This week, we’re driving the 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus, the elite version of the V6 line of Challengers that start at just $26,995 and truly represents what I feel is the best retro look of the big three pony cars, specifically Mustang, Camaro and Challenger. These boulevard cruisers are still popular today, and confirm that not every car has to be front drive or “overly green” to be successful. Thanks to the abilities of Dodge engineers who know how to deliver government correct vehicles that can put out over 700 horsepower, Challengers are stronger than ever in both sales and popularity.
The Challengers we came to love initially roamed from 1970 to 1974, which were the final years of the true muscle car phenomenon. Back then, you were either a Ford, Chevy or MOPAR fan, the latter “MOPAR” nomenclature standing for “Motor Parts” before evolving into slang for anything produced by Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge.
Thus, the 2015 Challenger perfectly executes its “pony car” heritage. For those who didn’t grow up in the 1960s and 1970s, today’s 6.4-liter “392” Hemi taxonomy corresponds to the legendary 392 cubic inch Hemi engines that powered many top fuel dragsters into drag racing immortality, including Don Garlits’ Swamp Rat, Jack Kulp’s Outlaw, Connie Kalitta’s Bounty Hunter and many more.
Thanks to our tester’s 3.6-liter V6 and its 24-valve design, which enhances combustion and provides better fuel utilization thanks to VVT (variable valve timing), there’s 305 horsepower available that isn’t far from the 335 horse 383 Magnum that powered many a 1971 R/T back in the day.
As for transmissions, gone is last year’s five-speed automatic and in its place is Dodge’s all-new eight-speed TorqueFlite which delivers better acceleration and improved fuel mileage, the latter going from 18/27 in ’14 to 19/30 this year. We timed zero to 60 in just 6.3 seconds, which is impressive considering Challenger is no lightweight. Overall, the 3.6-liter V6 is durable and delivers 55 more horsepower than the original 2008 V6 engine. With thanks again to the eight-speed tranny, at 60-MPH our tachometer read just 1,400 RPM, which makes the 30-MPG highway possible.
Challengers come in nine distinct models, from the entry SXT ($26,995) to a screaming, hang on to your hat, supercharged 707-horsepower Hellcat Hemi that is not for the inexperienced driver. Please parents, don’t let young Johnny or Janie talk you into a Hellcat for their first car.
Following SXT Plus ($29,995 entry) on the Challenger “up-ladder” are R/T ($31,495), R/T Plus ($34,495), R/T Scatpack ($38,495), SRT 392 Hemi ($45,995) and SRT Hellcat ($59,995).
Underneath, a fully independent sport mode suspension and four wheel ABS discs help keep Challenger pointed the right direction. Inside, seating is improved and all expected amenities come as standard fare. Notable features on SXT Plus include 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, all stability/traction controls, brake assist with rain brake support and all airbags. The dash layout is upgraded to include two main instrumentation gauges, i.e., tachometer and speedometer, while oil pressure, fuel and engine temp gauges are subdued along side the main clusters. Add cruise, air, center console and a 276-watt stereo and you’re ready for some serious cruising.
Options on our tester include a $500 pearl paint, $995 Technology Group with forward collision warning, $795 Convenience Group with blind spot and rear cross path detection, and a fine sounding $695 U-Connect high end stereo with GPS and a five year XM Traffic and Travel Link, which is not to be confused with the one year Sirius XM subscription which comes standard. Delivery at $995 rounds out the retail price at $33,975.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 116 inches, 5.1 inch ground clearance, 3,834 pound curb weight, 16 cu. ft. trunk and a 18.5gallon fuel tank.
We like 2015 Dodge Challenger very much as it’s a fine choice for Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. If you crave secure handling, outstanding looks and great fuel mileage, Dodge Challenger delivers. Visit you Dodge dealer for current incentives.
2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus
Base MSRP: $29,995
Price as Tested: $33,975
Options: Pearl Paint ($500) , Technology Group ($995), Convenience Group ($795) Technology Group with forward collision warning, $795 Convenience Group with blind spot and rear cross path detection, and a fine sounding $695 U-Connect high end stereo with GPS and a five year XM Traffic and Travel Link,
Likes: Best retro looks, eight-speed automatic, great MPG, 100,000 mile warranty.
Dislikes: Pillar blind spot, options push price into R/T Hemi area.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who writes weekly for BestRide.com and other Gatehouse Media publications.)