Hood scoops feed my gas-stained soul.

I guess that makes me pretty shallow. But I would rather wrestle a flamed '32 highboy down a rough road in 100-degree heat than cruise a smooth interstate in a luxo Benz or Bimmer.


Some people fall for long-legged blondes or Jack Black straight up, the amber angel. Some swallow both hooks.

But I'm a bigger sucker for overheated headers, chattering camshafts and engines so edgy they bang and thrash like Charlie Watts on the drums.

Dodge must have heard the word on my wide-ranging weaknesses before sending over the 2014 Challenger R/T Shaker.

How can anyone be objective about a big bruiser of a Hemi-powered coupe with that functional, flat-black scoop protruding through its hood?

And did I mention the polished pistol-grip shifter, just waiting to stir up some six-speed mayhem?

I'll do my best here, kids, but I'm already sweating.

As you probably know, the current Challenger was introduced in 2008, a slightly modernized version of the legendary 1970 model, one of the kings of Keller's Drive-In.

Although the new-old Challenger never hurt Mustang or Camaro much — about 51,000 sold last year — it established a niche as the most retro car in America.

In fact, the one I had might as well have arrived in bell-bottoms and a tie-dyed T-shirt. (Actually, we kind of matched on some days.)

Four round headlamps occupied the corners of an impossibly wide blacked-out grille — and when was the last time you saw round headlamps on a new car?

Just like old muscle cars, the Challenger's long hood abutted big fenders that flowed into large, heavy doors.

A fairly square top shoved down hard on the body even had thick rear roof pillars that created retro Old World blind spots.

Still, though tall and fairly bulky, the Challenger is as visually appealing as it was in 1970 — a claim most of us from that era can't make.

A character line beneath the door handle provided some definition on the slabbish sides, while meaty 245/45 tires on good-looking 20-inch wheels made the Shaker appear slightly smaller.

Tying it all together pretty nicely was a broad flat-black stripe that started around the scoop and slid across the center of the top and trunk.

A slick band of LED taillamps gracefully spanned the car's broad rear end, maintaining its mix of old lines and updated elements.

Riding on the same platform that supports the four-door Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, the new Challenger is bigger dimensionally and about 500 pounds heavier than the original.

At about 4,100 pounds, as a matter of fact, the Shaker posed a challenge to its sweet 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which brought 375 horsepower to the task.


If you remember the muscle cars from the late 1960s and early '70s, most were quick but not especially fast, particularly by today's standards.

But they tended to be more fun and engaging to drive than today's overly electronic, completely computerized blasters.

Like them, the Shaker offers lots of smiles per gallon.

At idle, the $42,000 coupe spat out silky eight-cylinder music, reminding bystanders that a real by-god Hemi occupied most of the acreage under the hood.

It wasn't loud, but it had street-cred presence.

Stab the accelerator, and the Shaker emitted a subtle induction moan that sometimes sounded a bit like a big Carter four-barrel feeding a hungry 440 V-8.

Though not a blazer, the Challenger felt lively and quick, thanks in part to its hot-rod 3.91 gears.

The car would happily spin its tires under aggressive acceleration, leaping forward with a surge at 3,000 rpm.

Stay hard on it, and the Shaker would run to 60 in about 5.4 seconds, according to Motor Trend, though I have seen slightly quicker times in other magazines.

If you are mature — and my 12-year-old granddaughter, Boop, is more mature than I am — you can probably get 15 miles per gallon in town and 23 on the highway.

I averaged about 13 mpg.

But I swear my hair got darker every time I ran through the gears, savoring the light, positive clutch and long-throw shifter like an over-amped high school senior.

By the end of the week, I think I kind of looked like Elvis Presley — after a long weekend in Las Vegas spent with enough young women to fill one of his long Caddies.

Cruising seemed the Shaker's sweet spot. Unlike Challengers of old, the new versions feature a fairly modern independent rear suspension.

While the car sat kind of high for my taste, it delivered a compliant, semi-firm ride that initially struck me as being a bit too soft — though I think what I felt was just generous wheel travel.

If pushed hard into a corner, the big coupe would lean some and then settle onto its springs.

Though way too large to be a darty, precise, canyon-carver, the Challenger could be trusted at moderately quick speeds in corners.

It usually maintained its balance and grip fairly well.


As you may have heard, Dodge continues to work on the Challenger's fairly austere interior — and isn't finished yet.

Mine featured lots of black and lots of hard plastic surfaces. But after a few days, I thought it fit the retro Shaker pretty well because that's how lots of Chrysler Corp. interiors looked back then.

A large, flat, almost square dashboard rolled over an instrument panel with great white-faced gauges, while a subdued center stack — also in black plastic — dropped down to a broad center console.

I really liked the smallish 6.5-inch touch screen in the stack because it wasn't much of a distraction.

Moreover, simple rotary climate-control dials made setting the AC a snap. Less is always more, I say — especially when standing near a mirror.

While also mostly plastic, the black door panels had black-leather centers with orange stitching in them.

The seats, of course, were the focal point of the interior.

Stitched in black leather with pleated centers and decent bolsters, they included "Shaker" embossed in orange below the headrest — a sort of car tattoo.

Though the back seats also seemed pretty inviting, few adults are likely to venture back there. Leg room is tight for anyone much over 5 feet tall.

But hey, I'm just happy we still have a Challenger, and I figure we should enjoy it while we can.

In 2015, the car gets some mild styling tweaks and big performance upgrades, including a monster supercharged Hellcat V-8 producing 707 horsepower.

After that, the future looks kind of murky. One rumor making the rounds is the Challenger/Charger/Chrysler 300 could end up on a much-smaller rear-wheel-drive, Fiat-derived platform.

Get one now or next year, I say, and hang on to it.