The 2012 Dodge Challenger ranks 6 out of 11 Affordable Sports Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 28 published reviews and test drives of the Dodge Challenger, and our analysis of reliability and safety data. For 2012, the Dodge Challenger lineup receives a renamed base trim, a new, optional premium audio system and available shift paddles for the five-speed automatic.
To the uninitiated, the 2012 Dodge Challenger might seem like just an overgrown retro-mobile. Indeed, when this classic nameplate returned for 2008, it certainly looked like a slightly plus-sized version of the original early 1970s Mopar icon. It was also very fast (at first just the 425-horsepower SRT8 was available), surprisingly comfortable and spacious enough to seat four adults with ease. But many people felt that the reborn Challenger was too bulky and not agile enough for a performance car. In other words, it was more like the original than perhaps some folks wanted. Furthermore, the later-introduced V6 version — burdened as it was with nearly 2 tons of boulevard bruiser — was too slow for something that made such a powerful visual statement.
Last year, however, revisions to the steering, brakes and suspension gave the Challenger the moves to match its muscle. And thanks to a new 305-hp V6 that also boasts better fuel economy than the lackluster engine it replaced, the base Challenger is now more competitive with its V6-powered rivals. Also introduced last year was a new engine for the top-dog SRT8: a mighty 392-cubic-inch (6.4-liter) 470-hp V8. The old-school, cubic-inches specification is a nod to the famous (for older car guys, anyway) 392 Hemi of the late 1950s.
In our opinion, the 2012 Dodge Challenger to get is the middle child of the family: the R/T with its plenty-potent 5.7-liter V8 and wide array of styling options (such as 1971-style stripes). The SRT8 is pretty darn cool, but it’s also overkill given its price premium over the still-speedy R/T. On the other end of the spectrum, a muscle car with a V6 will always seem a little wrong.
Good as the Challenger is, you can’t ignore its age-old competitors. The Chevrolet Camaro arguably has the flashiest styling, though it comes with the costs of even more compromised outward visibility and a lack of rear seat room. The Ford Mustang is still the most well-rounded choice, giving up the Dodge’s rear passenger room and comfort for an edge in performance and handling. An outside consideration is the Hyundai Genesis Coupe for those who like the idea of a muscle car in a more modern wrapper.
On Rankingsandreviews, the base Dodge Challenger comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that generates 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. Most reviewers say that the V6 provides plenty of power, but shoppers looking for some additional thrust can step up to a Challenger R/T, which packs a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 under its hood. The V6 comes with a five-speed automatic transmission, while the Challenger R/T comes with a six-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic.
When the 5.7-liter V8 is paired to a six-speed manual, the Challenger R/T generates 375 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. V8 Challengers equipped with an automatic are slightly less powerful, generating 372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Regardless of which drivetrain you choose, the Challenger stays true to its muscle-car roots with rear-wheel drive. If you’re looking for even more power, check out the high-performance Dodge Challenger SRT8, which is reviewed separately.
Reviewers generally agree that although the Challenger doesn’t skimp on performance, it still trails the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro when it comes to fuel economy. The EPA says that the V6-powered Challenger gets 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. V8 models get 16/25 and 15/23 mpg city/highway fuel economy with automatic and manual transmissions, respectively. By comparison, the V6-powered Mustang offers 19/31 mpg city/highway when equipped with an automatic transmission.
The automotive press says that the Challenger handles well for such a large car. Although the Challenger’s handling has improved due to upgrades over the past few model years, most test drivers agree that it’s still not as athletic as the Ford Mustang. However, they also say that the Challenger is a comfortable highway cruiser that would be a good choice on long road trips.
Every 2012 Dodge Challenger comes standard with antilock disc brakes (size and power differs based on trim and certain option packages), stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the SRT8 392 came to a stop in an excellent 114 feet.
Gallery 2012 Dodge Challenger
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