SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: Where did eight years go? Yes, it really has been that long since the third-gen Dodge Challenger concept debuted at the Detroit auto show. The Challenger is still as retro-cool striking as ever, if you're into the whole throwback type of thing.
But it is showing those years, and you have to love the styling to overlook things like an excessively plain interior, despite the natty “Cloud Overprint” finish to the napa leather seats, the shiny pedals and the flat-bottomed sport steering wheel.
The Hemi still barks mean as always, and it's nostalgic with some of that cammy shimmying and shaking old-school muscle-car heads came up on. But as Jake mentions below, the fun evaporates substantially when doing anything but burnouts and straight-line, foot-down runs. There's more than enough roll, pitch and dive from the chassis, and the pistol-grip shifter might be another retro touch, but it's annoying to use after only a few miles, especially in conditions that call for constant gear changes -- which you don't necessarily find often thanks to the Hemi's torque; just leave it in third gear and you're good most of the time.
Hustling the Challenger is fun in the sense that it's big and heavy, and so I find it amusing to toss it around in ways its engineers probably never intended or expected the typical Challenger buyer to do … despite this car being equipped with the optional “track-tuned” suspension. Body motions might be controlled better than you'd find with the standard suspension, and you can certainly kick the tail out thanks to the power and torque. But it all falls more under the “stupid fun” category rather than the “precision driving/corner carving” category; at least it feels that way from behind the wheel.
This car does look the business, however, thanks to its paint and sharp, 20-inch wheels. The anniversary branding seems like an afterthought, though, and didn't add much if anything to the experience. Unlike Jake, I didn't have trouble modulating the throttle, and the car's controls (well, other than the shift action) feel good in my hands.
An updated Challenger is just around the corner, though, with sharpened styling and more power -- not to mention the 707-hp SRT Hellcat -- so let's see what Dodge can do to bring the nameplate forward a step or three.
The 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Plus 100th Anniversary Edition is equipped with a 5.7-liter V8.
2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Plus 100th Anniversary Edition
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: The paint on this 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Plus 100th Anniversary Edition alone makes the cost of admission worthwhile. This golden, burgundy, metallic red gleams in the sun, and everyone who saw the car commented on it.
I like the shape of this thing, probably more than the other pony cars, but it's so darn big. Shrink it a foot all the way around, take out about 400 pounds, and this thing would be a screamer. I like the low front spoiler, but I think I may have bumped it on a steep driveway. The classic Challenger script gives it an air old school.
So I've been sitting a little higher when I drive lately, to get a better view of the corners, but the captain's position in this car feels way up in the air, even when it's in its lowest setting. I don't see a Recaro seat option, which is basically the standard these days.
The pistol grip shifter is a cool novelty, but it makes for a longer throw. I think I'd rather just have the cue ball. The gears were easy to hit though, with very little hang-up during changes. The clutch pedal was just about right, if not a little easy, but the gas pedal had no resistance at all. That means you have to either hover your foot while you're driving (its full weight will floor the throttle), or brace it on the central tunnel, which made my foot sore by the end of the weekend.
The radio was loud with a full range of bass; my only qualm is that when you unplug your music player, the volume on the radio is way, way up. It's startling when you start the car. Visibility is terrible when backing out of a parking space, sort of a hope and pray situation.
The Hemi V8 makes a good amount of power. The noise and vibration make the whole experience a little more dramatic than it has to be, and I'm sure some people like that. At full-tilt shifts, I heard the rear tires chirp in third gear.
The overall feel is old-school, to put it nicely. The nose lifts on acceleration and dives during braking. The whole car leans in the corners, making it hard to safely find the limit. But in a straight line, the Challenger is a lot of fun.
So, if all-around performance is your only goal, this car isn't for you. But it is a lot of fun, in a relatively inexpensive package. If you can deal with the bobbing and weaving, we're all for it.
Base Price: $31,490
As-Tested Price: $38,800
Drivetrain: 5.7-liter V8; RWD, six-speed manual
Output: 372 hp @ 5,200 rpm, 400 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,082 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 15/23/18 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 17.6 mpg
Options: Customer preferred package 27C including 100th anniversary appearance group and badge, accent color grille, 20-inch aluminum wheels with gray pockets, 245/45R20 all-season performance tires, napa leather seats with cloud overprint, heated front seats, performance flat-bottom steering wheel, bright pedal kit, premium berber floor mats, 100th anniversary jeweled key fob, high intensity discharge headlamps, seven Boston Acoustics speakers with subwoofer, 368-watt amplifier, temperature and compass, tire-pressure monitoring display, power heated mirrors and manual fold-away, universal garage door opener, security alarm, ParkSense rear park assist system ($4,500); power sunroof ($1,195); Uconnect 730N CD/DVD/MP3/HDD/NAV, integrated voice command with Bluetooth, 40GB hard drive with 20GB free space, 6.5-inch touch screen display, GPS navigation, SiriusXM Traffic including one-year traffic service, SiriusXM Travel Link including one-year subscription ($1,095); Super Track Pak including 245/45ZR20 BSW performance tires, track-tuned suspension, performance steering with variable displacement pump ($595); spare tire delete kit including tire service kit ($75).
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