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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
Enormous thrust is available from any speed at any time on the SRT8
More Interstate/autobahn cruiser than mountain-road slalom champ
Optional Tremec T6060 six-speed manual transmission ported from the Dodge Viper
The 2010 Dodge Challenger is also available as a much more affordable Challenger SE, but serious muscle-car fans and enthusiasts will want to go with one of the HEMI V-8-powered models, the R/T or SRT8.
The uninspiring 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 on the Challenger Dodge SE is, in the words of Motor Trend reviewers, "not slow; it's just not fast, either." Nobody will describe either of the V-8s that way, though, and ConsumerGuide raves that the HEMI-powered "R/T is quite potent, with ample passing reserves." The highest praise is saved for the very capable Dodge Challenger SRT8, which Cars.com describes as "a rocket booster strapped to your fanny" and that Jalopnik says can achieve "a 0-to-60 time of five seconds." Cars.com reports that the 6.1-liter V-8 in the SRT8 provides a "blustery 425 horsepower."
Last year Dodge addressed the lack of a manual transmission on the Challenger with an excellent Tremec six-speed manual gearbox. In addition to the manual option, Cars.com says that the V-8 Dodge Challengers can be fitted with "a crisp-shifting five-speed automatic." Both the five- and six-speed transmissions fare well with reviewers, with ConsumerGuide finding that "the manual transmission has positive, mechanical shift action and a smooth clutch," while the "responsive automatic transmission shifts without harshness."
The V-6 isn't much more fuel-efficient than the V-8 R/T. The official EPA estimates for the Dodge Challenger lineup are 17 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway for the SE, while the Dodge Challenger R/T offers 16/25 mpg and the SRT8 a measly 13/19 mpg. Road tests appear to verify the SRT8's projected fuel economy, and ConsumerGuide reports that "an automatic-transmission SRT8 averaged 15.8 mpg."
The 2010 Dodge Challenger is somewhat larger than the Ford Mustang and other sporty coupes, and that can make its handling feel a bit more cumbersome, especially in tight curves. Steering response also could be better. Automobile Magazine says that "for a sporting machine...the steering feels light and slow," and Motor Trend describes the Dodge Challenger as "more Interstate/autobahn cruiser than mountain-road slalom champ."
Braking performance is a pleasant surprise, especially for such a heavy car, and ConsumerGuide says that the "brakes provide sure-footed stopping control."
The 2010 Dodge Challenger R/T offers satisfying acceleration, though it remains more of a high-speed cruiser than a canyon-carver.