2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
The Dodge Challenger is getting old. Not the name: that’s old already since the Challenger launched originally when my dad, who is old, was 8. But the new-age Challenger, which launched in 2008, is now getting old. The exterior looks the same as it did when it launched to the drooling masses some seven years ago in that original batch of 500 SRT-powered units. The interior, with a few minor exceptions, is the same, too. This is the only Dodge that hasn’t moved into the next-generation interior design on board. It’s using the old-school navigation and infotainment system, old-school driver computer, and old-school light switches and climate vents.
The most retro-looking new car money can currently buy probably shouldn’t have a super-modern cabin, anyways, so it’s sort of fitting, because it’s sort of an old-school car, and one that’s aged well, and one that’s still very much worth checking out, even before the launch of the refreshed Challenger which will hit dealer lots later this year with carefully updated styling, that new-age Dodge interior treatment, and an adrenaline-gushing new “Hellcat” variant that you’ve heard about, since it’s got 707 horsepower (not a typo).
Everyone’s heard about this upcoming Hellcat. I know, because I was asked about 76 times on my test-drive of the bright-orange Challenger R/T Shaker if that’s what it was.
At writing, that all-conquering Hellcat was still months away – though my final test-drive of this era of Challenger, in newly-devised Shaker guise with special graphics and wheels and interior trimmings and a shaker intake surfacing from beneath the hood, would prove a good way to look back at a favourite.
Challenger is one of several cars I try to drive semi-regularly because I’m of the belief that it’s a benchmark product, both in its segment and within the industry in general, in several ways. Other examples include the Mazda MX-5, now-discontinued Acura TL, and Hyundai Genesis, for different reasons. With Challenger, I figure it’s a benchmark new-age muscle car.
Is it the best one? Maybe so, maybe no. There’s probably no correct answer to that question. But for your writer, several key attributes and characteristics make the Challenger R/T Shaker a very appealing muscle-car for daily use, just like the numerous Challengers I’ve driven before it.
2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker steering wheel, radio menu. Click image to enlarge
First, it’s everyday friendly. You step down into it, but the door openings are massive, the rear seats are easy to access, spacious once settled into, and can fit two grown-ups without making them chew their knees. And up front, for the driver, there’s plenty of space. You can stretch out. Lounge. Chill. You don’t feel like you’re wearing the Challenger, even if you’re horizontally robust. It’s a big-ass coupe that’s ready for a four-adult road trip. The trunk is even surprisingly large and deep and wide.
Second, it’s great on the highway – whether you’re on that road trip or otherwise. The ride is laid back and soft, set more to the comfort side of the equation but without ruining Challenger’s ability to carve corners at surprising speeds when called upon. It virtually floats along if the road is smooth, and if it’s not, the suspension handles most of the rough stuff admirably.