Dodge Challenger History
Sergio Marchionne’s 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392Enlarge Photo
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The Dodge Challenger is a muscle coupe that keeps in touch with its retro roots better than its competitors. Designed to tie together past and present, the Challenger competes with its classic rivals: the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang.
Although the Challenger was on hiatus for three decades, it was a muscle car from the start. The Challenger has remained true to its roots, its two generations spanning a three-decade hiatus yet still looking, driving and performing closely enough to recognize it at the same model. It's still primarily up against the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro, though its pricing outstrips either when configured with the SRT8 package.
Though it started production in 1970, the Challenger has only seen two generations of production due to a 30-year hiatus from 1978 to 2008. The original offered four hardtop models: Challenger Six, V8, T/A, and R/T. A convertible was 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. The first generation of the Challenger ran from 1970 to 1978.
The current generation of the Challenger was reintroduced in 2008, 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, with an available five-speed automatic or pistol-grip six-speed manual (manual available on R/T and SRT8 only).
Key features standard across the range include 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, adds a unique appearance package, an advanced traction control system, fog lamps, dual exhaust tips and electronic stability control. The SRT8 builds 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 here--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. And for 2012, a new 900-watt Harman Kardon audio system option was added. Rolling into 2013, a new Rallye Redline edition was introduced, with red exterior accents plus a Radar Red Nappa leather interior plus black chrome 20-inch wheels, a performance suspension, and a shorter axle ratio. Also, the Uconnect system offered improved Garmin navigation.
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), and 470 horsepower and 470 pound-feet. 2012 Challenger SRT8 392 models also offer an adaptive suspension with normal and sport modes; a heated steering wheel and steering-wheel shift paddles were also added. There have also been a number of special editions. For instance, Dodge first showed a special Yellow Jacket Challenger at the 2011 LA Auto Show.
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.
Major changes are due to Dodge's muscle-car lineup; it may be replaced, or joined, in the Dodge lineup by an all-new 2015 SRT Barracuda.