Should You Buy A Dodge Challenger With an Automatic or Manual Transmission?

16Dodge_Challenger_Lead.jpg 2016 Dodge Challenger | photo by Evan Sears

CARS.COM — If there’s one thing we learned while thrashing a 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack for our V-8 Muscle Car Challenge, it’s that Dodge’s six-speed manual transmission is a handful. Literally, of course, but also in that it’s a burly, unforgiving stick shift just as you’d expect in a nostalgic coupe like the Challenger. Recently, we also had the opportunity to test the R/T Scat Pack’s eight-speed automatic counterpart, giving two of the three Challenge judges — myself and Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder — an opportunity to test the other side of the coin. Which transmission would we choose if it were our vehicle?

Related: The V-8 Muscle Car Challenge 2016: Performance

Looking at the price of each Challenger option won’t make the decision easier. The automatic transmission is $1,400, but its improved fuel economy — 15/25/18 mpg city/highway/combined EPA ratings versus 14/23/17 mpg — frees it of the manual model’s $1,000 gas-guzzler tax. An R/T Scat Pack with manual and destination charge starts at $39,990, and with eight-speed automatic, it’s just $400 more at $40,390. If price is the most critical aspect in your transmission choice for a Dodge Challenger, you’ll have to dig deeper for your vehicle.


16Dodge_Challenger_RT_Exterior.jpg 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack - Manual Transmission | photo by Evan Sears

Weight savings for you performance-minded folk isn’t a factor, either. An automatic Challenger Scat Pack weighs just 7.5 pounds more than one with a manual: 4,239.8 pounds versus 4,232.3 pounds. Manual transmissions aren’t necessarily more fuel-efficient or lighter than their automatic counterparts as they once were in older vehicles. And what about availability of the Challenger’s two transmission options? Chances are, you’ll be able to find and get behind the wheel to drive one or the other without too much trouble. According to Dodge spokesman Jiyan Cadiz, 60 percent of Scat Packs come with the automatic transmission and 40 percent with the manual.

Though a stalemate on paper, it doesn’t take much more than one mash of the accelerator in either car to feel the difference. After manhandling the manual transmission Scat Pack R/T down the quarter-mile for our comparison testing, I wouldn’t pick it for that style of driving. The heavy clutch pedal and long shifter throws are a chore to move quickly in the Dodge. Power isn’t planted very cleanly with the manual, either, and while using its horsepower to rev up the rpm and leave patches of rubber in 2nd and 3rd gears on the cold track was fun, it definitely left a lot of time on the table.


16Dodge_Challenger_SXT_AutoShifter_ES.jpg 2016 Dodge Challenger SXT - Automatic Transmission | photo by Evan Sears

I’m partial to the automatic transmission if one wants to drive on the street, too. The Scat Pack auto’s eight gears keep the engine revs high up in the power band during spirited driving. Rarely does the transmission drop below its happy place — unlike with the manual, where sometimes you’re in no man’s land and have to downshift. The automatic has a way of making seat-of-the pants acceleration feel like the Challenger is lighter than its 4,200-pound curb weight, which is quite the accomplishment. We didn’t have a drag strip at our disposal at the time of testing the Scat Pack automatic, but the auto-only Charger R/T Scat Pack felt effortlessly fast with its near-identical transmission, gearing and engine.


16Dodge_Challenger_RT_ManShifter.jpg 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack - Manual Transmission | photo by Evan Sears

Wiesenfelder experienced a few hesitations with the automatic transmission, including one point at which it refused to shift while in Sport mode. Even without the hiccup, though, he’d still take the manual Challenger.

“I’m not saying it’s an easy choice, but I’m still going manual,” he said. “Something about a giant car with a manual tickles me, and manual transmissions are always fun. Bonus: If you have the Shaker hood [both of our test cars did], when you’re waiting for a light, you can jab the accelerator and watch the engine tilt like it’s shaking its head, telling the car next to you to piss off. Sure, you can do that with the automatic, but if you put it in Neutral just to do that, you feel like an ass.”’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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