Paying homage to the past while still being fully up to date is a pretty tough feat, yet the 2015 Dodge Challenger manages to do just that. This retro-styled muscle car sports updated styling this year. That seeming oxymoron means it has swapped out its previous 1970-style grille and taillights for 1971-inspired units that, to our eyes, work even better. Yet underneath those classic lines the Challenger is completely modern with its keyless ignition, infotainment system and eight-speed automatic transmission, the latter allowing a big coupe with a near-500-hp V8 to earn a 25 mpg highway rating.
This year also brings a much-improved interior with higher-quality materials, and that new infotainment system is the same highly regarded 8.4-inch touchscreen interface used in most other Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep products. The Challenger's base V6 engine carries over, but there's a new Challenger R/T "Scat Pack" edition, which provides the same 485-hp V8 as the SRT 392 but at a lower price point. Rumbling in with the biggest stick of all is the new SRT Hellcat, which sends a pavement-rippling 707 hp and 650 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels via a supercharged 6.2-liter V8.
Put one of these boffo V8 engines under the hood of just about any car and you'd be guaranteed of having something that's a blast to drive. But what really impresses us is the Challenger's measure of practicality. Unlike its admittedly smaller Chevy and Ford rivals, the Challenger offers an adult-friendly backseat, a large trunk and a quiet, comfortable ride that all make this boulevard bruiser a fine daily driver and road tripper. True, the 2015 Dodge Challenger isn't quite as athletic when you're driving enthusiastically around tight turns. The Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang boast sharper handling (particularly in their respective track-oriented Z/28 and GT350 guises) and simply aren't as bulky. But they also have tight backseats and firmer rides.
All three of these cars are very impressive. But it's the Challenger that best represents the modern take of a classic American muscle car. It's got the ability to do John Force-worthy burnouts, the most identifiable heritage-based style, composed ride and handling and that big interior space that's ideally suited for cruising this big country of ours. And, if that's still not enough for you, there's the Hellcat, which allows you to brag to your friends that you've got more ponies under the hood than a Lamborghini Aventador. If you're shopping for a 2015 performance coupe, the Challenger is a must-see.
The 2015 Dodge Challenger is a five-seat coupe that is offered in seven trim levels: SXT, SXT Plus, R/T, R/T Plus, R/T Scat Pack, SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat.
The SXT starts with the V6 engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and ignition, a 7-inch configurable dash display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, full power accessories, cruise control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 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, a 5-inch touchscreen interface (Uconnect), voice commands and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SXT Plus adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, performance suspension and brakes, foglights, automatic headlights, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel with power tilt-and-telescoping adjustments, an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen and an upgraded sound system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The Challenger R/T essentially starts with the SXT equipment and adds the 5.7-liter V8 engine and 20-inch alloy wheels. Opt for the Challenger R/T Plus and you'll get the same upgrades as the SXT Plus.
Available for the SXT Plus and R/T Plus is the R/T Classic package, which adds old-school dual R/T side stripes, 20-inch classic five-spoke wheels, xenon headlights and upgraded leather upholstery with simulated suede inserts. Also optional on both the SXT and the R/T is the Super Track Pak (not a typo), which features unique 20-inch black wheels; higher-performance suspension, steering and brakes; and, for the SXT, the body-color rear spoiler, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.
The R/T Scat Pack trim starts with the R/T's features and adds a more powerful V8, 20-inch wheels, an upgraded suspension, Brembo brakes, active exhaust system, front and rear spoilers, performance-oriented stability control programming, front sport seats, Bluetooth audio, a navigation system, an 8.4-inch touchscreen and an upgraded sound system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Optional on the Scat Pack is the Leather Interior Group, which includes the upgraded leather/simulated suede sport seats, heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel with power tilt-and-telescoping adjustment. Also available is the Scat Pack Appearance Group, which features different wheels, a gloss black grille, xenon headlights and "Bumble Bee" rear stripes.
If you're into the Challenger for nostalgia's sake, the R/T, R/T Plus and Scat Pack can all be equipped with a "Shaker" hood, conical intake filter and Shaker exterior graphics as well.
The Challenger SRT 392 starts with the Scat Pack with the Leather Interior Group and adds a unique hood with center scoop, forged 20-inch wheels, improved Brembo brakes, xenon headlights, adaptive suspension dampers, adjustable driver modes and an 18-speaker Harman Kardon audio system.
At the top of this meaty food chain is the Challenger SRT Hellcat, which starts with the features of the SRT 392 and adds a supercharged V8, two key fobs that control engine output (black is reduced power, red is full power), a unique hood with a center scoop and air extractors, black rocker panels, larger front and rear spoilers, remote start, rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, blind spot/rear cross-path monitoring and the Harman Kardon audio system.
Other option packages (depending on trim level) include the Driver Convenience Group (power-folding mirrors, xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, blind spot/rear cross-path monitoring, remote start) and the Technology Group (automatic wipers, automatic high-beam headlight control, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning). Individual option highlights (depending on trim level) include a sunroof, xenon headlights, the Harman Kardon audio system and a navigation system (includes HD and satellite radio as well as smartphone app integration). There are also a variety of special Mopar parts and styling enhancements from which to choose.
This year's refresh has given the Challenger the stylish cabin it has long deserved. A driver-centric theme is evident in the canted center console and configurable central dash display. Automatic-transmission cars sport a T-handle that recalls the selector used in the original 1970s Challenger. Moreover, the small-diameter, well-contoured steering wheel makes for a pleasant interface between car and driver. Overall materials quality is very good, and the dash features handsome metallic accents. Another notable improvement is the use of Dodge's superb 8.4-inch, multifunction touchscreen. It features large virtual buttons, an intuitive layout and fairly quick responses. Even the base 5-inch screen works pretty well.
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 sport seats have better side bolstering and are also covered in leather and simulated 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. The trunk is also generously sized; at 16.2 cubic feet, the Challenger's cargo hold is positively enormous for this segment, rivaling some large sedans for hauling capacity.
Our chief complaint with the interior involves rearward visibility, which is tough due to the Challenger's high beltline and chunky rear roof pillars. However, the available rearview camera and parking sensors are a huge help when maneuvering into a parking spot.
All 2015 Dodge Challengers are rear-wheel drive. The base SXT is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 23 mpg combined (19 city/30 highway).
The Challenger R/T gets a 5.7-liter V8 and a standard six-speed manual transmission that harnesses 375 hp and 410 lb-ft. When hooked up to the available eight-speed automatic, the 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 5.8 seconds. Although that's respectable, it's still about a second slower than what you can expect from a V8-powered Camaro or Mustang. Fuel economy is 19 mpg combined (16/25) for the automatic and 18 mpg combined (15/23) with the manual.
The Challenger R/T Scat Pack and SRT models get their swagger from a 6.4-liter V8 that produces 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and an eight-speed automatic is optional. In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped SRT 392 went from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, which is impressively quick, if still a bit off the pace of the top Camaro or Mustang. SRT fuel economy estimates stand at 18 mpg combined (15/25) for the automatic and 17 mpg combined (14/23) for the manual.
The Challenger SRT Hellcat packs a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that cranks out 707 hp and 650 lb-ft. With only so much traction available from the 275-width rear tires (the Viper, with less power, has 335-width rear tires), we got a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds with the automatic. More telling of this car's capability is the 11.9-second, 123.4-mph quarter-mile performance. The EPA says you'll get 16 mpg combined with either transmission.
One of the 2015 Dodge Challenger's signature traits is its excellent ride quality. You could take this big coupe on an all-day road trip 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 springing at least for the SXT Plus, as it includes firmer underpinnings. Otherwise, the Challenger actually handles rather well. This is especially true of the higher-performance versions, which provide a crisp, responsive and confident drive on a curvy road. Still, none of them will let you forget about the car's sheer bulk, especially on narrow roads. The Mustang and Camaro are more agile and less imposing around tighter turns.
The V6 model is obviously less thrilling than the V8s, but with 305 horses on tap, it can certainly hold its own. If you've got one of the V8s under the hood, though, you'll be treated to a proper muscle car experience. The standard R/T's 5.7-liter V8 accelerates smartly and makes lovely noises, while the Scat Pack, SRT 392 and SRT Hellcat's gonzo V8s are off the charts in both respects. Although the manual transmission is easy to operate, it does have somewhat long throws and doesn't like to be rushed. As such, those who plan on running quarters on Grudge night may want to consider the speedy automatic gearbox, which snaps off much quicker shifts.
Every 2015 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, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts and a forward collision warning system are available. The added functionality of the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen potentially includes remote vehicle access, emergency assistance and stolen vehicle locating.
In Edmunds brake testing, an R/T came to a stop from 60 mph in 111 feet, a short distance, though that's typical for a performance car with summer-rated tires. An SRT8 392 did even better, at 106 feet, while a Hellcat was right there with 108 feet.
For 2015, the Dodge Challenger gets a major overhaul. Headlining the act is the new SRT Hellcat, which gets a supercharged V8 engine good for a rather outlandish 707 hp. On all Challengers, you'll find new styling details, a revised and upgraded interior and a new eight-speed automatic transmission.