No matter what you think about the economy, the proposed Fiat merger, or the recent Chapter eleven filing by the Chrysler Corporation, one thing is certain: The new Dodge Challenger is a cool car. Unlike the newest rendition of the Dodge Charger, which received mixed reviews upon its debut, the Challenger's retro good looks, exceptional handling, and available 5.7 or 6.1 liter Hemi engine, all add up to a well-rounded, and well-received, performance vehicle. We've put about 5,000 miles on our R/T model since we purchased it, and regularly get thumbs up while on the road, and approving inquiries while we're at the gas station. Several non-enthusiasts have actually even asked if it's a new car or an old car that we've restored, a testament to Chrysler's tough achievement of making an LX platform vehicle look like a Challenger muscle car from the early '70s.

We must admit that this car is a blast to drive, likely more fun and certainly more accommodating than Challengers of old. With satellite radio, a well-designed cabin, an extremely smooth and quiet ride, responsive suspension, great brakes, and power to spare, the Challenger mixes the best of modern convenience and pure muscle, so it's no wonder the Challenger is selling well despite the adversarial economy and marginal performance of the company as a whole. Aside from the above mentioned accolades, another reason the Challenger is likely selling well is because it inspires thoughts of cruising the strip, drive-in movies, and restaurants, racing at the local drag strip, and wanting to have the coolest car around, just like the '60s and '70s when Mopars first ruled the streets.

Back then, you could purchase a hot Mopar new from the dealership, modify it with a few performance and appearance items, and have a respectable and unique car. Today, for the first time in many years, the same is possible thanks to the new Dodge Challenger and a supportive aftermarket. With much credit going to modern engineering and materials, the new Challenger is already quite a good performer right from the factory. Like most gearheads, however, we can't leave any vehicle we drive, new or old, stock for very long. Wanting to set our car apart from others on the road, and wanting to gain a performance advantage as well, we're ready to start modifying our car with a few minor items that will make a major difference.

Although we've affectionately named this car "Project Voided Warranty" around the office, the truth is there are many ways you can modify your new car without affecting the warranty at all. The first and most logical modification for the engine, and the one we'll perform this month, is installing a cold air induction kit. This is an easy job and provides the Hemi engine with a shot of cool air that you can hear through the induction system at wide open throttle, feel in the seat of your pants, and see on the dyno or at the drag strip. Despite what you may have heard, or what a dealer service adviser may tell you, installing a cold air system-like the K&N we used, won't affect your warranty at all. In fact K&N has personnel on staff specially trained to deal with car manufacturers and dealerships who argue the point, and their new warranty ensures you won't be denied a manufacturer's warranty claim simply for having installed their product. Wanting to check this fact, we called our friends at Citrus Dodge in Dade City, Florida, the dealership where we purchased the car, and they quickly verified that they couldn't speak for other dealerships, but that in their experience Chrysler wouldn't deny a warranty claim based on a K&N filter, or certain other performance items, being installed on a car.