Through three time frames dating to 1958, the Dodge Challenger has epitomized the American muscle car — big, heavy and powerful. Its legend continues in 2015 with seven revised trim levels ranging from 305 to 707 horsepower.
The 2015 Dodge Challenger isn’t classified as a new generation, but its upgrades are so substantial it could easily be the debut of legendary car’s fourth generation.
Among the changes, the five-speed automatic transmission has been replaced but with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Some of the trims have increased horsepower and a new grille has debuted that resembles the Challenger’s 1971 grille.
The 8.4-inch touchscreen radio an navigation system and the keyless entry aren’t retro, of course. But the gauge cluster is also an homage to the Challengers of yesteryear.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
Much attention has been given to the Challenger’s new SRT Hellcat trim and its well-publicized 6.2-liter V8 and 7o7 horsepower sibling. But my weekly driver, the SXT Plus trim, got plenty of attention, too.
Strangers in parking lots, including two women, told me unsolicited the car was beautiful. Passersby on bicycles and others walking their dogs stopped to look at the car. There’s little doubt the Challenger is an attention grabber.
The exterior paint has likely the most cumbersome name of any car I’ve reviewed — Phantom Black Tri-Coat Pearl. It was also the most attractive exterior paint of any vehicle I’ve driven. The sparkle of the paint was striking, particularly in sunlight.
Driving the Challenger was a treat. The SXT trim is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 with 305 horsepower. Its standard equipment list is substantial: 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, 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 touchscreen and an upgraded sound system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Despite having less than half of the horsepower of its top-line sibling, the Challenger SXT Plus was plenty powerful enough to get a good dose driving a muscle car. The acceleration was more consistent power than quickness. But once up to highway speeds, the Challenger defined power cruiser.
The coupe was also surprisingly quiet. It’s a heavy machine (3,834 pounds) with a noticeably firm, performance-oriented suspension, so road noise, undulations and any other less-than-smooth road obstacles I encountered were negligible.
While driving a manual transmission may seem ideal to match with the Challenger, my test vehicle was equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The large, horizontal shifter maneuvered through the gears quickly and smoothly. It’s not that shifting gears wouldn’t have been enjoyable, but the automatic transmission didn’t distract anything from the ride.
On the contrary, as a newbie to the charms of muscle cars, the automatic transmission, the smooth, powerful ride and the overall comfort all added up to a knee week’s experience.
Beautiful exterior paint.
Powerful open road ride.
Upscale sound system.
Superior navigation system.
Difficult ingress and egress.
Small rear seats.
Facts & Figures, 2015 Dodge Challenger
Acceleration: 0-60 mph,
Fuel economy: 19 mpg (city), 30 mpg (highway), 23 mpg (combined), eight-speed automatic transmission
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $29,995.00
Manufacturer’s Website: www.dodge.com.
Price As Tested: $34,175.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 3 years/unlimited mileage; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/100,000 miles.
What Others Say:
“If you’re looking for a big sedan that stands out from the crowd, the latest Charger is an attractive offering at multiple price levels.” — Edmunds.com.
“We count eight full-size contenders to the Charger. … only two contenders offer a V8 engine, and none are as powerful as the Charger’s available 485-horsepower 6.4 – to say nothing of the 707-horse Hellcat. Although anyone looking at a full-size car – or even a midsize one – would do well to consider Dodge’s big sedan, it’s that last factor, especially, that makes it fully worthy of its Charger badge.” — Consumer Guide.
“A Charger is a big car, but like a heavyweight contender, it’s got some moves and is eminently comfortable in its skin.” — CarandDriver.com.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“Muscle cars, for me, have always been overrated unless your name is Steve McQueen or you’re on a racetrack. Everyone else is a wannabe. That said, I liked the attention the car received. However superficial, it was fun for a week. And a week was plenty.”