2019 Dodge Challenger Review

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
December 11, 2018

The 2019 Dodge Challenger delivers macho retro looks in anything from a relaxed boulevard cruiser to a dragstrip specialist to a monster horsepower muscle machine.

The 2019 Dodge Challenger soldiers on as an unapologetic muscle car, offering new high-power models to go with its more practical V-6 models.

We rate the Challenger a 6.3 out of 10, adding points for style and power, as well as easy-to-use infotainment. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year, Dodge replaced the 840-horsepower Demon with a new model and an option package. The 797-hp Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye gets the Demon’s engine, but it joins the lineup as a more well-rounded street and track car. The Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320, an option package for the R/T Scat Pack, adds much of the Demon’s drag-focused equipment. The Challenger R/T Scat Pack is also new this year and it slots is as the most firmly sprung and track-focused Challenger in the lineup. The rest of the lineup consists of SXT RWD, GT RWD, SXT AWD, GT AWD, R/T, and SRT Hellcat. The Hellcats and R/T Scat Pack are offered in narrow body and Widebody body styles.

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While it’s based on a Mercedes-Benz-derived platform from the 1990s, the Challenger is very wide and it’s been adapted through a few generations of use by Chrysler. However, the Challenger hasn’t been significantly updated since it was released for the 2009 model year. Instead, Dodge has kept it relevant with new performance variants and modern infotainment to go with its appealing looks.

The Challenger has unmitigated swagger. It’s a throwback to the muscle cars of the early 1970s. A wide grille sits up front, with various types of hood scoops above it. The profile is characterized by prominent rear haunches, and wheel sizes range from 18 to 20 inches. Performance trims get a front splitter and a rear spoiler. The overall look is menacing, even for the base models.

Engine performance is decent in the base model and buyers can pick their level of crazy horsepower from there. The base engine is a 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 that powers the SXT and GT, both of which now offer all-wheel drive and use a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. Standard Challenger R/T models use a 375-hp 5.7-liter V-8. A 485-hp 6.4-liter V-8 powers the Challenger R/T Scat Pack.

The supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 in the Challenger SRT Hellcat produces 717 hp, 10 more than last year, and 656 pound-feet of torque. At the top of the heap is the new SRT Hellcat Redeye. Its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 makes 797 horses and 707 lb-ft of torque. All of the V-8 models are offered with an 8-speed automatic transmission or a 6-speed manual.

The Challenger isn’t a sports car like its Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang competitors. Instead, it manages a more comfortable character and focuses on straight-line speed, but the performance models do have some ability on road courses.

Even the base Challenger comes well equipped with such features as houndstooth cloth upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Top models get more connectivity, bigger brakes, adaptive dampers, and other performance goodies. Dodge offers a host of options, including some packages that might as well be models, like the R/T Scat Pack 1320 and T/A.

Safety is an issue for the Challenger, mostly due to its age. It crashes well for the NHTSA, but IIHS scores are mediocre. Automatic emergency braking, a safety must nowadays, is not offered.

Fuel economy ranges from 19 city, 30 highway, 23 mpg combined for the V-6 all the way down to 13/21/16 mpg for the Hellcats. Get out the gas station rewards card with the Hellcat.

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2019 Dodge Challenger

Styling

The 2019 Dodge Challenger owes its looks to 1971, but it’s bigger and even more muscular, especially the Widebody performance models.

The original 1970 Challenger was undeniably attractive and the 2019 Challenger’s retro looks that play off the original have held up for more than a decade.

With its gaping maw, wide haunches, and low roof, the Challenger turns heads even in base trim. We rate an 8 out of 10, adding two points for its fantastic exterior and one for its dark, driver-focused interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Challenger oozes muscle car. The deeply inset front grille and round headlights are throwbacks to the early ’70s. The Challenger is wide, and while it doesn’t appear so up front, the big rear haunches and slab sides serve notice that this is one large coupe based on a sedan structure. Park it next to a Camaro, and the difference becomes obvious, especially with the Widebody package that adds another 2.5 inches to the width in the form of tack-on fender flares to cover the fat 305 mm tires.

Dodge doesn’t penalize buyers too badly for choosing the base model, other than saddling them them 18-inch wheels instead of 20s. It offers graphics and wheel packages to mask its humble roots.

More aggressive hoods, fascias, and spoilers are added for the performance models, and the Widebody flares make the car look like a serious track monster.

Inside, the Challenger has a driver-focused design with a dashboard that cants toward the driver. The look is right out of one specific year: 1971. However, it’s updated with 7.0- or 8.4-inch touchscreens. Houndstooth cloth upholstery is another cool throwback, and it’s available on base and performance models.

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2019 Dodge Challenger

Performance

Power and performance increase as buyers move up the 2019 Dodge Challenger lineup, but no Challenger matches the moves of the Mustang and Camaro.

The 2019 Dodge Challenger is bigger than its pony/muscle car rivals, but it can still take a corner well and the performance models are straight-line demons. It also offers a smoother ride than its rivals.

We rate it 8 out of 10 for performance, adding points for its powerful engines, comfortable ride, and track-capable handling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Challenger lineup starts with a 305 horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 in SXT and GT models. The V-6 does duty in Ram pickups and Chrysler Pacifica minivans, and here it delivers 268 pound-feet of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission to either the rear or all four wheels. It’s a refined engine with a decent amount of gusto, but the Challenger’s muscle car looks long for a V-8 under its assortment of scooped hoods.

The base version of the Challenger R/T gets just that, a 5.7-liter V-8 that produces 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque with the standard 6-speed manual. Go for the 8-speed automatic and ratings drop slightly to 372 hp and 400 lb-ft. With either transmission, buyers get the V-8 rumble they desire, as well as plenty of American V-8 thrust.

Go for the Challenger R/T Scat Pack and a 6.4-liter V-8 awaits under the hood. It makes a thunderous 485 hp and 476 lb-ft, and also comes with a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic. It’s additional power is easy to feel, especially as the revs climb, and the engine note is even more NASCAR-like. The 0-60 mph run takes just 4.4 seconds, and the R/T Scat Pack 1320 version, which is set up for drag racing, conquers the quarter mile in 11.7 seconds, 0.3 second quicker than the standard R/T Scat Pack.

As if that weren’t enough, the SRT Hellcat draws its anger from a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that makes 717 hp, up 10 this year thanks to more air flowing through the airbox. It can vault from 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds and run an 11.0-second quarter mile.

But wait, there’s more. New this year is the SRT Hellcat Redeye with a 797-hp version of the 6.2. It’s the Demon engine from last year with a different hood scoop and without the race-gas tune. It cuts the 0-60 mph time to 3.4 seconds and the quarter-mile run to 10.8 seconds. Straight-line acceleration is, in a word, ferocious, especially with the Widebody body style that adds much-needed rubber to help put all that power to the ground.

Dodge Challenger ride and handling

With all that power and the Challenger’s excess size and weight (it weighs up to 4,492 pounds), it’s natural to think it would resist going around corners. That’s not the case. It’s not a sports car like the Mustang and especially the Camaro, but it has some track capability and each model takes on its own personality based on its suspension tuning.

The SXT is soft and compliant but its handling is competent. The Challenger GT and R/T are firmer but not harsh, with reduced body lean in turns.

The R/T Scat Pack is the most track-focused model and delivers the firmest ride, though it is still acceptable for daily driving. The Scat Pack turns into corners crisply and offers more road feel than any other model, but can be the first to get push forward if overdriven into a corner.

The Challenger SRT Hellcat models are a bit softer, but their handling is neutral, and that allows drivers to play with them on a track. It allows for big drifts and steering the car with the rear wheels given all that power. Be careful, though, as 717 or 797 horsepower can spin the wheels easily and create a spin-out for anyone who gets on the throttle too hard when exiting a turn.

Widebodies don’t only put the power down better, they handle better, too. They are 2.5 inches wider and their beefier tires grip the pavement better to provide a more planted and stable attitude through turns.

The Hellcats come with Brembo brakes and we recommend them as an option for the R/T Scat Pack. They are big and powerful, but even they can get hot when pushed for a long time due to the Challenger’s excess weight.

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2019 Dodge Challenger

Comfort & Quality

The 2019 Dodge Challenger provides more comfort that a coupe should.

The 2019 Dodge Challenger is a large coupe that bests the competition for interior space, boasts fine materials, and is well screwed together. We award the Challenger points for its roomy first row and nice assortment of materials, but take one back for ease of access to the back seat. The brings it to a 6 out of 10 for quality and comfort. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Challenger shares its platform with a sedan and it is larger than its coupe classmates at nearly 17 feet long and 6.3 feet wide. That gives it wider, longer first and second rows, with room to stretch out. Three will even fit in the back. Try that in a Camaro or Mustang. Still, the rear seat isn’t as comfortable as a sedan’s and getting back there is a chore.

Front passengers sit on nicely bolstered but somewhat flat-backed bucket seats, even in the performance models. They are sized for American backsides, and that might leave some room for sliding around during performance driving for thinner folks. We think the retro houndstooth cloth upholstery is a neat touch as a base choice on multiple trims.

The trunk is large, too, at 16.2 cubic feet. That should beat any coupe’s trunk out there, as well as many sedans, though the liftover is high.

The ambience may be dark, but the Challenger has a healthy helping of soft-touch materials, with available synthetic suede upholstery that provides some extra grip during aggressive driving.

The V-6 and base V-8 engines are fairly quiet from behind the wheel, though the V-8 will bellow when pushed. The larger V-8s prefer to announce their presence with authority when the throttle is engaged, though they can also cruise at reasonable decibel levels.

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2019 Dodge Challenger

Safety

The fact that the 2019 Dodge Challenger is falling behind the pack in safety is a sure sign of its age.

The 2019 Dodge Challenger lacks some of today’s important active safety features, most notably automatic emergency braking, but it scores well in crash tests. On balance it’s below average, and we score it a 4 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Standard safety equipment consists of a rearview camera, six airbags, and hill-start assist. All but the SXT also get rear park assist. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and forward collision warnings are available for all models. Oddly, the forward-collision warning system does not include automatic emergency braking—a sign of just how old quickly the Challenger is aging.

The NHTSA gives the Challenger five stars overall and five stars for side impacts, but four stars for both frontal crashes and rollovers. While the NHTSA doesn’t rate the SRT models, we don’t see how they should be any different. In fact, their bigger brakes and better traction should make them safer...as long as legal speeds are maintained. Ratings from the IIHS aren’t as good, though they are for the 2018 model. The Challenger gets an underwhelming “Marginal” score in the driver’s side small front overlap test and it hasn’t been rated for the passenger’s side. The roof-strength test and head restraints and seats test also came back as merely “Acceptable.” The insurance-backed institute has yet to test the Challenger’s headlights.

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2019 Dodge Challenger

Features

Challenger buyers will have to study the order sheet to choose from a wide variety of models and packages that range from mild to wild.

Few lineups are as varied as the 2019 Dodge Challenger’s, especially given the fact that it offers only a coupe body style. But Dodge offers a variety of engines, a wide range of models, and plenty of options to please the muscle car enthusiast is a broad swath of buyers. For those reasons and the sake of its terrific 8.4-inch infotainment system, we rate it a 9 out of 10 for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Challenger is offered in six trims, the first two of which offer all-wheel drive: SXT, GT, R/T, R/T Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat, and SRT Hellcat Redeye. Add Widebody versions of the R/T Scat Pack and Hellcats, option packages that might as well be models, and numerous options, and it will take buyers time and consideration to arrive at the Challenger they want.

Standard equipment includes houndstooth cloth upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Starting at about $28,600, this is one of our recommended choices because it is well equipped, has a strong V-6 engine, and offers the looks Challenger buyers seek. All-wheel drive is now available on the SXT for $3,000.

The Challenger GT was previously the only AWD model. It now adds more equipment, and comes with the V-6 and rear- or all-wheel drive.

The R/T brings the 375-hp 5.7-liter V-8, as well as more performance features and amenities. We, however, recommend the R/T Scat Pack for performance buyers. It gets the 485-hp 6.4-liter V-8, bigger brakes, 20-inch wheels, sharper suspension settings, launch control, a line lock, HID headlights, an aluminum hood, SRT Performance Pages performance readouts, a heated steering wheel, and an 8.4-inch infotainment system with satellite radio, and an Alpine 276-watt audio system—all for about $40,000.

From there, the 717-hp Challenger SRT Hellcat and 797-hp SRT Hellcat Redeye get even larger Brembo brakes, adaptive dampers, and a flat-bottom steering wheel.  

Options include the R/T Scat Pack 1320 package that gets part from last year’s Demon to make it a drag car, an Alcantara Appearance package for the interior, a Blacktop package with black trim inside and out, the Widebody package for $6,000, the R/T Classic package with stripes and some amenities, the T/A package with amenities and graphics for the R/T models, a Shaker package with shaker hood scoop and other appearance items, a Harman Kardon sound system, a Performance Handling group, and a Technology group with safety features. Much more is offered.

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2019 Dodge Challenger

Fuel Economy

The 2019 Dodge Challenger can be relatively efficient or incredibly thirsty, depending on your model of choice.

The 2019 Dodge Challenger can be thrifty or a gas hog—you decide. Based on the ratings for the 5.7-liter V-8 in Challenger R/T paired with the 8-speed automatic transmission, we rate the Challenger a 3 out of 10. However, the model you choose could be better or worse than that. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The most efficient Challengers are the rear-drive SXT and GT models. They are rated at 19 mpg city, 30 highway, 23 combined on regular unleaded. When all-wheel drive is chosen for either the SXT or GT, the ratings drop to 18/27/21 mpg.

Dodge recommends the R/T’s 5.7-liter V-8 run on premium when paired with the manual transmission and mid-grade with the automatic (though regular is acceptable for the latter). The manual is rated at 15/23/18 mpg, but the automatic improves to 16/25/19 mpg.

Those who like to burn decayed dinosaurs will love the rest of the engine options.

Models with the naturally aspirated 6.4-liter V-8 get ratings of 14/23/17 mpg when teamed with the manual and 15/25/18 mpg with the automatic gearbox. Given its 485 horsepower, the automatic offers decent fuel economy.

The 717-hp supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 in the Challenger SRT Hellcat drinks fuel to the tune of 13/21/16 mpg with the manual and 13/22/16 mpg when the automatic is chosen. Premium fuel is recommended for both the 6.4 and the 717-hp Hellcat models.

But Dodge doesn’t stop there. A 797-hp version of the 6.2-liter V-8 in the SRT Hellcat Redeye requires premium fuel. It’s fuel economy ratings, however, are the same as the base Hellcat.

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$27,295
MSRP based on SXT RWD
 
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6.3
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 4
Features 9
Fuel Economy 3
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  • 2019 Challenger arriving; 2018 selection still good
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