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2016 Dodge Challenger: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2016

Take one glance at the mean-looking 2016 Dodge Challenger, and you might assume it's rough, impractical and generally uncouth. In truth, it is basically a full-size sedan with a reverently retro body, and while it projects tons of attitude, it's surprisingly docile behind the wheel.

Launched for 2008 on the same solid platform it shared with the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger, today's Challenger has proven to be a superb highway cruiser and remains the only coupe on the market with room for five passengers thanks to its wide, 3-person rear seat. Unless you find the epic rumble of a HEMI V8 uncouth, your lasting memory of the Challenger will likely involve its all-around civility.

We like the Challenger a lot, but there are a few things to be cautious about. For one, while some other reborn muscle cars have become quite adept at cornering, the heavy Challenger is best in a straight line, unless you spring for the pricy but fantastic SRT model. Additionally, the Challenger also has a relatively unimaginative interior and limited vision through the side and rear windows. Plus, it's the only modern muscle car not offered as a convertible.

Nothing on that list dampens our enthusiasm, however, because our overall feeling about the Challenger is that Dodge has essentially built a powerful, enjoyable coupe in the form of a muscle car. What's not to love about that?

What's New for 2016?

The Challenger is largely unchanged for the latest model year.

What We Like

Glorious V8 engines; satisfying pistol-grip stick shift; luxurious highway ride; sedanlike back seat; huge trunk; unique looks

What We Don't

Feels as big as it looks; no convertible model; dull interior; hard to see behind you or side-to-side

How Much?

$27,800-$64,900

Fuel Economy

The Challenger SXT is powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that generates 305 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque. Now equipped with a standard 8-speed automatic, V6-powered Challenger models return 19 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg in highway driving.

Next up is the R/T model, which sports a 5.7-liter V8 that makes 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque with the unique pistol-grip 6-speed manual shifter. With that transmission, it returns 15 mpg city/23 mpg hwy, while the optional 8-speed automatic improves those figures to 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

As for the 392, its 6.4-liter V8 churns out 485 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque with either the 6-speed manual or the 8-speed automatic. Although we suspect fuel economy won't be of much concern to shoppers interested in this engine, it returns 14 mpg city/23 mpg hwy with the manual or 15 mpg city/25 mpg hwy with the automatic.

As for the 707-hp Challenger Hellcat, it returns an abysmal 13 mpg city/22 mpg hwy with its standard 8-speed automatic transmission or 13 mpg city/21 mpg hwy with its optional 6-speed manual.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Dodge Challenger comes in four main varieties, including the SXT, the R/T, the SRT and the Hellcat.

The base SXT ($27,800) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and ignition, a tilt-telescopic steering column with a leather-wrapped wheel, power front seats, automatic climate control and a 6-speaker audio system with an auxiliary audio jack (but no USB port). For $3,000 more, the SXT Plus adds niceties such as Nappa leather upholstery, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, Boston Acoustics speakers with enhanced power, and USB and Bluetooth connectivity. A cool Rallye Redline model based on the SXT Plus brings a red center stripe, black chrome-clad wheels, and performance tires, steering, brakes and suspension (the latter with an electronically controlled sport mode).

The R/T ($32,800) adds a sport-tuned suspension, a limited-slip differential and fog lamps but otherwise essentially mirrors the SXT's equipment list (though USB/Bluetooth are standard on all R/Ts). Of course, the R/T also adds the Challenger's 5.7-liter V8. Drivers can also opt for the R/T Plus ($35,800), which combines the V8 with the features from the SXT Plus; the R/T Shaker ($36,800), which boasts larger wheels, a unique hood, performance metrics in the gauge cluster, and sport-tuned steering, suspension and brakes; the R/T Scat Pack ($39,800), which adds the 392 V8, a heated steering wheel, Brembo brakes and an upgraded exhaust; and the R/T Plus Shaker (also $39,800), which combines the Shaker and Plus trims.

Next up is the 392, which comes in two versions. The base model is called the 392 Scat Pack Shaker ($44,200), which, unsurprisingly, combines the Scat Pack and the Shaker trims. The SRT 392 ($51,000) is essentially a combination of Scat Pack, Shaker and Plus trims.

Topping the lineup is the Challenger's 707-hp Hellcat ($64,900) trim, which includes a host of exterior upgrades designed to improve airflow, along with improvements to the car's braking system and its interior.

In addition to the Challenger's standard equipment, there are also a variety of other factory and dealer upgrades for both appearance and performance, as well as an optional premium Harman Kardon audio system with an impressive 18 speakers. Of course, lower-level Challenger models are also offered with upgrades from higher-end models, including Chrysler's Uconnect infotainment system and navigation.

Safety

The Challenger comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags. R/T models include a standard backup camera, while forward-collision warning, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert systems are optional.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash-testing, the Challenger earned an overall rating of five stars. That score came from 5-star performances on the front- and side-impact tests, along with a 4-star rating on NHTSA rollover tests. The Challenger has not yet been assessed by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Behind the Wheel

The Challenger may look mean, but it's surprisingly docile behind the wheel. Steering effort is light, ride quality is luxury-car smooth, and road noise is subdued by performance-car standards. However, there's no getting around the Challenger's considerable mass, which imparts a commanding feel on the highway but becomes quite evident on tight roads. Although sportier Challengers are capable by the numbers, they feel big and heavy when driven like sports cars.

The exception is the SRT, which is a rocket that not only pins your head to the seat at full tilt but can turn with precision and stop with ungodly force. The new Launch Control system facilitates near-perfect acceleration runs that can bring a smile to the driver's face time after time. As for the Hellcat, performance is truly impressive. If you want one, you probably already know it, as there’s really nothing else like it on the market today -- except, of course, for the “Hellcat” version of Dodge’s four-door Charger sedan.

Alas, the Challenger's cockpit is otherwise as dull as the exterior is delightful. Visually linked to the awful dashboard in the previous-generation Charger sedan, the Challenger's dashboard looks simplistic and outdated compared to the new Charger's stylized dash. Materials have improved over the years, but again, the new Charger does it better.

The Challenger's cabin redeems itself in back, where rear occupants will be treated to perhaps the most spacious back seat in any mass-market coupe. There's sedanlike room back there, plain and simple. Other sporty coupes just can't touch it. The trunk is enormous too, at 16.2 cu ft., another sedan-grade achievement.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Camaro -- The newly redesigned Chevy Camaro has serious style. Outward visibility is tough, but overall it drives much like the Challenger. Its base V6 has 335 hp, and the upgrade SS model brings 455 hp.

2016 Ford Mustang -- The recently redesigned Ford Mustang doesn't have the same commanding presence as the Challenger, and it certainly doesn't offer the Hellcat's power, but it's a nimbler car, which means improved handling. Plus, it offers a convertible variant.

2016 Dodge Charger -- Basically the same car as the Challenger underneath, the Charger adds two more doors and a healthy dollop of space. It's also equally bargain-priced. There are even SRT and Hellcat versions for shoppers who don't want to give up the Challenger's muscle.

Used Cadillac CTS-V -- If you want the Challenger's brute power but prefer a nicer cabin or more equipment, consider a Cadillac CTS-V. Prices are high, however, so you may have to check out a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

The SXT Plus is the screaming deal of the 2016 Dodge Challenger line, adding tons of bonus content for only a small premium over the base SXT. If you simply need to have a V8, however, we like the R/T Plus's combination of performance and value, especially with the slick 6-speed manual transmission.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Dodge Challenger: New Car Review - Autotrader