Recently, I had to move from Los Angeles to Napa Valley. Separating me from my destination was more than 400 miles, mostly dry, bare desert with nothing but 5. With my usual road-trip cruiser in store, I needed to rent one. I booked an inexpensive sedan—I’m a Midwesterner, and therefore allergic to spending money—but when I arrived at the Enterprise, I was offered a free upgrade: How does a new Challenger R/T sound?
A chance to rebuild Vanishing Point with an insured rental? I didn’t need to ponder it for long, and soon I was passing out with my thunder, buzzing through the Hemi rental garage. I’m not necessarily the Challenger’s target market—I’m an owner of nimble, slow-paced Japanese sport coupes—but I’m American and there’s something about listening to a V8 passive that awakens our patriotic spirit along the way. Francis Scott Key could only have wished. And for a damn rental, this thing was loud. Dodge knows what moves the soul.
It’s the Challenger R/T of 2021, not the year that matters, as it has basically been that way since its inception. It has its roots in a 21-year-old A mishmash of Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler platforms, which with HEMI V8 5.7 . makes horsepower and north of 400 ft-lbs of torque.
345. behind Cubic-inch V8, mated to an eight-speed TorqueFlight ZF automatic transmission that transmits all that torque in 245 seconds. it all adds up to one Big Curb weight of 4,182 pounds, in real muscle car form. The only thing that would particularly date this car to me is that it has Apple CarPlay; Every other part of it could be from 1971 or 2021. The Cluster even pays homage to the first-generation Challenger with a ’70s-style type treatment. And besides, there’s a timeless quality to something as straightforward as the Challenger. It has a V8 and looks mean. What else are you actually shopping for here?
Clearly, Dodge’s marketing works. Over the current Challenger’s 13-year lifespan, Dodge has released about 650,000 of them on American roadways, all the way from the base V6 to the 700-odd hp Hellcat and 800-odd hp Demon trims. Immediately, I got the appeal. Here I was in Hollywood looking like a movie villain and every time I stepped away from a stoplight I had to use every ounce of self-control within myself to avoid burning the tires. Cars don’t have an inherent sense of morality, but Dodge has tried To make the Challenger a car of questionable morality. Tiny glass, massive fender styling, raucous exhaust noise straight from the factory, and of course paid and unpaid product placements In television program more movies with most famous antagonist Behind the wheel of a Hemi is conceivable. They all work together to create the challenger’s cultural imprint of the sinful self-idolution, igniting the rubber in ritual sacrifice for the driver’s pleasure.
Self-indulgence isn’t always a bad thing, though, and a huge, fast V8 with an eight-speed transmission and a curb weight that can make a freightliner feel slim would make for a great cruiser on my Napa run, I accepted. But the Challenger’s fun lasted about half an hour into the six-hour drive. The seats seemed to have been carved out of concrete blocks of granite and by the time I finished my 12-hour journey, I was covered in sore spots. The eight-speed transmission, incredibly eager to prove it’s an R/T, downshifted three or four gears every time I wanted to slowly accelerate into a new speed range. Eventually I gave up, and just let the car win by patting the gas that passed; The accelerator apparently only wanted to be an on/off switch. Anyway, I was driving a blacked out Challenger. Not that I had any social expectations of living. It was easier to give in to the whiplash sensations of a car than to try and exercise gently.
Other than boldly empowering me to be an asshole to all the minivans that passed me, there was nothing he felt capable of. Steering gave the feeling of driving through about four inches of maple syrup. It was simultaneously full of resistance and very slick, like the power steering going out and the front tires coated in Crisco. Body roll was kept to a minimum by the utterly rock-hard jerks who were clearly trying their very It’s hardest to make the Challenger feel like it didn’t weigh 200 pounds more than a ’95 Silverado short cab, at the cost of any comfort that the rock-like seats hadn’t already eliminated. The lack of rolls, if anything, made it hard to find the boundaries; The steering won’t communicate and neither will the chassis, so I’ll figure out the range of traction before I feel it, and then just pray I can catch the lurching behemoth before I get to the nearest telephone pole last quarter.
It all sounds bad, but unfortunately, it gets worse. The CarPlay radio unit was installed by the factory with all consideration for fit and finish, the first time I slammed a dual-din in my parent’s Civic. Because the cockpit was so wide and the dash was so far ahead, the unit was really uncomfortable to use. When radio technology advances two or three times when your car is on the market, it’s ultimately no longer optimized for ergonomics. Visibility is atrocious, thanks to the greenhouse that appeared to be taking inspiration from Periscope Slit of Leopard 1A6 Tank. The retro-style gauge cluster was so inconspicuous as to be nearly useless, forcing me to navigate through menus to find my actual speed, because “somewhere 70 or 80 MPH” wouldn’t be enough for CHP. To finally reach the digital speedo readout, I had to go through a series of mostly cluttered HUD features, Including 0-60 timer.
And then the real purpose of this car made a lot more sense. Dodge knows this car has a trick; It does it in 5.4 seconds, and Dodge wants you to do it every time you get behind the wheel. Muscle cars are for pulling. They are not for comfort. They are not meant to be turned. They’re there to turn every single stoplight into a drag race, other motorists be damned. This car may not be inherently bad but it is Definitely is inherently selfish, and this trait confirms it. At every single pause in your drive, a small timer will pop up over and over again to set itself your personal best, asking you to use this car for what it really means: blindly moving forward.
Despite all these inherent flaws and downright antisocial behavior this car is emblematic of, I still found myself on the floor, sucked into its game. I was doing my best to evoke the joy I felt the 5.7L V8 should bring in me, trying to reclaim my own vanishing point. I could not. The skies were covered with soot and the desert was unbearably hot and the gas was $4.70 a gallon; There was nowhere to escape, no matter how hard I tried and pretended to be a moody delivery-woman towing CHP Valiants and beating British sports coupes on a two-lane highway. This car is a time capsule from a different era of American motoring, but it’s not a time machine, and I can’t put off the flames of the present.
Challenger, like its pilot, struggles to find its place in the present world. It’s not competing with third-generation Camaros or SN95 Mustangs; Those cars have the same mindset, and it will be a fair fight. But Mustangs now have independent rear suspension and even turbocharged four-cylinders, and the Camaro can run a ‘ring lap’ in 7:16. They have moved into the modern era. Challenger always gets bigger, faster, more aggressive with more powerful Hemi power plants; if it is fair more Like it used to be, it will prove its worth and its place.
Because of this determination, however, the Challenger is the purest representation of America’s obsession with the muscle car era. It is unpleasant to drive and it is important to the experience; Muscle cars were never great driving machines. The car clings to its past in a way that would prevent it from ever becoming a road tripper, or tourer, or sports car, because its entire design ethos only dates back to the ’70s with its cheap gas and lack of safety standards. This Feeling That bygone years weren’t better, but it still wholeheartedly embraces them as it yearns for the simpler times when this disorganized, dated platform was enough to satisfy. This Isn’t A Tribute To The Original ’70s Challenger, It’s Is The Challenger of the 70s with new bodywork.
It is also America’s finest distillery. We are moving ahead blindly without any plan. We have no drive or motivation or identity other than as defined by our recollection of past achievements. our dominance aesthetics and media The fables, the better, are reflections of bygone eras that have neither really improved on their own, nor have been completely removed from our rear view mirrors. past tense still rules us.
Our single fixed reference point, the North Star of our civilization, long dead exclusively codified philosophy of a group of white men who created a legal and economic system devoted to the buying and selling of human beings upon them, and we have vehemently refused to obey it for the rest of our existence. the world needs Dramatic Adventure, and we stand firmly in the middle of the road, unwilling and unable to change, as we see in the headlights of our own impending destruction. The Challenger, with an unwavering desire to live up to the days of its own imagined glory, is the perfect car for us.
After returning the R/T to the rental garage, I realized it was the model used in the infamous Charlottesville terror attack. A neo-Nazi accompanied by a challenger entered a group of anti-racism protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 35 others. It makes sense to me now that it was a Challenger. It could have been anything – a pickup truck or a Prius are equally lethal in the hands of a killer – but the Challenger is the perfect representative of the fascists of the past and the racists the racists want to “reborn”. They embrace a deeply flawed time where challenges to their social and cultural power are less visible, and they enjoy it. The car isn’t built specifically for white supremacists, of course—despite its flaws, it was certainly an entertaining rental—but it’s representative of an ancient mindset, stuck in a past that others have taken. We’ve worked hard to move forward, reflecting our nostalgia-obsessed culture and our unapologetic past so thoroughly that it undoubtedly has appeal to the types who remember the days before the Civil Rights Act.
Dodge, for better or worse, has understood our country in a way no other manufacturer has, and they have created a car that reflects that.