Don't get us wrong: If you're drawn to the Dodge Challenger simply because you miss laying patches in your high school parking lot, you won't be disappointed. We'd avoid the base V6 for this purpose, but either of the two available V8s should do the trick. The R/T's 5.7-liter version delivers up to 376 horsepower and great value, while the SRT8's 6.4-liter, 470-hp monstrosity is an even worthier heir to the big-block V8s of yesteryear. Particularly with the pistol-grip six-speed manual shifter in hand, a V8-powered Challenger hits all the right Woodward Avenue notes.
But that's to be expected. What's unexpected is how civilized the Challenger can be. Whereas its principal rivals, the admittedly sharper handling Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, have tight backseats and firm rides, the larger, softer Challenger will cosset four adult passengers like a luxury sedan. Even the base Challenger V6 makes for a perfectly pleasant cruiser, while the V8 models are kind of like a less wealthy (or more practical) man's Mercedes-Benz CL-Class. If you can forgive its uninspired interior, the 2014 Dodge Challenger will reward you with a uniquely well-rounded variation on the muscle-car theme.
The 2014 Dodge Challenger is a five-seat coupe offered in four main trim levels: SXT, R/T, SRT8 392 and SRT8 Core.
The SXT starts with the V6 engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and ignition, full power accessories, cruise control, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-way power driver seat (with power lumbar adjustment), a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a trip computer and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The optional SXT Plus package adds foglights, automatic headlights, rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated visor mirrors, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an upgraded sound system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The SXT also offers a number of other packages. The Super Sport Group includes 20-inch chrome wheels (with performance tires); a rear spoiler; a 3.06 rear axle ratio; performance-tuned suspension, steering and brakes; a Sport mode for the transmission and steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. If that's not sinister enough for you, consider the Sinister Super Sport Group, which substitutes 20-inch painted wheels.
Continuing with the SXT packages, the Interior Appearance Group (also offered on R/T) includes metal-accented pedals, a car cover, upgraded floor mats and a T-handle shifter. The Rallye Redline edition is a Super Sport Group variant with the metal pedals, the T-handle shifter, red-accented black wheels, a big red exterior stripe and available red leather upholstery. The Electronics Convenience group includes heated mirrors, remote start and displays for tire pressure and outside temperature. The Sound Group II package features an upgraded seven-speaker sound system, and it can be paired to an optional 6.5-inch touchscreen interface. The optional navigation system employs the same touchscreen.
The Challenger R/T reverts to 18-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, non-heated seats and the entry-level speakers, but it upgrades to the 5.7-liter V8 engine and otherwise enjoys the same features as the SXT Plus. The R/T Plus package adds a security alarm, rear parking sensors, and the rest of the features of the SXT Plus that aren't already standard. The R/T Classic package includes the R/T Plus items as well as 20-inch "heritage-style" wheels, black side stripes, functional hood scoops and xenon headlights.
The R/T Super Track Pak (not a typo) includes higher-performance suspension/steering/brakes and performance-oriented stability control programming. The R/T Blacktop edition comes with the Super Track Pak and adds black 20-inch wheels, black exterior trim (including the ordinarily silver fuel door) and a "matte graphite" body stripe with red edges. The R/T Redline edition can be had with or without the Super Track Pak, and it features 20-inch black wheels with red trim, a body stripe similar to the Blacktop's, a body-color grille surround, metal pedals and the T-handle shifter (automatic transmission only).
The Challenger SRT8 392 starts with the R/T Plus's basic equipment and adds the 6.4-liter V8 engine, launch control, performance-oriented stability control programming, high-performance brakes and steering, adaptive suspension dampers, xenon headlamps, unique 20-inch wheels, sport seats, an upgraded trip computer with real-time performance data, full hydraulic power steering (versus electrohydraulic in the others), the Sound Group II (including the touchscreen) and a one-day driver training course at the SRT Track Experience. Optional are the navigation system, the sunroof and the thumping Harman Kardon audio system.
The SRT8 Core is meant to be a stripped-down, more affordable SRT8 392, so it loses supposedly superfluous standard luxuries like xenon headlights, foglights, the adaptive suspension and Sound Group II. In fact, the Core's interior is closer to the base SXT's equipment level -- it even comes with the entry-level six-speaker audio system.
In contrast to the Challenger's brash exterior, the interior is oddly generic. A few styling cues, like the large beveled dashboard and distinctive shifter knobs, are reminiscent of Challengers past, but overall, there's a distinct lack of panache. Due to the Challenger's high beltline and chunky rear roof pillars, rearward visibility is also lackluster.
We're not enamored of the somewhat crude touchscreen interface, either; it's too bad the related Charger sedan's much larger (8.4-inch) and easier to use touchscreen isn't offered. However, the interior is generally quite functional, and the materials aren't bad. Moreover, the small-diameter, well-contoured steering wheel makes for a pleasant interface between car and driver.
The front seats in most Challengers are wide and flat, which doesn't do much for lateral support, but they're comfy for long-distance drives. The SRT8's have better side bolstering and are also covered in leather and faux suede. The backseat is remarkably roomy for two adults, with good headroom and decent legroom. It also features a 60/40 split-folding back, a fold-down armrest and even a middle seat for tiny or exceptionally good-natured folks.
At 16.2 cubic feet, the Challenger's trunk is positively enormous for this segment, rivaling some large sedans for hauling capacity.
All 2014 Dodge Challengers are rear-wheel drive. The base SXT is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 305 hp and 268 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 21 mpg combined (18 mpg city/27 mpg highway).
The Challenger R/T gets a 5.7-liter V8 and a standard six-speed manual transmission that harnesses 376 hp and 410 lb-ft. When hooked up to the available five-speed automatic, the "Hemi" V8's output drops slightly to 372 hp and 400 lb-ft. In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped Challenger R/T went from zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds; the automatic raises that to 5.8 seconds. Quick as they are, both times are still a bit slower than what you can expect from a V8-powered Camaro or Mustang. Fuel economy is 18 mpg combined (15 mpg city/25 mpg highway) for the automatic, with the manual getting 18 mpg combined (15 mpg city/23 mpg highway).
The Challenger SRT8 models get their swagger from a 6.4-liter V8 that produces 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and a five-speed automatic is optional. In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped SRT8 392 went from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, which is impressively quick but still a bit off the pace of a similarly powered Camaro or Mustang. Fuel economy estimates are 17 mpg combined (14 mpg city/23 mpg highway) for either transmission.
One of the 2014 Dodge Challenger's signature traits is its excellent ride quality. You could drive this big coupe all day and feel as if you never left your sofa. The default suspension tuning of the base SXT is pretty floaty, however. As such, we recommend going for at least the Super Sport Group's performance-tuned suspension. Sportier Challengers actually handle rather well, though they'll never let you forget about the car's sheer bulk. The Mustang and even the chunky Camaro are noticeably more agile around turns.
If you've got one of the V8s under the hood, though, you probably won't be too concerned about the Dodge's cornering characteristics. The R/T's 5.7-liter V8 accelerates smartly and makes lovely noises, while the SRT8's 6.4-liter V8 is off the charts in both respects. We love the pistol-grip manual shifter as well. Pity the aged automatic transmission doesn't rise to the same level. The automatic-only V6 model is obviously less thrilling than the V8s, but with 305 horses on tap, it can hold its own. If you'd rather cruise the boulevard than mix it up with Mustangs on twisty back roads, the easygoing 2014 Dodge Challenger makes a strong case for your hard-earned cash.
Every 2014 Dodge Challenger comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Rear parking sensors are optional across the board, but a rearview camera is not available.
In Edmunds brake testing, the SRT8 392 came to a stop from 60 mph in an excellent 106 feet.
In government crash testing, the Challenger received a top five-star rating for overall crash protection, with five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side-impact safety, although there was some concern about a driver door that came unlatched during testing.
Aside from some minor equipment adjustments, the 2014 Dodge Challenger is unchanged.