The SRT8 will play along if you aim it down a winding stretch of road, but it doesn't take long to figure out this isn't what it was made to do. It's built for the open road -- whether that's a highway or a wide boulevard.
The coupe's steering tuning drives this point home. The SRT8's leather-wrapped steering wheel is big and meaty, and it feels good in your hands, but there's minimal steering feedback. It's not any better if you get the V-6.
Compared with the Mustang's or Camaro's interior, the Challenger's cabin looks plain despite the use of nice materials overall. Both the Ford and Chevrolet have much stronger retro cues than the Challenger, and those cues drive the distinctiveness of those cars' interiors. The Challenger's controls, though, are easy to use and logically placed, and that wins it points.
The SRT8's front bucket seats are appropriately bolstered and wide. The seatbacks, however, are overstuffed. The cushioning presses forward, as if someone ratcheted up the lumbar support when you weren't looking. The bucket seats in the V-6 Challenger aren't as form-fitting as the SRT8's -- especially in terms of lateral support -- but the cushy, overstuffed feel remains.
For a coupe, backseat comfort is pretty good for adult passengers. Headroom is passable, and the seat provides decent support. The limiting factor is legroom, but it's workable if the person in front is willing to share.
Less appealing is the lack of visibility that backseat passengers suffer; they won't see much out the sides because of those big C-pillars. Our test car's all-black interior also contributed to the backseat's cave-like vibe.
As of publication, the Challenger hadn't been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Nor had it been subjected to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's new crash-test program for 2011 and newer cars.
Standard safety features include required equipment like antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. Also standard are side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. The Standard Equipment & Options page at Cars.com lists more safety features.
Challenger in the market
Of the modern-day muscle cars, the Challenger -- especially in SRT8 form -- holds closest to the original formula of blistering straight-line speed matched with hulking road presence. Both the Mustang and Camaro have retro styling cues, but they're decidedly more modern overall compared with the Challenger's look.
Even though there's a modern car underneath the Challenger's throwback sheet metal, the design's close adherence to the past will be too much for some shoppers. If you're a muscle-car fan looking to relive your youth, though, the Dodge Challenger is the purest thing available from a new-car showroom.
Starting MSRP $24,995--$43,995
MPG City: 14 -- 18 Highway: 23 -- 27
Available Engines 372-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 (regular gas)
305-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 (regular gas)
376-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 (premium)
470-hp, 6.4-liter V-8 (premium)
6-speed manual w/OD
5-speed automatic w/OD and auto-manual
New or Notable
Dramatic retro styling
V-6 or V-8
Manual or automatic
Three available suspensions
High-performance 470-hp SRT8 version
What We Like
V-8 exhaust sound
Responsive automatic transmission
Composed ride, highway stability
What We Don't
Retro styling limits visibility
V-6 lacks low-end power
Minimal steering feedback
Overstuffed front seatbacks
© 2011, Cars.com