2012 Dodge Challenger Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
Many test drivers are impressed with this muscle car’s handling. They say that the Challenger handles well despite its large size. It can’t match the athletic prowess of the Ford Mustang, but it’s entertaining on a twisty road and comfortable on a long stretch of highway.
- "For all its mass, the Challenger is reasonably responsive, with precise steering and good control of body motions." -- Car and Driver
- "V8-powered Challengers produce sound levels in keeping with their high-performance character. Engine, exhaust, and road noise are not as prominent as might be expected for a high-performance car." -- Consumer Guide
- "Unlike many cars in the genre, the Challenger's interior is pleasantly quiet at speed and the ride is controlled without being jarring; this is true even for the R/T trims, although increased tire size and a stiffer suspension somewhat diminish ride comfort." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "Telling your friends you bought a V6-powered 2011 Dodge Challenger is no longer something to be embarrassed about, as an all-new, more powerful and more efficient base V6 engine debuts." -- Edmunds
- "Unlike the V6 in the Chevrolet Camaro, the Pentastar engine delivers its punch without the same harshness or vibration of its Bowtie rival, delivering its reps in a smooth, dangerously encouraging wave." -- Autoblog
Acceleration and Power
The base Dodge Challenger comes with a 3.6-liter V6 engine that generates 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. Most reviewers say that the V6 provides plenty of power, but shoppers looking for some additional thrust can step up to a Challenger R/T, which packs a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 under its hood. The V6 comes with a five-speed automatic transmission, while the Challenger R/T comes with a six-speed manual or an optional five-speed automatic.
When the 5.7-liter V8 is paired to a six-speed manual, the Challenger R/T generates 375 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque. V8 Challengers equipped with an automatic are slightly less powerful, generating 372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Regardless of which drivetrain you choose, the Challenger stays true to its muscle-car roots with rear-wheel drive. If you’re looking for even more power, check out the high-performance Dodge Challenger SRT8, which is reviewed separately.
Reviewers generally agree that although the Challenger doesn’t skimp on performance, it still trails the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro when it comes to fuel economy. The EPA says that the V6-powered Challenger gets 18 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. V8 models get 16/25 and 15/23 mpg city/highway fuel economy with automatic and manual transmissions, respectively. By comparison, the V6-powered Mustang offers 19/31 mpg city/highway when equipped with an automatic transmission.
- "Challenger's fuel economy is not great even with the V6, especially when measured against Mustang and Camaro's relatively frugal V6s." -- Consumer Guide
- "The 3.6-liter V6 of 305 horsepower, offers plenty of more-than-reasonable performance. It's also lighter than the previous engine, which helps vehicle balance and handling." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "First of all, the base V6 model is no longer a source of automotive shame. The new ‘Pentastar’ 3.6-liter V6 presents a significant improvement in both power (up 55 horsepower to 305 hp) and fuel economy, and is now competitive with its rivals' base engines." -- Edmunds
- "We can say with some authority that the new six-pot is an amazing addition to the Challenger line." -- Autoblog
Handling and Braking
The automotive press says that the Challenger handles well for such a large car. Although the Challenger’s handling has improved due to upgrades over the past few model years, most test drivers agree that it’s still not as athletic as the Ford Mustang. However, they also say that the Challenger is a comfortable highway cruiser that would be a good choice on long road trips.
- "Those hoping for truly agile ponycar handling will be disappointed... the Challenger is simply too big to deliver athletic cornering moves." -- Consumer Guide
- "The steering is a bit heavy, but it's precise enough to inspire confidence executing high-speed maneuvers." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "Benefiting from extensive changes made to its suspension, brakes and steering, the … Dodge Challenger is more capable of keeping up with its rivals when the road takes a turn or two." -- Edmunds