Meet The 2015 Dodge Challenger
When it comes to automobiles, nothing symbolizes America in vehicular form more than muscle cars. Back in the 1960s, when muscle cars were available from every American manufacturer, the formula was simple: take the smallest car in the line-up and cram in the biggest motor. Voila. A muscle car was born.
The mid-2000s saw a resurgence of muscle cars with the return of Chevy's Camaro and Dodge's Challenger to join the Ford Mustang, complete with retro styling and big V8 power. Our focus today is on the 2015 Dodge Challenger, which debuts with a substantial mid-cycle refresh. Dodge flew automotive journalists into Portland, Oregon to spend a day with the refreshed Challenger on a scenic drive followed by track time at Portland International Raceway.
Join us as we hop in the driver’s seat of the base SXT, mid-level R/T, SRT8, and 707-hp Challenger SRT Hellcat for hot laps in pouring Pacific Northwest rain to see if the 2015 Dodge Challenger is a straight-line monster or a more refined sports car.
The Entry Point
Not everyone wants a muscle car for its big engine; some admirers just want that old school cool. At the bottom of Dodge's 2015 Challenger family is the SXT with a 3.6-liter Pentastar, which is found in everything from the Chrysler 200 to the Dodge Grand Caravan. It’s a smooth motor that delivers adequate power. In the Challenger, the engine makes 305 hp with 268 lb-ft of torque, achieving an estimated 30 MPG on the highway. Impressive.
Unfortunately, the base SXT V6 is only available as an automatic. If you prefer the third pedal, you'll have to look elsewhere. Nevertheless, the transmission is the TorqueFlite eight-speed, based on the ZF 8HP but manufactured by Chrysler. We’ve come across the ZF 8HP in many cars, including Audi's A8L, Bentley's Continental GT V8, and Jeep's Grand Cherokee. It was fantastic in all of those vehicles, and the same applies when it’s paired with the 3.6-liter Pentastar.
Varying Levels Of Fast
A step up the R/T trim is accompanied by a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with 375 hp and 410 lb-ft, complemented by a standard Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual transmission or optional Chrysler TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic. If you want improved fuel efficiency, opt for the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with fuel-saving technologies like cylinder deactivation and interactive decel fuel shut-off (iDFSO). Both work as their names imply, disabling half of the cylinders when they aren't needed or halting fuel consumption during deceleration. The fuel-saving technologies are only available with the automatic transmission and whittle the specifications down to 372 hp and 400 lb-ft.
Next up the ladder is the 6.4-liter Scat Pack and 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker, which see the 5.7-liter V8 swapped out for a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 rated at 485 hp and 475 lb-ft, paired with your choice of automatic or manual transmissions. The same fuel-saving technologies are available, though power is said to remain the same with them active. The 392 Hemi Shaker adds an exclusive hood scoop, a throwback to the old 1970s Dodge Challengers and Plymouth Barracuda. It works as a retro-looking cold air intake.
The SRT Duo
The big daddy Dodge Challenger is the SRT, and it's offered with two motors: the 6.4-liter Hemi V8 shared with the Scat Pack and 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker packages, and the brand new Hellcat, which we’ll talk about on the next page. All Challenger SRTs receive a lightweight aluminum hood with scoop, but the SRT Hellcat also gets dual air extractors to aid with engine cooling. The front fascia is unique to SRT models and includes a lower grille that can be removed in about five minutes to improve airflow on track days. All of the SRT Hellcats on the track had their lower grilles removed.
A Beautiful New Motor
Dodge's flagship motor for the 2015 Challenger is its Hellcat, a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8. This motor is a work of art that started life as a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 and was completely reworked to accommodate a twin-screw Lysholm supercharger. Power output lands at a neck-breaking 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. To put that into perspective, the SRT Viper’s 8.3-liter V10 generates 640 hp and 600 lb-ft.
The car also makes use of an electronically controlled exhaust valve that limits noise during regular driving. But when you tap the track button, it opens up to be loud and menacing. It sounds glorious, like musical foreplay that prepares you for a real driving experience before you even put the Challenger into gear.
A choice of manual or automatic transmissions is available for the SRT Hellcat. The six-speed manual is lifted straight from the SRT Viper to accommodate the Hellcat’s monstrous engine. A TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic based on the ZF 8HP is also available. But unlike the unit paired to the lower-output engines, the Hellcat's automatic receives internal upgrades to withstand 30 percent more torque.
Exclusive SRT Hellcat Exterior Bits
Dodge engineers had to tweak the front of the Challenger Hellcat a little bit to accommodate its powerful motor. Gone is the inner driver side parking lamp. In its place, there’s an air catcher inlet port that helps funnel in cool air. It’s hard to spot this little detail until you get up close to the car.
Big Beefy Brembo Brakes
The Challenger SRT isn’t a light vehicle, tipping the scale at 4240 lbs with a manual transmission and 4251 lbs with the automatic. Dodge's SRT Hellcat weighs in at 4449 lbs with the manual and 4439 lbs with the automatic. Stopping that much mass requires big brakes. Dodge engineers addressed the issue by equipping Challenger SRTs with the largest brakes ever offered in a passenger vehicle from Chrysler.
Large 15.4-inch Brembo rotors paired with six-piston calipers ensure the Challenger SRT can stop adequately and manage heat on track days. The brakes fill in the SRT-exclusive 20-inch wheels nicely.
Step into the cockpit and you’re treated to a comfortable and well-bolstered seat. The SRT trims get more side support to keep you in place for high-performance driving. Dodge does a great job with the 2015 Challenger's interior. Everything that you normally touch while driving (essentially, everything above your waistline), is soft. Even the carbon trim has a rubbery texture to it.
The cockpit is clearly driver-focused; the infotainment display and vehicle controls are angled to face you. Dodge even puts up a center barrier that makes it harder for the passenger to see or touch any of the controls. The steering wheel is large with plenty of girth. Most of the 2015 Challengers sport round wheels, though an optional flat-bottom racing wheel is available on select packages. That flat-bottom wheel comes standard on the SRT vehicles, and is my personal favorite.
Uconnect Access 8.4N is optional on lower models and standard on the SRT. We covered Uconnect Access 8.4N in great detail in 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee: Refined Just Right; Raw Where it Counts and found the combination of a large 4:3 aspect ratio screen, traditional buttons and knobs, and excellent user interface to be one of the best scalable touchscreen infotainment systems available. Our opinion carries over to the 2015 Dodge Challenger, although we can’t imagine the integrated Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities powered by Sprint being too useful in a coupe.
Dodge Challenger SRT models leverage the Uconnect Access 8.4N system to let you tweak the different drive modes through SRT Pages. Choose between Track, Sport, Custom, and default modes. There are fine-tuning options to further refine each mode, including suspension tuning, traction control, horsepower (Hellcat-only), and transmission shift points (automatic). I preferred driving with a custom configuration that had everything set for Track mode, but with standard traction control. I enjoy the stiff suspension, but feared the 707 hp Hellcat's potential. So, having that extra safety net with such a powerful car eased my mind. Track mode also unlocks the glorious-sounding exhaust too.
For those who desire more economical driving, there’s an Eco mode available as an afterthought. We all know that, if you're shopping for a Dodge Challenger SRT, economical driving probably isn't at the top of your priority list, though. If you utilize parking services, at least you'll be happy to know that there's a valet mode to limit power. Hellcat owners handing their keys to an attendant should breathe a sigh of relief.
SRT Performance Timers
Dodge’s SRT group does a phenomenal job exploiting the infotainment system's capabilities. Our favorite use of Uconnect Access is the integrated performance timers that include 0-60 MPH, 0-100 MPH, one-eighth-mile, quarter-mile, and braking distance settings. They're accessible through the hybrid gauge cluster and presented as a time slip that shows all relevant information, including current, best, and last displays, so you can keep track of your high score.