Overview (Overall Grade After 8 Categories: A)
Nothing speaks to the all-American automotive enthusiast like the Dodge Challenger. It represents the ultimate in kick-butt, no holds barred, loud exhaust rumble, all horsepower muscle car among the pretenders.
Over forty years ago, Dodge jumped in the PonyCar race to face off against the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. Chrysler already had the Plymouth Barracuda to do that, so they positioned the slightly longer Challenger against the Pontiac Firebird and Mercury Cougar. Back then, Dodge was seen as a slightly more upscale brand. However, the Challenger's legend grew equally with the Barracuda up until its demise in 1974.
It was not until 2008 when the Challenger returned to the marketplace. This time, it was built on a shortened version of the rear-drive LX platform - the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, if you are keeping score. However, Chrysler fashioned a look that was right out of 1970. There were modern considerations for bumper impact rules, lighting heights and other safety standards that did not exist four decades ago. As with its predecessor, the Challenger attracted a loyal following, thanks to the return of the HEMI in a modern 5.7liter V8 and a larger SRT-tuned version that cleared 400 horsepower. Go to any Mopar meet and it will have a huge number of modern Challengers - some with even more horsepower than stock.
For 2015, the "Chally" is revised inside and out. The grille and rear end is now reminiscent of the 1971 model - split grille inserts and tail lights. The biggest changes are in the instrument panel to accommodate the UConnect Touch screen. The lineup has been shuffled, offering the old SRT engine - the 6.4liter HEMI "392" V8 to models, making room for the 707-horsepower 6.2liter supercharged V8 on the SRT "Hellcat." Our tester was the R/T "Scat Pack," with the 485-horsepower 6.4liter V8.
The previous Challengers were indeed a blast from the past. This revised model packs loads of promise, along with massive power. However, is this modern PonyCar the kind of car you can take on a curvy canyon road as you would on a straight one?
What We Loved about the 2015 Dodge Challenger
- A well-done retro design that harkens back to the last of the muscle cars.
- Advances in technology inside with active safety integrated in this car.
- That 6.4liter HEMI V8, combined with the new eight-speed automatic transmission and a rumbling exhaust note.
What We Didn't Love about the 2015 Dodge Challenger
- Though expected, the low fuel economy.
- Some nitpicking, but "Scat Pack" was a marketing campaign, not an actual model in 1970-71.
- We can't say anything else bad about this car, sorry
Exterior View (10 out of 10)
There was no change in the basic shape of the Challenger that came upon the scene in 2008. It remains a timeless piece of metal, once forged in 1970 and adapted to a shortened rear-drive LX platform. As it rode the retro design craze - though late in the game - the Challenger is distinctive enough to be found in a parking lot among other mundane looking vehicles.
What has changed are some not so subtle updates. The Challenger no longer lives in 1970. The grille texture emulates the 1971 model with the split inner cowls and dual headlamps. Thye rear end also uses the 1971-influened split rear tail lights with the "Dodge" nameplate in block letters.
Our R/T Scat Pack added a few details to make it meaner. As if the Sublime Green paint was enough, there are balck details all around - from the all-black grille to the striping on the rear deck and spoiler. The big 20-inch alloys are black, shod with Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. Though it still has the look of 1971, this Challenger is definitely 2015 in the details.
Interior Comfort, Quality and Overall Ease of Use (10 out of 10)
The other big change is the interior. It is no longer influenced the Challengers from 1970 to 1974. It is now up-to-date with some retro...OK, heritage...details. The center stack is angled towards the driver for better reach to the 8.4-inch UConnect Touch screen. Included in this screen is a "lighter" version of the Performance Pages, where the best feature is the enabling of the Launch Control on the R/T Scat Pack. This screen also houses the navigation system as well as the UConnect apps interface. The instrument binnacle new includes a TFT screen that is programmable and customizable by the driver for various readouts - mainly trip, vehicle and fuel consumption readouts.
The front seats are large with deep bolstering. While the room in the backseat is not as big, two children would be fine to sit back there with safety seats.
Technology (10 out of 10)
As mentioned above, the 8.4-inch UConnect Touch screen offers a lot to the driver. Aside from the Launch Control, the Performance Pages allows the driver to also customize vehicle settings for the drive modes and check out performance readings on the vehicle. Performance Pages get more extensive when you select the SRT models - the 392 and the Hellcat.
Infotainment is extensive, start with the UConnect app suite, which is enabled through a mobile app to connect Pandora, the on-=board Wi-Fi - if equipped - and other mobile entertainment options. It also houses SiriusXM, HD Radio, the aforementioned navigation system and settings for the climate control, all within the touch of the driver. The steering wheel has a few redundant switches to go along with the infotainment system. Alpine provides a powerful sound throughout the cabin, including the trunk-mounted subwoofer.
One note on UConnect: It is the best infotainment system in the business. Phone connections are quick and the touch screen offers many options - especially when you get into the performance pages.
Fuel Economy (6 out of 10)
A consumer doesn't purchase the Challenger based upon fuel economy. If you are only using Premium fuel, the R/T Scat Pack averaged of 18.6MPG. This is actually more than the average Chrysler said it would get.
Predicted Reliability and Initial Quality Ratings (9 out of 10)
J.D. Power awarded the Challenger as the class winner in their Initial Quality Study. That speaks volumes, considering that the quality quotient has been raised in the 2015 model. Though reliability reports show rating between "average" to "good," Challenger owners report nominal problems during the course of ownership.
Active safety is what brings the Challenger from 1971 to 2015. By selecting the Technology Group, you get Active Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning. Along with Blind Spot Monitoring, a rearview camera and airbags positioned around the cabin.
Performance (10 out of 10)
Pop open the R/T Scat Pack's hood and SRT's "392" reveals itself. For this model Dodge would rather have I call the 6.4Liter V8. Power is up by 15 horsepower - now at 485. It is the kind of engine that strikes fear on anyone nearby it - or, create a fanfare to its minions. Tap the accelerator and hang on - it is that responsive! Plus, the exhaust note is one for the ages - Classic Rock, is more like. It rumbles and burbles, just like a muscle car should.
Connected to this V8 is the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission. It is a good gearbox, however you will notice some low gear "skipping" that may remind out of older three-speed slushboxes from back in the day. For modern enthusiasts, it can be annoying. For those who remember the 1970s, it is awesome. The toggle gear selector and the paddle shifters on the steering wheel are indeed modern, but work very well. And, just like the good old days, that power is sent to the rear wheels.
The R/T Scat Pack comes with an enhanced suspension setup. Though it feels firm, ride is actually comfortable - as long as the road is smooth. Rougher roads reveal its firmness with minimal give as felt in the cockpit. However, it corners extremely well and exact with nominal roll in the turns.
There are two drive modes - Normal and Sport. Though they act to change the dynamics of the engine, transmission and steering, there is consistency in the feel and action from the wheel. Steering feel also showed no play on center, but do not expect a tight turning radius when you need it. Steering response is sharp with some artificial action. Stopping the Challenger is aided by a set of Brembo calipers and components, along with huge rotors. The result is a very strong and sharp stopping action in both normal and panic situations
Pricing and Value for Money (8 out of 10)
Challenger pricing starts at $26,995 for a V6-powered SXT coupe. Our R/T Scat Pack tester came in with a sticker price of $46,165. If you are not satisfied with 485 horsepower, try 707. The SRT Hellcat can be had as low as $59,995.
"The Final Numbers" and the Competition (73 points out of 80: 91.3 %)
The Challengers has only two true competitors: The Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang. Each of these cars have a legacy that goes back to the 1960s, which makes this trio a hotbed of pure enthusiasm. The Dodge yields a cadre of supporters that are die-hard loyalists to the brand and the model.
The Challenger makes its presence known, even without the engine firing up. It exudes badness. If you must have a V8-powered big coupe with all of the power in the world, the Challenger is a great choice. It simply speaks for itself. Think of it as a business card that you do not have to hand out to anybody. Or, it could be your wingman (or woman). It could even make you cooler than you ever been in your life.
That is what I meant by the Challenger speaking for itself.