When the Dodge Challenger originally debuted back in 1970, it was a pony car with a twist. The Challenger battled the Mustangs and Camaros by offering something different. The challenger was larger and more luxurious. It combined performance and comfort.
Fast forward 45 years, and the Challenger is still waging the same battle in the same way. Yes it’s aimed squarely at the Mustang and Camaro. And it’s still larger and just a touch more comfortable. The Challenger is more than seven inches longer than both the 2015 Mustang and Camaro. It’s about three inches higher. But that’s not a bad thing. The Challenger is great looking and still gets attention. That’s impressive considering this latest generation first hit the market seven years ago.
Dodge gave the Challenger’s styling a freshening for 2015. The grille now resembles the split look from the 1971 Challenger. It also gets projector headlamps with halo LED surrounds. The taillights have also been given the 1971 styling update (interesting that you can call going back to something done 44 years ago an update!). Overall it’s a nice improvement without changing the already great lines.
My test car was the R/T model with the 5.7 Liter HEMI V8. Just for the record, 372 horsepower is a lot of fun. It’s not overpowering, but it makes you feel like you’re driving a true performance car. Actually, even the base motor isn’t bad. It’s the 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 and puts out 305 horsepower. Want more? You could bump up to the new Scat Pack 6.4 liter HEMI V8 that delivers 485 horsepower. Not enough you say? Dodge does have the ultimate performance option. It’s the SRT Hellcat model makes 707 horsepower. That’s more than any other performance car on the market, and guaranteed to get you enough tickets to put your driving privilege at risk.
Mileage is acceptable for the 5.7 liter. 16 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway. My week with the Challenger averaged 19.6. My car also had Chrysler’s new eight-speed automatic which is a $1,400 option. I guess eight speeds is better, giving both better launch and mileage. Having said that, I can’t say I walked away feeling that it was that much different.
The 2015 restyling continued inside as well. The dash has a new look. It’s designed to flow around the driver. That follows through on the center console that has a higher sill on the right side. It doesn’t close off the passenger, but it’s designed to make the driver feel like the controls are his (or hers). I love the fact that Chrysler often delivers test cars that aren’t loaded up to the max. Sure, I’d love to drive the SRT Hellcat, but my R/T was a very realistic car. It had the base radio, without the 8.4 inch uConnect system and didn’t have any other driver aids. However, if I were ordering a new Challenger, I would definitely get the 8.4 inch display and make sure it had the back up camera. The C-Pillars in the back are an important part of the car’s design, but they’re also pretty big blind spots. A back-up camera would just give you a little more security. Since Chrysler has the best display interface going these days (and I even like the navigation), it’s a good investment.
I want to give some Chrysler engineer a shout out for designing a window visor that really works. I’ve driven too many cars lately that have tiny visors that don’t block the sun. I live in Phoenix, darn it! There are days when the sun is a pain. The Challenger’s visor has an extender, and it also slides on its mounting rod to give plenty of sun block. Thank you nameless Chrysler engineer!
The Challenger’s bigger size also makes for a roomier cabin. If you’re a little on the tall or wide side, you might like it a little more than the competition. I found the seats very comfortable (although the back seat is still pretty small). In fact the overall driving experience is great. It has a new electric power steering that allows for three driving options: Normal, Comfort and Sport. Probably not a huge difference, but it’s a way to make the car even more comfortable. Incidentally, Dodge now offers fourteen interiors with retro colors that include houndstooth. Now that is truly going back in time.
Base price for the Challenger SXT is $26,995. My test R/T stickered at $34,085. That included the optional Torque flight 8-speed transmission, Sirius radio and delivery charge. You can get very carried away with options including a shaker hood and performance pieces. Honestly, the base R/T was pretty darn nice.
To be totally honest, I’ve been a fan of the Challenger since Sam Posey raced it in the Trans Am series back in 1970. I’ve just always loved the look of the car. Dodge did a masterful job in bringing the styling into the modern era and yet truly honoring the original design. If you’re looking for a performance car that will get noticed, and give you a bit more room, the Challenger is a solid choice.