Full Disclosure: Dodge wanted me to drive the Challenger so bad they allowed Budget at Kansas City International Airport to purchase it and place it on their rental fleet.

I’m back with another edition of “I rent a car and think you people care about what I think” and in this edition, it’s a bit different.

Intro

Here in Kansas City we’ve been dealing with an eternal winter. It seemed like it was never going to end. While in the dead of winter, a group of my coworkers that are all car enthusiasts decided once it warmed up, we should go cruising. We opted for MO-76, a 75 mile or so cruise between Reeds Spring, MO and Pineville, MO. A couple hours from KC, it was a great opportunity. There was a problem however. All my coworkers that are car enthusiasts own, or had access to fun cars. I, being the responsible adult, own two SUVS, a Nissan Rogue and a Lexus GX470. Wanting to be part of the crowd, I searched for a suitable solution. And Budget had just what I needed.

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I originally rented a “Dodge Challenger or Similar” with a Manual Transmission.

Original Reservation Email

Knowing that the Challenger doesn’t come in a manual in the stripper trim, er, rental car trim, I did some sleuthing. I came across This post on Flyertalk which got me really excited. For $62 (+ taxes/fees) I was getting a massive V8 and a manual transmission for the day. Lucky me!

Apparently the Budget at MCI is owned independently, and therefore has a lot of choice over their fleet. They definitely keep it interesting. They had Wrangler Rubicons, Toyota 4Runners, Subarus, lots of brand new RAM 1500s, etc. When I arrived to pick up my car, I was told their were no manuals in the lot today. However, they had a couple Scat Packs. A Charger and a Challenger. She also gave me the option of a Mustang GT, a Camaro (not sure which trim) and a regular Challenger. Of course, despite being an auto, i still went with the Scat Pack Challenger. Now, on to the review.

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Exterior: 5/5

Keep in mind this is now my third review, and my other two have been a tiny Hyundai Hatchback, and a minivan. Needless to say, this thing looks AWESOME. They kept the yellow protective things on the bumper which I thought was great. The hood scoops are functional (for cooling, not intake), and it just looks mean. I’ve always been a bit of an FCA fan, despite the issues, and I love the way the Challenger looks.

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Setting up before leaving KC

Performance: 5/5

I mean duh. 6.4L V8. 485 HP. How could you not? I’ve ridden in a Tesla, and of course, the acceleration was more insane. But I don’t care who you are, the sound this thing makes when you mash the throttle is heavenly. The engine roared to life and propelled me through the curvy roads of the Ozarks like it was nothing. The transmission was very smooth, and despite getting an Auto, it handled it just fine. I used the flappy paddles a few times, but most of the time, I let the computer handle it, and it did a great job. And the brakes. My god the brakes. This thing had no problem slowing down and when I rounded a corner to find a farm truck right in front of me going under the speed limit, it brought me, begrudgingly, to a responsible speed. All this while averaging 24 MPG over the 500 mile trip.

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Safety Features: 3/5

It lacks here. No blind spot monitoring, no forward collision, none of that. It does have rear parking assist, which is great because honestly the backup camera is garbage. It does have Airbags which is something. Apparently you can get it with these options, but mine didn’t have it. Alas, I must give it fewer points. Granted I never felt *unsafe* but I certainly could have used the blind spot a few times, as side visibility is a little meh.

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Convenience Features: 4/5

Keyless go, keyless entry/exit locking, power seats, heated seats, heated steering wheel, auto climate control, etc. It has it all. The Auto climate control was especially appreciated as I never had to touch any setting aside from temperature, and just let it do it’s thing. It was nice to be able to keep my key in my pocket for the entire adventure.

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Infotainment: 4/5

FINALLY! In my Pacifica review I bemoaned the lack of Android Auto in a 2016 van. Well Chrysler has finally got with the times, and added Android Auto/Apple CarPlay

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It was so nice to be able to hook my Pixel 3 XL up to the infotainment system and have my map right there so i could see the curves ahead and in general where I was going. The system was snappy, and I had SiriusXM available as well. They’ve made some great improvements with the new version of uConnect and I still think it’s one of the better systems out there. I deduct a point simply because I didn’t like the preset changing on the steering wheel. Behind the wheel, you have two sets of buttons that are rocker buttons. The right one controls volume up/down. Simple. The left one, apparently just tunes you up/down stations. Not your presets. In order to do presets, you have to hit the button that is in the middle of the left rocker. However that only takes you up a preset. Not down. So If you wanted to go from 6-1, you had to go through 7-12 first, and then back. Maybe i’m just an idiot and there is another way to do it, but I couldn’t figure it out on my trip. Overall I liked uConnect and I loved the extra performance pages as well as the SRT style fonts throughout the system. I like that FCA works to differentiate the same system across different models so even though it’s the same at it’s core, at first glance, it feels unique to that vehicle.

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Driving Experience/Comfort: 4/5

Overall I was very impressed by the comfort. I was expecting it to be uncomfortable for a long road trip, but I was surprised. The bolstered seats kept me held in well, yet comfortable. Interstate cruising could be harsh at times, as the suspension definitely is firm, but overall once you got on the highway, you forgot you were driving a 485 HP beast. It was quiet, and felt great. It was actually easy to get in and out of, which I attribute to it’s sheer size. Although the front doors definitely were quite large and made me think twice when opening them in a parking lot. I didn’t find it cumbersome to drive around town, despite the long nose. Overall I was very shocked at how civilized, yet vicious this car was. FCA did a great job of balancing what it could be (powerful muscle car), and what most people are going to do with it (daily drive to work).

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Overall Score: 26/30 (B+)

I loved this car. Yes it’s brash and maybe a bit over the top, but that’s what a muscle car is isn’t it? FCA may not have the best quality, and may have a less than stellar dealer network, but when it comes to shoving giant engines in crazy looking cars, damn they’re good at it. The price point is great too. You can get a stock Scat Pack for around $40k which is pretty damn good considering everything you get under the hood, and the day to day practicality. Part of me would love to pick one of these up used, but the other half of me realizes that’s a terrible idea as it’s a car that’s meant to be driven hard, and probably will be.

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Bonus photos:

All the cars present for the cruise

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Receipt from Budget showing the absurdly low price
Our route from KC to the cruise and back. Beautiful area!