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Autos

Dodge Challenger R/T packs a punch

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 07:48 PM

Kids gone to college. Mortgage just about paid up. Don't want a Harley. Guess what? Maybe it's time to pony-up for that muscle car you always promised yourself.

There's certainly no shortage of tempting choices. The latest Mustang can gallop pretty well. So too can Chevy's new-look Camaro.

But it's tough to beat the refreshed Dodge Challenger, especially the latest R/T version with its bad-boy 5.7-liter Hemi V8, six on the floor transmission and re-jigged suspension. Yours for a whisker under $30-grand, or around $35,000 very-nicely loaded.

The R/T sits right in the sweet spot of the Challenger line-up. The V6-engined SE is great value at around $25,000, but it's a case of all-show and not too much 'go.' The bad-boy 470-horse SRT has all the 'go' but is pricey at around $44,000.

With 372 ponies and a muscled 400 lb-ft of torque – and remember torque means fun – the R/T can punch the big-bodied Challenger from zero to 60 in a rocket ship five seconds. Yet on the highway it can average 25 to the gallon.

Of course you can check the box for a 5-speed automatic and pay the extra $995. But it's a lot of fun to shift it yourself with the standard six-speed manual.

The big change that came this year was a major makeover of the Challenger's suspension to sharpen its handling without compromising the smooth ride.

It's transformed the car, adding precision to the way it turns into a corner, reducing the floaty body roll and generally making it more of a blast to drive.

Inside, there are still seats for five with decent headroom and legroom, plus a trunk that could double as a Pods storage unit.

Yes, it's still overweight, and Audi isn't going to lose sleep about the big Dodge matching its interior quality.

But here is an honest-to-goodness American muscle car that's good value and great fun. Go on, you know you want one.

Tampa-based auto writer Howard Walker can be reached at walkweb@verizon.net.

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