2018 Dodge Challenger R/T Review

Driving should be fun, despite what the proponents of the nanny state might say.   No car is perfect, but a car that has character, and a sense of fun will make the little annoyances seem insignificant.   This is what is missing in many current cars – no character, no fun, just like an appliance.    The 2018 Dodge Challenger R/T has loads of character and is a lot of fun.   This makes its many foibles seem pretty unimportant.

2018 Dodge Challenger R/T

The Dodge Challenger was my latest rental car.   This is the easily the best rental car I have ever had.    Normally, I rent an intermediate size car, and am issued with something rather bland from the car rental place.   On this most recent rental, a full size was actually $1 cheaper than the normal intermediate.   My expectation was just a larger serving of blandness – perhaps four boiled potatoes instead of three.

When I rocked up to the rental desk at Chicago O’Hare airport, I was told I could choose any car in a particular section.   On arriving at that section, I see a row of gormless SUVs to choose from.    Oh joy.   But wait, at the end of the row is a white Dodge Challenger.    At this point I am assuming its the base model with the 3.6l Pentastar v6.    Its still a Challenger and a easy choice over the row of jellybeans in front of it.

Starting the car up I get a very un-pentastar like snarl from the exhaust.   It’s at that point I realize I have a R/T model with the 5.7 Hemi v8.    I had just arrived in Chicago from a 24+ hour set of flights from Sydney, and was not looking forward to the two hour drive up to Wisconsin.    Perhaps this drive was going to be better than I thought?

My first impression was the sheer size of the Dodge Challenger.   This thing is enormous.    It is slightly longer and a lot wider than the 80’s S-Class I normally drive.    Not only does it have a very long bonnet, but the dashboard is so wide you could land the 777 I had just flown in on that dashboard.    It also has a slightly claustrophobic cabin as the waist line is quite high so the windows are not very tall.   You sort of feel like you’re sitting in a pill box.    There are also massive rear blind spots, you could easily fit that same 777 in them.    If you lower the seat as far as it will go it feels a lot better though.

The car’s size and generally poor visibility do take a few minutes to get used to, but it wasn’t long before I was quite comfortable in the car.    The 5.7 V8 is rated at 277KW, and honestly it’s all you need if you’re going to be driving on public roads.    It has all the power you need to rocket up freeway on ramps, get around recalcitrant Buicks and have a lot of fun without going speeds that will land you in prison for the rest of your natural life.

There are more powerful versions including the 6.4 litre ‘Scat Pack’ and the insane Hellcat.   The Hellcat in particular seems more suited for he drag-strip.

The 2018 Dodge Challenger comes equipped with an eight speed automatic transmission.   I always felt I was in the right gear for the occasion and the part throttle kick down was very good.   There was the occasional slight jerkiness but nothing that I found too annoying.    Event better, no stop/start!

The number of gears also mean you get that feeling of being pushed in the back when you put your foot down at any speed because there is always an optimal gear to be in.   It also makes the car more fuel efficient than it has any right to be.   In 8th gear, the car is loping along at 2,000RPM when cruising at 80MPH (129km/h).    With plenty of use of the loud pedal, I got 23mpg, which is impressive for a car of this size and power.   it also comes equipped with cylinder de-activation.   This enables it to run on 4 cylinders when conditions allow.

I was also impressed by the exhaust note.   On gentle cruising there was no annoying droning like having Alan Jones in your ear.   Above 3,000 RPM is a different story.   There is a great v8 snarl when you launch the car, tempting you to do so early and often.

The ride is not great.   It is rather choppy and even small cracks and bumps in the road are transferred to the cabin.    This is all the more apparent driving on the pockmarked roads of the midwest.

The Dodge Challenger is not a sports car.   It’s too wide, too heavy and really more set up for straight line performance.   But it is a lot of fun.   I had some drives the next day on country roads and enjoyed every minute.    I do like a good V8 coupe. I’ve owned four of them, and still have two, the 450SLC and the 560SEC.   It would seem that others do as well.  I had a couple of people comment on how much they liked the car. This surprised me since the Challenger has been on the market for ten years and is reasonably common.    A car doesn’t have to be rare or expensive to be desirable.

On the inside, there is a lot of room for the front seat passengers.    The controls are well laid out and the audio and climate controls are intuitive.   Instead of having to set anything up, once I plugged my iPhone into the car it found the music and allowed me to play what was there.   Too easy!

Dodge Challenger Interior

I found the speedometer quite hard to read.   This can be remedied by changing the centre screen display.   Having the speed there does mean that you miss out on other useful information that is available like fuel consumption, acceleration times etc.    There is even more info available including oil pressure, oil temperature, charge rate, water temperature etc.

The back seat allows for three people, rare in a coupe.   They would have to be small ones though.   It is hard to find where all the space in this car goes.   The back seat is tiny and the boot is average.   I think its all dashboard.

The interior materials are reasonable for a car of this price range. The seats have ok, but not amazing comfort.

This car would have cost in the mid to high USD$30,000 range.   I think that is pretty good value for what you’re getting.   There are other fit and finish issues with this car, but again given how much fun it is, and how reasonable the price is, they are easily ignored.    For example, there is a fair amount of wind noise from the mirrors when driving at interstate speeds.

In summary, the Dodge Challenger is a big fast brute of a car.   But its a lot of fun.    I really enjoyed driving it despite some of its little foibles.    Lets have more cars like this and fewer SUVs.    The world would be much more fun.

Sadly, cars like this are going away.   The car companies are trying to tell us we want smaller engines with a turbo charger.   I say no!

Rating: 4/5.

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