The Dodge Challenger is the truest to its roots of the current Detroit 3 muscle cars hands down. The Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang do feature some retro influences, but the Challenger feels like it drove into Bill and Ted’s phone booth and travelled straight here from 1970.
|Engine: 5.7 L V8 with 375 HP, 410 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed manual.
Fuel economy: 16 MPG city, 23 MPG highway, 14.9 MPG observed.
Price: R/T Shaker begins at $38,490 after destination charges, $43,470 as tested.
Longer than the Hyundai Genesis sedan and wider than a Chevrolet Impala, the big Dodge features classic pony car design elements like a flat front-end, sunken grill, quad headlights, a long hood and a Coke bottle body and full width taillights. The Challenger already oozes road presence and for 2014 are going up a notch with the addition of the R/T Shaker package.
Unmistakable Hood Scoop
Front and center, literally, is the semi-functional “Shaker” hoodscoop. Mimicking the Hemi shaker scoop from the 1970 Challenger, the new scoop has twin air intakes that funnel fresh air under the hood. However, unlike the old carbureted Challenger that fed the air directly into the air cleaner it was attached to, the new scoop crams air into a tube that performs a 180 degree turn and dumps it back at the cone air filter found at the front of the car. There are no performance gains with the Shaker package, just coolness points.
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Further dressing up the R/T Shaker’s exterior are a body colored surround on the grille, a flat black rear spoiler, an old school black fuel-filler cap, unique wheels, shaker badges and a set of black vinyl strips that run the length of the car. The Challenger is one of the few cars on the market today that can get away with racing stripes and actually looks a bit naked without a decal package of some kind applied to it.
Of Course There’s a HEMI
Not only does R/T Shaker look like a 5/4ths scale 1970 Challenger, but it drives eerily close to one as well. Under hood is the same 5.7-liter HEMI V8 as found in the regular R/T. A choice of transmissions are available, a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual. By selecting the manual like we did for our test vehicle, power gets bumped slightly over the automatic with official output numbers pegged at 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. As an added bonus, manual transmission Challenger R/Ts also gets a limited-slip differential and 3.92 rear gears for quicker acceleration.
SEE ALSO: 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 Review
The R/T Shaker is a heavy car tipping the scales at over 4,100 lbs. But, 410 lb-ft can be persuasive and the Challenger pulls in first through third gear. By fourth, things begin to taper off and sixth gear is really just meant for cruising. The Shaker makes a nice hearty V8 roar under acceleration, but it could be much louder.
Gears engage with more precision and ease than I expected them to in such a burley muscle car. Once in gear though, the shift lever does offer a ton of side-to-side play. In contrast, the one the one part of the Challenger that is supposed to shake – the “Shaker” hood scoop – doesn’t really. It pulls to the right when the gas is hit and is kind of cool to watch as a passenger during quick acceleration runs, but at idle it just sits there.
A Muscle Car, Not a Sports Car
By selecting the R/T Shaker option, the Super Track Pack is automatically included. This bolsters the Challenger’s steering, brakes and shock absorbers, but we don’t feel it. Even with the upgrades, the Challenger’s steering is incredibly loose. In a corner, it relates nothing the front tires are doing to the driver. Maybe Dodge went a little too far retrofying the Challenger as 1970s era steering precision seems to have snuck its way into the car.
The tires themselves do provide grip, but the sloppy steering, massive weight and copious body roll reminds the driver this is a straight line car and not a track terror. And when a little light rain makes the roads greasy, the Challenger feels ready to participate in the Formula Drift championship.
SEE ALSO: 2011 Dodge Challenger Review
Another Challenger trait strait from the 1970s is fuel mileage. Alright, it’s not that bad, but the R/T Shaker is a big car with a big engine and fuel economy is officially rated at 16 MPG city and 23 MPG highway. During our time with the car we averaged 14.9 MPG, but our inability to control the juvenile impulse to stab the accelerator and bring that HEMI to life is more to blame than the car itself.
Big and Small Inside
Despite the cars size, headroom isn’t great. Our six-foot tall tester found his hair brushed on the roof liner while driving. The seats on the other hand are massive. Obviously designed to be comfortable for larger drivers, they’re too wide for my skinny torso.
Highlights inside the R/T Shaker include the pistol grip shifter and killer Harman Kardon sound system. There is so much power and so much bass pounding out of this sound system thanks to a pair of subwoofers hidden under the trunk floor.
More Shaker Badges
Of course, the Shaker package also adds some unique touches inside like a three-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel, a black painted instrument panel and center-console bezel, a “Shaker” numbered dash plaque and a “Shaker” logo embroidered on the front seat backs.
Pricing begins at $38,490 after destination charges while our test vehicle came in at $43,470 thanks to the addition of HID lights, a sunroof, the Harman Kardon sound system and navigation.
Despite its shortcomings, there is something undeniably cool about the Challenger R/T Shaker. Looking out over the massive hood and seeing the shaker scope poking through with lettering glued to the side is closest I’ll ever get to driving in the 1970s. And for those who do remember driving in the era of eight track tapes and Watergate, it’s probably the closest they’ll ever get to reliving their youth.
The Challenger has always been a big, flashy car that gets noticed everywhere it goes. Every kid we passed in the R/T Shaker would point excitedly and that may be the secret charm of the Challenger; it’s the embodiment of classic American swagger that speaks to the inner child in all of us.