Launched as a 2009 model, the Challenger is a modern-day revival of a 1970s muscle coupe of the same name. Again exuding unmitigated swagger, it’s a vivid reminder of the muscle-car era, brought up to date.
Performance is the byword for 2019. Dodge has launched the SRT Hellcat Redeye, replacing the 840-horsepower SRT Demon. With its supercharged 6.2-liter V8 churning out 797 horsepower and 707 pound-feet of torque, the Redeye can reach 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.
The regular SRT Hellcat’s V8 now produces 717 horsepower and 656 pound-feet. Hellcats flaunt a new functional dual-snorkel hood. Compared to the departed Demon, the Hellcat is a more settled-down car for street or track.
A new R/T Scat Pack 1320 option package adds much of the Demon’s drag-focused equipment.
The full lineup consists of SXT, GT, R/T, R/T Scat Pack, and the two Hellcats. SXT and GT are available with all-wheel drive as an alternative to standard rear-drive. Hellcats and R/T Scat Pack come in standard or Widebody form.
A 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 goes into SXT and GT models, sending 268 pound-feet of torque through a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. A scooped hood is fitted.
R/T models use a 375-horsepower, 5.7-liter V8 that produces 410 pound-feet of torque. A 485-horsepower, 6.4-liter V8 that develops 476 pound-feet powers the R/T Scat Pack. Either a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission may be installed. Automatic reduces R/T power/torque ratings slightly.
The SRT Hellcat draws its fire from a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that makes 717 horsepower (up 10) and 656 pound-feet, with a 3.5-second 0-60 mph acceleration time.
The new SRT Hellcat Redeye unleashes a 797-horsepower version of the 6.2-liter V8. It’s the previous Demon engine with a different hood scoop and tuning.
Challengers are short on safety technology. A rearview camera is standard. All except SXT get rear parking sensors. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts and forward-collision warning are optional, but automatic emergency braking is unavailable.
Crash-testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Challenger five stars overall and for side-impact, but only four stars for the frontal crash and for rollover prevention (a calculated figure). NHTSA doesn’t rate SRT models.
Ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety could be better. The 2019 Challenger got a â€œMarginalâ€ score in the stringent small front overlap test. Moderate-overlap and side-impact tests were rated “Good,” with roof strength judged “Acceptable.”
Prices do not include $1,495 destination charge.
SXT ($27,845 with rear-wheel drive, $30,895 with all-wheel drive) holds a 3.6-liter V6 and includes houndstooth cloth upholstery, keyless entry, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, rearview camera, 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
GT ($30,395 with RWD, $33,445 with AWD) has V6 power and adds a performance-type hood with functional scoop, performance-tuned steering and suspension, plus 20-inch wheels.
R/T ($34,295) gets the 5.7-liter V8 with rear-drive, active dual exhaust, and bright pedals. Either 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic may be installed.
R/T Scat Pack ($39,995) uses a 485-horsepower, 6.4-liter V8, adding heated cloth performance seats, four-piston Brembo brakes, Line Lock, Launch Control, SRT Performance Pages readouts, and 8.4-inch touchscreen.
SRT Hellcat ($60,695) contains the supercharged 717-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8, with After-run Chiller, adaptive damping, and six-piston brakes.
SRT Hellcat Redeye ($71,695) has the 797-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8, functional dual-snorkel hood with cold-air intake, and Torque Reserve.
A wealth of option groups is available, including R/T Scat Pack 1320, T/A, R/T Classic with stripes, Blacktop, Widebody, Shaker scoop, Performance Handling, and a Technology group with safety features.
Basic Challenger appearance hails from the 1971 model, but its modern-day successor is bigger and even more muscular. That’s especially true in Widebody form, with tacked-on fender flares adding 2.5 inches to overall width.
Accompanying the wide, deeply-inset grille, bracketed by round headlights, are various types of hood scoops, depending on model. Prominent rear haunches and a low roofline add to the appeal. Performance-tuned trim levels get a rear spoiler and front splitter, but even the base model looks menacing. Performance models get more aggressive hoods, fascias, and spoilers.
Clearly suggesting the 1971 model, the Challenger’s dark, driver-focused cabin features a dashboard that aims toward the driver. Houndstooth cloth upholstery is borrowed directly from that early-day Challenger. Materials are fine-quality.
Because the Challenger is a large coupe, it excels in space and comfort. In front or rear, occupants enjoy stretch-out room.
Front passengers occupy nicely-bolstered bucket seats with somewhat flat seatbacks. Even the seats in performance models are sized for American physiques.
Three passengers can fit in back, but less comfortably than in a sedan. Getting back there is a challenge, too.
Dodge’s easy-to-use infotainment system is especially appealing with the 8.4-inch screen. Trunk volume measures a sizable 16.2 cubic feet, but liftover is high.
Indisputably big and heavy, the Challenger is showing its age. Compared against its Camaro and Mustang rivals, a Challenger isn’t nearly as sporty.
With the refined V6 engine, a Challenger delivers a decent quantity of gusto. R/T drivers can expect abundant American-V8 thrust. With either a manual or automatic transmission, the alluring V8 rumble awaits.
Additional power supplied by the Scat Pack’s V8 is especially evident at higher engine rpm, and engine sounds resemble those heard at NASCAR events. Acceleration to 60 mph takes a mere 4.4 seconds.
Riding more smoothly than its natural rivals, the larger Challenger is capable of rounding corners quite nicely. Though it offers some track capability, Dodge’s hottest coupe cannot qualify as a sports car like the Camaro. Each Challenger version has a distinct personality, largely based upon suspension tuning.
Handling with competence, the base SXT promises a soft and compliant ride. GT and R/T editions are firmer but not harsh, less prone to body lean.
Firmest ride comes from the R/T Scat Pack, which is the most track-focused model. All Challengers are suitable for daily driving, but the Scat Pack takes corners crisply, while providing greater road feel. SRT Hellcats are actually a bit softer, with neutral handling.
Widebody versions handle better than their standard siblings, applying a tighter grip to the pavement. Through turns, they provide a more planted, stable attitude.
Hellcats come with big, highly effective Brembo brakes, which are recommended as a Scat Pack option.
V6 and base V8 engines are fairly quiet, though the latter will bellow when pushed. Bigger V8s announce their presence with authority, but quiet down when cruising.
As expected, fuel economy varies with the powertrain. Most efficient are rear-drive V6 versions, EPA-rated at 19/30 mpg City/Highway, or 23 mpg Combined, using regular gasoline.
Dodge recommends premium fuel for the R/T’s 5.7-liter V8 with manual, but mid-grade for automatic. Manual shift is EPA-rated at 15/23 mpg City/Highway, or 18 mpg Combined. Automatic is estimated at 16/25/19 mpg.
Models with the 6.4-liter V8 are EPA-rated at14/23 mpg City/Highway, or 17 mpg Combined with manual, versus 15/24/18 mpg with automatic. Both supercharged Hellcats are EPA-rated at 13/21 mpg City/Highway, or 16 mpg Combined with manual, and 13/22/16 mpg with automatic.
Few performance-car lineups are as varied as that of the Challenger, which scores highly on both style and power. Best bet for performance-minded buyers is the R/T Scat Pack, but other versions also promise a powerful engine and comfortable ride â€“ plus track-capable handling skills. No Challenger matches Mustang or Camaro for nimble moves, but the well-equipped Challenger promises a more comfortable character overall.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.