It’s little wonder Baby Boomers are longing for the 70s again. Car manufacturers have noticed, and they’ve brought back some of the cars that we loved “back in the day.” The Camaro is back, Ford’s new Mustangs include the Boss 302, and the macho Dodge Challenger has returned. If they’d just bring back Hopper’s Drive-Ins, all would be right in the car world.
The Dodge Challenger has a new name for its base trim and a 900-watt Harman Kardon sound system for 2012. Still included are all the panache and swagger of a 70s pony car cruising down the boulevard.
Introduced in 1970 as Dodge’s answer to the Camaro and Mustang, the original Dodge Challenger was around when gasoline was 36-cents and movies were 99-cents. You and your date could go out for a burger, catch a movie and get ice cream on the way home for about 10 bucks. Times have changed. Today, that same night on the town will cost you a Benjamin or more.
The Challenger was re-introduced in 2008, beating Chevy and Ford ponies back to the market. It hasn’t changed very much since then, and why would it if you’re trying to replicate the past?
The new base Challenger model is now called the SXT, and it’s also available as the SXT Plus. The next in line is the R/T model, and finally the big muscle man of the family, the SRT8.
The SXT has a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine as standard equipment. The R/T model has a standard 5.7-liter HEMI V8, and the SRT8 comes with a 6.4-liter V8. Horsepower is rated at 305, 375 and 470 respectively.
Regardless of which trim package you select, the Challenger is hard not to notice. It attracts people in parking lots and it turns heads as you rumble down the street. It’s good to live in the last house on the block. Everybody gets to see you drive by.
Our test car was the Challenger R/T Classic with a powerful HEMI engine, excellent handling and a surprisingly comfortable ride. Highly cushioned and bolstered seats made long trips easy, and there was actually room in the back seat for adults. The Challenger is designed to seat five, but four would be more comfortable. Design cues inside are nostalgic, with a foot parking brake rather than a hand brake, nice metallic-looking trim and four round gauges behind the steering wheel.
While nostalgia is nice when it comes to things like gauges and trim, it’s not so nice when it comes to technology and safety. Connectivity is via a Uconnect Media Center and Bluetooth, and options include HID headlamps, navigation, smart key and satellite radio. Back in the 70s, you just hoped and prayed your AM radio would pick up the local stations without too much static.
The new Challenger hasn’t been rated for safety by the insurance industry or the government, but it is equipped with all the modern safety equipment, including electronic stability control, active head restraints, side-curtain airbags, a driver’s knee airbag and standard front seat-mounted side-thorax airbags.
Cruising down the strip, the Challenger will deliver an estimated 15 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. And while it can blister a track, the Challenger actually makes a pretty good daily driver too. The 2012 Challenger R/T we tested stickered at $29,995, with options raising the bottom line significantly to $38,575.
Seventies retro has returned. If you’re looking for a new ride and the 70s is your bag, you should head on down to test drive the new Dodge Challenger. And until Hopper’s returns, Sonic is your best bet on the ride home with your new car.
2012 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic
- Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI V8
- Transmission: 6-speed manual or automatic
- Horsepower: 375
- Test model base price: $29,995
- As tested price: $38,575
- EPA mileage rating: 15 mpg city / 23 mpg highway