2010 Dodge Challenger SE new car reviews

Better than: V6 Camaro
But not as good as: Hyundai Genesis Coupe
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 79.92

The neo-muscle car product push is in full swing, and we're seeing a lot of new Challengers, Chargers, Camaros and Mustangs. According to some product planners and accountants, some car shoppers are more interested in the muscle car look than the performance of a full-strength V8.

Today's versions of the muscle car are available with retro looks and, shall we say, "period-correct" performance. As a bonus, they feature improved fuel economy when compared to the big V8 machines.

The Dodge Challenger SE that we recently tested would be a tough sell as a muscle car, but as a stylish economy coupe it worked rather well. It featured comfortable seating for four adults plus a relatively miserly V6 engine coupled to a smooth automatic transmission. This package may make some purists cringe, but the Challenger SE is a viable option if you aren't hungry for tire smoke.

Other staff views

Tom Heath Tom Heath
UberDork

This Challenger was surprisingly easy to like as a car for a non-enthusiast. In white with the rally stripes, it was easily the best looking new Challenger I've seen, and the driving experience was good enough to recommend to a non-racing friend or relative.

I would have liked a little better fuel mileage since the performance numbers don't really apply to this car, but the Challenger was good enough to pass as a commuter in my book. What impressed me most were the super comfy seats and nice touch surfaces. It would make a terrific short-term rental car.

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

Although it looks the part, this V6 Challenger isn't about going fast. To be honest, the V8 Challenger has been my least favorite member of the pony car resurgence. This V6 car, however, changed my mind.

With its fantastic seats, decent outward visibility and wonderful ergonomics, spending time in this car was a pleasure. As Tom said, the Challenger looks stunning in white, and the "down-market" wheels completed the visual package nicely. The most surprising impression I got from behind the wheel was how solid this car feels. This car is based on the old Mercedes E series chassis, and the Merc DNA really comes through in how it drives. Solid, composed, relaxed, planted: These are all words usually associated with the expensive German brands, not a lowly Dodge. Everything falls right to hand--even at night--and the interior materials feel stout and durable, if not luxurious.

Sure, the V6 Challenger is softly suspended and leans a bit while cornering. It also is whisper quiet during normal operation, which may be a good thing--the 3.5 liter does let out an unappealing groan at full throttle. It can be coaxed into brake-torque-induced smokey burnouts, but this clearly isn't the Challenger's game.

This Challenger was intended for stylish, relaxed cruising, and when used in this manner it excels. We have now had a chance to drive all of the V6 and V8 pony car variants. I still prefer the V8 Mustang for its smaller size and flingability. However, if I had to drive one of the V6 pony cars, this Challenger would be my choice.

Steve Chryssos Steve Chryssos
Reader

Richie Pokorny. That's the name of the dude who had a 70 Challenger RT back in the day. "The day" was around 1985 and the Challenger was passed down from father to son. We yanked the 383/auto and installed a 440-6 with a four speed and a pistol grip shifter. That car could swallow an N50x15 tire without any sheet metal mods. The rear seat was always more comfy than the one in my Camaro. We used to tear up Francis Lewis Boulevard on weekends while listening to Def Leppard and Poison.

If you don't have a story like this in your long term memory banks, then the Challenger is not for you. But if the Mopar shape fires off dusty synapses, then the back seat access is tolerable and the plasticky dash is nostalgic. I like.

The Challenger is easier to drive than the Camaro. It's like comparing an AMC Pacer (Challenger) to a chopped and channeled Merc (Camaro). The Challenger is comfortable enough for daily use. The transmission's shift algorithm could only have been mapped by the EPA. Regardless of throttle input or vehicle speed, the trans always chose high gear. Better mapping would have made the V6 feel stronger. I'm sure that the power is in there somewhere, but it never made it to the rear wheels.

Overall, I would happily buy a V8 Challenger with a manual trans. Then I would download some lame Def Leppard tunes and take the Challenger apart.

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