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The V-6 or Hemi V-8 Challenge(r)

Hemi” might as well be the four-letter word for, “gotta have it,” because once you run that engine, you won’t consider a six-cylinder worthy of a lawnmower. For me, that little four-letter word removed all hope I had of making a daily commuter out of a six-cylinder 2010 Challenger SE. Let me explain:

After all the talk on this blog about new Dodge Challengers, I figured it was time to put my left foot where the clutch is and at least take one for a test drive. I did just that last Friday.

The occasion that spurred the test drive was the arrival of six-cylinder SE model at my local Dodge dealer, which joined a black six-speed R/T. Having driven a 3.5-liter Charger six, I had been eying the six-cylinder Challenger as a cool daily commuter. Harold Stiebs at Neuville Chrysler Jeep Dodge provided the test drive, and once we hopped in the car, I knew I liked the feel of the Challenger’s interior, but when I lit the ignition, my excitement fizzled from the quiet hum of the 3.5-liter. The muffled V-6 just didn’t match the sound of a muscle car, let alone a hallowed Challenger. Next step: Drive the adjacent black R/T with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.

The R/T had more gee-gaws and switches than I like, but it had the most important option of them all: a six-speed manual transmission. This was going to be fun.

Turning the ignition to “on” provided the response I was looking for – a deep rumble that said “Challenger” just as much as quad headlamps and full-width taillamps. Although the Hemi and the six look similar inside and out, this was a different breed of car, and that different DNA was all under the hood. It was as if the six was a well-mannered golden retriever and the Hemi was a snarling pit bull. While the golden retriever is good for walks in the park, a loose pit bull offers a mix of fear, danger and excitement, and I wanted to removed this pit bull’s leash.

I won’t tell you we raced around town in that Hemi (we didn’t), but I almost needed a leash to control to right foot. I kept reminding myself there was a price to making the Challenger’s looks match the engine sound — it costs almost 50 percent more to get into a base Hemi Challenger over a base six — although the base V-8 also includes some other goodies optional on the six (fog lamps, chrome fuel door, etc.). And sure, kids look at any Challenger and give the thumbs up, but for the whole Challenger experience, the $10K is justified based on the increased fun factor and sound alone.

It may be redundant, but if you’re going to get a Challenger, you just gotta have the Hemi. I know I do.

The 2010 Challenger R/T I recently test drove at Neuville Chrysler Dodge Jeep.

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