By Aaron Bragman on April 16, 2014
Competes with: Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Looks like: The current Challenger, now with more LEDs
Powertrains: Standard 305-hp, 3.6-liter V-6, optional 375-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 or 485-hp, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8; eight-speed automatic (standard on V-6, optional on V-8s) or six-speed manual (standard on V-8 only) transmissions; rear-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Summer 2014
With the update to the 2015 Dodge Charger, Chrysler now offers two distinct flavors of big, performance-oriented rear-drive cars for enthusiasts. The Charger's gone modern, with swoopy new styling that apes the Dart and Durango in the brand's lineup, but the new 2015 Challenger sticks to its retro theme that has been relatively successful for the big sports coupe.
But even retro has to show progress, and Dodge has decided to base the new 2015 model on the 1971 Challenger for inspiration instead of the 1970 model that the current Challenger uses as a model. The updated interior, however, is taken right from other modern Dodge models.
It doesn't look all that different for 2015, with some refinements to the front and rear ends to better incorporate head- and taillights. New projector-beam headlamps feature LED halos, flanking the sides of a new split grille that is one of the 1971 Challenger cues. A new "smiley" front bumper replaces the current model's frowny face, with wider air inlets for a more horizontal, lower look. The optional Shaker hood can be had on any of the Hemi V-8 models now as a separate option, replacing the standard cover that has air inlets moved further forward on the hood. Nine new wheels are available, with 18-inchers standard on only the SXT; every other model comes with standard 20-inch wheels. New LED taillights complete the slightly updated look. Three retro-inspired colors are also available: TorRed, Sublime Green and B5 Blue.
The biggest changes are inside, where the Challenger finally receives an updated, all-new interior that is more driver-centered. Materials are at last brought up to the current Fiat-Chrysler world-class standards, while the design again draws inspiration from the 1971 model's trapezoidal dashboard, doors and center console shapes.
Sitting in front of the driver is a new 7-inch reconfigurable LCD screen nestled between the round gauges, which is becoming the norm in Chrysler products. Interior colors are limited to black with black or gray cloth or a choice of black, red or white leather or red Alcantara simulated suede. New performance sport seats can be had with heating and ventilation as well.
The interior amenities get a big boost as well, thanks to an updated electrical architecture than can support Dodge's next-generation Uconnect multimedia system. The 8.4-inch touch-screen is available in the center console with full connectivity, including Bluetooth streaming audio and phone, navigation and a vehicle customization control page that allows the driver to adjust the standard Sport mode and how it affects the car's systems. Electric power steering and a new transmission mean that drivers can adjust steering effort, engine and transmission response, and stability control settings. The Performance Pages app, which was previously only available on the SRT models, is now available on the regular Challengers when the Sport Track Pack is selected from the options list. That Sport Track Pack is also now available on V-6 models.
The standard engine for the Challenger is a 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, mated to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission. All Challengers are rear-wheel drive only; no all-wheel-drive option is available. Stepping up to the R/T trim brings the 375-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine, making 410 pounds-feet of torque and shunting it all through a standard six-speed Tremec manual transmission. Most interesting, however, is the optional Scat Pack package, which includes the engine that was in last year's SRT Challenger: The 485-hp, 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 making 475 pounds-feet of torque. It also uses a standard six-speed manual transmission; the eight-speed automatic is optional for both V-8 engines. A larger 12.6-inch sport brake package is now standard on all Challenger SXT models, with even bigger 13.6-inch front brakes on R/T models. Opt for the Scat Pack or 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker trim packages and you'll get 14.2-inch four-piston Brembo-brand brakes up front, 13.8-inch four-piston brakes in back. The V-6 and eight-speed automatic combination enables the big Challenger to attain 31 mpg highway, according to the EPA; the fuel-economy ratings for the V-8 models are not yet available (and likely not all that relevant to their popularity).
If you're looking for even more sporting ability from your Challenger, opt for the Super Track Pak. Available on all models of the car, including the V-6 for the first time, the package lowers the suspension by a half-inch and adds Bilstein-brand shock absorbers, high-performance brakes and a revised suspension tune that helps create a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution. It also includes a dedicated button in the center console that immediately calls up the Performance Pages app on the 8.4-inch touch-screen for instant vehicle settings changes.
With the new electrical system comes the ability to pack a lot more safety monitoring equipment into the Challenger, and Dodge takes full advantage of this. The Challenger now offers adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning with rear cross-path alert and a forward collision warning system. The Uconnect system now offers 911 call assist and an available backup camera.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron