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2013 Dodge Challenger Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

The retro-themed 2013 Dodge Challenger is actually a comfortable touring coupe, but it can play to all the tire-scorching musclecar expectations when a Hemi's under the hood.

A seductive seductive callback to the Seventies, the Dodge Challenger is modern interpretation of the Mopar classic, and it competes with musclecars like the Camaro and Mustang. But once you've been able to turn away from its pitch-perfect flat hood and decklid, and tuned out its roaring HEMI V-8, it's also a comfortable coupe--a touring car with a well-damped ride and plenty of up-to-date infotainment gear.

The 2013 Dodge Challenger definitely tries harder to be a loyal interpretation of the original muscle-car designs that inspired it--and appeal to aging Baby Boomers--and its retro-modern look somehow manages to span classy and cartoonish, without seriously alienating any age groups. The flat sheetmetal, classic long nose, and vivid color palette all channel the muscle cars of the Sixties and Seventies. SRT8 Challenger models cherry-pick some of the best, most aggressive details from muscle-car history and pack them all in, with deeper air dams, functional brake ducts, and options for a Ram air hood and various striping packages. Inside, the design isn't what you might expect; it's spare and modern (some with a LCD touch screen), and nearly an about-face to the exterior--to the degree that the available pistol-grip shifter can feel a little out of place.

At the most affordable end of the lineup, the Challenger SE has a 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 with 305 horsepower, available with a five-speed automatic. Challenger Rallye Redline models get a Sport Mode and steering-wheel paddle-shifters. These models are competitive with the base Mustang and Comaro, but true muscle-car enthusiasts should leap for the R/T models, which pack a 375-horsepower Hemi V-8, along with a throaty, gorgeous rumble. But for the full monty of muscle-car goodness you'll need to get the SRT8, with a "392" engine (6.4-liter) that makes 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, with either a manual or an automatic transmission.

The Challenger looks the biggest and stoutest of the muscle cars, and while it's really not much heavier it doesn't drive with the crispness of the Camaro or the leanness of the Mustang. The combination of a longer wheelbase and somewhat more forgiving suspension tune, especially in V-6 form, give the Challenger more of a 'presence' on the road--and a little less precise. Part of that has to do with the Challenger's steering, which is simply too light. Ride quality is very well damped, and SRT8 models now offer an adaptive suspension with normal and sport shock modes.

That slightly larger size pays dividends inside, where the Challenger is the only one of the muscle coupes to offer seating for five. Technically, access to the back seat involves some contortion, and you'll only have two adults try sitting back there, but it's doable. In front, nice supportive seats and plenty of headroom (much more than the Camaro, thankfully). And at 16 cubic feet, the trunk is larger than those of some sedan models.

While the Challenger hasn't been rated by either of the U.S. agencies, it includes a good set of safety equipment, like a driver knee airbags and options for a rearview camera, Bluetooth and blind-spot monitors.

The base Challenger SXT includes automatic climate control; power windows, locks and mirrors; a CD player; and cruise control, as well as a trip computer, Keyless Enter-N-Go, and a power driver's seat. SXT Plus models add soft Nappa leather seats, heated front seats, ParkSense park assist, fog lamps. On top of that, a Rallye Redline edition adds an exaggerated 'bad-boy' look (red Nappa leather inside and black-chrome wheels outside) plus a lower axle ratio, performance suspension and steering tune, and larger disc brakes. Features farther up the model line include a Boston Acoustics premium sound system and HID headlamps, and options include a navigation system (with a clean, simple interface) and in-car wireless Internet, through a plug-in cell-network data dongle. 

All told, an SRT8 can total more than $50k, which arguably makes it something other than a muscle car. If this is a car that pushes all the right nostalgia buttons, that might be just fine.

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