THE STICK

There was NOTHING more important to me at the age of 16 than getting my drivers license (alright, ALMOST nothing). In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen lots of people writing about the decline of teen drivers and stating it’s a cultural thing - kids don’t have that passion for driving - the sense of freedom - that we had growing up. Blame it on social media. Or the internet. Or Miley Cyrus. Here’s what I’m wondering:

I wonder how many of them have ever driven a stick shift? I’d forgotten that visceral feeling of shifting through the gears on a late summer day, the sensation as you got the car up to speed on I-75, winding down the off-ramp, working the clutch as you pulled away from the light.

We’ve spent so much time making cars comfortable, neatly packaged and refined that maybe we forgot the connection to the road. Could “distracted driving” be in part to the fact that we don’t have that bond with our car anymore? I’m not complaining - I love heated seats, cruise control, etc. But when was the last time you felt your car under you? The power coursing through the steering wheel as you change gears?

The Dodge Challenger R/T Classic brought it all back -- and made me want more. I spent a Sunday afternoon driving for two hours, just me and my buddy Roger. Putting this car through it’s paces - talking about the gear ratio as it moved around a turn. Finding that sweet spot between third and fourth gear where the 5.7 liter V8 Hemi purrs (easy to find, fun to stay in the pocket). I can’t remember the last time I drove a car like this - probably the Cadillac ATS last year.

Everything about the Challenger R/T Classic was cool. Just look at it! And if you’re concerned about comforts, don’t be. Leather trimmed bucket seats, amazing sound system with Boston Acoustic speakers that shake the doors, park assist system, electronic stability control and much more.

Drive this car. Drive the hell out of it. Get behind the wheel on a fall day and cruise the open road. I want it back for another week. That’s the best review I can give. It brought it all back. It reignited the passion for cars that built this city. The key in life is to do what you love. I love driving this car.

Maybe we should require kids to know how to drive a stick shift before they get their license. Or at least spend a day in a car like the Challenger R/T Classic. We love cars in this country. And I find it hard to believe that love affair is fading. It just needs a six speed, Hemi infused kick in the butt.

  • Jim O’Brien
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