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2013 Dodge Challenger still has two wheels in the past

The 2013 Dodge Challenger is designed to evoke

The 2013 Dodge Challenger is designed to evoke the original 1970s model. Photo Credit: Dodge / MCT

Even in these dour, downsized times, the burly, old-school Dodge Challenger proudly lugs a trunk that's bigger than some subcompacts.

Just like cars 40 years ago, it could easily swallow a couple of gangly teenagers bent on sneaking into a drive-in movie with a squeaking cooler full of Pearl beer stuffed between them.

The Challenger, the oldest new car in the auto industry, just kind of provokes rebellious behavior.

With two wheels in the 20th century and two in the 21st, the Challenger races down retro road, Bruce Springsteen blasting provocatively from open windows.

Still, the Challenger is the lowest-selling coupe in the pony-car segment and the one most in need of serious updating.

The Challenger sprung brashly from muscle-car crazy Detroit in 1970, available with a beastly 426 Hemi V-8 that got about 4 miles per gallon -- downhill with a tailwind. The car, still valued highly by collectors, lasted until 1974.

Thirty-four long years later, Dodge reintroduced the Challenger to compete with the hot-selling Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang, again putting the car on a big rear-wheel-drive platform with optional Hemi power.

The metallic gray 2013 R/T I had recently certainly looked like a survivor. Built on the same sedan platform that supports the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, the 2-ton coupe still wears the clothes it had in 1970 -- stretched a bit.

Dual round headlights flanked a broad, blacked-out grille. A power dome on the expansive hood sported fake vents on its edges.

The tall body and relatively short top appeared to have been lifted more or less intact from the '70s, along with a prominent character line below the door handle.

Although the single band of tail lamps across the rear reeked of retro, the Challenger rode tall and proud on relatively modern black five-spoke wheels.

It's at least 500 pounds heavier than a Mustang GT and about 200 more than a Camaro.

That means its 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 and six-speed manual have to work to push the big coupe to 60 in 5.1 seconds. The Hemi produces 375 sweet, sophisticated horsepower and spun the rear wheels on mine -- frequently.

The Challenger leapt away from stops with vigor, but it felt more fleet than brutally fast.

While smooth and reasonably refined for a pushrod V-8, the deep-breathing Hemi struggled a bit above 4,000 rpm with the car's bulk and rarely pinned me in the seat.


2013 Dodge Challenger R/T

Price as tested: $36,175

Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 23 highway

Weight: 4,164 pounds

Engine: 5.7-liter V-8

Power: 375 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque

0 to 60 mph: 5.1 seconds

Length: 197.7 inches

Height: 57.1 inches

Width: 75.7 inches

Bottom line: Powerful pony

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