2015 Dodge Challenger Review

2015 Dodge Challenger - Challenger pumps up pony car horses


Not a Hellcat; but an R/T Plus will certainly suffice.

Dodge raised eye-brows and heart rates earlier in 2014 by announcing a road-abusing, unprecedented 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat version of its Dodge Challenger would arrive before year's end. What better way to salute 100 years of innovation (1914-2014) inspired by the Dodge Brothers.

The two-door, rear-wheel drive 2015 Dodge Challenger is a coupe worthy of a 'sports car' moniker; Horace and John would approve. For those not in immediate need of the Hellcat's 707 horses (the most ever offered in a Dodge vehicle), Challenger offers a wide range engines and trims from which to choose.

The original two-door Challenger debuted in the fall of 1969 as a 1970 model, enjoying its heyday during America's formidable pony car/muscle car era. Although bowing out by the mid 1970's, its relatively short spin created a lifetime of inspiration. In 2008, Dodge welcomed a coupe worthy of the Challenger name back into the lineup.

The mainstream performance Dodge brand remains a division of Chrysler Group LLC and Chrysler's newly christened parent group: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). Street and Racing Technology (SRT) is the ultimate performance halo of the Dodge Brand.

Challenger includes a multi-generational appeal. During the first day of road testing, one of Glen Ellyn's finest on-duty patrol officers pulled alongside (in his Chevrolet police package) during an intersection stop inquiring, "Is that the Hellcat?" "I've got a 2010 Challenger and love it!"

The next day a group of chaperoned grade schoolers ogled the day-glow green (Dodge crafts it 'sublime green') coupe, exclaiming, "Race Car" while pointing enthusiastically in our direction.

Challenger offers four engine choices depending upon taste and penchant for power. A 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 delivers 305 horsepower and better fuel economy (19 mpg city, 30 mpg highway) than in past years thanks in part to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission (no manual for the V-6).

Move up to eight-cylinders and more choices unfold: a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 delivers 375 horses and a 6.4-liter V-8 promises 485 horses. For the ultimate ride, the no-holds-bared SRT Hellcat's 6.2-liter Supercharged V-8 enjoys an unprecedented 707 horses. The 2015 Dodge Charger SRT sedan will also be available with the Hellcat 707-horsepower engine. All V-8 engines recommend higher-grade 91-octane unleaded. Six-speed manual transmission or optional "torqueflite" eight-speed automatic is offered in both the 5.7-liter and 6.4-liter V-8s.

Starting price pulls in at an attainable $26,995 for an SXT, but yummy options add up quickly. Our Challenger "RT Plus" checked in at $34,495. After adding $785 for the highly recommended blind spot, rear cross path detection and high-intensity headlights; $1,495 for upgraded stereo; $695 for the Super Track Pak boasting performance brakes, steering and suspension; $1,400 for eight-speed TorqeRite transmission (replacing standard manual transmission); $695 in-dash navigation and Satellite radio; the bottom line ended at $40,570 including $995 destination charge.

Challenger 2015 trims include: SXT, SXT Plus (with V-6 standard); R/T, R/T Plus, R/T Shaker, R/T Shaker Plus (with 5.7-liter V-8); R/T Scat Pack, Scat Pack Shaker (6.4-liter V-8 standard) and two Sport and Racing Technology trims: SRT 392 (with 6.4-liter V-8) and SRT Hellcat (aforementioned 707 horses).

When at idle, a supportive, not overpowering purr emits from the rear dual pipes from our tester's 5.7-liter V-8, allowing conversations to take place without elevated talk. Step on the pedal, and the throttle note takes on a whole new character. Expect precise steering, especially with the optional Super Track Pak available in all trims.

A few short years ago, Dodge and Chrysler got the message their interiors needed serious upgrades to meet levels found in competitors. This 2015 Challenger reflects these efforts with attractive stitching, comfortable front buckets with side bolsters and soft-touch dashes.

Supportive front pearl white sport bucket seats were not as close to the ground as originally envisioned, making entry and exiting a pleasure; not a chore, especially welcome for those finding themselves on the far side of fifty.

The two-person back was downright spacious if up against a Ford Mustang. It's easiest to enter from the passenger side as that bucket seat manually slides once the back rest tips forward and given a motivated push forward. The power-driver's seat takes time to scoot forward. Once in back, headroom pleases those six-feet three-inches and shorter. Knee room works in tandem with the front rider's personal comfort zone, but Challenger offers a workable happy medium for short trips.

An arm rest/storage bin, hinged at the right, is home to a 12-volt outlet and three plug-in ports assisting a variety of portable electronics. Another outlet outside the bin is accessible by shut gun riders. Dual beverage holders sport a diagonal slant.

Side blind spots are notable. Plan accordingly and take advantage of amber blind-spot triangular icons built into side view mirrors (hen ordered). A push start/stop button comes standard across all trim lines.

The instrument panel includes two circular analog gauges with beveled insides and fire-red needles. The right-side speedometer lists a top speed of 160 mph. Both gauges flank a center, seven-inch configurable information cluster with racing-inspired animation and graphics. Tutorials include real-time G-force info, track lap times, braking distance, engine performance and fuel economy; all summoned via a button on the three-spoke steering wheel.

Dodge, as with other Chrysler, Ram and Fiat products includes one of the best, user-friendly means of summoning secondary audio controls. Located on the steering wheel's backside, finger tips operate toggle-like buttons while palms remain steady in front.

When using primary audio controls, medium-sized dials are available under an 8.4-inch multi-function center screen. Also nearby up-down push buttons for choosing dual temperature settings and fan-speed turn knob.

The touch screen and instrument panel are contained within the same frame, gently skewing towards the driver. The automatic transmission shifter includes a left-side thumb control and T-bar style fitting nicely into the palm of a clutched right hand. Illuminated gear indicators adorn the bar top. A dashboard trunk release button, left of the steering column, is adjacent to instrument panel rotary dial intensity light. Power locks, power mirror controls and both power window controls are found on the horizontal-plane, low-positioned arm rest.

Challenger R/T offers several drive modes, including 'track' which keeps this coupe flat and firm during very spirited turns. Challenger's electronic power steering provides three steering modes: normal, comfort and sport. The 16.2 cubic-foot trunk continues useful, but not spare tire, just an inflator kit, resides under the flat floor.

Contrary to conventional coupe styling, the flat rear deck lid is long, not stout; meeting up with a narrow rectangular back window. Sharp, crisp angels replace curved nuances. The hip, 1970's-era long narrow rectangular front grille includes deep-set circular projector headlights (surrounded by LED lights creating a halo effect), twin split ports framed within overhangs. The artsy, retro-ish circular bright chrome gas cap includes "FUEL" lettering. A power sunroof is optional in all trims. Two functional hood vents rest atop the Hemi V-8, keeping workings cool under the long hood. Side belt lines follow the curve of rear wheel wheels.

All said; a great package of comfort, performance and ride wrapped in head-turning styling.

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Plus
Price as tested: $40,570
Wheelbase: 116.2 inches
Length: 197.9 inches
Width: 75.7 inches
Engine: 5.7-liter V-8
Horsepower: 375 horsepower
Curb weight: 4,802 pounds
Powertrain warranty: Five year/100,000 miles
City/Highway economy: 16 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Built: Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.