New & Used Dodge Challenger: In Depth
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The Dodge Challenger is a muscle car rival for the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro. A big two-door, four-seater, the Challenger wears a coupe roofline--but it's big enough in back to best some sedans. The Challenger does one of the best impressions of a vintage muscle car, with its broad hood and high decklid.
For 2015, the Challenger sees its first truly major update since it was launched as a 2007 model. With carefully refined exterior styling, new powertrains, upgraded suspension, and an all-new and far more pleasant interior, the Challenger stays up to date while a new Camaro is being readied and the latest Mustang has just launched. Unlike those two models, the Challenger is offered only as a coupe, with no convertible option.
MORE: Read our 2015 Dodge Challenger review, including the Hellcat
But the undeniably mega news for 2015 is the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. With 707 hp and 650 lb-ft on tap, it's the most powerful production muscle car ever, dwarfing the former Shelby GT500 and its 662-hp rating.
The awesomely powerful 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V-8 in the Challenger SRT Hellcat won’t always make it a complete handful to drive, thanks to a dual-key-fob system. The black fob limits the car’s output to a mere 500 horsepower; opt for the red fob, and you’ll get the full 707. The same potent powerplant also makes its way into the 2015 Charger SRT.
An optional TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission, uprated suspension and brakes, and classic 1971 Challenger-inspired interior design are also part of the Hellcat package.
Dodge also continues to sell an SRT model powered by a naturally aspirated 6.4-liter HEMI called SRT 392, as well as a new Scat Pack car with the same engine, and versions with the 5.7-liter HEMI and 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. All engines benefit from the new eight-speed automatic, and all but V-6 models can be had with a manual transmission. Although the Hellcat steals most of the attention, the Scat Pack is an interesting new option, combining the biggest SRT engine with standard R/T components for a significant savings compared to the SRT 392 and an appealing horsepower-per-dollar figure.
Partway through the 2015 model year, Dodge added a Shaker hood option back into the Challenger lineup. It is now available on both the R/T and the newly created Scat Pack model, the latter of which uses the SRT-grade 6.4-liter HEMI V-8. Like the original Shaker Challengers and those offered in a limited run for 2014, these cars have the eponymous hood scoop peeking through a hole in the hood, with the scoop visibly shaking compared to the hood when the engine revs.
Dodge Challenger history
The first Challenger dates back to 1970, although there was a long hiatus between that model and today's. Sold through 1974, the original Challenger was available in four hardtop models: Challenger Six, V8, T/A, and R/T. Convertibles were offered in 1970 and 1971 only. Engines ranged from a 225 cubic-inch six to a 230-horsepower, 318 cubic-inch V-8; a 340 cubic-inch V-8; and the 290-horsepower, 383-cubic-inch V-8. All models came standard with a three-speed manual transmission except for the 383 cubic-inch V-8, which was only available with a TorqueFlite automatic.
The R/T featured a 383 cubic-inch Magnum V-8, rated for 335 horsepower initially, but later 300 horsepower. The R/T could also be upgraded to a 440 cubic-inch Magnum, a 440 cubic-inch Six-Pack and a 426 cubic-inch Hemi. Dodge also sold a Challenger-badged version of the Mitsubishi Sapporo from 1978 through 1983; it was much smaller than the original and was powered only by four-cylinder engines.
The revived Challenger
The current generation of the Challenger was reintroduced in 2007, with a simplified lineup and engine range: the SE, a base V-6 model with 250 horsepower; the R/T, with a 5.7-liter HEMI rated at 375 horsepower; and the SRT8, with a 6.1-liter HEMI rated at 425 horsepower. This new range was styled to look much like the classic Challenger, though it has grown considerably in size, weighing over 4,000 pounds and featuring 17- to 20-inch alloy wheels. Nevertheless, it provides classic muscle-car feel and performance.
For the first years of its revival, the Challenger was available with a five-speed automatic or pistol-grip six-speed manual (manual available on R/T and SRT8 only). Key features standard across the range included front and side-curtain airbags, power adjustable driver's seat, a four-speaker CD/MP3 stereo, cloth seating, and power accessories. The R/T model, in addition to upgrading the engine, added a unique appearance package, an advanced traction control system, fog lamps, dual exhaust tips and electronic stability control. The SRT8 built further on this package with more aggressive exterior styling, upgraded interior elements and SRT8 badges inside and out.
For 2011, the Dodge Challenger gained a new base engine--Chrysler's excellent 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, making 305 hp--as well as some improved interior materials and standard automatic climate control. The options list also grew to include a Garmin navigation system, Sirius Travel Link, and a Uconnect Web option.
Top Challenger SRT8 models also got a big boost for 2011, with their engine expanded to 6.4 liters (392 cubic inches, for those who keep tabs that way), making 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet.
For 2012, a new 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system option was added. Challenger SRT8 392 models for the 2012 model year also offered an adaptive suspension with normal and sport modes; a heated steering wheel and steering-wheel shift paddles were added as well.
Rolling into 2013, a new Rallye Redline edition was introduced, with red exterior accents and a Radar Red Nappa leather interior plus black chrome 20-inch wheels, a performance suspension, and a shorter axle ratio. Also, the available Uconnect system offered improved Garmin navigation.
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, the 2013 Dodge Challenger R/T Redline was introduced, bringing a somewhat edgier and more aggressively styled spin on the Challenger R/T.