By Bruce Caldwell
Chrysler designers nailed the Dodge Challenger styling forty years ago and they were smart enough not to mess it up later. Some companies try too hard to throw a new spin on a classic design, but Dodge was very careful to Dodge did such a great job that the 2010 Challenger can be deceiving. From a distance it looks very much like a 1970 Challenger, but the closer you get the more you realize that this is a larger car. Some retro cars are scaled down, but the Challenger is scaled up. The Challenger shares the same platform as the four-door Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger
Walkaround: The new Challenger is surprisingly big, but perfectly proportioned. The updated retro styling works extremely well. The Challenger was positively received everywhere we went. Even though this isn’t a brand new model it still gets tons of positive looks and comments. The 2010 Challenger is nothing if not handsome.
A new/old color available for 2010 is “Plum Crazy” which was a hot choice for 1970. It’s done quite well financially on collectible classic Challengers.
Interior: The scaled up theme carries over into the interior. The exterior size is obvious as you look out over the large hood. Since the Challenger is still a two-door (unlike how they ruined the Charger by making it a four-door) the large platform is great for front seat occupants. Things aren’t so great for rear seat passengers, but they were marginal in 1970, too. This much style has its compromises.
The front seats are deeply bolstered and quite comfortable. Front legroom is of the stretch-out variety. The thick steering wheel is a plus as is the nice sound system. Storage bins/nooks are small to medium sized.
Under The Hood: What’s under the hood makes a huge difference in the Challenger’s personality. We drove the two powertrain extremes—the 250 hp 3.5-liter V-6 and the 425 hp 6.1-liter Hemi V-8. An excellent middle choice is the 376 hp 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The Challenger SRT8 with the 425 horsepower V-8 and optional 6-speed manual transmission is what the Challenger is all about. The 5.7 Hemi can also be had with the 6-speed manual.
The V-6 Challenger SE has the same great looks, but it’s all show and not much go. Improved fuel economy is touted as V-6 plus, but we only managed 16.3 mpg in mixed driving. The EPA rating is 17/25. A 4-speed automatic is the only V-6 transmission.
Behind The Wheel: The Challenger SE is pleasant to drive as long as you don’t have high performance expectations. The SRT8 is a thrill ride reminiscent of the 1970 Challengers, but at a quality level unimagined in the original car. It’s a little noisy, but it a good way.
Whines: The trunk is relatively large, but the lift over is quite high and the opening is noticeably recessed from the bumper. The split rear seats are steeply sloped when folded, which limits cargo capabilities.
Bottom Line: The Challenger SE (V-6) provides lots of style at a very reasonable cost, but the Challenger isn’t about being conservative. If you’re going to buy a Dodge Challenger, go Plum Crazy and buy a Hemi Challenger.