• Quick Drive: 2016 Dodge Challenger SXT Blacktop


    • Six is good, but eight is even better

    For a time, the V6 was looked down upon in the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang because they were seen as lackluster. The engines didn’t match aggression that was being expressed by the exterior of the coupes. But rising gas prices and increasing regulations on fuel economy and emissions has the likes of GM, Ford, and FCA revisiting the idea of a V6 muscle car. We recently spent some time in a 2016 Dodge Challenger V6 to see if it is worth it.

    • I will argue that the Challenger is still the meanest looking out of the three muscle cars on sale. Dodge’s designers were able to bring the design of the original Challenger into the modern era without making it look like a complete mess. The little details such as the narrow grille, quad headlights, fuel filler cap, and rectangular taillights are here and help it stand out. Our tester featured the optional Blacktop package that adds a blacked-out grille, black stripes, and a set of 20-inch wheels.
    • The downside to bringing the original Challenger design into the modern era is poor visibility. Large rear pillars and a small glass area make it somewhat difficult to backup or making a pass. The good news is that a number of Challenger models like our SXT Plus come with a backup camera as standard and blind spot monitoring is available as an option.
    • The Challenger’s interior hasn’t changed much since we last reviewed it back in 2014 with the SRT 392. It is still a comfortable place to sit in and controls are in easy reach for the driver thanks to the center stack being slightly angled. Still, the limited glass area does mean you will feel somewhat confined.
    • Power for the SXT is Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, you need to step to one of the V8 engines.
    • The V6 is quite surprising with how much performance is on offer. Step on the accelerator and the V6 moves the Challenger with surprising authority. Power comes on a smooth rate no matter what gear you find yourself in. The eight-speed automatic is one of best in the business with smart shifts.
    • Only disappointment is the V6 doesn’t sound like it belongs in the Challenger. There isn’t that muscular roar when step on the accelerator. A new exhaust and some tweaking in the engine could fix this issue. 
    • As for fuel economy, we got an average of 23.4 mpg. Not bad for a coupe that is rated at 19 City/30 Highway/23 Combined.
    • One item that the Challenger is known for is its ride comfort and this hasn’t changed. Even with the optional Super Track Pak fitted to our tester, the Challenger was able to provide a cushy ride over some of Michigan’s terrible roads. Road and wind noise are kept at very low levels.
    • Speaking of the Super Track Pak, this should be mandatory equipment on the V6 model. With firmer suspension bits, it makes the Challenger feel slightly smaller and reduces body roll around corners. However, it cannot mask the Challenger’s weight. Pushing it around a corner, the Challenger feels quite big and not as nimble the as the Chevrolet Camaro I drove afterward.
    • The Challenger SXT Plus starts at $29,995. Add on a few options such as the Blacktop package and you’ll came to an as-tested price of $34,965, pretty good value for a muscle car.
    • Going with the V6 option in the Challenger isn’t bad a choice. You get the looks of a muscle car and some decent performance. But as I drove the Challenger during the week, I couldn’t help but think about what if I had the V8. Six is good, but eight is even better.

    Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2016
    Make: Dodge
    Model: Challenger
    Trim: SXT Plus
    Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
    Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
    Horsepower @ RPM: 305 @ 6,350
    Torque @ RPM: 268 @ 4,800
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/30/23
    Curb Weight: 3,885.2 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario
    Base Price: $26,995
    As Tested Price: $34,965 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    SXT Plus 3.6L V6 Package 21V - $3,000.00
    Driver Convenience Group - $1,095.00
    Sound Group II - $795.00
    Blacktop Package - $695.00
    Super Track Pak - $695.00
    UConnect 8.4 NAV - $695.00

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    10 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

    No thanks. V8 or bust in this segment. Especially in the Chally.

    Agreed.

    I actually think the small turbo mills are more enticing than the V6's. Just something about them that I like more than torqueless V6's...

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    And to this I say: Meh. V8s are overrated.

    Yes, they make a good noise. Yes, they offer more in the way of straight-line speed. But so what?

    I can claim ownership of both a fourth-gen Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, a Dodge Challenger and a late-model Ford Mustang. None of those cars were equipped with their optional V8s; they were all lowly V6 models.

    But that doesn't mean they were any less fun.

    Actually, what you give up in raw grunt you earn back in handling (it's especially true for the Mustang). And, personally, I relish good handling over a V8's thump since I find myself traveling more on Kentucky's curvy backroads versus our interstate highways or bypasses. However, for the times I have traveled on straighter blacktop, I've always found the V6 to be adequate.

    Then there's the money you save on the purchase price and, obviously, on insurance costs and at the gas pump.

    I guess what you do lose and never gain back is image. But, you know, I could care less about my car giving some mediocre middle-aged bald spot a hard-on between traffic lights. I didn't buy my car for someone else to enjoy -- selfishly, it's for me and me alone.

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    Not in those older generations you don't gain handling capabilities back with their skinny tires and soft suspensions.

    "that doesn't mean they were any less fun" - Yes. Yes it does mean they are less fun! lol

     

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    7 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    Not in those older generations you don't gain handling capabilities back with their skinny tires and soft suspensions.

    "that doesn't mean they were any less fun" - Yes. Yes it does mean they are less fun! lol

    Certainly, you do realize you've just made an argument here that's about as watertight as the Titanic.

    Skinny tires? My fourth-gen, six-banger Camaro and Firebird were both equipped with the same exact 16-inch wheels and tires as the Z28 and Trans Am, respectively, for 1998.

    (Only SS and WS6 models had 17-inch wheels and tires. Additionally, all Camaros and Firebirds used the same dual-piston brakes starting that year, regardless if they were V6 or V8-equipped.)

    In fact, the Firebird I owned was also equipped with the Y87 performance package that earned the car a V8 steering box and an upgraded suspension. I can't remember if the Camaro I had also packed the Y87 package, but I'm leaning toward yes since it had the Z28's 16-inch wheels and I remember the window sticker showing the car to be pretty much a fully-loaded V6 car, save for leather seats. So then, so much for a downgraded suspension.

    Let's also dig a little deeper, think with an open-mind for a second. Those V6 cars actually had most of the engine's weight placed behind the front wheels, and weighed a few hundred pounds less than their V8 counterparts. Obviously, these factors had positive effects on how the V6 cars handled.

    Facts aside, driving impressions are, like styling, ultimately a subjective matter. The stock tires on a Scion FR-S, for example, are actually pretty frickin skinny. But, if I recall correctly, most reviewers praise the FR-S as being fun to drive and a good handling car, just slow. Hmmmm...

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    9 hours ago, Blake Noble said:

    Certainly, you do realize you've just made an argument here that's about as watertight as the Titanic.

    Skinny tires? My fourth-gen, six-banger Camaro and Firebird were both equipped with the same exact 16-inch wheels and tires as the Z28 and Trans Am, respectively, for 1998.

    (Only SS and WS6 models had 17-inch wheels and tires. Additionally, all Camaros and Firebirds used the same dual-piston brakes starting that year, regardless if they were V6 or V8-equipped.)

    In fact, the Firebird I owned was also equipped with the Y87 performance package that earned the car a V8 steering box and an upgraded suspension. I can't remember if the Camaro I had also packed the Y87 package, but I'm leaning toward yes since it had the Z28's 16-inch wheels and I remember the window sticker showing the car to be pretty much a fully-loaded V6 car, save for leather seats. So then, so much for a downgraded suspension.

    Let's also dig a little deeper, think with an open-mind for a second. Those V6 cars actually had most of the engine's weight placed behind the front wheels, and weighed a few hundred pounds less than their V8 counterparts. Obviously, these factors had positive effects on how the V6 cars handled.

    Facts aside, driving impressions are, like styling, ultimately a subjective matter. The stock tires on a Scion FR-S, for example, are actually pretty frickin skinny. But, if I recall correctly, most reviewers praise the FR-S as being fun to drive and a good handling car, just slow. Hmmmm...

    1998 Camaro v6's has tire options of 215/50R16 and 235/55R16 and the SS came with 275/40R17s. Z/28 has a super awkward tire size of 245/5016. Those are very much different tire sizes. Not just section width but a more aggressive aspect ratio as well. And yes those taller sidewalls made for a squishy feeling.

    Looking up what exactly this Y87 Performance Package entails.. Nothing to do with suspension. 3.42 gears, Zexel-Torsion LSD, 235/55R16 Goodyear Eagles, Dual exhaust, 4 wheel disc brakes, and the V8's steering rack.

    The little FR-S/BRZ twins do have relatively skinny tires, and they also come with low rolling resistance tires from the factory. 214/45R17. The car has a boxer engine and it sits extremely low in the car bringing the CG down a ton in comparison. Yes, the V6 Camaros and Mustangs of those older generations weighed less because of less engine but you'll never objectively explain how the V6(of those older generations because the new ones are a completely different story with 1LE packages and north of 300hp and such) could be more fun than their V8 counterparts. Sliding around a 2700-2800lb car with exceptional balance is not the same as a 3300-3500lb, not well balanced, car.

    "Also critical in it’s handling dynamics is the BRZ has one of the lowest centers of gravity of any production car in the world at just 18.1 inches. This is because of Subaru’s Boxer engine design with its inherently low height and its mass concentrated low in the chassis. It contributes to all Subaru’s having this important characteristic, but BRZ takes maximum advantage of this."

    http://www.torquenews.com/1084/three-things-make-2015-subaru-brz-special-sports-car

    For what it's worth, C/D compared the Mustang and Camaro back in 1999 and the V6 Camaro ran a 16.1@87mph. That's not exactly fun speed either.. The little BRZ does the same in 15.0@94mph. Not the greatest comparison. Slow and overweight vs quick and light.

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    15 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

    1998 Camaro v6's has tire options of 215/50R16 and 235/55R16 and the SS came with 275/40R17s. Z/28 has a super awkward tire size of 245/5016. Those are very much different tire sizes. Not just section width but a more aggressive aspect ratio as well. And yes those taller sidewalls made for a squishy feeling.

    Looking up what exactly this Y87 Performance Package entails.. Nothing to do with suspension. 3.42 gears, Zexel-Torsion LSD, 235/55R16 Goodyear Eagles, Dual exhaust, 4 wheel disc brakes, and the V8's steering rack.

    The little FR-S/BRZ twins do have relatively skinny tires, and they also come with low rolling resistance tires from the factory. 214/45R17. The car has a boxer engine and it sits extremely low in the car bringing the CG down a ton in comparison. Yes, the V6 Camaros and Mustangs of those older generations weighed less because of less engine but you'll never objectively explain how the V6(of those older generations because the new ones are a completely different story with 1LE packages and north of 300hp and such) could be more fun than their V8 counterparts. Sliding around a 2700-2800lb car with exceptional balance is not the same as a 3300-3500lb, not well balanced, car.

    "Also critical in it’s handling dynamics is the BRZ has one of the lowest centers of gravity of any production car in the world at just 18.1 inches. This is because of Subaru’s Boxer engine design with its inherently low height and its mass concentrated low in the chassis. It contributes to all Subaru’s having this important characteristic, but BRZ takes maximum advantage of this."

    http://www.torquenews.com/1084/three-things-make-2015-subaru-brz-special-sports-car

    For what it's worth, C/D compared the Mustang and Camaro back in 1999 and the V6 Camaro ran a 16.1@87mph. That's not exactly fun speed either.. The little BRZ does the same in 15.0@94mph. Not the greatest comparison. Slow and overweight vs quick and light.

    Jesus, dude...

    Alright then, let's do this, I guess...

    1. The 245/50R16 tire size you mentioned for the Z28 were a Z-rated tire offered as optional equipment for 1998. They were not the standard tire for that year. All base Z/28s had 235/55R16 tires... and, hey, wouldn't you know it? Those are the same tires that my V6 Camaro had.
    2. I've discovered there's some confusion as to whether or not Y87 cars had upgraded suspension parts. I've seen a few sources say yes, others no. I've been under the impression the suspension was upgraded somehow over a basic non-Y87 car. So I decided to do a little research. It appears whatever source you've quoted is ultimately correct. However, with that said, it's possible Y87 cars likely use different steering arms from base V6 cars to use the V8 steering box. If so, I suppose some sources might be counting that as an "upgraded suspension." My apologies for further propagating that confusion.
    3. ...But, while researching the above topic, continuing on with V6 vs V8 suspension differences, all '98 and up V6 and base V8 F-Body cars actually use the same rear coil springs (code TJ). Obviously the front springs are different between the two to account for a lighter/heavier engine, not necessarily to make the handling worse or the ride any softer. Again, only SS and WS6 cars had upgraded springs all the way round. So, once again I'll ask, what downgraded suspension?

    So to recap:

    • The Camaro I owned had the same 235/55R16 tires as a base model Z28 for 1998.
    • The Camaro I owned I believe had the Y87 package, which meant it shared the same steering box and rear differential as a 1998 Z28. It's also possible the steering arms are shared as well.
    • The Camaro I owned had the same rear coil springs as a base model '98 Z28. The front coil springs were different to compensate for difference in weight of the V6 versus the V8 engine, not to compromise the ride or handling. This is true for all 1998 Camaros -- base V6, Y87 V6 and base Z28 -- with the exception of SS models.
    • As an aside, at this point, it wouldn't surprise me if even the shocks are the same between base V6, Y87 V6 and base Z28 Camaros built in 1998, although I haven't researched this yet.

    The tire and suspension differences are so minor between the car I owned and a base Z28 I don't see how anyone could argue the V8 absolutely handled better, unless we're talking about an SS model which could boast a slight advantage over both the V6 and Z28. But at that point, what engine the car has becomes completely irrelevant. Sure, you can say there's a V8 better than the V6, but you'd be choosing to be ignorant to the fact that it's also better than a similar V8 car as well.

    Moving forward now...

    1. Using quarter mile times in a discussion about handling is totally irrelevant. I don't think you make left and right hand turns in a straight-line drag race. Or are you onto some new fun trend that you'd like to share?
    2. Curb weight has little to weight distribution. For example: it's possible for one car to weigh 3,000 lbs. and the other 3,500 but both have the same 55/45 weight distribution. So your point is... ?
    3. The V6 Camaro has 57/43 weight distribution. The FR-S is 53/47. I thought that was interesting.

    Ultimately, though, you are missing the point of my mention of the FR-S in the last bit of my post, just like how you're missing the entire message of my original post.

    On that last note, let's see if using a British accent fixes that, for whatever reason:

    Does that make it any clearer? You're trying to dispute that entire notion based on -- what? -- two out of the four cars I've owned that I'm basing my impression on?

    I need a goddamn Advil now.

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    32 minutes ago, Blake Noble said:

    You're trying to dispute that entire notion based on -- what? -- two out of the four cars I've owned that I'm basing my impression on?

    This is all that needed to be said.. you're defensive of them because you've owned them..

    I'm not intentionally coming off aggressive.. That's the stupid internet's fault or not capturing my light-ness of discussion. My bad there, brother.

    The reason I brought up 1/4 mile times/0-60 times was because you said "fun". You said they were more "fun" and that's why I looked into more than just maximum handling capabilities.

    Thank you for informing me on those v6 and z/28 similarities. Way closer than I would have thought but I'm still coming up with 245's and 235's for the z/28, both on 16 inch wheels. That seems like not enough tire for the LS1..just sayin'.

    The point of weight distribution is handling capabilities. A Camaro with a v6 or v8 over the front axel is going to have a lot more weight over the front end than a BRZ with a boxer 4 tucked lower and further back. The BRZ and '98 Camaro will be night and day in corner carving.

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    1999 z/28 test results

    1999 Camaro v6 test results

    I realize they are 1999 and not 1998, FYI. But that's the same generation for the Camaro so I assumed it was okay.

    Found it interesting that the z/28 held a higher maximum lateral g's but the v6 did the emergency lane change a good amount quicker(nearly 5mph). They also took the same distance to brake 70-0mph. Interesting, indeeeeeeed.

    Edited by ccap41
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    The Challenger needs the 5.7L V8 to be relevant. It weighs too damn much and lacks handling/braking in its class overall, but especially in V6 trims. A V6 Challenger will not drive better because you saved 100 lbs, as the car's most redeeming quality is being a muscle car and the V6 struggles to keep up with common family cars with 2.0Ts and V6s. Fun in a Challenger is a rip-roaring V8 laying a patch of rubber, not getting 30 mpg and losing races against grocery getters.

    The same argument can easily be applied to the Camaro and Mustang prior to the late 2000s. It's an incredibly unpopular stance to claim that a 90s pony car is just as fun (or moreso) without a V8. Some things are "subjective opinion" but come on.

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    20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    This is all that needed to be said.. you're defensive of them because you've owned them..

    I'm defensive of them because not necessarily because of my ownership of them, but because these cars deserve to be judged and enjoyed based on their own merits and not what they lack compared to their V8 counterparts. These cars do have a unique flavor of their own to offer and appreciate. 

    Let me touch on this thought of mine for just a minute: I sincerely believe the "no replacement for displacement" mentality that lingers over the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger like a sour fart is what'll ultimately doom these cars when internal combustion engines go the way of the carrier pigeon, Soviet Union and Member's Only jackets. And what I've seen unfold in this thread only further solidifies that notion, honestly.

    If these cars survive electrification, it'll be nothing short of a damn miracle because the shear number of all of the old folks and folks who are "old at heart" dying from heart-attacks at the silence of a electric Mustang burnout alone will likely justify some sort of government '90s assault weapons-style ban on electric cars, despite the fact an all-electric Mustang could give way to the best driving Mustang of all time, if not simply the best all-around Mustang ever.

    20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    The reason I brought up 1/4 mile times/0-60 times was because you said "fun". You said they were more "fun" and that's why I looked into more than just maximum handling capabilities.

    I said they were more "fun" because you can use more of the car in legal driving conditions. Remember the driving conditions I mentioned earlier? I've never set a tire on a drag strip and I don't carry a stopwatch around. I do plenty of driving on curvy country roads and backroads (US 421 in particular is a real treat) and anything packing more than 300 to 325 horsepower would be pretty much useless. Really, 300 horsepower can be a bit too much at times.

    Reference that James May segment I posted. There's less power with a V6 Camaro, Mustang or Challenger, sure, but there's more usable power. Sure, with a V8 model you can go 0-60 faster than the taco squirts, and down the quarter mile quicker than an ape with a hot fire poker up its ass, but those are ultimately just numbers on paper. It doesn't count for much if you can't use those numbers in the real world.

    20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    Thank you for informing me on those v6 and z/28 similarities. Way closer than I would have thought but I'm still coming up with 245's and 235's for the z/28, both on 16 inch wheels. That seems like not enough tire for the LS1..just sayin'.

    Well, hey, it was the late '90s. Compared to what automakers were using less than 10 years prior, those tires were probably something for the Camaro then. Today, we're used to 17 inch wheels as standard equipment on Camries and Malibus.

    20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    The point of weight distribution is handling capabilities. A Camaro with a v6 or v8 over the front axel is going to have a lot more weight over the front end than a BRZ with a boxer 4 tucked lower and further back. The BRZ and '98 Camaro will be night and day in corner carving.

    Well, yah.

    I really don't know where to go here but I wasn't originally trying to directly compare the Camaro to the FR-S...

    20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    I'm not intentionally coming off aggressive.. That's the stupid internet's fault or not capturing my light-ness of discussion. My bad there, brother.

    No worries. I didn't mean to come across abrasive, either. Defensive, maybe. But then again, I'm not used to an argument being this civilized around here, sadly.

    19 hours ago, cp-the-nerd said:

    The Challenger needs the 5.7L V8 to be relevant. It weighs too damn much and lacks handling/braking in its class overall, but especially in V6 trims. A V6 Challenger will not drive better because you saved 100 lbs, as the car's most redeeming quality is being a muscle car and the V6 struggles to keep up with common family cars with 2.0Ts and V6s. Fun in a Challenger is a rip-roaring V8 laying a patch of rubber, not getting 30 mpg and losing races against grocery getters.

    The same argument can easily be applied to the Camaro and Mustang prior to the late 2000s. It's an incredibly unpopular stance to claim that a 90s pony car is just as fun (or moreso) without a V8. Some things are "subjective opinion" but come on.

    I'll agree that the Challenger is a Fatty McFatpants that needs to go on a diet. But I'm sticking to what I said earlier: the V6 SE and SXT cars are better at backroad exploration than the R/T models.

    But, really, a Challenger is best at cruising down boulevards and interstates and going on long distance trips. It's a big, comfortable car. It's half family car, half grand tourer. It's basically a Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe wearing a pony car pelt. (Not much different, then, than the Challenger in Vanishing Point if you think about it a bit.) And, really, what engine you have under the hood is moot when all you do is loaf around on straight-stretches of road.

    And I'm proud to march to the beat of different drum here.

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      2016 Toyota Prius Three
      I have never been a fan of the Prius family. Every Prius that I have reviewed left me wondering who decided to start selling a science experiment and not an actual vehicle. But the 2016 Prius is my biggest shock of the year. Yes, the Prius will take its time getting up to speed on the freeway. But around town, the Prius was a spritely performer. More surprising was how well the Prius drove. Taking a corner, I was expecting to experience motion sickness because of how much body roll previous models had. But the Prius took it like a champ showing little body and some decent steering - thank the new TGNA architecture. It doesn’t hurt that I got 60.2 mpg as my average for the week. Well done Toyota.
      2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
      If there is one shining light at Volkswagen, it would have to be the Golf family. Last year, I named the Golf GTI as one of my favorites. This year, that honor falls to the SportWagen. Yes, it isn’t the sharpest looking vehicle in the class and the DSG transmission needs some more work. But Volkswagen got the basics right. The 1.8T is powerful and delivers excellent fuel economy. The interior spacious for both passengers and cargo - I was able to fit two massive Ikea boxes into it. Volkswagen also mastered the dark art of balancing fun to drive with comfort. I could take the Golf SportWagen down a windy road and be entertained. Afterward, I could drive it around town and not feel any road imperfections. 
      There you go, the eight vehicles that earned a coveted spot on my favorites list. Now it should be noted that some vehicles we’re close to getting onto this list, but were kicked off for one reason or another. Here are those vehicles,
      Chevrolet Malibu 2LT: Chevrolet did an excellent job with the new Malibu with fixing a number of issues that plagued the old model. But the 2LT introduced a new set of problems - questionable materials, poor road noise isolation, and the lack of options. I really do like the new Malibu, just not in 2LT form. Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible: Loved the V8 performance and noise. Hate the $54,000 pricetag. This might explain why GM has such a large amount of Camaros sitting on dealers. Hyundai Elantra: Hyundai played it safe with the updated Elantra and this would have been ok a couple of years ago. But in light of the redesigned Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic, it wasn’t enough for the Elantra to be a strong contender as it once was. Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X: This was a truck I really wanted to like. Nissan was trying something different with the Titan XD - offer something between a light-duty and heavy-duty pickup. Plus, a nice Cummins V8 diesel could have been the cheery on top. But trying to convince someone that your truck is the best is difficult since truck buyers tend to stick with one brand. Not helping is the lack of cab and bed sizes. At the time of our original review, the XD was only available as a crew cab. A regular cab has been since introduced. But it seems Nissan doesn’t fully understand the truck market. You need to have a lot of options available to buyers at launch, not down the road.
      View full article
    • By William Maley
      2016… What a year. This year saw a number of things that no one thought would actually happen did. Not helping matters is the number of famous people that have sadly passed on. Here at the Cheers & Gears Detroit Bureau, it wasn’t such a great year for vehicles. For the 2016 review season, 44 vehicles came in for evaluation. Out of this group, only eight vehicles earned a spot of being my favorite vehicles from the year. Read on to see which vehicles made the cut.
      2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe
      It is amazing how far Cadillac has come in the past decade and proof of it can be shown in the ATS- V coupe. A 464 horsepower twin-turbo V6 makes the vehicle fly with no issue. A set of sticky tires and adjustable dampers show the ATS-V is just as capable, maybe more so than its German counterparts. But it can also provide decent ride around town if you set the dampers into a comfort mode. Then there is the look. I’m not usually a fan of red, but it looks killer on the ATS-V coupe. It pairs quite nicely with sharp angles and a low roofline This was one of the models where I found myself grinning from ear to ear because of how much fun I had.
      2016 Chevrolet Volt
      It is amazing how far Chevrolet has come with the Volt. Five years ago, the Volt was this odd looking vehicle with a clever powertrain that made range anxiety nonexistent. Yes, 35 miles of electric-only range didn’t seem like a lot. However, the gas generator acted as an insurance policy if you ran out of juice with the battery. Flash forward to this year and Volt has not only seen an increase in overall range to 53 miles, but it has also gotten sleeker. This is currently my favorite looking Chevrolet vehicle with the new Cruze a close second. Other plus points include an improved interior and smooth ride. The new Bolt is currently basking in the spotlight that the Volt was at one time. But let us not forget the Volt is one of the key reasons why the Bolt exists. 
      2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack & SRT Hellcat
      Dodge covered the two extremes of performance this season with the Charger R/T Scat Pack and Hellcat. The Scat Pack was first up and I fell in love with it. For almost $40,000, you basically got an SRT Charger minus the adaptive suspension and number of luxury items. It was great fun with the 6.4L HEMI V8 bellowing down the road and the sharp looking Plum Crazy paint color. I found that you really don’t need the adaptive suspension as the Scat Pack does ok on bumpy roads or curvy roads.
      Then we come to the Charger SRT Hellcat. 707 horsepower from a supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8. It seems maddening that we are given a vehicle with all of this power for a price tag under $66,000. Trying to describe the way the Hellcat goes is difficult and something you need to experience. This is a vehicle that will make you laugh like a small child every time you decide to drop the hammer to hear the whir of the supercharger and manic sound of the V8.
      2016 Kia Optima SXL
      It is no secret that the Kia Optima is one of my favorite midsize sedans. It offers distinctive looks and feature set at a price that will surprise many. But it was set to fall off my list earlier this year when I drove the Optima EX. The big issues were an uncomfortable ride and poor noise isolation. So when I found out that the top of line SXL was scheduled later in the year, I was worried that it would be plagued by the same issues. But those issues never appeared. The SXL was not only quiet but showed a noticeable improvement in terms of ride comfort. I still don’t know what black magic Kia did on the SXL, but it kept the Optima on my favorites list. Now if they could work on the lazy throttle…
      2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
      “Sometimes to fully test a vehicle, you need to put it in a situation where it isn’t fully comfortable.”
      That was the case for the Mazda MX-5 Miata as it would not be only driven in the middle of one of the coldest winters in Michigan, but it would also be taking me to and from the Detroit Auto Show. Crazy? Of course. But the MX-5 Miata was wearing a set of winter tires which helped it stick to the road. Despite the cold temps and snow that would fall during the latter half of the week, the MX-5 Miata proved to be just as fun as it would have been in warmer weather. Sharp handling, an engine that loved to rev, and a slick six-speed manual transmission. It didn’t hurt that I could actually fit my suitcase into the trunk of the Miata for the show.
      2016 Scion iA
      I have a trend of driving brands or vehicles that will be ending. Most infamously was the time when I drove a Suzuki SX4 for review and then hearing the news of the brand leaving a couple of days after returning it. That was the case of the Scion iA. A few months after driving the iA, Toyota announced that it was shuttering the brand. Some of the vehicles, like the iA would continue as Toyotas. This was a smart move as the iA proved to be a winner. Being a rebadged Mazda2 was a big reason as to why I liked the iA. It was a fun vehicle to drive around town or on a special road. But it also featured a lot of standard equipment including automatic emergency braking. While the brand is gone, it is good to see the iA lives on.
      2016 Toyota Prius Three
      I have never been a fan of the Prius family. Every Prius that I have reviewed left me wondering who decided to start selling a science experiment and not an actual vehicle. But the 2016 Prius is my biggest shock of the year. Yes, the Prius will take its time getting up to speed on the freeway. But around town, the Prius was a spritely performer. More surprising was how well the Prius drove. Taking a corner, I was expecting to experience motion sickness because of how much body roll previous models had. But the Prius took it like a champ showing little body and some decent steering - thank the new TGNA architecture. It doesn’t hurt that I got 60.2 mpg as my average for the week. Well done Toyota.
      2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
      If there is one shining light at Volkswagen, it would have to be the Golf family. Last year, I named the Golf GTI as one of my favorites. This year, that honor falls to the SportWagen. Yes, it isn’t the sharpest looking vehicle in the class and the DSG transmission needs some more work. But Volkswagen got the basics right. The 1.8T is powerful and delivers excellent fuel economy. The interior spacious for both passengers and cargo - I was able to fit two massive Ikea boxes into it. Volkswagen also mastered the dark art of balancing fun to drive with comfort. I could take the Golf SportWagen down a windy road and be entertained. Afterward, I could drive it around town and not feel any road imperfections. 
      There you go, the eight vehicles that earned a coveted spot on my favorites list. Now it should be noted that some vehicles we’re close to getting onto this list, but were kicked off for one reason or another. Here are those vehicles,
      Chevrolet Malibu 2LT: Chevrolet did an excellent job with the new Malibu with fixing a number of issues that plagued the old model. But the 2LT introduced a new set of problems - questionable materials, poor road noise isolation, and the lack of options. I really do like the new Malibu, just not in 2LT form. Chevrolet Camaro SS Convertible: Loved the V8 performance and noise. Hate the $54,000 pricetag. This might explain why GM has such a large amount of Camaros sitting on dealers. Hyundai Elantra: Hyundai played it safe with the updated Elantra and this would have been ok a couple of years ago. But in light of the redesigned Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic, it wasn’t enough for the Elantra to be a strong contender as it once was. Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X: This was a truck I really wanted to like. Nissan was trying something different with the Titan XD - offer something between a light-duty and heavy-duty pickup. Plus, a nice Cummins V8 diesel could have been the cheery on top. But trying to convince someone that your truck is the best is difficult since truck buyers tend to stick with one brand. Not helping is the lack of cab and bed sizes. At the time of our original review, the XD was only available as a crew cab. A regular cab has been since introduced. But it seems Nissan doesn’t fully understand the truck market. You need to have a lot of options available to buyers at launch, not down the road.
    • By William Maley
      Last fall, I had the chance to drive a Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack for a week and fell in love. It was basically an SRT Charger, minus a few items for just under $40,000. This fall, another high-performance Charger came in a week’s stay and it was packing more heat. 707 horsepower to be exact. Yes, I finally got my hands on a Hellcat. What was it like? It was fast, but you want more information than that.
      That 707 horsepower figure comes courtesy from a 6.2L supercharged HEMI V8. Torque is rated at 650 pound-feet.This is backed up by an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, then you’ll need to get the Challenger Hellcat. Trying to explain just how fast the Charger Hellcat is difficult. This is a car that you need to drive or sit in to experience the ferocity of the V8 engine. The best way I can use to describe the Hellcat’s power delivery is engaging warp drive. Step on the accelerator and the supercharger whirrs into life and the V8 produces a roar very few vehicles can dream. Blink and you’ll be at an illegal speed before you know it. Taking turns in the Hellcat is somewhat difficult because of the accelerator. You need to roll on it if you want to do it smoothly. If you step on the accelerator pedal like you would on a standard vehicle, the back will become very loose and the stability control will kick on to get the vehicle straightened out. This is especially important due to the tires fitted to Hellcat, a set of Pirelli P-Zeros. These tires need to be warmed up before they begin to bite the road. The Hellcat will be a regular at the fuel pump with fuel economy figures of 13 City/22 Highway/16 Combined. I got about 14.3 mpg during my week in mostly city driving. Handling? That’s the surprising part as the Charger Hellcat doesn’t embarrass itself. Fitted with an adaptive suspension system, the Charger Hellcat shows little body roll when put into Sport and provides a smooth ride when in comfort. The steering system provides the right amount of feel and heft you want in a performance vehicle.  Bringing a 707 horsepower vehicle to a stop is no easy task, but a set of massive Brembo brakes is up to the task. It brings the Charger Hellcat to a quick halt. The Charger Hellcat looks like your standard SRT Charger with a new front clip and lowered stance. There are some slight differences such as a new hood, 20-inch wheels finished in a dark bronze color, and the requisite Hellcat emblems on the front fenders. Inside, the Hellcat isn’t that much different from the standard Charger aside from the speedometer going 200 mph. It would have been nice if Dodge could have done some sprucing of the interior to not make it feel so dank and dark. A little bit more color on the dash would not be a bad thing. The front seats have extra bolstering to hold you in when you decide to let loose all 707 horsepower or take a turn a bit too fast. As I mentioned in my Ram 1500 Quick Drive last week, the Charger’s UConnect system is beginning to show its age. The interface is still easy to use but is beginning to show signs of aging. Performance isn’t as snappy either as in previous FCA models. Hopefully, the 2017 model is able to get the updated UConnect system that debuted in the Pacifica. The UConnect system in the Charger Hellcat does come with SRT Pages. This allows you to record 0-60, quarter-mile, and reaction times. It also allows you to change various performance settings such as gear changes, suspension, and whether you want the full 707 horsepower or 500. The last one pertains if you happen to have the red key. In terms of pricing, the Charger Hellcat kicks off at $65,495. With options and a $1,700 gas guzzler tax, our tester came to $72,820. Compared to other high-performance sedans, the Hellcat is quite the steal. If it was my money on the line, I would go for the Charger R/T Scat Pack. I get most of the enjoyment of the Hellcat, minus the supercharger whine. But I would have a fair chunk of change that I could spend on hopping it up. But I understand why someone would go for the Charger Hellcat. It is a four-door sedan that provides explosive acceleration and engine note that no other vehicle can dare match. There’s something magical about stepping on the accelerator, being flung back into the seat due to power on tap, and then laughing like a four-year old after what happened. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Charger Hellcat, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      (Author’s Note: That’s a wrap for the 2016 review season. We’ll be back with the first batch of 2017 model year vehicles after New Years. But I will be picking my favorite vehicles I drove this year. Expect to see that before the year comes to a close.)
      Year: 2016
      Make: Dodge
      Model: Charger
      Trim: SRT Hellcat
      Engine: Supercharged 6.2L HEMI V8
      Driveline: Eight-speed automatic, Rear-wheel drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 707 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 650 @ 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 13/22/16
      Curb Weight: 4,570 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario
      Base Price: $65,945
      As Tested Price: $72,820 (Includes $995 Destination Charge and $1,700 Gas Guzzler Tax)
      Options:
      Customer Preferred Package 23T - $1,995.00
      20-inch x 9.5-inch Brass Monkey SRT Forged Wheels - $995.00
      275/40ZR20 P Zero Summer Tires - $595.00
      Redline Red Tri-coat Pearl Exterior Paint - $595.00

      View full article
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