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2015 Dodge Challenger: '70s Muscle Inspiration

September 25, 2014

2015 Dodge Challenger: '70s Muscle Inspiration

Since its entry onto the American muscle car scene some 45 years ago, the Dodge Challenger has been held in high esteem. First appearing in 1970, the iconic Challenger has evolved continually and progressively into a legendary status symbol. It's often said "variety is the spice of life" and the Dodge team delivers tons of variety in the 2015 Challenger lineup starting at $26,995. 

It includes eight trims: SXT, SXT Plus; R/T, R/T Shaker, R/T Plus, R/T Plus Shaker; 6.4-liter Scat Pack, and 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker. Also, there's two SRT models -- the SRT 392 and the much-anticipated SRT Hellcat. All 2015 Dodge Challengers are in a two-door coupe configuration with five-passenger seating. Want more variety? How about four different engines and three transmissions? Standard on the Challenger SXT and SXT Plus models is the base 3.6-liter PentaStar V-6 that delivers 305 horsepower along with 268 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm. Powering the R/T, R/T Plus, R/T Classic, and R/T Shaker models is a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 with fuel saver technology that makes 375 horsepower while generating 410 lb.-ft. of torque with the manual gearbox. Next is a 6.4-liter HEMI SRT V-8 delivering 485 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft. of torque. Mated to a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission with Fuel Saver technology, this is the standard powertrain for the 6.4-liter Scat Pack and 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker model Challengers. Topping the lineup is the SRT 6.2-liter HEMI Hellcat V-8 that is supercharged and cranks out 707 horsepower and generates 650 lb.-ft. of torque.

Dodge says its 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat is the most powerful muscle car ever produced. It is difficult to predict which 2015 Dodge Challenger model will wind up being the volume leader, but it will likely be one from the 5.7-liter V-8-powered R/T lineup. So, what's the appeal of the new Dodge Challenger? For starters, it's a powerful sports car with muscle performance credentials, it has a real back seat, a spacious trunk, and it's easy to get into and out of. It looks great, featuring retro styling cues, but with a modern flair and contemporary touches. In essence, it celebrates the nameplate's muscle car heritage, while displaying an authoritative Dodge attitude.

Essentially, in terms of affordable high performance and practical attributes, the new Dodge Challenger is a "no-brainer." The 2015 Challenger's all-new fascia design represents a sinister update of its 1971 inspiration. The power-bulge hood is larger, featuring more aggressive forward-located dual snorkel inlets for enhanced engine cooling, while an all-new vertical split-grille is evocative of the historic 1971 model. The Challenger's signature muscular proportions and large thruster rear-quarter panels stand out from the crowd, while fender and belt lines tie together at the front and rear of the car creating a sleek look. Black sills accentuating the proportions were re-tuned to improve aerodynamics.

During the national media launch of the Challenger, there was not only the opportunity to enjoy the prowess of the new Challenger on twisting roads and in freeway driving, but on track and on the drag strip, where the risk of encountering "Officer Friendly" for excessive speed or reckless driving was non-existent. I drove an auto-shifting R/T 6.4-liter Scat Pack for track time at Portland's International Raceway. The base price was set at $37,495, while the final tally came to $47,860.

I also drove an auto-shifted SRT Hellcat on track and off, and an SRT Hellcat. (I was not afforded the chance to drive a V-6 version or the SRT 392 HEMI). The automatic transmission's T-handle shifter is a nice throwback to the iconic pistol-grip shifter of yesteryear, yet modern in its execution. Perhaps the most memorable thing about the Challenger, aside from its blistering acceleration, is the intoxicating exhaust note. Romp on the accelerator, and you can't help but smile. It's also a blast to nail the throttle off the line (using the launch control or not) and to light up the tires. Perhaps not a nod to frugality, but fun to slip and slide with no water needed.

The newly styled interior is warm and inviting, but is also performance-oriented and driver-focused. The materials, fit, and finish are certainly a cut above the levels offered by many competitors. It's more comfortable than a Viper, and in the case of the SRT Hellcat, the performance is superior to that of the Viper as well, so don't be surprised if there is a flooding of used Vipers on the market soon. Handling characteristics are admirable and the ride quality is surprisingly compliant, while also being exceptionally stable. Whether on-road or on-track, Challenger SRT owners can personalize their drive experience via an all-new Drive Modes feature, which tailors the driving experience by controlling horsepower, transmission shift speeds, steering (Challenger SRT only), paddle shifters (automatic transmission only), traction, and suspension. Drive Modes are pre-configured for Sport, Track, and Default settings, while the Custom setting lets the driver personalize the drive experience to their favorite settings.

For the first time in Chrysler Group history, the Dodge Challenger SRT with Hellcat engine comes standard with two key fobs -- red and black. The red key fob is the only key that can unlock the full horsepower and torque potential of the Challenger SRT Hellcat engine, while the black key fob limits the driver to a reduced engine output.

The 2015 Dodge Challenger has a model to suit everyone from mild to wild. My personal favorite is the SRT Hellcat, but the R/T Scat Pack version isn't too shabby either. The '70s were never this good and there's no Dodging that fact.

Click HERE to see some of the 2015 Dodge Challengers available on Auto Publishers!