By Dave Ashton
If you’ve had the slightest inclination to buy into the wonderful world of muscle cars, then the Dodge Challenger should be on your list. The consistency of the platform has been proven, as it’s now over a decade old and due for a near future, design shakeup. However, if you want the purist form of modern-day muscle cars, then the Dodge Challenger has more than enough modern amenities and power to rival other performance vehicles.
Lined up against its nearest competitors, the Mustang and Camaro, the Dodge Challenger has a few ace points. The Hellcat Redeye is the most powerful with a huge 797 horsepower, an all wheel drive version, widebody now as standard and although it’s traditionally optimized for straight-line speed, it’s very capable of blasting round a track and roomy enough to be a daily driver.
Adding extra features every year is a common trait for the Challenger. 2020 brings new wheel designs for all trim levels accept the SXT, with a bunch of exclusive colors. The wide-body look is now standard and the interior has also been given some extra love with stitched door and dash panels, carbon fiber and faux suede trim and Alcantara for R/T and Scat Pak models.
While the interior of the Challenger may not be as distinctive as other makes, the basic modern amenities are plentiful. A 7-inch touchscreen and 8.4-inch available for all trim levels. Easy to use and not available in the Mustang or Camaro. Plus, practicality, which you don’t normally associate with a muscle car.
The Challenger is longer, wider and has more interior space than the Camaro and the Mustang. Plenty of space on the back for full-size adults and an ample trunk of 16.2-cubic-foot. In other words, the Challenger has the performance specs. and the space to be a daily driver. Like the old mantra of muscle cars, a mid-sized sedan, with topline performance.
Although the Hellcat variants get the most press, there are plenty of choices in the range to suit all pockets. The SXT and GT have a 3.6-liter V6 providing 305HP, with a 0-60mph time of 6 seconds. All wheel drive versions are available in these models which come with an eight speed automatic. Fuel economy works out at 23 mpg combined and 21 mpg for the AWD model.
The Challenger R/T is a good middle ground choice with a 5.7-liter V8, 372HP and a standard eight speed automatic transmission or optional six speed manual with a few extra horses. Fuel economy for the automatic is 19 mpg combined and the manual 18 mpg combined.
Next up is the R/T Scat Pack with a 6.4-liter V8 and 485HP providing a 0-60mph time of just above four seconds, with fuel economy for the auto being 18 mpg and 17mpg for the manual. The Scat Pack also has a 1320 package, optimized for the drag strip.
At the top of the range comes the Hellcat with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, 717HP, manual or automatic and fuel economy we don’t talk about. Tuning outfits such as Hennessey Performance have been ramping up the power to 1,000HP if that’s the way you want to go.
At the top of the heap is the Hellcat Redeye, which has a lot of the essence of the limited edition Dodge Demon, with 797HP, 0-60 in 3.4 seconds and most importantly a quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds and a top speed of 203 mph. If you want the ultimate in modern muscle car, you need not look any further. The 2.7-liter belt-driven supercharger gives 14.5 psi of boost and comes with a TorqueFlite 8HP90 eight-speed automatic transmission. Available in both the regular widebody versions, with the widebody having 305-width Pirelli P-Zero tires. The irony is that the Redeye can be used for the regular grocery trip, just be aware that the fuel bill will cost more than what you buy, but it will be worth it.
Specs. are one thing, but living with a car on a daily basis is another. The initial thing to bear in mind is all the old cliches of the muscle car are long gone. The ethos is still there, but as for design, power and performance, it’s all modern amenities. As above, the interior may not be as plush as some other medium sized sedans, but the general idea is that you’re getting supercar like power in an affordable package. Therefore, the monies more on the performance.
Having so much power, especially owning the Hellcat means that they always wants to let rip, but it’s equally happy tootling around if you don’t want to put pedal to metal. Which model you go for is usually dependent on budget, but there are also plenty of package options available with each model to find tune your choices. The Performance Handling Package and Dynamics Package tweak things like the brakes, suspension and tires and the widebody option is now a must for the extra beefy look. Options are plentiful and don’t add a heap more onto the initial price.
As for the driving experience, all the Challenger models are comfortable cruisers, which can let you shred the tires at a moments notice. The suspension setup makes for a comfortable ride and there’s no denying the optimise straight-line speed. Because the Challenger is keeping to its roots, it may not be the most track friendly vehicle due to its heavyweight nature, but in reality your gaining more fun down the straights than round the corners, which is the basic template. Dragstrip optimized, rather than track friendly focused.
This means that the Challenger pips the Mustang and the Camaro for better, general usability. If you want an ultra nimble, two seater, which you take to the track every so often, look elsewhere. But, the Challenger gives massive amounts of power and performance which can more readily be used an a daily basis.
Think of it this way, the Dodge Challenger represents a certain way of thinking. At the top end of the range, it’s not as finely fettled as a supercar, but it has similar performance. It may not be as nimble as a performance two seater, but it can sure keep up and be driven home with all the family and the shopping. Plus, especially with the Hellcat, it represents value for money considering the power and performance.
Expect to pay somewhere near $25,690 for the base SXT and $72,745 for the Redeye. All Challengers come with a reasonable amount of standard equipment, such as push-button start and proximity entry, six airbags, rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, Uconnect touchscreen, six-speaker sound system and Apple and Android connectivity. There’s also a good deal of safety features such as blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control.
To check out the full Dodge Challenger lineup, visit the official Dodge website to see all the options, trim levels and performance packages. If two doors isn’t enough for you, then there’s always the Dodge Charger with similar specs.