Challenger Roars Into 2020

By Derek Price
Dodge is serious about building cars for home-brew drag racers.
For proof, look at the Challenger lineup. Not only is this two-door, retro-styled muscle car available in pricey, high-horsepower versions designed to go fast straight from the factory. It also comes in special flavors for people who don’t want the factory to have all the tuning fun.
One example is the Scat Pack 1320, named for the number of feet in a quarter mile. Built for serious racers, it deletes several unnecessary things to save weight — including the passenger seats — while adding goodies from the pricey but no-longer-available Challenger Demon.
It comes with an adaptive suspension with a drag-race mode, a transmission brake, line lock, torque reserve, racing radial tires and insanely strong rear axle shafts.
Powered by a 392 HEMI V8 engine that makes 485 horsepower, Dodge claims a quarter-mile time of 11.7 seconds before owners do any modifications. And it’s priced under $46,000, a relative steal for a race car with those specs.

The Dodge Challenger combines throwback muscle-car styling with impressive performance for the price.

The version I tested this week isn’t the 1320, though. It’s a close cousin with all the seats included plus some luxury features, the R/T Scat Pack, and it’s perhaps the best bang-for-the-buck performance car I’ve ever driven.
With a starting price under $39,000, it has the same 485-horse engine as the 1320 drag-racer, but it’s built more for practical street driving. Roomy seating and a large trunk make it a surprisingly sensible highway cruiser.
Still, it offers all the power, noise and straight-line acceleration to make it a proper — and thrilling — muscle car.
The Challenger’s retro styling has done a good job staying relevant and tasteful, at least to my eye. While similar new cars designed to look old, including the Chrysler PT Cruiser, rebirthed Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet HHR, all tended to seem dated and chintzy within a year or two, this one still works visually.
Just like its longtime nemesis, the Ford Mustang, today’s Challenger evokes the spirit of its 1960s and ‘70s ancestors without being a carbon copy.
It also has a lineup of astounding breadth, starting with a base model that offers a wicked combination: more than 300 horsepower, less than $30,000 and rated for 30 mpg on the highway.
At the top of the range is the Hellcat Redeye Widebody with its larger tires and insane, 797-horsepower, supercharged V8 engine, priced closer to $80,000.

Prices for the Challenger range from under $30,000 with a 303-horsepower V6 engine to nearly $80,000 with a 797-horsepower V8.

In between are a seemingly endless array of options, available in both all-wheel and rear-wheel drive, that can be outfitted in a wide range of colors, styles and special editions, including several 50th Anniversary Edition models available this year.
Decals, shaker hoods, and aggressive colors such as orange and purple help the modern Challenger look like a Hot Wheels toy from childhood.
One impressive plus is its Uconnect infotainment system. The touchscreen setup makes it easy to control driving features on the car as well as temperature controls and the sound system. It’s one of the best designed such systems for sale today.
Two things could be improved on the Challenger.
One, its cabin could use a refresh with a more contemporary layout and better use of soft-touch materials. Two, its handling definitely veers toward “muscle car,” not “sports car.” The Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro both feel more nimble, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Beyond that, it’s one of the most remarkable and unmistakable American cars, whether or not you race it.

 At A Glance
What was tested? 2020 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack ($38,995). Options: Widebody package ($6,000), plus package ($2,095), driver convenience group ($1,295), premium sound ($1,795), automatic transmission ($1,595), SRT performance spoiler ($995), 8.4-inch Uconnect 4C nav system ($795), 20-inch wheels ($1,295). Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $56,355
Wheelbase: 116 in.
Length: 197.5 in.
Width: 85.4 in.
Height: 57.7 in.
Engine: 6.4-liter V8  (485 hp, 475 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 city, 24 highway

Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 10
Handling: 4
Ride: 8
Comfort: 8
Quality: 7
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
It’s a thrilling car to drive. It offers a great value for the performance you get at every price level, from the $30,000 base model to the $80,000 Hellcat Redeye.
Posted in Dodge