Be careful when creating a monster -- it might just turn on you. "The Hellcat is all everybody wants to talk about," says Dodge president and CEO Tim Kuniskis, actually sounding a little frustrated. "But we've got a whole new lineup of Challengers we'd like people to take a look at."
No kidding. The 2015 Dodge Challenger comes in a zany number of varieties. There are four engine choices and three basic models -- the SXT, R/T, and SRT. Within those, there are Plus packages, Shaker packages, Plus Shaker packages, and a Super Track Pak (which is different than the R/T Scat Pack model). Dodge will either kill you with horsepower or drown you in choices.
The good news is that every one looks badass. In fact, the base 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT and mid-level R/T models might actually be the best looking of the bunch, with their 1971-inspired split grilles. The grilles themselves have a subtle new pattern, and the Challenger nameplate is elegantly written out in cursive script next to the double lamps. The edges of the brow have been reworked so they're sanded down and curved. There's love in the details.
The general lack of frippery underscores the mass and scale of the car, and the paint and gaps on all of the models we saw were exceptionally good. (Body stripes in satin black? Yes, please.) The shaker hood option will come later.
Interiors have been reworked. The seats are quite good—and get more bolstered as you go up the line—and the cockpit-like layout is clever. Still, even the SRT models stray toward hard plastics and you can't really take the uplevel leather seriously. Thankfully the optional Uconnect nav and infotainment systems work fine.
From 5 to 8
The single most important mechanical upgrade is the eight-speed TorqueFlight automatic, available on all 2015 Dodge Challenger models. It's a momentous improvement over the old five-speed. Dodge claims that the new transmission makes the base, $26,995 SXT a full second faster to 60 mph (6 seconds) even though the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine's 305 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque remain the same. Its noise isn't exactly belligerent and the forward thrust is moderate, but you can keep a steady momentum through curves and the wheelbase makes it very stable. The Challenger SXT should easily hang with the new V-6 Mustang (300 hp, 280 lb-ft) but the Ford EcoBoost's 310 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque may be a different story.
About That Scat Pack
As before, the 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T is a bump in price ($31,495) and power, with the 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine making 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard. But it's the Challenger R/T Scat Pack model where things get interesting. Kuniskis says, "The Scat Pack is the bang-for-the-buck car, the gap between the R/T and SRT, with 485 hp and 4.1 seconds to 60 mph." Banging out of pit lane at Portland International Raceway, it's clear that the 6.4-liter's 475 lb-ft of torque give it a lot more motivation than the other models. The available eight-speed automatic works really well in manual mode, and suspension upgrades make for deft cornering despite muscle-car body roll.
Many buyers who are looking for a fast muscle car at a sub-$40,000 price point will pick this one: It comes to $38,895 with the eight-speed and gets 25 mpg highway. In fact, it makes the $46,395 SRT 392 seem rather pointless. That model gets trick wheels and bigger brakes and standard Nappa leather—and the same exact power as the R/T Scat Pack. Choose the 392 and all anyone will remember is that you bought the SRT model that isn't the Hellcat.
2015 Dodge Challenger Specifications
Base Price (with destination)$27,990 (SXT V-6), $32,490 (R/T V-8), $39,420 (Scat Pack), $46,990 (SRT 392)
Engine3.6L V-6, 5.7L V-8, 6.4L V-8
Horsepower305 hp, 372/375 hp, 485 hp (3.6L, 5.7L, 6.4L)
Torque268 lb-ft, 400/410 lb-ft, 475 lb-ft (3.6L, 5.7L, 6.4L)
Transmissions6-speed manual, 8-speed automatic
Cargo Capacity16.2 cu ft
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