2013 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 Review

The stripped-down retro rocket.

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December 19, 2013

2013 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 Review

We found the ride pleasantly surprising.

Introduction
In a world of retro-themed muscular pony cars, the Dodge Challenger SRT8 is the most retro of them all.

Ford's Mustang may have started the trend, but it's the current Challenger that looks most like its forebear, complete with slab-siding, a long and flat hood, and twin round headlamps. It has the same overall shape and size as the '70s Challenger, just updated for today's aesthetic.

Perched on a shortened version of the Dodge Charger platform, the Challenger SRT8 392 has 6.4-liters of Hemi thunder underhood, a pistol-shaped manual-transmission shifter, and a mission to bring you back to the '70s.

2013 Dodge Challenger On the Road Perhaps even more so than its pony-car brethren, the Challenger is meant for straight-line blasts. There's plenty of power on tap - 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque - and the Challenger never lags off the line. It does feel a bit weighed down by its 4,170 lb curb weight - it's not as sprightly as the Mustang. It still moves with authority, though. Weight slows it down, but only a tad.

We found the ride pleasantly surprising. Perhaps thanks to the larger Charger platform, the car isn't as bouncy as the Mustang or stiff as the Camaro. It's pleasant on long freeway slogs, with little undue stiffness or bounce.

Handling is a slightly different matter. We wished for more communicative steering that didn't feel so light in corners - it's not always clear what the tires are doing. The driver feels too isolated from the action, and that's bad in a big-horsepower, rear-drive car that has a proclivity for letting the rear end swing out when traction is less than ideal and/or too much power is being supplied to the rear axle. The Challenger is catchable and not necessarily scary, but you don't know where the line is 'til you've already crossed it. Think of how your spouse becomes when you mention that you put laundry detergent in the dishwasher - you don't want that kind of frosty distance between you and your tires.

The six-speed stick is satisfying and engaging, but the clutch can be a little abrupt with vague feel. We also found sixth gear to be a bit too tall - you need to downshift to fifth for any highway passing and the excellent basso profoundo exhaust note becomes a tiring drone in sixth.
2013 Dodge Challenger Exterior The Challenger really does look like a relic of the '70s dressed up to fit modern sensibilities. We're cool with that. It's good looking and sinister, thanks to its bold persona, and it never passes unnoticed. Perhaps more importantly, the look hasn't changed much since the car came back to life in 2008, and it still looks fresh.
2013 Dodge Challenger Interior This is the car's biggest weakness. Thanks to the Charger platform, the front is roomy, but the rear seat doesn't get that benefit. The materials look outdated and downmarket, as does much of the switchgear. Only the aluminum sport pedals and black-on-white gauges add any flavor to the otherwise drab proceedings.

Our tester also happened to be a Core trim-level car, which does away with navigation, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a USB port, automatic headlamps, and other niceties to save cash. We don't recommend going this route to save a few bucks - our tester still topped 40 grand and lacked amenities found as standard in some subcompacts. If you can afford an SRT8 392, you can afford a few extra comforts.

At least the trunk offers plenty of space, even if the opening itself is too high and awkward.
2013 Dodge Challenger Final Thoughts The Challenger is unapologetically retro. Not just in looks, but it how it operates. Big power, thirsty at the pump, comfy ride, afterthought interior - cue the disco, we're back in the '70s.

Yet it's hard not to like a car with so much torque on tap that can also settle down into a decent commuter. It's too big and unwieldy at times, but the Challenger is easier to live with than one might think. The Mustang makes a better daily driver and the Camaro is a better choice for back-road blasts (especially in SS 1LE or ZL1 guise), but the Challenger has its charms.

That's the problem, though. The Challenger is good - but the competition is a little bit better. That's nothing that a diet, some chassis tuning, and a new cabin can't fix.
2013 Dodge Challenger Specs, Features, and Prices Engine: 6.4-liter V-8

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Drive Wheels: Rear-wheel-drive

Fuel Economy: 14 mpg city/23 mpg highway

Base Price: $38,995 (excludes $995 destination fee)

Price As Tested: $41,140

Available Features: Rear stabilizer, rear black spoiler, dual bright exhaust tips, functional hood scoop, SRT Performance Pages, performance tires.

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