By Don Fuller, Contributing Editor
The 2016 Dodge Challenger blends classic muscle-car flavor with computer-age technology and performance. The take-no-prisoners styling is clearly linked to a glorious past of American big-engine performance, yet inside and under the hood are technological benefits and performance levels that were only wild dreams in the best days of the muscle-car era. There are four outstanding engines: a 3.6-liter, 305-horsepower V6 and three Hemi V8s; a 5.7-liter with 372 horsepower, a 6.4-liter of 485 horsepower and a 6.2-liter supercharged version in the SRT Hellcat that makes a staggering 707 horsepower. No Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro has ever matched that lofty peak, and this much is undisputed: There has never been a muscle car like this.
With styling linked directly to the 1970s’ muscle cars and performance availability that will shred asphalt, you’re either a potential Dodge Challenger owner or you are not. If this is what you want, nothing else will do. Where else can you make monthly payments on 707 horsepower?
If you’re not interested in this sort of performance, go someplace else; there are choices. For a performance enthusiast, the only reason you’re not interested is if someplace you wear a Ford oval or Chevrolet bowtie tattoo. But the strongest Mustang or Camaro won’t crank out 707 horsepower.
The Challenger was revised last year and changes are minimal for 2016. There are some additional trim choices, new 20-inch 5-spoke Gloss Black wheels with the Blacktop Appearance Package and the return of a heritage color: Plum Crazy, to go with B5 Blue and TorRed. Check the color charts.
The attention-grabber of the 2016 Challenger line is the SRT Hellcat and its 707-horsepower supercharged V8 engine, but all versions are good-driving cars. The two non-supercharged Hemi V8s are as...
... strong as anyone could reasonably want, but the 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat is beyond verbal description, with acceleration that is essentially impossible to experience on a public road. To cope with the Hellcat’s power the suspension has been firmed up, but it’s no stiffer than, say, a Corvette. At steady cruising speeds engine noise is subdued, with the supercharger whine noticeable only as revs rise. Put the Hellcat and non-supercharged SRT Challengers into Track mode, and you get sharper throttle response, harder upshifts from the automatic transmission and a firming up of the shock absorbers. Then hang on.
How could this not be a favorite feature? No Chevy Camaro or Ford Mustang ever cranked out 707 horsepower. If that’s too much, instead of the red key fob use the black one, which dials it back to a “mere” 500 horsepower. A Valet mode knocks it back even more.
A stylish instrumental panel has all the important functional and informational stuff angled at the driver. The front seats are comfortable, and adults can, indeed, sit in the back seat and everything looks terrific and operates well. A nice place for a drive.
Inside, the new Dodge Challenger is pleasant, comfortable and functional. In the center of the instrument panel is the touch screen that we've liked in other Dodge and Chrysler vehicles. The retro-style gauges for tach and speedometer look fantastic, and there's a sharp-display TFT screen nestled between the two. There's plenty of room in front for driver and front-seat passenger, and the rear seat can accommodate three people (although they might be snug), making the Challenger the only muscle car deserving of that claim. Even the trunk is surprisingly large and useful, despite a pretty high liftover.
The no-nonsense look of the 2016 Challenger links to the past and the muscle-car era, yet with a modern, sleeker twist. But no doubt; there’s an unmistakable family link to the Challengers that scorched boulevards, highways and racetracks back in the day. The long-hood, short-deck delivers a classic proportion, the rake is just right and SRT models get a cold-air intake on the hood. You can even get it in some of the colors of back in the day, as well, except, back in that earlier day, the cars were never, not ever, this good.
The 2016 Dodge Challenger base SXT model has a V6 engine, Uconnect infotainment with a 5.0-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, a USB and auxiliary input, six speakers, 6-way-power driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote start (with automatic transmission) and a host of additional convenience and trim features. Since there are 10 different trim levels, there are really 10 different lists for “standard equipment,” and the higher-up models are quite generously appointed.
Most of the 2016 Challenger’s options are grouped either by the 10 trim levels or into the 13 packages. One significant stand-alone option is the Uconnect 8.4AN, with an 8.4-inch touch screen, navigation, AM/FM/HD radio, SiriusXM radio, Bluetooth, Uconnect Access, SiriusXM Traffic and SiriusXM Travel Link and Uconnect apps; this is one all-inclusive feature we heartily recommend you consider. Other options include the R/T Classic Package, Technology Group, three Sound Groups, a Super Sport Group, a Super Track Pak Group and the Scat Pack Appearance Group, complete with Bumble Bee rear stripes. Who can forget those?
Standard on 2016 Challenger SXT models is the 3.6-liter V6, making 305 horsepower. Next up is the 5.7-liter Hemi in R/T models, which makes 375 horsepower with a 6-speed manual transmission or 372 with the 8-speed automatic. The 392 Hemi Scat Pack and Challenger SRT 392 share the same 485-horsepower 6.4-liter V8. Then there's the SRT Hellcat, with its supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 putting out 707 horsepower; if you want horsepower bragging rights in any crowd, and particularly under $100 grand, nothing beats the Hellcat. Available with all V8 engines is a 6-speed manual gearbox, which will be a favorite with 3-pedal drivers, but the 8-speed automatic is a quick-shifting delight that doesn't shortchange on performance.
305 horsepower @ 6,350 rpm
268 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/30 mpg
5.7-liter Hemi V8
372 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm (automatic)
375 horsepower @ 5,150 rpm (manual)
400 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm (automatic)
410 lb-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm (manual)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25 mpg (automatic), 15/23 mpg (manual)
6.4-liter Hemi V8
485 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
475 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/25 mpg (automatic), 14/23 mpg (manual)
6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8
707 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
650 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/22 mpg (automatic), 13/21 mpg (manual)
The base 2016 Dodge Challenger in the SXT trim has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $27,990, including $995 for destination; we consider that to be a lot of car for the money. The V8-powered and well-equipped R/T starts at $32,990, while the R/T Scat Pack with the 392 starts right around $40,000. Nearing the top, the SRT 392 is over $51,000; pricey, but not bad considering the content of the overall package. But one of the strangest things to call a “bargain” is the 707-horsepower Hellcat, with an MSRP of $65,653; if you want more horsepower from a factory vehicle you’ll find yourself in really big-money Ferrari country. Be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price on KBB.com to see what others in your area are paying. While Dodge resale values have not, historically, been wonderful, we expect the 2016 Challenger to hold its own.