My needs were not for anything fancy as my plans were for some short commuting around town and maybe some people hauling.
Ah, the game of what you will end up with when renting a car when traveling. You are faced with broad categories of vehicles bundled in vague descriptions like “compact” or “intermediate” when making your reservation. Only when you hit the tarmac at your destination airport do you get a sense of what the rental companies have lined up for you.
In my case of my travels to Phoenix Sky Harbor airport for Christmas of 2023, I reserved an “intermediate”. My needs were not for anything fancy as my plans were for some short commuting around town and maybe some people hauling.
As I got into the terminal, I launched my rental company’s app and there appeared my options. A Nissan Sentra was earmarked for my use. But then below that, like a dealer selling crack, they showed a free upgrade for a Dodge Challenger. Casting aside my need for practicality, it was a quick swipe in the app to pick the Challenger.
Of course, I don’t expect the mainline rental car companies to be renting out Hellcats, and thankfully for public safety they don’t. Finding my assigned vehicle in the parking ramp with a few other Challengers nearby I was graced with a dark grey 2023 Challenger GT, complete with the functional hood air scoop and SRT front splitter complete with the factory bright yellow banana peel protectors on both sides.
In this spec, the GT is outfitted with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 motor making 303 which is not a bad number for a coupe, until you do the math and realize it has to push a nearly 4,000-pound mass of metal down the road. Dodge did a good job with mapping the throttle inputs for fun. Just a slight push on the throttle and it jumps away from a stop quicker than one would expect. Asking more of the vehicle for speed, that early eagerness to deliver drops off as you go more towards 8/10th and 9/10th amounts. The engine is making noise but is also saying, “I’m sorry Captain, I’m giving it all I got” in a Scottish accent.
In the Phoenix area, the streets are full of Challengers with “392 HEMI” motors and modified exhaust that sing out to all of those for many blocks in their vicinity, much to my chagrin when trying to record an audio voiceover in my hotel room for a video. But with just a GT, it is hard to compete with the spectacle of those beefier Challengers. I was thankful to at least to be able to enjoy what the GT had to offer.
The steering rack near the centerline is very quick along with the 20-inch alloy wheels helping you to change direction. On the hoonigan side of things, the GT will let you do some “hoonigan-lite” things. Applying a generous throttle from a stop while turning a corner will give some wheelspin until traction control deems you had enough fun and keeps the lid on being ridiculous. It will even allow a brake stand but not let the rear wheels go any faster than 10 mph while stopped. So much for smokey burnouts, except those in line at the legal cannabis shops.
The infotainment screen for the UConnect 4 system was tiny. Like seven inches tiny. And it gets cut down even further when running Apple CarPlay. At least a nostalgia vehicle like the Challenger has room on the dashboard for one. Yet the text was clear, and the touch inputs were responsive.
On the smooth Phoenix freeways, the Challenger GT was very good at keeping up with the accelerated pace exhibited by the locals and snowbirds. Wind noise in the cable was almost non-existent.
On the side of practicality, the deep trunk swallowed up my luggage with room to spare as well as the rollators my hosts use. But, I could only take one of my hosts with me as rear seat legroom was too tight. We used other vehicles when more than two of us needed to travel at the same time. Fuel economy on regular unleaded was giving me about 19 MPG in town and 23 MPG on the highway.
Overall, the 2023 Dodge Challenger GT was a fun sleigh on my getaway for Christmas in the Valley of the Sun.
If you’re wondering, the last time any of us drove a Challenger was when it earned #VOTY14. Now, it is about to end production at the Bramalea plant outside Toronto. Is this our way of saying “good-bye?” Maybe.
Then again, it might just show up the next time Randy or I would use our rental car agency app to spin the Rental Car Roulette wheel.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle rented by Victory & Reseda
All photos by George Torline