2012 Dodge Challenger Expert Review

3.5 Overall Score
Performance 3.3 Comfort 3.3 Styling 3.6 Value 3.3

Editor's Overview

Big, bad and retro to the core, the Dodge Challenger worships horsepower and open roads. The baddest kid the Challenger Class of 2012 is the new SRT8 with its adult-delinquent attitude and the snarling 470 horsepower of its HEMI V8 engine.

You'll Like The 2012 Dodge Challenger If...

If you're old enough to remember driving or craving to drive the original Challenger, the 2012 Dodge Challenger coupe will bring back a lot of memories. If you're not old enough to remember the original, now's your chance to share a little bit of history repeating.

You May Not Like The 2012 Dodge Challenger If...

If you're all about maximum horsepower and top speed, the Ford Mustang GT and Shelby editions, as well as the Chevy Camaro ZL1 easily outmuscle the 2012 Dodge Challenger R/T and SRT8. Those looking for a light, nimble rear-drive sport coupe might be happier in a BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G37 Coupe.

What's New

Along with new trim designations, the 2012 Dodge Challenger gains some new optional features including a 900-watt, 18-speaker Harman/Kardon audio system, and zinc steering-wheel paddle shifters on SXT Plus and R/T. The SRT8 392 trim gains a new 2-mode adjustable suspension-damping system and an available heated steering wheel.

Interior Features

Although functional and possessing a few cool styling features, the overall interior of the 2012 Dodge Challenger doesn't live up to the promises made by its flashy exterior. Still a product of the previous-generation Charger, the Challenger's interior has not received the opulent update of its 4-door big brother, so the hard plastics, dull colors and somewhat loud interior remain in place for 2012. The 2012 Dodge Challenger's front bucket seats are wide and firm, with good side bolstering and adjustable lumbar support (something you won't find on the Camaro) so crucial on long drives. And, unlike the Mustang or Camaro, the 2012 Dodge Challenger's rear seats can actually fit two full-size adults (three in a pinch). A sizable trunk also gives the Challenger a leg-up on its Mustang and Camaro rivals.

Exterior Features

While some people see the 2012 Dodge Challenger sport coupe as a rehashed version of the original 1970s muscle car, we see it differently. The two cars may share similar visual cues, but the 2012 Dodge Challenger is much bigger, much wider and has a number of styling characteristics all its own. Bold exterior colors are designed to make the Challenger stand out even more than its attractive styling already does, and available accessories such as a hood scoop and rear spoiler, allow for individual customization of the car. Based on the Dodge Charger platform, the Challenger provides sedan-like comfort hidden inside a cool coupe shell. Our only regret is that Dodge couldn't engineer the rear quarter windows to retract, a feature that would make the 2012 Dodge Challenger a true 2-door hardtop.

Driving Impressions

Even the most basic 2012 Dodge Challenger SXT coupe comes with a 305-horsepower V6 engine that provides plenty of get-up-and-go. But, if you really want to experience what the 2012 Dodge Challenger is all about, you must slip behind the wheel of a HEMI-powered R/T. Unlike its 1970s' namesake, the current Challenger is a pleasure to drive. The ride is firm, but not jarring, although things do get a bit more rigid with the upgraded 20-inch wheels and sport suspension packages. In R/T form, the Challenger's 5.7-liter V8 has plenty of muscle for fast off-the-line starts and terrifyingly quick passing maneuvers. While some of our testers found the 2012 Dodge Challenger's steering to be on the heavy side, no one complained of losing confidence when executing high-speed maneuvers. The 2012 Dodge Challenger R/T's suspension is sufficiently tight to control excessive body roll but, if all-out handling and gut-punching acceleration take precedence over a comfortable ride and reasonable fuel economy, the SRT8 392 trim is the obvious choice.

Pricing Notes

The 2012 Dodge Challenger SXT coupe has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $26,000. The Dodge Challenger R/T starts just over $31,000, while a fully loaded SRT8 392 model can top out around $50,000. These prices closely mirror the Dodge Challenger's main rivals, the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, but undercut European brands like the BMW 3 Series by a wide margin. To make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their Challengers. As for resale, we expect the 2012 Dodge Challenger coupe to hold good 5-year residual values on par with the Ford Mustang but slightly below the Chevrolet Camaro.

Notable Equipment

The 2012 Dodge Challenger SXT includes the 3.6-liter V6 engine that makes 305 horsepower, a 5-speed automatic transmission, automatic air conditioning, 18-inch aluminum wheels, cruise control, 6-way power driver's seat with power lumbar adjustment, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, vehicle information center and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with auxiliary audio input jack. Depending upon the trim level, additional features include the 5.7-liter HEMI V8, a 6-speed manual transmission, limited-slip differential, foglights, security alarm, Sirius Satellite Radio, USB port, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather seating, Boston Acoustics speakers, 276-watt amplifier, Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth, heated front seats and a variety of trim and convenience features. The SRT8 392 includes premium leather with accent stripes, 20-inch wheels with performance tires, a functional hood scoop, rear spoiler, performance-tuned steering, Brembo brakes front and rear, specific trim features and the SRT Track Experience, where new owners can go to learn how to better control the car's incredible performance.

Notable Options

Available options for the V6 model include the SXT Plus package that adds leather seating, heated front seats, foglights, automatic headlights, Bluetooth streaming audio and phone connectivity with UConnect voice command, and a 276-watt Boston Acoustics audio system. Stand-alone options include updated audio systems, navigation and a number of dealer-installed accessories. R/T trims can be equipped with the Track Pack that includes 20-inch wheels and performance tires, heavy-duty brakes, performance steering and a track-tuned suspension. There are a variety of options for the SRT8 392, which are appropriate for its very high-performance mission in life.

Favorite Features

6.4-liter HEMI V8

It's the HEMI that brings the Challenger legend to life and with 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, the 6.4-liter monster motor in the SRT8 392 ensures only a handful of cars will be able to keep up.

18-speaker Harman/Kardon audio

This 900-watt powerhouse uses the latest energy-efficient technology to produce amazing sound with minimal power draw.

Under the Hood

The 2012 Dodge Challenger coupe offers a choice of three engines. Chrysler's modern 3.6-liter V6 makes 305 horsepower and delivers plenty of performance for any reasonable use on the highway or a curving mountain road. The value leader is to be found with the 5.7-liter HEMI; with the 5-speed automatic it's rated at 372 horsepower and with the 6-speed manual it's at 376 horsepower. At the top end resides the SRT8 392 of 6.4 liters. Producing a whopping 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, the only drawback to owning this powerplant is the cost incurred at the pump and possibly the courthouse.

3.6-liter V6

305 horsepower @ 6,350 rpm

268 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/27

5.7-liter HEMI V8

372 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm (automatic)

376 horsepower @ 5,150 rpm (manual)

400 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm (automatic)

410 lb-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm (manual)

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/23 (manual), 16/25 (automatic)

6.4-liter HEMI V8

470 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm

470 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/23 (automatic); 14/23 (manual)

Editors' Notes

The 2012 Dodge Challenger coupe continues to play in a 3-car rivalry with the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro. While it remains true that the Challenger's V6 and V8 engines fall short of the horsepower benchmarks set by Ford and Chevy, the differences are not insurmountable. There is still plenty of performance to be had from the 2012 Dodge Challenger coupe, especially in the potent SRT trim. With comparable pricing and features for each corresponding trim, you might be wondering why you'd choose a less powerful Challenger model over a Mustang or Camaro. Comfort is a big reason, as is everyday drivability. Where the Mustang and Camaro offer practically no rear-seat room and a tiny trunk, the larger 2012 Dodge Challenger coupe provides ample space for four people and their luggage. The Challenger's interior is also much less claustrophobic than that of the Chevrolet Camaro, although its interior plastics are not quite up to the standard set by the Ford Mustang.

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