Car of a Lifetime: 2017 Dodge Challenger: La Esposita Buys a Car



We were not attempting to replicate the infamous 1969 Charger ad. Honest.



This originally ran in November, 2017.  But it’s the only decent thing I’ve done wrote in the last 12 months so here it is again.  Lucky you.  Update at the end!

One day in the Fall of ’16 I came home from a hard day of hard daying and declared:

“Wife!  You need a new car!”

Without so much as a glance up from her Hamster Collector game on the phone she retorted, “I like my car.  There’s nothing wrong with my car.  Go away, leave my car alone, I know how you are.”

And what, you ask, exactly was wrong with her white ’08 Honda Accord Sedan with a mere 62k on the odometer?  Simple: I’d grown weary of looking at it.  La Esposita was perfectly content with her beast I’d dubbed Moby, the Great White Honda, and she’d a puttered about the Union of the States for most likely the rest of her days happily cocooned in it’s five star crash rating, mouse fuzz seat material that my aunt in Arkansas proclaimed “really nice”, and haplessly inept Honda AC, which from day one had received a “tries his best” comment on it’s report card, but was sadly outclassed by Central California’s 8 months a year of Bessemer Process sizzle.  So how to talk her out of the Great White Honda?


Moby, the Great White Honda. The challenge was how to get my wife to fall out of love with him when he’s everything every woman ever wants: handsome, reliable, loyal, rock solid, and mildly fun.


Don’t get me wrong, Moby was a nice car.  Bought when we had to shuttle the godda–, er, uh, the kids around, but his usefulness in that regard was ended since the young’ns had all flown the coop for greener pastures.  Frankly, Moby’s only redeeming quality in my mind was his 5 speed manual, La Esposita has a thing for sticks.  But she also has a thing for white Hondas, before Moby was a ’95 Honda Civic EX Coupe, 5 speed as well, which she also kept for an unholy length of time.  (why anyone keeps cars forever is beyond me)


Her ’95 Civic on a long ago camping trip to Sequoia. Upon showing her this pic she said, “I look happy. That’s a lie. It started raining. I was happy to be gathering sticks to burn, I like burning things.”


I think I know just the tactic.

“Get something fun,” I offered, “something you really want.”  That ought to reel her in, I know her weak points, fun is one of them.

“Really??” she mused, looking up at me for the first time and leaving the digital Hamsters to fend for themselves for a moment, “Such as…”

“Whatever you want, anything that strikes your fancy,” I affirmed.  “The kiddies are all gone, no need to be practical, no need for four doors, have fun.”

Without missing a beat she said, and I directly quote, “I want a Challenger.”


She wanted one of these back when she was in high school and they were new, but a host of family paddy wagons came instead.


My wife’s personal cars have been a long string of unremarkableness.  Starting out with this:

When you ask a 5 year old to draw a car this is what you get.

Yeah, that’s some sort of AMC product, Ambassador perhaps?  I’m sure one of you know.

A 1971 Toyota Corona Wagon:


Okay, this one is cool.


There was an early Mazda MPV, which is sort of a forerunner of the CUV’s of today I guess:


Not her actual MPV, but close enough, same color and year I guess. Yawwnnn…


There was a hand me down first generation Mercury Sable:


Again, not her actual car because no one ever took a photo of it. Why would any living human take a photo of it? I mean really?


Then the Civic and the Accord.  Pretty much sums it up.  Aside from the Civic they are all classic family haulers for a classic family needing hauling.

I was a little apprehensive giving her carte’ blanc to pick anything, afraid something like this would show up in the driveway:


Spreading like a virus.


Are those things old or new in the picture?  Oh old ones I guess, they are still jelly beanish, the new ones are all origami like, folded, spindled, and mutilated.  Ragingly popular though, and in a Borg-like way all cars will be assimilated into CUVs eventually.  Resistance is futile.

But bless her little heart, she immediately wanted a car, a two door coupe no less, one with horrific blind spots, absurdly retro styling, and insane engine choices that probably ought to be illegal in such a eco-conscious state like the one we hang our hats in.

So cool, let’s go looking.

But first, feeling like she needed to be True To Her School, she wandered back to Honda to lookie-loo at the most fun and sporty thing they can muster these days:



Oops.  Nope, not the Fit, that would be the Civic Type R.  La Esposita closely studied the outrageous Type R, it’s specs laid out before her like an alien autopsy on the kitchen table as her Fitbit announced her pulse soaring upwards at the Type R’s unabashed fury.  Yet in the end she concluded that, while super happy fantastic cool, it was too wild and video gamey for her taste.


Toto, we aren’t in Beige-land anymore.


Then she seriously looked at this:



Even test drove one, me stuffed in the back seat while La Esposita helmed and the saleslady rode shotgun.  Here’s my review: It was surprisingly cramped in the back seat.  My head brushed the roof, there were no AC vents in the console for me, and the rear seat was not very comfortable.  The wife was also unimpressed.  That Coupe was fast for sure, but she said the interior was “busy” and “kinda disjointed”, and it was overall, “not exciting” to her.

We hit up a big local car show with all the makes, and she tried out the Camaro and Mustang.  The Camaro was pronounced, “smooshed”.


Windows are so overrated.


And the Mustang was “oddly proportioned” and “fish-like”.


I rather like these, but perhaps the snout is a bit on the catfish side.


Feeling like she needed to see what all the fuss about Lexus was, she tried out a Lexus RC and declared the seats to be “amazing!”  However, the button heavy, patented Japanese Technolord™ interior left her chilled.


Whatever you do, don’t press THAT button!


Nothing from Mercedes or BMW even managed to entice her to stroll over to their displays at the car show.  And as for Buick, “Do they still make those?”  Fiat got a lot of Esposita love with the 500, especially the Abarth.  Here’s my review, I don’t fit in the backseat.  Indeed for a time I thought she might actually want to adopt an Abarth and vroom vroom about the town, melting tires and blowing away the loKaL tuNer boYz in their auto-trannyed, lowered, 93′ Civic LXs, you know the ones with full decal packages, surplus Soviet Space Agency rear wings, and JC Whitney body kits all providing that extra boost of downforce to unleash the full power of the fart can.  But in the end she passed.


Is that me looking at the door?


Which brings us back to the Challenger.  Being a Car Nerd™ you already know the history of the car, so I don’t need to go into that, but did you know that the back seat is surprisingly roomy and comfy?  Yup, I fit with ease back there.  And bonus points because it has AC vents in the console.


I seem to spend a lot of time in the back seat of La Esposita’s car. You get used to it.


After test driving the Challenger she was more sold than ever.  Now time to pick one, there are Baskin-Robbins levels of flavors.  They were blowing Hellcats out the door at $499 a month leases when she was shopping in the Spring, why the Hellcat not get one!?  707 horsepower!  Sweet Lord Jesus I get all tingly just thinking about it, I’d be hunting for tuNer BoYz all day, stamping little Civic hatches on my front fender each time I blew the doors off one.


And I even like the color.


But alas, it wasn’t my choice.  She felt that 707 horsepower was, “excessive”.  (now how can power be excessive??)

After obtaining a copy of the latest Dodge Challenger brochure we quickly determined that she was going to need a ton more tattoos in order to be a Challenger owner.


Not sure these two attend Star Trek conventions like me.


La Esposita poured over the brochure, worked through the option lists, and carefully crafted the exact car she wanted; then discovered that it simply didn’t exist.


Would you say I have a plethora of wheels?


Seems that her combo of options/colors/trim levels was a no go.  Not one single car set up the way she wanted it on the entire North American continent.  None.


Ahhhhhhh….too many choices!!!


What made her car such a special little unicorn?  SXT Plus which means V-6 and 8 speed auto along with all the auto safety stuff, the fancy bright headlights and such, and no track package, blackout package, 10 million watt stereo package, or Boy Racer™ package.  Apparently those heavily tatted pretty people in the brochure weren’t really into the safety package or the decent headlights and no one ever ordered Challengers with those options.  Who knew?  As Esposita said, “I want a young persons car with all the old people’s options”.  (the dealer told us that the big seller is the base R/T, you get the V-8 and not much else, “more engine, less car”)


But does it come in brown and with a diesel?


So now what?  Do special orders not upset us at Dodge?  All the dealers we were talking to were not in the least bothered to special order Esposita a car to her specs.  So bam, why not?

On her birthday in April we went down to our local Dodge guy who is 0.6 tenths of a mile away, and who oddly enough was offering the best price we could find anywhere on the entire freaking planet, and La Esposita pulled the trigger on the Challenger order.  Pressed the order button herself.


Her order form, all the geeky details of the car.


Waiting game.  They told us 6-8 weeks and Ayup, it was 8 weeks and a couple of daze before the car arrived.  One day I was feeling my spidey-sense tingling away as I was buying gas, and I just knew that the car was close by.  So I buzz-bombed by the dealer and found this:


Thar she be capt’n!!


Esposita’s car was still on the car-carrier about to be unloaded.  So I snapped some pics for her.


See that little radar sensor in the lower front grill? Yeah, no one orders those.


Man they stuff them on these rigs eh?  Tight fits.


All nice and hermetically sealed up in there.


La Esposita was more excited than I think I’ve ever seen her.  More than when she married me?  Uh, hmm.  More than when the kids moved out?  Uh, Hmm.  More than when she won a Claymore sword at the Highland games?  Well no, of course not that one.

Later that afternoon we went and picked it up.  The dealer had cleaned it up and by golly it was pretty.  I have to say that the colors/wheels/interior colors she picked are quite fetching.


Picking it from the dealer. He was also pretty excited about it.


Normally I don’t like black wheels.  Me, I’m a serious chrome man, bling all the things, when in doubt CHROME!  But this works for me.  Personally I’d a probably gotten an orange or lime green Challenger, I’m all about loud colors though, tacky is me.

My idea of way cool! But then I still eat Spaghettios.


La Esposita is more sophisticated than I.  For example check out her Challenger’s black/white leather interior.  It works perfectly with the exterior colors.


The seat goes up and down, which is handy for the shortness that is my wife.


Final price out the door was $28,007 after some “discounts” the dealer magically found in his left shirt pocket for such a time as this.  What do you suppose it really costs to make one of these?  A buck eighty five?  Anyone know?  I hear that’s a closely guarded secret, actual costs to make a car, guarded like exactly what’s in the 11 herbs and spices at KFC and what’s so “special” about “special sauce” at McDonalds.


Parked with Moby for a brief moment.


We sold the Moby the Great White Honda to one of the kids for 2500 bucks.  Meh.


If you hate retro you’ve come to the right place.


What to do with a brand new car with 3 miles on it?  Immediately went for a little drive.


Kingman, Arizona


La Esposita named her new whip “Dixie”.  Now I’m here to tell you that a Challenger is one fine ride for a Great American Road Trip.  Comfy, smooth, quieter than the Accord was at freeway speeds (measured by the decibel thingie on my phone) and it even gets decent gas mileage, knocking down an honest to Dog 30 mpg on the highway at speeds and blasting the AC.


Remember the old Twin Arrows gas station on Route 66? Yeah, like the rest of our memories it’s all plinker toast now.


She’d optioned out Dixie with that radar Adaptive Cruise Control gizmo, and good God it’s incredible!  The car slows down for traffic ahead on the freeway, and speeds back up when its clear.  Utterly worth every single dime it cost!  Our first taste of our coming autonomous overlords who will eventually scrub us puny humans from the planet in order to save us, and it’s crunchy, chewy in the middle, and so good.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot, all those extra-cost safety gizmos; blind spot radar, backup radar, and backup camera- negate the appallingly bad blind spots that are a standard feature on these cars.  Don’t bother owning one without the electronic help.


This is, uh, Berryville, Arkansas where Esposita’s people hail from. Her dad pronounced it “Variable”.


Dixie attracts a HUGE amount of attention.  More than anything I’ve owned this car gets comments and turns heads.  People come up at gas stations and start talking about it.  People comment all the time in parking lots, “Nice car!”, “Cool car!”, “I love your car!”.  People look, heads turn and follow it, men rise up in pride, women swoon, children laugh and play and the sun comes out and shines brighter as you drive past in Dixie the Challenger.  The dealer warned her that it would get attention and sure enough it does.  As both Mr. and Dr. Spock would say, “fascinating.”


Carry on my wayward son


Thus far Esposita is loving it.  And no regrets yet about losing her stick for the auto 8, which surprises me.  Once in a while I get to drive it, but not much, I’m usually in the shotgun seat or even relegated to the back seat.  I once rode back there for about 5 hours through Nevada in late summer, it’s not so bad, got cupholders and a map pocket and everything back there.  How long will she keep it?  I dunno.  But it’s a keeper.


La Esposita somewhere in Utah flying low.


Update: December 2018.  Let’s ask her how the car is doing and if she still likes it after a year and a half of rolling.

“Hey Wife!  Do you still like Dixie?”

“Yeah.  Why?” suspiciously…

“I’m re-posting the tale of you and it on the car site,” as I clickity-click on my laptop.

“I love my car.”

“Anything you don’t like?”

“Nope.  And don’t go getting any ideas.” as she listens to The Lumineers

“Any problems with it?”

“Yeah, that software problem with the radio.  It crashes every so often, then it reboots itself.  But that’s not Dixies fault, it’s the makers fault.  I love my car.”

And there you have it gentle reader, some buggy software issues on the head-unit and that’s it.  (fewer problems than Moby her Accord had 18 months into ownership)  One highly satisfied car owning wife.  Not once did she ever utter, “I love my car” when she owned Moby.  Dodge did well.