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