2018 Dodge Challenger SRT
With a massive Hemi engine, a performance-tuned suspension, and retro-inspired good looks, the Challenger SRT is the range-topping model in Dodge's Challenger muscle car lineup. Though it's not quite as nimble as some rivals, it's still quite enjoyable to exercise on back roads while also being a comfortable long-distance cruiser.
The Challenger SRT 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 normal-sized 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 Challenger SRT comes in three flavors. There is the standard model, the vaunted Hellcat, and the Hellcat Widebody.
The latter receives a body kit which adds 3.5 inches to the car's overall width. This is the linchpin of the model's overall concept. Without it, Dodge couldn't outfit the Widebody with its true killer feature: a set of 305/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero performance tires on 20x11-inch wheels. Dodge says the extra tire is good for two seconds per lap on its 1.7-mile evaluation course - no joke in terms of lap times - and .04 g on the skidpad, allowing the Widebody to pull nearly a full g (0.97, factory-claimed).
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 Uconnect infotainment system is accessed via a standard 8.4-inch touch screen located on the center stack. 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.
Under the Hood
The heart of the standard Challenger SRT is a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 with 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque. The latter figure is 95 lb-ft better than the model's previous engine, adding a welcome kick in the pants to the straight line acceleration department. In fact, the coupe can scoot from a dead stop to 60 miles per hour in well under five seconds.
Power is sent to the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic that can be controlled using shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. The Challenger returns 23 mpg on the highway regardless of what transmission it's equipped with, but automatic models best their manual counterparts by one mpg with a city rating of 15.
Buyers after more power can opt for the Challenger Hellcat, a range-topping version of the coupe powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces a massive 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft. of torque, making it more powerful than many sports car priced well into the triple-digits. The Hellcat engine is the most powerful regular-production V8 the Chrysler group has ever built, and it features upgrades like a forged-steel crankshaft, forged-alloy pistons and powder-forged connecting rods in order to handle the massive amount of power.
Like the naturally-aspirated V8, the supercharged Hellcat engine spins the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic unit. The Hellcat returns 13 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway with equipped with the eight-speed auto. Selecting the six-speed manual drops freeway mileage to 21.
Interestingly, the Hellcat comes standard with a black key fob and a red key fob. The black fob limits the engine's performance, while the red fob allows the driver to unlock the V8's full potential. A valet mode allows the driver to reduce horsepower and torque, limit the engine to 4,000 rpms, turn off the launch control function, disable the shift paddles and lock out access to first gear in cars equipped with an automatic transmission.
Both versions of the Challenger SRT come with a Drive Modes feature that lets the drive adjust the automatic transmission's shift points, the engine's horsepower, the steering response, the suspension firmness and the throttle response by using the aforementioned touch screen. Alternatively, the Drive Modes function offers three pre-programmed settings called sport, track and default, respectively.
Standard and Optional Features
Highlights from the Challenger SRT's list of standard features include power windows with a one-touch up function, illuminated cup holders, key-less entry and start, parking sensors, an 8.4-inch color touch screen, a one-year subscription to SiriusXM radio, seats upholstered in leather and Alcantara, heated and power-adjustable front seats, body-colored mirrors, chromed exhaust tips, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
The list of extra-cost options includes navigation, full leather upholstery, red seat belts, summer tires, a power sunroof, an engine block heater, racing stripes and special paint colors.
The SRT Hellcat is offered with roughly the same options as the standard SRT but it is not offered with a sunroof or with racing stripes. However, Hellcat buyers can order a satin black hood at an extra cost.
All Charger SRT models come standard with dual front, front side and side-curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag, a rear-view camera and traction and stability control systems. Models equipped with a manual transmission come with a hill-start assist function.
As the range-topping model in the Challenger lineup, the SRT competes against powerful rivals like the V8-powered variants of the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro. Buyers can also consider more expensive German machines built by companies like BMW, Mercedes-AMG, and Audi. They overlap in terms of performance and price but they're two completely different beasts.
The two Hellcat models are in a class of their own. The Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 comes close to its Dodge-badged rival, but it can't beat it in terms of raw power.