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2018 Dodge Challenger: New Car Review

The model lineup only gets deeper for the 2018 Dodge Challenger, as the SRT Demon and SRT Hellcat Widebody lengthen a bench that already featured 14 players. From the well-equipped and surprisingly fun base SXT to the 840-horsepower drag strip-special Demon, if you can’t find a Challenger that satisfies your deepest muscle car desires, you’re probably way too picky.

But before we dig deeper into the minutiae, a word about the Challenger as a whole. Though it’s quite obviously a muscle coupe highlighted by a cornucopia of V8 engines and high-performance upgrades, that doesn’t mean it’s some rough and impractical car. In truth, it’s a superb highway cruiser with five seats and a genuinely huge trunk. It’s also well-equipped and its in-car technology is refreshingly up-to-date and easy to use (not bad for a car that dates back a decade). Essentially, the Challenger is as much a classic American large coupe as it is a muscle car.

Of course, that practicality comes at the expense of weight and handling precision relative its muscle coupe rivals. A Mustang or Camaro may therefore be a better fit, but there are no shortage of reasons to still choose a Challenger. In fact, there are now 16.

What’s New for 2018?

New to the Challenger menu is the 840-hp drag strip-special, the SRT Demon, and the SRT Hellcat Widebody that borrows the Demon’s, well, wider body. All Hellcats get some styling updates. There’s also a new Performance Handling package for 5.7-liter models, a backup camera is now standard and the standard touchscreen now measures 7 inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also now standard.

What We Like

Glorious V8 engines; luxurious highway ride; spacious back seat for a coupe; huge trunk; unique looks; an unmatched array of models and variations

What We Don’t

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

How Much?

$27,300-$83,300

Fuel Economy

The Challenger SXT has a 3.6-liter V6 (305 hp, 268 lb-ft of torque), an 8-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive (RWD) as standard. The Challenger GT has all-wheel drive instead. RWD V6-powered Challenger models return 19 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. The GT gets 18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined.

Next up is the R/T model, which comes standard with a 5.7-liter V8 (372 hp, 400 lb-ft), and like almost everything else below, RWD only and a 6-speed manual. An 8-speed automatic is optional. Fuel economy is 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined with the automatic, while the manual essentially reduces efficiency by one mpg.

The Scat Pack and 392 trims pack a 6.4-liter V8 (485 hp, 475 lb-ft). Fuel economy with the automatic is 15 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined. The manual effectively lowers those by one mpg.

The Hellcat boasts a mighty supercharged 6.2-liter V8, producing a mammoth 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy, should you somehow manage to drive economically with 707 hp at your foot’s disposal, is 13 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/16 mpg combined with the automatic. The manual is essentially the same.

And now, for overkill, the Demon ups the Hellcat engine to 808 hp and 717 lb-ft. It goes up to 840 hp and 770 lb-ft with a Direct Connection Controller and 100 octane fuel. Fuel economy is … why are we even bothering at this point?

Standard Features & Options

Take a look at our 2018 Dodge Challenger pricing page and you’ll find a whopping 16 trim levels. However, many are just variations of a smaller core group: SXT, GT, R/T, SRT 392, SRT Hellcat and SRT Demon.

The base SXT ($27,300) includes 18-in alloy wheels, proximity entry and push-button start, a leather-wrapped wheel, a power driver seat, a backup camera, dual-zone climate control, a 7-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a 6-speaker audio system. The SXT Plus ($30,300) includes 20-in wheels, performance brakes, rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable heated steering wheel, Alpine speakers, two USB ports and a 8.4-in touchscreen. The Super Track Pak adds sport-tuned suspension and steering and sport seats upholstered in Nappa leather and Alcantara.

The GT ($34,000) is effectively an SXT Plus with AWD, sport-tuned steering and 19-in wheels.

The R/T ($34,000) is effectively a base SXT with a V8 engine, a limited-slip differential, 20-in wheels and a performance exhaust. The Super Track Pak is optional, as is the Performance Handling package (upgraded brakes and suspension only). The T/A ($38,000) adds a cold-air intake, a special hood, the Super Track Pak and black styling elements. The R/T Shaker ($37,500) adds a large cold air induction scoop extending through the hood, plus the Super Track Pak and 2-tone leather seats. The R/T Scat Pack ($39,000) adds the 6.4-liter V8, plus performance brakes, a sportier-tuned suspension, an upgraded exhaust and the Super Track Pak. The R/T Plus ($35,900) and R/T Plus Shaker ($40,500) add the same extras as the SXT Plus.

The 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker ($41,800) essentially adds the Shaker hood and intake to the R/T Scat Pack. The T/A 392 ($44,000) lacks the Shaker, but does have better brakes, the regular T/A’s cold air intake, special hood and black design elements. The SRT 392 ($49,500) is essentially an R/T Scat Pack with adaptive suspension dampers, an 18-speaker Harman Kardon sound system and the R/T Plus’ various extra items.

Besides its engine, the SRT Hellcat ($64,300) adds a high-performance exhaust, a further upgraded suspension, adaptive suspension dampers, special hydraulic sport steering, xenon headlights and special design elements. The Hellcat Widebody ($70,300) adds the Demon’s wider track and multi-mode electric steering.

The SRT Demon ($83,300) adds a variety of performance upgrades specifically intended for drag strip use. It’s comparably equipped to an R/T Scat Pack, and has standard cloth seats and a 2-speaker sound system to save weight. You can also remove the front passenger seat and order the $1 "Demon Crate" that adds what you need for maximum drag strip carnage.

Most of the various non-performance options of upper models are available as extras on lower ones. Available on most trim levels is also the Driver Convenience Group, which adds xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, a rear cross-traffic warning system, remote ignition and power-folding mirrors. The Technology Group adds automatic wipers and high beams as well as adaptive cruise control with forward-collision warning (automatic only).

Safety

The Challenger includes stability control, six airbags and a backup camera. Blind spot monitoring, forward-collision and rear cross-traffic warning systems are optional.

In government crash-testing, the Challenger earned a 5-star overall, frontal and side ratings. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Challenger the best possible rating of Good in the moderate overlap and side crash tests, but a second-best Acceptable in the roof strength test and a second-worst Marginal in the small overlap front test.

Behind the Wheel

The Challenger may look mean, but it’s surprisingly docile behind the wheel. Although steering and suspension differs by trim, it is a surprisingly comfortable and easy car to drive. 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 increase precision, every version inevitably feels big and heavy when driven like sports cars.

Inside, the design is unfortunately as dull as the exterior is delightful. Sure, it’s substantially more interesting than the original design, but it’s still a bit of a letdown compared to a Mustang or Camaro. In contrast, however, rear occupants are treated to perhaps the most spacious back seat in any mass-market coupe, whereas they’d be lucky to fit at all in the Ford and Chevy. The trunk is enormous, too, at 16.2 cu ft., which compares to full-size sedans. This means you don’t have to sacrifice as much practicality to have some fun.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Chevrolet Camaro — This is the sharpest American muscle coupe to drive, boasting handling and performance credentials that rival the best sports cars. Practical drawbacks limit its viability as a daily driver.

2018 Ford Mustang — The Mustang splits the difference between the Camaro and Challenger. It’s more agile than the Challenger, but more practical than the Camaro. It’s also available as a convertible.

2018 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.

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

With such an insane number of variations, we’d recommend trying as many as possible, especially since you might find that you’re perfectly happy with one of the less powerful engines. Sure, we all want a Hellcat, but you’ll actually be shocked at how powerful and fun even the base V6 can be.

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