We all knew That Kid. As a freshman, he was a big kid, overweight but surprisingly strong. Still, he was often picked on for his size. Then, he chatted with the football coach, who convinced him that his true calling was on the team's offensive line. After a season on the freshman squad and a summer of two-a-days, this mild-mannered, husky high schooler returned for his sophomore year as a big, imposing, solid piece of muscle. Needless to say, the same bullies that picked on him were praying he'd forgotten about them as a 10th grader.
That's the V8-powered 2015 Dodge Challenger. It arrived on the scene with a max of 425 horsepower and a bit of a weight problem. It completed its proverbial freshman year with a nice 2011 refresh, where the SRT8 was bumped up to 470 hp, but it still had some work to do.
Enter 2015, and fresh off three months of constant burpees and wind sprints, the newest Challenger is as big and powerful as it's ever been, but it's now got poise and potential, and my goodness, it's fun in a way that Dodge's muscle car has never been.
- What you see here is not actually a Challenger SRT – it's the R/T Scat Pack. While the SRT does add wider rubber, six-piston Brembo brakes, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and standard leather, the meat and potatoes of the Scat Pack is the same. Under that long hood sits the same SRT-spec 6.4-liter V8, thundering out an extra 15 hp over last year's car. With peak horsepower arriving at 6,000 rpm, all 475 pound-feet of torque showing up at 4,200 rpm and a 6,400-rpm redline, the 6.4 remains an engine that's happiest being run hard.
- That's not to say there's a lack of oomph anywhere in its rev range, though. The Challenger Scat Pack would happily annihilate the pair of Goodyear Eagle F1s that call the rear wheels their home, were it not for the electrical super-ego that is the three-mode traction control system. There's a ton of torque, but it's so surprisingly simple to manage, thanks to the predictable throttle response. Sport Mode sharpens that a bit, although the throttle is still easy to modulate, particularly on tip-in.
- The engine's goodness isn't surprising – the 6.4-liter Hemi has always been a charmer. What's made it better for 2015 is the inclusion of a modern automatic transmission. In place of the antiquated five-speed automatic of the 2014 Challenger SRT and R/T is ZF's exceptional eight-speed unit.
- As it was in the Jaguar F-Type V6 S I reviewed a few months back, the ZF autobox is a beauty. In automatic mode, it's level-headed and unobtrusive. Switch to manual (and set the transmission to Sport) and the Challenger's aluminum, wheel-mounted paddles become an intuitive and hilariously entertaining way of channeling the engine's power. Upshifts are very quick – 250 milliseconds in Sport versus 400 milliseconds normally – and are accompanied with a sharp bark from the engine on upshifts.
- For 2015, Dodge has finally paid some attention to the Challenger's suspension, fitting the R/T Scat Pack (and all Super Track Pak-equipped models) with Bilstein shocks, a ride height that's been dropped by half an inch and brawnier sway bars. Also new is a three-mode electric power-assisted steering system, as well as four-piston Brembo brakes.
- The result of these upgrades is the best-driving generation of Challenger there's ever been. The handling is sharper and more responsive, with less roll through the corners and less squat and dive under hard pedal inputs. Moreover, Dodge has managed to eke out additional feedback through the chassis, making it easier to judge grip levels from the sticky Goodyears. The ultimate handling threshold feels higher, too, like you can really go further before it gives up.
- The new electric power steering is an improvement over the utterly lifeless rack of the old Challenger, largely because of the way it builds weight. From a small on-center dead spot, heft builds nicely and progressively. Feedback is still limited, but when you turn the wheel, it actually feels like you're helming a 4,000-pound vehicle (that's a good thing). Sport adds even more weight, but it still feels sharp and manageable.
- Normally, I'd touch on the aesthetics and massively overhauled interior of the 2015 Challenger. But, before testing the Scat Pack, I spent a week with the Challenger SXT. Look for a full and thorough recap on the tech, interior and exterior changes when I review that car in the coming weeks.
- Pricing for the R/T Scat Pack start at $37,495, which isn't terrible, considering that everything I mentioned above – aside from the eight-speed auto – is a standard item. My tester added the $995 Technology Group (adaptive cruise, forward collision warning), $1,500 Leather Interior Group (heated and vented leather/suede seats, powered tilt/telescopic steering), $495 Driver Convenience Group (blind-spot monitoring, remote start), $1,995 Scat Pack Appearance Pack (HID headlamps, 20-inch black alloy wheels and assorted matching trim bits) and the $695 8.4-inch, nav-equipped touchscreen. Combined with the $1,400 ZF transmission and $995 destination charge, the total price rang up at $45,570.
The Challenger still has a bit of a weight problem, and if ultimate performance is your number one priority, both the new Ford Mustang GT and Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE will provide a far better muscle car driving experience. But finally, Dodge has built a Challenger that you'll not only want to drive, but that wants to be driven. That's the kind of yearly change we can get used to.
- 6.4L V8
- 485 HP / 475 LB-FT
- 8-Speed Automatic
- Base Price:
- As-Tested Price: