    The Srt8 Challenger exudes menace and road presence with class. There are so few cars on the market that can accomplish that. If Dodge made a convertible version of this now I would sell my left testicle on the black market. The Charger Srt8 = meh.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The most bothersome thing about the new Challenger to me is that the decision to put it into production essentially killed the car that Chrysler should have built: a retro version of the ’68-70 Charger, including hidden headlights and tunnel-back rear window. It was/would have been a much better looking car and surely would have sold just as well.

    In fact, I was still hoping for a 2-door Charger as the replacement for the Challenger rather than it being some sort of erzatz new retro E-body Barracuda (which is what the rumor mill seems to indicate is coming).

    • 0 avatar
      Les

      I’m hoping that the design of the new Barracuda rumored to be in the pipeline corrects the few faults I find with the new Challenger, sadly the concept images I’ve seen all seem to just make everything bad about the Challenger Worse.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I really like the look of the Challenger, and every review praises its engine, ride, and appearance.

    The Grand National was known to be special in its day, and I’m sure there are some new Challengers that will be reborn in 25 years.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    My problem with these cars, specifically the Camaro and Challenger are the cave-lke interiors. To me, not prcatical at all. When a car is larger than, say, a Cruze or Civic and is a coupe, it needs to have a “useful” rear passenger area, meaning, of course, openable side glass so passengers can get some fresh air and not be dependent on the driver or front passenger. That is the sole reason I’l never buy one. I’ll shut up on that topic, now…

    You do know who I am, don’t you?

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      There is a lot more room in a Challenger than a Camaro. My current passengers are 2 old dogs who couldn’t care less about openable glass, and if I do have a rear passenger, they can live without openable windows too.

      And no, I have no idea who you are, should I?

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Zackman has a thing for pillarless hardtop coupes, so pretty much every two door car that gets reviewed that DOESNT have rolldown rear windows gets a post by Zackman recognizing that fact, and pointing out that he will never buy one. I suspect its all an elaborate ruse he puts on to justify keeping his Impala, which he LOVES. Hows that for an intro?? :)

        Of course, the entire point of the muscle car is to not be practical, so of course the cavelike back seat isnt practical. It is all about the look on the outside. As for the need to roll down the back window without rolling down the front window?? I dont do that on my 4-dr cars, why would I on my muscle car that really wont ever have people in back anyways??

  • avatar
    AJ

    He’s selling a Challenger he just bought? Oh boy…


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