Last time we had a Challenger SRT8 to review, well, we didn’t review it so much as we burnt the rubber off the rear wheels. Sorry Dodge, we couldn’t help it. After a few Facebook requests, we put Dodge’s 470HP retro coupé back on our wish list and someone at Chrysler decided to trust me with their retro cruiser. If you couldn’t afford that Challenger in the poster on your wall when you were in college, click through the jump to find out what Dodge’s 470HP two-door is like to live with for a week before you throw down 45-large on this retro bruiser.
It’s hard for some people to accept change, regardless of the facts on the ground. The revised Mustang V6 with the 3.7L engine had been out for almost two years before I drove it; I avoided it only out of stupidity and prejudice, the reason that most “car guys” write off perfectly good vehicles that don’t fit their pre-conceived notion of what makes a good car or fits their image. What a terrible mistake I made.
My brother wasn’t the most adventurous member of the family. When we were kids he was always whining: “mommy I don’t wanna go in the hot air balloon”, “mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony”. These memories came flooding back when I stepped out of a cute, light little Fiat 500 and into the high-beltline V6 Mustang. As the Mustang pulled up, my first thought was: mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony. My problem with the Mustang V6 wasn’t the car itself, it was the driver: me. Maybe it’s because when I was a kid my Mustang was killed by the Mustang II. Maybe it was because the last 5.0 was really just a weak-sauce 4.9. Before I even got behind the wheel, I was asking myself: what is the point of the pony car? Is it just to look cool? Deliver easy burnouts? Why not buy something else? The new V6 ‘stang is headlined as the holy grail of RWD car shopping; 300+ HP, 30+ MPG or as I like to say: all the hoon, half the gas. Because of the hype I had to see for myself if the V6 pony car is the perfect RWD companion, or should if $22,000-32,000 would be better spent on something else. Let’s find out.
As I exit Turn Eleven at Summit Point Raceway’s twisty, concrete-lined “Shenandoah” course, I’m confronted with a rare opportunity to put my money where my mouth has been. In a review of the 2011 Mustang GT 5.0, I perhaps foolishly opined that “C5 Z06 pilots will need to find a twisty road lest they be run nose-to-tail down long freeway sprints.” Now I’ve found myself fifty feet behind an enthusiastically-driven C5 Z06, and it’s squatting with full throttle up Shenandoah’s Bridge Straight. This will be a straight drag race, and for extra irony it’s going to occur on a road course. Four tires chirp. Sixteen cylinders sing. Forty to one hundred and ten miles per hour. Up a hill. Was I wrong? Can the mighty five-point-oh hunt for Corvettes?
One of the strangest phenomena of the revived retro muscle car wars is the renewed emphasis on V6 performance. Once derided as “Secretary Specials,” the V6 versions of the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro now make upwards of 300 horsepower, while earning EPA highway ratings that surpass the 30 MPG mark. But if these latter-day pony cars herald a new era of performance and practicality, the V6-powered Dodge Challenger is as retro as its 1970-again styling.
Back in the muscle car heyday, enthusiasts could likely have imagined that the 2011 Mustang and Camaro would make at least 300 horsepower. They might even have imagined that the pony cars would be equipped with optional flight modes, nuclear reactors, and autopilots. What they likely never imagined is that Ford and GM would revive the time-honored tradition of pony car one-upmanship for V6 models. (Read More…)