The Car Connection Dodge Challenger Overview
The Dodge Challenger is a two-door muscle car that's seen the future, and steadfastly ignores it.
With the Challenger, Dodge counts among its rivals the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro. Unlike those two, the Challenger is a coupe only. FCA doesn't sell a convertible version.
For 2019, Dodge uses the equipment from its 2018 Challenger SRT Demon to create the line-topping 797-horsepower Challenger Hellcat SRT Redeye as well as a new dragstrip-special option package called Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320. Also new is the R/T Scat Pack model, the sportiest and most track-focused in the range. Finally for 2019, AWD becomes available on the base SXT model.
For 2020, the lineup was relatively unchanged.
MORE: Read our 2020 Dodge Challenger review
Like last year, the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is the second most powerful model in the lineup. It gets a power bump this year to 707 hp (plus 10) and 656 (plus 6) pound-feet of torque. Those numbers dwarf the former Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and its 662-hp rating as well as the current Camaro ZL1 with its 650-hp rating.
The awesomely powerful 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V-8 in the Challenger SRT Hellcat and Hellcat Redeye won’t always make these cars 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 boat. The base Hellcat's potent powerplant also makes its way into the Charger SRT Hellcat sedan, where it produces 707 hp.
An optional 8-speed transmission (a manual is standard), uprated suspension and brakes, and classic 1971 Challenger-inspired interior design are also part of the Hellcat package.
The Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack sits below the Hellcat models, and it replaces the Challenger SRT 392, Challenger T/A, and Challenger SRT Scat Pack models. It's powered by a naturally aspirated 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that puts out 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. Below that sits the 375-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 in the base R/T model and the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 in the SXT and GT models. All engines benefit from an 8-speed automatic transmission, and all but V-6 models can be had with a manual transmission.
Partway through the 2015 model year, Dodge added a shaker hood option back into the Challenger lineup. It is available on both the R/T and R/T Scat Pack models. Like the original shaker Challengers and those offered in a limited run for 2014, these cars have the eponymous scoop peeking through a hole in the hood, with the inlet able to visibly shake compared to its surroundings when the engine revs.
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 was considerably larger, weighing more then 4,000 pounds and featuring 17- to 20-inch alloy wheels. Nevertheless, it provided classic muscle-car feel and performance.
For the first years of its revival, the Challenger was available with a 5-speed automatic or pistol-grip 6-speed manual (on R/T and SRT8 only). Key features standard across the range included front and side-curtain airbags, a 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, its own chassis tuning, upgraded interior elements, and SRT8 badges inside and out.
For 2011, the Dodge Challenger gained a new base engine—Chrysler's excellent corporate 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 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque.
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.
For 2015, the Challenger saw its first truly major update since it was relaunched as a 2007 model. With subtly refined exterior styling, new powertrains, upgraded suspension, and an all-new and far more pleasant interior, the Challenger took a leap that kept it competitive with the Camaro and Mustang.
For 2016, the Challenger added 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 "Do Not Disturb" feature.
Changes for 2017 were limited to some updates to the Challenger's already impressive infotainment system, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Additionally, a new Challenger GT variant was added to the lineup with the model's first application of all-wheel drive—but the GT was only available with an automatic and with the V-6 engine, slightly dimming its sporty appeal.
Model year 2018 was historic for the release of the Challenger SRT Demon, the brand's first purpose-built, street-legal drag racing car in decades. Unlike anything on the market and limited to 3,300 examples and only one year, the Demon dominated the dragstrip with its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 making 840 hp. It holds numerous Guinness World Records, and was the only car you can buy with a single seat (a Rear Seat Delete group is now offered on everything from the R/T on up).
Dodge Challenger history
The first Challenger dates back to 1970, though 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 V-6 to a 230-hp, 318 cubic-inch V-8; a 340 cubic-inch V-8; and the 290-hp, 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 hp initially, but later revised to 300 hp. 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 had front-wheel drive, was much smaller than the original, and was powered only by 4-cylinder engines.