2015 Dodge Challenger V-6 8-Speed Automatic
From the November 2014 Issue of Car and Driver
With a turbo four-cylinder Ford Mustang now a real thing, we”re moved to reexamine the genre of the entry-level muscle car, long associated with secretarial pools and rental-car lots. Under discussion today: the V-6–powered Dodge Challenger SXT, sporting a new eight-speed transmission and a redesigned interior. Is it still more show than go?
It”s certainly still got â€œshow.“ For 2015, Dodge adds 1971 cues to the basic 1970 styling theme, including its split-port grille inserts and quad taillamp treatment. Other updates include headlamps with stern-looking LED halo rings and smoother front and rear fascias.
If the Challenger”s body changes only a little, an utter transformation occurs inside. Stylists placed a 1971 Challenger dashboard in the studio during the design process, and its influence can be found in the sweet, conical gauges with hidden needles and classic fonts. But, overall, this is a modern space, with strong forms, soft-touch panels, and real aluminum trim.
The 3.6-liter V-6 is unchanged, but the new ZF eight-speed automatic is a massive improvement, exploiting all of the engine”s 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque while helping to raise fuel economy from 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway to 19/30. Zero-to-60 acceleration drops a bit from 6.4 seconds to a respectable, if not-quite-muscle-car-worthy 6.2. The weighty Challenger trails its V-6–powered competitors by about a second.
The Challenger's pleasant new interior manages to avoid hackneyed retroness despite its throwback gauges.
So the eight-speed auto doesn”t bring much in the way of performance improvements, but it is a nice piece with smooth, decisive shifts and predictive downshifting in sport mode. Steering-wheel paddles come with the Super Track Pak option ($695), which also brings 20-inch wheels, a more buttoned-down suspension, revised steering, dual-piston front brake calipers around larger 13.6-inch front rotors, and Dodge Performance apps.
Hustling around Portland International Raceway, the SXT with the Super Track Pak could easily hang with the 485-hp Challenger SRT 392 in the kinkier sections thanks to communicative steering, Goodyear summer tires, strong brakes, and roughly 300 less pounds, most of them coming off the front axle. With the powerÂtrain settings in sport, the eight-speed always found the power band”s sweet spot, allowing us to simply leave it in drive and still post impressive lap times.
On the road, the V-6 proves competent and unobtrusive, though the handling never lets you forget that the Challenger is essentially a Charger sedan with a few less inches in the middle. Dive into a tight corner and the car lists at turn-in, finds its legs, then stabilizes with some throttle. The grip is there, but it drives big. Classic muscle-car stuff.
And yet, the Challenger SXT needs to be a bit quicker‘and sound meaner‘for us to consider it a true muscle car. That would help justify our loaded SXT Plus test car”s $37,255 price tag. But, especially with the Super Track Pak option, the V-6 Challenger is getting closer.
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