New & Used Dodge Challenger: In Depth
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The Dodge Challenger is a two-door muscle coupe that retains its retro look and feel better than its competition. Designed to combine the past with the present, the Challenger competes with the classic rivals like the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang.
It's been lightly updated for the past four years--that is, until the 2015 model year, when the Challenger SRT returned, with a Hellcat badge and with a 707-horsepower supercharged HEMI under its hood.
MORE: Read our 2015 Dodge Challenger review, including the Hellcat
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 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), and 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 also 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.At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, the 2013 Dodge Challenger R/T Redlinewas introduced, bringing a somewhat edgier and more aggressively styled spin on the Challenger R/T.
2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
This year, 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 its Mustang and Camaro rivals are readying new editions.
Dodge also makes an eight-speed automatic available across the board this year, though a six-speed manual remains on the options list, too.
But the undeniable news this year 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 Shelby GT500's 662 hp.Generating its power from a 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V-8, the Challenger SRT Hellcat won’t always be a complete handful to drive, however, thanks to a dual key fob system. The black fob limits the car’s output to 500 horsepower; opt for the red key fob, and you’ll get the full 707. We hear the potent powerplant may also make its way into the 2015 Charger.
A TorqueFlite eight-speed transmission, uprated suspension and classic 1971 Challenger-inspired interior design are also part of the Hellcat package.