…and the adventure begins…
The steady hum of the V8 was soothing for the soul, definitely sounded and felt very American. Although after climbing into the cockpit of this car, I noticed that the visibility was much worse than anticipated, so I immediately started adjusting mirrors to make up for number of blind spots. The seats were very large and couch-like, obviously not meant for holding one in place, in case of deep cornering on a spirited mountain road drive.
After getting everything adjusted to my personal preference, I slowly exit the rental car lot and proceed home, to show the kids what we rented for the weekend.
Of course, after getting onto the street, I simply must see what kind of power this thing really has. I switch to manual mode and mash on the accelerator, after a millisecond it definitely wakes up and tears down the road before I have a chance to click the next gear up on the paddle shifter.
A thought enters my head “maybe I better do this stuff later on, when nobody is around,” I switch back to automatic mode and cruise the rest of the way home.
The kids (6 and 11) were extremely excited to see what we rented, and we took them for a spin, since they won’t have the opportunity to join us for the weekend. Their impression was that it looked cool from the outside, but couldn’t see anything from the backseat, which made them constantly lean towards the front to see what was going on.
After the quick trip to lunch with the kids, we pack our bags, drop the kids off at the sitter for the weekend and hit the road to a friend’s home near Deming for a weekend of automotive touring.
As we begin to lay rubber down on I-10, passing a few cars is virtually effortless with the large motor this particular vehicle has. The gear kicks down and the car growls up and into a perfect passing speed and tames down when it is asked to. As we get closer, we see that the area has been pounded with heavy rainfall, and made several areas impassable by smaller cars.
We decide to risk it and the Challenger makes short work of the slightly deep water and the rough roads that followed. “What an excellent all-around multi-terrain vehicle this really is,” I mumbled to myself. It had no problems forging anything we put it through for the rest of the evening, as we gathered for dinner with the rest of the automotive touring group at the Adobe Deli Steakhouse.
The following morning, we drive a couple of tour-goers down to their vehicles (since they could not pass some of the flooded roads and rocky terrain) which were stored at a nearby neighbor’s home. After getting situated, we browsed the route and hit the road, first on a long stretch of straight desolate highway in which we led the pack to the starting point of the fun roads.
On the straight highway, the Challenger was king, easily passing other vehicles and accelerating to passing speeds with ease. Once we got to the fun roads, the Challenger became more of a namesake for myself and my wife as we struggled to stay firmly planted in our seats. The lack of efficient bolsters not only began to tire our backs, but on winding roads, it was like sitting in a roller coaster with 10 foot wide leather seats and no seat belts.
To make matters worse, the car couldn’t corner much better than a Toyota Camry. When we did push it into the corners, the rear tires would break loose, if not all four at the same time. We eventually gave way to the other tour-goers as our spirited drive was over with the challenges we faced just trying to maintain the posted speed limits.
Upon closer inspection, we begin to notice that the rear tires were quite bald on the inside shoulders and was possibly the cause of much of the sliding. Although sliding rear tires at 25mph seemed a bit ridiculous, even for a car with limited traction.
Between the extreme weight of the car and the tires, it was a fair call that this vehicle was made for long open straights only, and had no business on a mountain pass with hundreds of sharp turns. We changed our plan to only persevere and be late to each checkpoint rather than try to keep up with the extremely high performance vehicles that our friends were driving.
In the end, the Challenger was quite the car until asked to perform as it appears to be marketed. But a quick dive into the history of the newer generation Challengers explains perfectly why this vehicle handles so poorly in track conditions without the right modifications.
Evidently the Charger/Challenger platform was originally designed to be a family sedan, but in the process of trying to keep up with all the retro styled sportscars that other automakers were putting out, Dodge decided to simply change the bumpers and re-badge these cars with old-school names and attempt to pass them off as such. Hopefully the evolution of Hellcat has made this a better car, but otherwise it is ridiculous to consider it a sportscar unless it has the right modifications to meet the minimum criteria.
The rental agency was not interested in any of my complaints regarding the car, took zero responsibility all while making the statement that it was “way overdue, and needs to be taken out of service.” Even after sending a complaint to the management about them releasing a vehicle with bald tires, I was only offered a “better deal” than this one — and still charged me the upgrade fee.
Despite this mixed experience, it didn’t stop us from renting another, different sportscar for another event — that despite having a good rental experience — the vehicle was also a semi-unpleasant trip. But that’s another story…
Until next time, keep on motoring!
To read Part one, click HERE