Dodge Challenger R/T Review

The mailman got out of his truck, put our mail in the box by the sidewalk, turned, stared, did a double take and went back to his truck. He came out seconds later with his cellphone, snapping shot after shot.

The power crew came to replace the transformer buried in the next-door neighbor's backyard. They got out of the truck, on the way to the front door to tell me how long the power would be off. They never got there. I found all three of them, five minutes after I heard the truck doors close, in the driveway. Their question had changed from how soon they could cut the power without inconveniencing me too badly to:

Could I start it up, back it out of the driveway and do a burnout down the block?

The six year old girl, dressed in pink, leaving my daughter's ballet school, holding her daddy's hand as they walked to their minivan, stopped cold and said: "Whoa, Daddy! AWESOME car!".

God only knows what adolescent boys must be saying and thinking (though my son, who's 14, the age I was when the first Challenger hit the market, tells me it's "a reasonable alternative to the Viper").

Bright red (Dodge calls it "TorRed"), with 20" aluminum chrome wheels and a profile worthy of inclusion on Mt. Rushmore...and yes, it's got a Hemi.

5.7 liters, 376 horsepower and 410 pounds per foot of torque, to be precise. And though it comes with an automatic, this one had the optional TrackPak 6-speed manual.

Yes, it's way bigger than the original 1970 Challenger. That's what happens when you use the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger platform. But it looks great, it's scary fast, it's got way more trunk room than the old one, and once you get inside, just reprogram your spatial orientation to "Road Runner" instead of "Challenger" and you'll be fine.

It's also something of a bargain for what you get: $29,320 base price...our tester bottom-lined at $35,965.

Love the shape but need still more of a bargain? The SE starts at $21,995, and comes with a 250-horsepower V6 and 18-inch wheels...which would have been a dream come true not too long ago. In fact, Dodge expects most Challengers sold will be SEs.

Here's a nice video about the development and production of what was then the not-yet-released Challenger SRT-8, the hottest of the Challengers:

UPDATE: More than a year after the above was written, Chrysler sent us a second Challenger...again an R/T with the Hemi, the 6-speed manual, the Track Pack...and again, an '09 (though the '10s should be out there now).

This one had a bump in the base price...now $30,220 and with more options on the sticker, the bottom line rings in at $38,170.

Oh, and this one was silver.

Not covered the first time we covered this...five-star crash ratings all around, four for rollover. EPA estimates 16 city/25 highway.