2018 Dodge Challenger
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 and heavier than it ought to be, the Challenger is one of the best cruising machines on the market thanks to a spacious interior and a classic look.
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.
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 rpm and 268 pound-feet torque at 4,800 rpm. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission that can be ordered with shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. The six-cylinder isn't offered with a manual transmission, but select trim levels come add the winter-beating benefit of all-wheel drive.
Those looking for more power can opt for a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine rated at 375 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque when linked to a six-speed manual transmission. Power drops to 372 ponies and 400 pound-feet of twist when buyers order the aforementioned eight-speed automatic.
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.
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. The 6.4-liter is offered with either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is the only configuration offered on the V8-powered variants of the Challenger.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Challenger is available in no less than 12 trim levels called SXT, SXT Plus, GT, R/T, T/A, R/T Shaker, R/T Plus, T/A Plus, R/T Plus Shaker, R/T Scat Pack, T/A 392, and 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker, respectively.
Highlights from the list of standard features include the V6 engine, 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.
Moving up in the trim hierarchy adds features like fog lights, a 276-watt sound system, Sirius XM satellite radio, leather upholstery, an 8.4-inch touch screen for the infotainment system, a power-adjustable steering column, a universal garage door opener, as well as 20-inch alloy wheels.
Heads-up, enthusiasts: R/T Plus Shaker models gain 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.
Dodge offers the Challenger with several option packages that bundle popular feature. The list of standalone options includes a sunroof, red brake calipers, an engine block heater, a compact spare tire, and navigation.
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 Nissan 370Z, the BMW 4 Series, the Audi A5, and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe. They're smaller and sharper, but they can't match the Challenger in terms of pure muscle car style and performance.