- Cool retro looks
- 707-hp Hellcat flagship
- Comfortable ride
- Adult-size back seat
- Manual shifting available (V-8s)
- Poor outward visibility
- Awkward back-seat access
- Quite thirsty
- Social stigma, depending where you are
Big and heavy, the 2016 Dodge Challenger offers touring comfort you won't find in the other muscle coupes. A variety of models lets owners choose a comfortable daily driver, a dragstrip menace, and everything in between.
The 2016 Dodge Challenger is a sport coupe that competes with the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. The Challenger is bigger than those cars, and takes a more retro approach to the modern American muscle car archetype.
After a 2015 refresh, the 2016 Challenger adds a new Blacktop Appearance group with black accents, available Plum Crazy paint, and, for the Uconnect infotainment system, a drag-and-drop menu, Siri Eyes Free, and a "Do Not Disturb" feature.
The Challenger has always been the largest and blockiest of the muscle cars, giving it substantial road presence. Looked at through a different lens, the Challenger has been slightly more of a touring coupe—large and comfortable, with a supple ride. But the Challenger also offers an array of even more powerful, rip-up-the-track models at the top end for buyers who want to keep pace with the most powerful vehicles in the competition's lineups.
The exterior styling adopts cues from the classic 1971 Challenger, including a split grille in a slim front opening with projector headlamps surrounded by LED halos. There's also a pronounced and fully functional "power bulge" hood (with a variety of available scoops) and LED taillights in a glossy piano black surround. Inside, the 2016 Challenger has a modern dash with soft-touch surfaces, an up-to-date instrument cluster with a fully customizable 7.0-inch display screen, and an available 8.4-inch center touchscreen.
Ten separate trim levels are offered for 2016: SXT, SXT Plus, R/T, R/T Plus, R/T Shaker, R/T Plus Shaker, R/T Scat Pack, 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker, SRT 392, and SRT Hellcat. Customization options mean no two Challengers need be identical, with 14 different interiors, 12 wheel options, and a range of paint colors, including retro shades like Sublime Green, B5 Blue, and, new this year, Plum Crazy.
The standard powertrain in the base SXT Challenger is a 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6. Then there's the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, which is rated at up to 375 hp and 410 lb-ft or torque. Next, there's a 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that Dodge rates at 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. At the top of the lineup is the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 in the Hellcat that produces 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, making the Hellcat the most powerful muscle car—and production American car—ever. All four engines can be mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with a Sport Mode and paddle shifters. A 6-speed manual gearbox remains available for the V-8 models. Like all three of its competitors, the Challenger remains a rear-wheel-drive vehicle with independent rear suspensions.
Suspension tuning varies by model, and the base suspension becomes a bit firmer this year. That's OK because even the track-oriented Hellcat offers a fairly smooth ride. A Super Track Pak is available with the V-6 or 5.7-liter V-8. It gets you a lowered ride height, larger sway bars, Bilstein shocks, high-performance brakes, and a three-mode stability control system. The track-ready 6.4-liter Scat Pack model includes not only the 6.4-liter Hemi but also 20-inch aluminum wheels and Brembo disc brakes, and the 392 Scat Pack Shaker model adds a functional shaker hood inlet scoop.
The Challenger's large footprint pays dividends inside. The Challenger is the only one of the three American muscle coupes to offer seating for five. Access to the back seat requires some contortion, and only two adults will really be comfortable there, but it's doable. At 16.2 cubic feet, the trunk is also larger than those of even some mid-size sedans on the market.
Challenger sales have increased steadily throughout its life, so there's clearly a market for a retro muscle car. We tend to think that the best deals in the lineup include the base SXT, where the Challenger costs less than $30,000 and is far more flamboyant and exciting than any other comfort-oriented mid-sizer. The R/T Scat Pack model is also quite the deal, with as much performance as you could possibly take advantage of on the street, all for around $40,000.
Despite it's relative size and potent powertrains, the Challenger can be equipped to manage respectable fuel economy. In V-6 form, the Challenger can return up to 30 mpg highway, and much of the lineup can manage up to 25 mpg.