The 2016 Dodge Challenger 5

A Retro-Styled Modern Driving Machine

Today, we have our pick of retro-styled driving machines inspired by the cars of yesteryear. The segment that exemplifies this trend is the American-made muscle car, with nearly every domestic manufacturer breathing new life into iconic names from the past. If you’re looking for a ride that will give you the most nostalgic experience, while still offering the modern amenities you expect from a contemporary vehicle, look no further than the 2016 Dodge Challenger.

The first thing you’ll notice is the unmistakably masculine contour of the car. The squared frame of this beast immediately harkens back to images from the 1971 movie Vanishing Point. Both front and back are modernized, but still faithful takes on the original vehicle from four decades past. Its sharp lines and no-nonsense shape assures you that you’re not in for a sanitized, bland experience here. The 20-inch black, forged aluminum wheels clearly mean business.

A look inside reveals an updated, much more comfortable rendition of the original’s cabin. Our test vehicle’s cloth seats felt very supportive and gave the impression that long-distance driving would not result in fatigue for front seat occupants. Rear seating offers full buckets, but legroom may be hard to find for those who are more legs than torso. Trunk space was immense – plenty for two or three pieces of larger luggage, and then some.

Once in the driver’s seat, your attention turns to the simplicity of the center console. It’s driver-focused in that the buttons are large, very legible, and are quite literally aimed toward the driver. Dual-zone heat and A/C controls are easily marked and located just in front of the gearshift. Once you move your gaze to the gauge cluster, you’ll be welcomed to the homage of two large dials for the tachometer and speedometer, separated by a well-designed multi-function LCD display, which can display a slew of information, from fuel economy to tire pressure levels.

But it’s not all retro here. The central-mounted large touchscreen makes controlling the infotainment system a snap. In addition to the standard navigation and radio you’d expect, other applications available range from weather to turning the car into a WiFi hotspot (both require subscriptions). The standard-equipped Integrated Voice Command with Bluetooth features are handy when you’re focused on piloting the vehicle and wish to fiddle with accessories. An optional power sunroof lights up the passenger cabin nicely.

Once you press the push-button start, however, you’ll quickly lose interest in all the gadgets and toys, and get excited about the rumbling engine hidden beneath the hood. Our test vehicle had a 5.7L HEMI V8 engine pushing out 375 horsepower and a whopping 410 lb-ft of torque. There are three other engine choices, ranging from a 3.6L V6 at the low end, all the way to the positively absurd supercharged Hellcat 6.2L HEMI V8, if you really feel the need for, and can control, 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. Our tester was fitted with a 6-speed manual transmission, but an 8-speed automatic is also available. The car is very quick to pick up speed, yet does it in an unassuming way, which could get you in trouble if you don’t notice you’re suddenly moving at well above legal speeds. That certainly didn’t happen to me. No, definitely not. Straight-line pull was very entertaining, but didn’t feel dangerous, though I suspect the Hellcat engine may have something to say about that. The sound is growly and menacing, but even in Sport mode, it wasn’t intrusive or unpleasant in any way. Brakes were excellent, stopping the vehicle as quickly as the engine moves it.

Fuel economy for our tester was 19/30 city/highway, with the larger engines being thirstier, of course. Prospective buyers of this model won’t be dissuaded from it for this, however, as performance like this doesn’t come without some cost.

Speaking of cost, our test vehicle’s MSRP at SacSuperStore on Fulton Avenue was $36,970. One thing worth noting about the Challenger is that it is highly customizable. The options list – engine, interior, sound and performance packages – is quite extensive. As a result, prices range from around $27,000 for a stripped-down base model all the way into the $65,000 range for one of those fearful Hellcats.

The 2016 Dodge Challenger offers throwback styling, modern safety and conveniences and thrilling performance, in a package that has great road presence and can be obtained without breaking the bank, unless you want to. If a fun, stylish car is in the cards for you this summer, you’d do well to give the Challenger a spot among your contenders.