Dodge Challenger - Review Update

I've had my new Dodge Challenger SRT8 for a month or two now. It's long enough to have a few new thoughts on this car. I haven't sold my old car yet, so I still go back and forth between the 2 cars and this gives me a different perspective on things.

First of all, despite the insistence of someone who lives with me that my Dodge rides much better than our older cars, I strongly disagree. My dad's old banana yellow station wagon/hearse is still a much better ride than anything I've ridden in for years. And it was built in 1980. After that, I'd say my old car, the one I'm about to sell, rides better. But it is a luxury car, so that shouldn't be a surprise. The person that lives with me drives a new luxury car. It's a toss-up which of our cars rides better, which says more about the poor thinking behind the design of the suspension of their luxury car than it says about my Dodge Challenger. Overall, the ride is fine, but I do feel bumps in the road that I don't feel in any of my other cars or trucks.

Secondly, the ridiculous government mandate (there is no problem so bad that government can't make it worse) for high doors, called the "beltline" of the car, means I am surrounded by steel up much higher than in older cars. With mandated TALL doors, the car designers had no choice except to raise the hood and trunk in order to keep the lines of each car from looking warped. A tall door with normal height hood and trunk looks insane. So they raised the height of everything along the 'beltline'. This dramatically affects visibility. I have more trouble parking the Dodge than I do my old 4x4 truck. Hell, I have more trouble parking the damn Dodge than I do my dad's Bananawagon, and that thing is huge. This is dangerous. Add to this the fact that roofs are not any higher than before and this leaves the glass dramatically angled in order to fit. The overall effect of this is to make all new cars much like old "chop top" hot rods, which were infamous for being hard to see out of. If I'm the first car at an intersection, I can't see the fucking light. I can't see what color it is. I can't see it AT ALL.

1970 - Easier to drive, easier to park, easier to see out in all directions
The dramatic stupidity of this government fuck-up is even more apparent when I get out of my Dodge and into any of my older cars. I can see everything. I can tell where my tires are. I can tell where the corners of my car are. I can drive it without a problem. But the Dodge? Not so much. I feel like I'm in a giant schoolbus with the shitty visibility that I have. And this, the government says, is to make us all SAFER. Of course it does the opposite, since not being able to see increases the likelihood of having a wreck.

The car is fast, sure, but last weekend I took a friend out to a deserted spot and floored the gas from about 10 mph. I had the traction control turned off so it got a little sideways and then kicked into gear. It accelerates like an old big-block, with a nice flat torque curve throughout the RPMs. It'll lay you back in the seat like a musclecar should. But it thrilled me less than it did the first time I did it. I don't know why. It felt like an original musclecar with the power it has. It just didn't feel nearly as fast as my Chevelle. Then again, it makes about 200 hp less, so I guess that's no surprise. It's rated at 470 hp, but I saw an ad for an aftermarket exhaust system where they put a car just like mine on the their rear-wheel dyno and tested it before they installed their exhaust and after. Before, at the rear wheels it was making closer to 370 hp. I don't remember the exact number, but after they put their exhaust on it the car still was making a lot less than 470 hp at the rear wheels. I was under the impression that new cars were rated at the rear wheels so that was a big disappointment.

The factory stereo is taking some getting used to. It has a plug for my iPod and claims to recognize iPods and work them through the radio, but it won't recognize mine. That pissed me off. The subwoofer in the trunk is something new to me. I've never had that before. Now that I have it I wish I didn't. It's annoying. I don't need a huge explosive BOOM every time a drummer stomps the pedal for his base drum. It sounds like I ran over something. Even the commercials boom at me at seemingly random times. Where is the option to control the subwoofer so I can adjust it? I have yet to find anything to adjust it. In fact, flipping through all the controls that I do see on the screen is still a bit of a challenge. Getting to specific functions that I want is proving difficult. There is just so much shit to click through. Why can't we just select what we want? Why do I have to click up and down arrows on the steering wheel to do everything?

CarMax stuck their logo on my rear spoiler. I scraped that sucker off before I ever went anywhere in the car. Nothing against CarMax, they did help me find the car after all, but they didn't build the damn thing. I don't feel they are entitled to label my new car as theirs. That's gone. The sticker they slapped on the driver's window? Gone too. I replaced that with thermal window tint this past weekend. Now my windows are nice and dark, which is good because the blue and white striped seats are funky as hell to look at and I'd prefer people not see them. The only thing left of CarMax that I need to yank off the car now is the front license plate. That should be easier than all the previous stuff I had to literally peel or scrape off.

The transmission on this car is funky. If I'm pulling out slow and steady it seems to be confused about what to do. I have 5 forward gears and it wants to shift through all of them as fast as possible. Sometimes it seems like it can't decide whether to shift up or down. When I have the gas pedal to the floor it shifts like a manual transmission, with an audible pause between gears that makes it sound as if I'm slamming them myself. I guess that isn't a problem, per se, but its weird. I have yet to use their manual option with the shift lever.

The trunk is awesome. Tons of room. But that's apparently because it has no spare tire. WTF? With all the money I spent on this car I feel I should have a spare wheel and tire provided to me without me having to go and buy it separately. Seriously Dodge, you couldn't provide me with a spare? NONE AT ALL????

When I open either door, the window rolls down about an inch. When I close it, the window rolls up again. What's up with that? One thing I have always hated is replacing window motors in cars. The replacement motors are NEVER as good as the original and never last long. Why do we need the window motors to do this every single time we open or close the door? Is this short-term thinking or what? I will probably have this car for the next 20 years and I'm going to be royally pissed off the first time I have to get the window motors replaced because of this.

Over the weekend I averaged around 19 mpg. I drove a lot of highway miles, but I was also doing around 80 mph for most of that. I'm not excited about 19 mpg, and I was keeping my foot out of it as much as possible, but it isn't the worst in the world. I didn't check my city mpg but even if I had it wouldn't be a fair evaluation because I took a friend out in the car and floored it until we hit 120 and then I let off. Whenever I do that the computer says I'm temporarily getting about 10 mpg. That doesn't average in well, so let's just ignore the city mpg. Highway cruising up to 80 and holding it there seems to average 19. When I first bought the car and drove it home at 55 mph I was getting 23.5 mpg, so probably if I weren't doing 80 I would have gotten better mileage.

It has taken some serious adjustment for me to get used to the idea that I can just walk up to my car, grab the door handle, or trunk lid, and it unlocks for me. That's weird. All I need is the key in my pocket and the car knows I'm there and will open the door and let me in, even start the engine without me taking the key out of my pocket. I just push a button on the dash and it starts up and goes. Of course, I have no idea how to replace the batteries in the key fob so when this thing dies and I go to get into my car that first time it fails to work I'm going to be cussing up a storm until I figure out how to do it manually and replace the batteries.

The brakes on this car are awesome. The only cars I have ever owned with brakes that can compare with this Dodge were my dad's Bananawagon, which has oversized hearse brakes that will put your face into the steering wheel, and my old 1974 Dodge Polara, which also had brakes that would slam your face into the steering wheel if you weren't careful. These brakes will stop on a dime. I love that.

With all the government meddling in the car business, almost all of which has resulted in more deaths rather than fewer, I still can't believe these headlights are legal. They are insane. The high beams on all my older vehicles are no brighter than the standard beams on this car. And the high beams on this car serve no actual purpose. They aren't any brighter. They don't help at all. I do appreciate the factory fog lights, though. That is a great option I have needed many times in the past and not had. I will be using that for sure.

Overall, I still like this car. I still have doubts about whether I made the right choice in picking the Challenger SRT8 over the slightly more expensive and less comfortable Mustang Shelby GT500. Every time I see a GT500 I think "now THAT is a fun car." And it is. But for a car I have to drive on long trips and in rush hour traffic and to the store and here, there and everywhere, the Challenger is still more comfortable. I just wish it was as easy to maneuver as the Mustang.

And as fast. Holy shit, the Shelby Mustang is SO FAST.

Anyway, I made my choice. It's a nice car. I don't regret it.

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