The retro-styled 2012 Dodge Challenger achieved a below-average Total Car Score when compared with others in the Sport Coupe segment. The big and powerful Dodge stays true to its muscle-car roots but some of its old-school attributes can be a drawback when viewed against more refined competition.
The Challenger earns high marks for its vintage looks, high performance engines and comfortable ride. It has one of the roomiest back seats in the segment, with 32.6 inches of rear leg room, and its cavernous 16.2 cubic feet of trunk space is more than some small hatchbacks.
At its lightest, the Challenger weighs in at a pretty substantial 3,834 pounds. The car's excessive weight and soft suspension were pretty standard for vintage American cars, but reviewers agreed the Challenger can't keep up with its modern competitors in the corners.
From outside the Challenger's low roof and small back window give it a signature nostalgic look, but as a result there is little rearward visibility from the driver's seat. The rest of the interior features some soft-touch plastic panels, but its basic design falls short of competitors' more aesthetically pleasing cockpits.
The Challenger received very few changes for the 2012 model year. Cars equipped with the five speed automatic transmission now come with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and an 18-speaker stereo system is now available as an optional extra.
The Challenger is available in two main flavors: SXT and R/T. Dodge also produces a high performance Challenger SRT8 model (covered separately) for muscle-car fans with lead feet.
The SXT is the most affordable car in the Challenger lineup. It comes with a 3.6-liter, 305 horsepower V6 engine that makes 268 pound-feet of torque. The base model is only available with a five speed automatic transmission. The car comes with cloth seats, 18-inch wheels, a power driver’s seat, cruise control, a CD player with auxiliary input, keyless entry and automatic temperature controls.
Opting for the Plus package on the SXT adds heated leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, foglights, automatic headlights and a Boston Acoustics premium stereo system. A Super Sport option group bumps tire size to 20 inches, upgrades the rear axle ratio to 3.06 and adds a rear spoiler. Other packages upgrade the interior appearance and add technology like remote start and a touchscreen display.
Depending on which gearbox is chosen, R/T models come with one of two 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engines. R/Ts with the six-speed manual transmission put out 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Cars with the five-speed automatic produce three less horsepower and 10 less lb-ft of torque, but come with fuel saving cylinder deactivation technology that's not available with the manual.
The R/T Plus comes with the same upgrades as the SXT Plus, as well as an alarm system, temperature and compass gauges and a universal garage remote. The R/T is also offered in a Classic trim, with throwback features that pay homage to the Challengers of the 1970s. The R/T Classic comes with a set of 20-inch chrome wheels, HID headlights and foglights, functioning hood scoops and a retro graphics package. A Super Track Pak bumps performance with upgraded shocks, brakes, stability control and steering response.
The 2012 Dodge Challenger SXT models are rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on the highway for a combined rating of 21. The V8 R/T models have a fuel economy rating of 16/25/19 mpg with the manual transmission and 15/23/18 mpg with the automatic.
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