2012 Dodge Challenger Review and Prices

Last Updated: Nov 2, 2010

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2012 Dodge Challenger Buying Advice

The 2012 Dodge Challenger is the best car for you if you’re a MoPar loyalist who craves a modern-day muscle car with throwback styling and contemporary engineering.

The 2012 Dodge Challenger shouldn’t see much change after the 2011 Challenger leveled a round of powertrain counterpunches toward its fellow Detroit pony cars, the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. The 2012 Challenger will remain the largest and heaviest of the three cars. That tends to render it the least nimble, but the Dodge’s more generous dimensions also give it a feature its rivals lack – a useable back seat.

Should you wait for the 2012 Dodge Challenger or buy the 2011 Dodge Challenger? Little reason to wait for the 2012 Challenger. It’s not apt to get any major changes, and the 2011 Challenger already has the key armament this pony will rely upon for several more years.

2012 Dodge Challenger Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Dodge Challenger’s exterior appearance isn’t expected to change aside perhaps for the addition of some new paint treatments, trim packages, or wheel choices. That means the 2012 Challenger will retain the same neo-retro look it’s carried since it was introduced for model-year 2008. A long hood and short rear deck makes for the classic pony-car profile, while a wide inset front grille with traditional round headlamps channels the original 1970-1974 Challenger muscle car.

Inside, the 2012 Dodge Challenger should be status quo after a modest 2011 update that included a new steering wheel, gauge faces, and little else. Expect a rather stark cabin with an excess of hard surfaces and a shortage of pizzazz that belies the racy-looking exterior. One interior nod to the car’s heritage will likely remain the 1970s-style pistol-grip handle on the shift lever of Challengers fitted with manual transmission.

The 2012 Dodge Challenger will probably continue with a three-model lineup: the base Challenger SE with a V-6 engine, the speedier V-8-powered R/T, and the ultra-powerful SRT8 392.

The 2012 Challenger will remain essentially a two-door rendition of the Dodge Charger sedan. Though the Charger and the related Chrysler 300 were restyled inside and out for model-year 2011, the 2012 Challenger will likely continue to share their engines, transmissions, and most mechanical components. The length of the 2012 Charger’s body will remain shorter than that of the Charger, as will its wheelbase. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear axles and largely determines a vehicle’s interior volume. That spells less rear-seat leg room than in the Charger, but the 2012 Challenger will continue with a more spacious back seat than the Camaro or Mustang, both of which are four-passenger cars to the Challenger’s five-place accommodations.

However, Camaro and Mustang are smaller and lighter than the Challenger, assets that should continue to contribute to somewhat livelier performance characteristics. And while the 2012 Dodge Challenger will continue only as a two-door coupe, Camaro and Mustang will be available in both coupe and convertible body styles.

Mechanical: The 2012 Dodge Challenger should continue to offer a choice of three engines and two transmissions and ride on a rear-wheel-drive platform. The base engine will likely remain the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that was added to the Challenger SE for model-year 2011. Expect it to retain ratings of 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque.

Those ratings should remain competitive with those of the V-6s in the base 2012 Camaro and 2012 Mustang. The Chevy and Ford, however, will likely continue to mate their V-6 with both a six-speed manual transmission and a six-speed automatic. The 2012 Challenger SE probably will continue a five-speed automatic as its sole transmission. While it offers a manual-type gear-select mode, the five-speed automatic is a poor substitute for a bona fide stick shift, especially among sports-coupe enthusiasts.

The 2012 Dodge Challenger R/T should retain its 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which received a nominal power bump for model-year 2011 to 383 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.  Named for its hemispherical-shaped combustion chambers, this V-8 will likely continue to feature variable-displacement technology that conserves fuel by automatically shutting down half of the cylinders in low-demand driving conditions, then restoring all eight as needed. Expect the 2012 Challenger R/T to return with the five-speed automatic transmission as well as a six-speed manual.

Fast as it may be, the 2012 Challenger R/T is likely to continue outmuscled by the 2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS and 2012 Ford Mustang GT. The Chevy will likely continue with a 6.2-liter V-8 rated at 426 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque (400/410 with an automatic transmission). The 2012 Mustang GT should return with a 5.0-liter V-8 412 horsepower and 390 pound-feet. Both those rear-drive rivals offer manual and automatic transmissions with six speeds.

However, the 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 model should again be on hand to re-establish Challenger’s performance cred. This model will pack a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that should retain ratings of 475 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. The “392” in the model name refers to the V-8’s displacement expressed in cubic inches, a throwback to the era before automobile engines were measured according to the metric system. The 2012 Challenger SRT8 392 should continue to feature variable displacement and be available with the six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The 2012 SRT8 392 will again cost several thousand dollars more than a Camaro SS or Mustang GT, but will also continue with assorted performance-minded upgrades, particularly to in the steering and suspension systems, to better handle its prodigious power.

Bragging rights, however, are short-lived in the pony-car arena. The 2012 Mustang Shelby GT500 model will be back with its superchanged V-8 of some 550 horsepower, and both it and the 2012 Challenger SRT8 392 will probably have to contend with the newly introduced 2012 Camaro Z28, which is also expected to pack a supercharged V-8 of more than 550 horsepower.

Features: The 2012 Dodge Challenger should continue decently equipped, even in base-SE-model form. This means buyers can expect a full assortment of standard safety features, including side-curtain airbags for both seating rows to protect the head of outboard occupants in side-impact collisions.
Antilock four-wheel disc brakes for sure stopping power, traction control to help prevent wheel slippage at low speeds on wet or loose surfaces, and electronic stability control to keep all four wheels firmly planted to the pavement in higher-speed handling maneuvers also will continue standard on all 2012 Challengers.

Expect standard convenience features to again include a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel, power driver’s seat, and a split-folding rear seat to help expand the vehicle’s cargo-carrying capacity. Other 2012 Challenger features, standard or optional depending on the model, should include a power sunroof, remote engine starter, leather heated seats, high-intensity xenon headlamps, a voice-activated navigation array, and a premium Uconnect multimedia system that includes a USB/iPod operating interface and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The 2012 Challenger SE should again offer a Rallye package that includes specific styling add-ons like a prominent chrome fuel-filler cover.

The 2012 Challenger SRT8 392 will continue with an array of standard features and model-specific interior packaging that includes leather-clad sport seats and a trip computer that measures and displays performance characteristics like 0-60 mph acceleration times, lateral cornering G-forces, and so on.

2012 Dodge Challenger Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Dodge Challenger had not been released in time for this review but aren’t expected to increase much over the 2011 Dodge Challenger models. Expect a 2012 Challenger base-price range of roughly $25,900-$44,000. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Dodge’s fee for the 2011 Challenger was $825.)

Estimated base price for the 2012 Dodge Challenger SE is just under $26,000. Expect the 2012 Challenger R/T to start around $31,000. Estimated base price for the 2012 Challenger SRT8 392 is $44,000. Note that the manual transmission has been an extra-cost feature for the RT and SRT8 392 models and should again add up to $1,000 to the price of one of these 2012 Challengers.

2012 Dodge Challenger Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage ratings had not been released for the 2011 or 2012 Dodge Challenger in time for this review. An educated guess would put EPA ratings for the Challenger SE with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 at around 18/26 mpg city/highway. Figure the Challenger R/T and its 5.7-liter V-8 at around 16/25 mpg with either manual or automatic transmission. And expect the Challenger SRT8 392 and its 6.4-liter Hemi engine to rate around 14/22 mpg with manual transmission, about 13/19 with automatic.

2012 Dodge Challenger Release Date back to top

The 2012 Dodge Challenger should go on sale by September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Dodge Challenger back to top

Sources indicate that the Dodge Challenger will carry on without substantive changes through the 2014 model year. Its fate beyond that is uncertain.

Assuming this retro revival eventually enters into a second generation, Dodge designers could update the Challenger’s classic profile with an evolutionary interpretation. That could retain some of the car’s original styling flavor, much as Chevrolet accomplished with the current-generation Camaro and as Ford has done in recent years with the Mustang. The next-generation Challenger might also offer a convertible version.

Or Chrysler LLC and its corporate managers, Italy’s Fiat Group, could well determine that reinventing a retro design is an exercise in futility. Part of that rationale would be that Baby Boomers who might have been interested in the Challenger will by then have aged out of the sports coupe market. That could mean the Challenger might be discontinued altogether, in the fashion the retro Chrysler PT Cruiser never made it to a second-generation design.

If that’s the case, expect the Challenger to be replaced by a more contemporary-looking sports coupe. And don’t count on gas-swilling V-8s. Expect instead smaller engines that leverage the latest technology to maximize power and fuel economy. Whether it carries the Challenger name is anyone’s guess. But a new Dodge coupe could again be based on the Charger or adapted from a smaller and more athletic existing or future Alfa-Romeo or Fiat model with front-, rear, or all-wheel drive possible.

2012 Dodge Challenger Competition back to top

Chevrolet Camaro: A brand-new convertible version of this modern yet retro-flavored favorite debuts for model-year 2012. It’ll provide fun in the sun and help Camaro keep up with its chief rival, the Ford Mustang. Camaro falls short in terms of passenger accommodations and luggage space it excels by delivering crisp handling without too-punishing a ride. A V-6 engine affords adequate acceleration, with the SS model’s V-8 furnishing booster-rocket thrust. A new Z28 is likely and if it comes to fruition could pack a supercharged V-8 that delivers more than 550 horsepower. Fuel economy should continue at or near 18/29 mpg with the V-6 and around 16/25 for the SS V-8. Expect prices to start at around $24,000 for a V-6 model, around $32,000 for an SS, and close to $50,000 for a Z28.

Ford Mustang: The current-generation of the original pony car is arguably the best version yet, with impressive horsepower and fuel economy, adept handling, and an overall feeling of sophistication prior models lacked. The standard V-6 is sufficiently powerful and boasts a noteworthy 19/31 mpg. The GT’s 5.0-liter V-8 is far faster and still achieves a respectable 18/25 mpg EPA rating. A standard six-speed manual transmission shifts smoothly, with an efficient six-speed automatic optional. The top Shelby GT 500 version packs a 550-horsepower supercharged V-8 and comes only with the manual transmission. Prices range from about $23,000 for a base V-6 version to around $31,000 for a V-8 GT, and nearly $50,000 for the Shelby GT 500.

Nissan 370Z: Boasting a bona fide heritage of its own, Nissan’s Z dates back to the original 240Z from model-year 1970. Though it’s grown bulkier and heavier since it originally reached U.S. shores, it’s also gotten more powerful and remains an entertaining ride. It’s due to receive a midcycle makeover for model-year 2012 that will likely be limited to a cosmetic freshening and minor mechanical updates. The 2012 Z is expected to retain its 3.7-liter V-6 engine and choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission, perhaps with a bump of a few horsepower to around 340 and with improved fuel economy over its 2011 rating of 19/26. Again available as a coupe or convertible, the freshened Z should be priced from around $32,000-$42,000.

2012 Dodge Challenger Next Steps