Of the three Detroit muscle cars currently on the market, the Dodge Challenger is the most faithful to its predecessors in terms of styling, driving dynamics and overall character. Though lacking in handling compared to its peers, the Challenger is one of the best cruising machines on the market thanks to a spacious interior and a classic look.
Little has changed for the latest model year of the Challenger. A "Blacktop" appearance package brings back the popular blacked-out look available in various prior packages. There's good news for nostalgia fans too, as the much-loved "Plum Crazy" heritage purple color lives on through the end of the model year.
The Challenger rides on a shortened version of the LX rear-wheel-drive platform used by the first-generation Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300. While ideal for those full-size sedans, the platform is slightly oversized for a two-door and contributes to the Challenger's relatively porky curb weight. However, this architecture does permit a large cabin that can accommodate adults in the rear seats, unlike many cars in the segment.
Draped over the modified sedan underpinnings is perhaps the Challenger's greatest asset - muscular, head-turning retro sheet metal. All of the cues that made the original Challenger a classic - a long, narrow opening for the grille and headlights, coke-bottle hips and rectangular tail lamps - are present and accounted for in the current model.
The retro treatment continues inside with a dashboard loosely inspired by the 1971 Challenger. All models come with a three-spoke steering wheel and a seven-inch configurable display located between the tachometer and the speedometer gauges.
The base Challenger's entertainment, climate control and connectivity functions are accessed via a five-inch touch screen located on the center stack, while cars ordered with Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system benefit from a larger 8.4-inch screen. Generally regarded as one of the more user-friendly infotainment systems on the market, Uconnect Access integrates most of the Challenger's audio, navigation and climate control functions into one unit. The dash-mounted screen is the central component of the system, but redundant buttons and knobs for climate and audio volume and tuning are also included.
Uconnect Access features a voice command system that allows the driver to place phone calls, use the sound system, input navigation destinations and more without taking his or her hands off the wheel. Other notable aspects of the system include the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network - for an additional monthly fee - and downloadable applications such as Bing search.
Powertrain Lineup: Standard Pentastar, Optional HEMI
The entry-level engine is Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which produces a healthy 305 horsepower at 6,350 rpms and 268 lb-ft torque at 4,800 rpms. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission that can be ordered with shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel.
Those looking for more power can opt for a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 engine rated at 375 horsepower and 410 lb-ft. of torque when linked to a six-speed manual transmission. Power drops to 372 ponies and 400 lb-ft. of twist when the aforementioned eight-speed automatic is ordered.
Capable of reaching 60 mph in a little under six seconds, cars equipped with the manual transmission benefit from a performance-tuned dual exhaust and under-floor mufflers with low-restriction bottle resonators that deliver a throaty growl.
Fuel economy figures have not been published yet, but Dodge promises the V8-powered Challenger will be more efficient than before thanks to an innovative Fuel Saver Technology that shuts down four cylinders when power is not needed. Fuel Saver Technology is only available on cars equipped with an eight-speed automatic.
The ultimate version of the Challenger is powered by a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that generates 485 horsepower and 470 lb-ft. of torque. Like the other two engines, the 6.4-liter is offered with either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Challenger is available in eight trim levels: SXT, SXT Plus, R/T, R/T Plus, R/T Shaker, R/T Plus Shaker, 6.4-liter Scat Pack and 393 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker.
The V6-powered SXT model comes standard with keyless entry, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lamps, automatic headlights, heated door mirrors, a bright chrome fuel filler door, tinted windows, a double-bulge hood with functional air vents, a soft-touch dash, a 5.0-inch touch screen, Bluetooth connectivity and 18-inch alloy wheels.
To those features, the SXT Plus adds fog lights, a 276-watt sound system, Sirius XM satellite radio, an 8.4-inch touch screen, a power-adjustable steering column, a universal garage door opener as well as 20-inch alloy wheels.
The R/T and R/T Plus trims mirror the features found on the SXT and SXT Plus, respectively, with the notable upgrade of the HEMI V8.
R/T Shaker models feature a Satin Black fuel cap, a gloss black radiator grille, a Shaker hood with cold-air induction, black cloth upholstery, a Mopar air filter, a 230mm rear axle and polished aluminum rims.
R/T Plus Shaker models gain leather-upholstered sport seats and the Dodge Performance Pages setup that allows the driver to adjust a host of functions like the steering response, the throttle response and the ESC settings.
The 6.4-liter Scat Pack features a 220-amp alternator, a 180-mph speedometer, four-piston high-performance brakes manufactured by Brembo, a stainless steel dual exhaust system and a high-performance suspension.
Finally, the 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker boasts the same features as the 6.4-liter Scat Pack plus it gains the same sport seats found in the R/T Plus Shaker model and a cold-air induction system.
Dodge offers the Challenger with several option packages. Some of the highlights include the R/T Classic package that bundles Nappa-upholstered sport seats, R/T stripes on the side, HID headlights and polished forged aluminum wheels.
The Super Trak Pack Group features cast-aluminum 20-inch wheels, a high-performance steering rack, a track-tuned suspension, Goodyear tires, upgraded brakes, the Dodge Performance Pages software and a 3.07 rear axle ratio.
The Technology Package consists of rain-sensitive wipers, automatic high beams, Forward Collision Warning and Adapative Cruise Control.
All Challenger models come standard with dual front, side and side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
Buyers interested in the Challenger should also take a look at the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang, the coupe's arch rivals. Alternatively, shoppers can cross-shop the Challenger with the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the Nissan 370Z.