Dodge Challenger


Debut: 2008
Maker: Chrysler
Predecessor: no



 Published on 15 May 2008
All rights reserved. 

The 2008 Challenger looks every bit a remake of the original...

Muscle cars seem a thing of the past, yet in recent years Detroit’s car makers tried very hard to bring back the muscle car era. The reason behind is simple – they are not capable to defeat the imports square and fair, so they need the help of American heritage to boost sales. As a result, you can see the return of Ford Mustang GT500, Chevrolet Camaro and this one, Dodge Challenger. All these cars resemble the muscle cars bearing the same names from mid-1960s to early 1970s, no matter in looks, power and feel. This sounds quite ridiculous to the market trend of reducing fuel consumption and emission. They are not my cup of tea, but unfortunately there are many car enthusiasts out there love them.

Dodge division of Chrysler group produced the original Challenger from 1970-74, during which around 180,000 units were sold. By numbers it was not exactly a huge success, but its design and image provide a useful basis for the second incarnation. The 2008 Challenger looks every bit a remake of the original, with the same coke bottle waistline and 1970s front and rear design. Forward thinkers will criticize it for too retro - retro to the extent that sacrifices modern requirements for aerodynamics and visibility, but its wildness does inspire strong emotion. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it is design-led car.

  

Based on a shortened LX platform, it is still a big monster...

The original Challenger was built on a shortened Barracuda platform. Similarly, the new Challenger is built on a shortened version of Chrysler 300 / Dodge Charger’s LX platform. Some 100 mm of wheelbase has been chopped together with the rear doors to make it a 2+2 coupe, albeit a roomy 2+2. No one would describe the Challenger as compact, as its “short” wheelbase still measures a limousine-like 2946 mm, its length still exceeds 5 meters and it weighs close to 1.9 tons. In fact, it is as large and heavy as a Mercedes CL500 !

Fortunately, in the first production year Chrysler will produce only the highest performance model, SRT8. The 6.1-liter HEMI push-rod V8 with 425 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque deals with the weight with ease. Even though mated with the slightly outdated Mercedes 5-speed automatic (whose downshift is slow), it can still crack 0-60 mph in less than 5 seconds and 0-100 mph in 11 point something seconds. Top speed is around 168 mph. Apart from real muscle car performance, the HEMI engine also produces a fantastic noise when the throttle is wide open. Cruising on highway, it is reasonably quiet. The only downside is fuel consumption – 13 mpg in city and 18 mpg on highway, very much like a muscle car.


Don't assume the Challenger SRT8 a challenger to BMW M3...

In contrast, the chassis and suspensions come from a modern era. You may still remember many suspensions and drivetrain components of Chrysler 300C were sourced or adapted from Mercedes E-class. The same goes for its short-wheelbase brother. Moreover, with a slightly stiffer 2-door chassis and slightly stiffer suspension setting (by around 7 percent), the Challenger SRT8 handles even better than 300C SRT8. It contains roll and pitch better while delivers a reasonably comfortable ride. Its wide tires provide bags of grip. It has world-class stoppers, too – those big Brembo brakes with 4-pot aluminum calipers are powerful and fade-free.

However, don’t assume the Challenger SRT8 a challenger to BMW M3. Once you push it closer to the limit, you will notice its sheer size and weight through its excessive body movement and its reluctance to steer (i.e. understeer). You may complain its steering for being too slow, too numb and the steering wheel too big – like a good old muscle car again. These dynamic deficiencies prevent it from matching European coupes.


The cabin is another downside of the car. Despite of an ultra-long wheelbase, the rear seats (strictly for two) are not especially spacious. Seats are undeniably supportive, but they look ugly and cheap. The same goes for the dashboard, which has none of the style and quality feel of European cars. How can it compete with a similarly-priced BMW 335i Coupe ?


The HEMI engine produces a fantastic noise when the throttle is wide open...

If you want the muscle car looks of Challenger without spending the north of US$40,000 on SRT8, you may wait for next year’s full range to come. That will include a base SE model powered by the old 250hp 3.5 V6 and a R/T model with 5.7-liter HEMI V8. The latter is updated with variable valve timing and boosted output to 370hp. That could be more sensible than entering the league of BMW.

However, it is questionable to me how many car lovers out there can sustain the sales of a retro-style muscle car. The market has Ford Mustang already and is going to be joined with Chevrolet Camaro. Once the initial interest dried out, people will look forward to better quality and higher efficiency. The smaller and lighter Mustang and Camaro will have an edge over Challenger. European and Japanese coupes will have an edge over them again. In my opinion, going retro and muscle is not too sensible these days.

Verdict:
 Published on 1 Oct 2008
All rights reserved. 
Challenger R/T and SE


R/T is a sensible alternative to SRT8

Chrysler launched the new Challenger from top down. First came the flagship SRT8 in 2008 model year, then come the mass market 3.5 SE and 5.7 R/T in 2009 model year. They are expected to take the bulk of the sales.

The 3.5 SE is powered by the company's outdated 3.5-liter SOHC 24-valve V6 like the base Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. Without any modifications, its output remains 250 hp and 250 lb-ft. That would not have been much problematic to a regular size car, but the Challenger is a dinosaur, weighing close to 1700 kg even in the V6 form. Worse still, the only transmission available is a 4-speed automatic, an old partner to this engine. The combo has been serving Chrysler group since the LH-platform Chrysler 300C, which means more than 10 years old. The good thing is they are well proven. The bad thing is they are proved to be slow and unrefined. The rest of the package is equally outdated. You get a cheap cabin trim and small rear passenger space to match its low price. It feels monsterious huge on back roads and breathless on highway. The only thing it delivers is a muscle car look. Everything else doesn't worth praising. The SE is definitely not to be recommended.

The 5.7 R/T is better, at least it has true muscle car performance. Chrysler has improved its 5.7-liter HEMI V8 recently. Despite of the push-rod 2-valve-per-cylinder architecture, it is actually quite sophisticated. To save fuel when high power is not required, it can deactivate the valves in 2 of the cylinders each bank, so the V8 effective becomes a V4. A new feature this year is variable cam phasing which acts on the only camshaft in the block. In addition to other modifications, the 5.7 V8 has its output increased to 372 hp and 401 lb-ft, not much behind SRT8. As the R/T is priced at US$30,000 (versus the SRT8's US$40,000), many people see it as a sensible alternative to SRT8. However, those choosing the R/T should be aware of its slightly softer suspensions, cheaper brakes, modest 18-inch wheels and 235/55VR18 tires, cheaper seats and fewer standard equipments. On the road, these translate to an even more ponderous handling. In fact, many hot hatches are actually more fun to drive in mountain roads. From this view, the US$30,000 and very high fuel costs it asks for is hardly reasonable.
Verdict:
 Published on 10 Jan 2011
All rights reserved. 
Challenger SRT8 392 and SE 3.6

Ever rising power figures cannot change our verdicts

After a 2-year pause, all Chrysler group products get some kind of refresh in year 2011. As Dodge Challenger is the youngest among them, it gets the lightest modifications. Apart from a fancy paint scheme, it is cosmetically unchanged from the new car, so the term "facelift" does not apply to it. Instead of looks, the changes lie under the bonnet. Headline is the SRT8 392 – yes, the number refers to its larger, 392 cubic inch displacement. In metric unit it translates to 6410cc, up from 6059cc.

Apart from increased capacity, the 392 HEMI V8 has a few significant improvements over the old engine. The first is cylinder deactivation, which shut down 4 of the 8 cylinders under part load to save fuel. However, it is only available to the engine mated with automatic box. The second is a two-stage variable intake manifolds. It enhances mid-range torque, generating an extra 90 lb-ft at 2900 rpm, for example. Another improvement is the addition of variable cam phasing to its sole camshaft. It is not the sophisticated "cam-in-cam" design of the late Viper, so the exhaust valve timing is always compromised when intake valve timing is advanced. Still, it enhances high-rpm breathing a little bit. Overall, the 392 HEMI produces 470 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, 45hp and 50 lb-ft up respectively.

We don't doubt its firepower – as in the old car – but the way it put the power in use is questionable. Lacking a sophisticated launch control or twin-clutch transmission, the American muscle car struggles to translate those extra horsepower and torque to performance. Time is wasted to tire slip and gearchange, so 0-60 mph sees only marginal improvement to 4.5 seconds. 0-100 mph sprint in just over 10 seconds is no longer enough these days, especially for a car single-minded on straight-line performance.


Lacking a launch control or twin-clutch box, it struggles to translate those extra power to performance...

Moreover, performance alone can hardly satisfy these days. Chrysler also knows this, so it retuned the Challenger's suspensions and steering for the better of handling. A faster steering ratio, more negative camber, stiffer suspension bushings and dampers make the car less bulky in the twisty. It is more willing to turn into corners, and rolls less in the process. Nevertheless, burdened by a ridiculous 1900 kg – and 55 percent of them acted on the front axle – it can hardly feel agile. You still need to keep discipline on brake and throttle approaching and exciting bends. Its power still overwhelms its chassis. This is still very much a muscle car.

Take into account the disgusting retro design and rubbish-level interior, the Challenger SRT8 392 is not going to change our verdict.

Lower down the range, the base Challenger SE gets Chrysler's new Pentastar V6. In this application, the 3.6-liter DOHC DVVT unit is tuned to produce 305 horsepower, far more than the old unit's 250hp. Nevertheless, its mandatory 5-speed automatic box is not going to do it any favour against Ford and Chevy's 6-speeder. The result is still the slowest V6 pony car.
Verdict:

 Published on 26 Jul 2014 All rights reserved. 
Challenger SRT Hellcat

More powerful than a Viper, Hellcat aims at beating Mustang GT500 and Camaro ZL1 as the America's top muscle car.


Dodge Challenger, one of the three American pony cars remaining on sale, has received an update. All models get a subtle facelift, upgraded equipment and interior trims and a much better ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox (in place of the long-serving DaimlerChrysler 5-speeder). The 3.6-liter V6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V8 remain unchanged, while the SRT8's 6.4-liter Hemi is added with another 15 hp. However, headline news must be the new range-topping model, Hellcat. Named after a famous WWII fighter plane of the US Navy, it aims at beating Ford Mustang GT500 and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 as the America's top muscle car. How can it do that? The answer is a new 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that pumps out an astonishing 707 horsepower and 650 pound-foot of torque. Yes, that's more than the 662 hp on Mustang and 580 hp on Camaro. It is also more powerful than the new Corvette Z06 (650 hp) and Chrysler's own top performance car, Viper (640 hp)! This is currently the most powerful American production car.


Supercharged V8 produces 707 horsepower


The Hellcat engine is derived from the 6.4-liter Hemi, but with reduced stroke its displacement is down slightly to 6184 c.c. There is nothing state-of-the-art in its design, but it adopts the necessary measures to boost output and withstand higher stresses. The engine block is still that durable cast-iron item (which explains why the whole engine is 82 kg heavier than the Viper's V10). The aluminum cylinder heads are heat-treated to increase strength. Forged aluminum pistons, forged steel connecting rods and crankshaft are employed. The piston pins have diamond-like carbon coating to reduce friction. Sitting inside the V is a Japanese IHI Lysholm supercharger – surprisingly, not the American Eaton, though IHI had a good history of supplying AMG's supercharged V6 and V8 in the past. It displaces 2380 c.c. and spins up to 14,600 rpm, so by calculation you will find it supplies essentially the same amount of air per minute as the Corvette Z06 (1740 c.c. x 20,000 rpm). It produces a maximum boost pressure of 0.8 bar. What the Hellcat engine cannot match the latest Chevy is efficiency, because it lacks modern features like direct fuel injection and cylinder deactivation. Its immense weight, tallness and wet sump explain why it is used on a muscle car instead of a true sports car.

On the road, the Hellcat engine dominates the driving experience. It launches like an old-school muscle car, with lots of spin and smoke which is not an effective way to register good acceleration figures. Even though the car has an electronic launch control, it struggles to find enough traction at the rear axle (due to front-biased weight distribution) to contain the tremendous power. Expect 0-60 mph to be worse than Mustang GT500 at about 4 seconds, and 0-100 mph should take around 8 and a half second. Once on rolling, the sense of power is very strong. It sings in thunder and pushes with endless energy, passing 150 mph effortlessly – perhaps the quoted 199 mph top speed is true. Surprisingly, the ZF auto – beefed up for this application – works very well, shifting gears responsively and choosing gears smartly even when you push it on a track, so good that you can forget the Viper-sourced Tremec 6-speed manual.


On the road, the Hellcat engine dominates the driving experience...


The regular SRT8 has always been criticized for poor handling. Despite of an even heavier engine, the Hellcat maneuvers with less pitch and roll, thanks to thicker anti-roll bars, stiffer springs and dampers. The fatter Pirelli 275/40ZR20s and larger Brembo brakes (with 390 mm discs clamped by 6-pot calipers up front, 350 mm discs and 4-pot at the back) also improve its handling considerably. That said, no one will confuse it with a BMW M4 in the twisty. It is still a large 2-ton machine with poor static balance. You need patience to get around corners. Should you brake too late or too abruptly, you will end up sideway. Should you apply too much throttle at corner exit, you will get big oversteer and probably miss the next corner. The key technique to tame it is "slow in, slow out", i.e., very much like driving a conventional muscle car.

It must be said that despite of its temper, the Hellcat is not as difficult to drive as Mustang GT500, which is even more prone to throttle-induced oversteer. However, it is certainly not as nimble as Camaro ZL1, let alone the world-class Camaro Z/28 and Mustang Boss 302. What the Hellcat beats them are the usual merits of Challenger, i.e. a roomy cabin, comfortable seats and modern equipment. Its ride quality is pretty smooth for its performance class, too. To live with on a daily basis, the Hellcat is sweeter than its name suggested.
Verdict:
 Published on 25 Jul 2017 All rights reserved. 
Challenger SRT Demon


Demon is an answer to a question nobody asked: build the ultimate road-legal dragster!


I doubt if I have ever seen any production cars as single-minded as this one. The new Dodge Challenger SRT Demon is NOT the GT3 RS version of Hellcat, which would have been far more versatile. In fact, it is designed purely for drag race. All mechanical changes are made to improve 1/4-mile standing start as far as possible, even at the expense of handling or overall performance in the real world.

Power comes from the 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V8 like the Hellcat, but FCA gave it a larger (2.7 liters instead of 2.4 liters) supercharger which offers a higher (1.0 bar instead of 0.8 bar) boost pressure. A larger airbox is fed by the prominent scoop on the hood. The V8 is allowed to rev to 6500 rpm, 300 rpm higher than before. Its fuel pump is upgraded to supply more fuel. Its pistons and con-rods are stronger, too. Drinking regular fuel, it is already good for 808 hp and 717 lbft of torque, compared with 707 hp and 650 lbft of the Hellcat. When it is fed with 100 Octane race fuel, the output is lifted to 840 hp and 770 lbft. Both easily crown it the most powerful production car in the world. By the way, "production car" here means a production run of 3300 units, 3000 to the US and 300 to Canada.

To aid drag race, Demon goes as far as using the air conditioning's refrigerant to help cooling the charge cooler of the supercharger. This allows the car to recover faster after each drag run.

To cope with the extra torque, the automatic transmission's torque converter is upgraded. It is added with launch control and a “trans brake” feature specially designed for dragsters. Launch control makes quick launch easily repeatable, but the Demon’s 1/4-mile record of 9.65 seconds (at 140mph) was achieved in trans brake mode instead, which locks the output shaft while revving the engine to produce maximum torque just before launch.

Traction is another key issue for faster acceleration. The Demon uses Nitto NT05R drag race tires (but street legal). At 315/40R18, they are 2-inch smaller than the Hellcat's but 40mm wider. The contact patch area is increased by 15 percent, while total traction is doubled. The smaller alloy wheels are lighter, but they cannot fit the Hellcat's 390mm front brake discs, so the latter are downgraded to 360mm items. Never mind, this car is all about acceleration, so who cares deceleration?



With 808hp on tap (or 840hp drinking race fuel), this is the world's most powerful production engine.


Drag race performance also dictates the suspension setup. To enhance traction, the springs are actually softened (by 35% front and 28% rear), ditto the anti-roll bars (-75% / -44%) and adaptive damper setting (which switches to even softer setting in drag mode), so that more weight transfer to the rear wheels during acceleration. In addition to reduced negative camber at the rear wheels, the rear tires can remain in contact with the tarmac under harder acceleration.

Handling in corners? A nightmare, of course! R&T reported a lot of roll and float on the road (note: other publications were not allowed to test outside the dragstrip, unfortunately). This is caused by not only the soft suspension but also the high and soft sidewalls of the tires. Switch the adaptive dampers to Sport mode restores some control, but it is still not the handling you would expect for a high-performance car. Besides, steering feel through the wide front tires is always muted.

If you are hardcore, you can opt for weight-saving measures which cut around 80 kg from the Hellcat's 2018 kg kerb weight. These go as far as ditching not only the audio, sound deadening materials and the rear seats but also the front passenger seat! The result is a spartan, noisy and lonely cabin.

Who would buy this car then? Amateur drag racers, of course. It is nearly impossible to replicate FCA’s claim of 0-60 mph in 2.3 seconds or the 9.65 seconds quarter mile, unless you are helped by perfect weather, a strong tail wind and luck, but drag racers will find immense satisfaction for trying to do so, using the throttle and both shift paddles to manage the launch. A successful launch could yield 1.8g of acceleration or even lift up the front wheels as pictured. Unfortunately, dragstrip is the only place its performance designed to shine. For 99 percent of us, the talent of Demon is too limited, and it sacrifices almost everything else for that purpose. No, that's not the car for our taste.

While $86,000 sounds a bargain for the performance it offers, bear in mind that the best R&T managed in a whole day was 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds and 0-100 mph in 6.1 seconds, slower than a Tesla Model S P100D. A Camaro ZL1 1LE or Mustang GT350R are not as quick in straight, but should be easily quicker in a course or most roads, not to mention their much more versatile manner. The Demon made headlines, but it is an answer for a question nobody asked, not even the hardcore drivers.
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission

Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Challenger SE
2008
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5022 / 1923 / 1448 mm
2946 mm
V6, 60-degree
3518 cc
SOHC 24 valves
-
-
250 hp
250 lbft
4-speed auto or 5-speed auto

F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
-
215/65R16

1687 kg
114 mph (c)
7.3** (4A) / 7.5* (5A)
20.5* (5A)
Challenger R/T
2008 (2014)
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5022 / 1923 / 1448 mm
2946 mm
V8, 90-degree
5654 cc
OHV 16 valves, VVT
-
Twin-spark, cylinder cut-off
372 hp (5A) / 376 hp (6M)
401 lbft (5A) / 410 lbft (6M)
6-speed manual or 5-speed auto (8-speed auto)
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
-
235/55VR18

1878 kg
138 mph (limited)
5.1*  / 5.1** (6M)
12.2* / 12.4** (6M)
Challenger SRT8
2008
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5022 / 1923 / 1448 mm
2946 mm
V8, 90-degree
6059 cc
OHV 16 valves
-
Twin-spark
425 hp / 6200 rpm
420 lbft / 4800 rpm
5-speed auto

F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
-
F: 245/45ZR20
R: 255/45ZR20
1876 kg
168 mph (c)
4.8* / 4.7** / 4.7***
11.4* / 11.3** / 11.0***




Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT, ***R&T





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires

Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Challenger SE 3.6
2011 (2014)
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5022 / 1923 / 1448 mm
2946 mm
V6, 60-degree
3605 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT
-
-
305 hp / 6350 rpm
268 lbft / 4800 rpm
5-speed auto (8-speed auto)
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
-
245/45VR20

1784 kg
145 mph (est)
6.4* / 6.4** (6.2*)
17.1* / 16.5** (15.5*)
Challenger SRT8 392
2011 (2014)
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5022 / 1923 / 1448 mm
2946 mm
V8, 90-degree
6410 cc
OHV 16 valves, VVT
VIM
Twin-spark, cylinder cut-off
470 hp (485 hp) / 6000 rpm
470 lbft (475 lbft) / 4200 rpm
5-speed auto (8A or 6M)
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
(Adaptive damping)
F: 245/45ZR20
R: 255/45ZR20
1906 kg
182 mph (c)
4.5* (6M: 4.4* / 8A: 4.2*)
10.2* (6M: 10.2* / 8A: 9.6*)
Challenger SRT Hellcat
2014
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5022 / 1923 / 1445 mm
2951 mm
V8, 90-degree
6184 cc
OHV 16 valves
Supercharger
Twin-spark
707 hp / 6000 rpm
650 lbft / 4800 rpm
8-speed auto (6-speed manual)
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
275/40ZR20

2018 kg
199 mph (c)
3.6* / 3.7** (3.9*)
7.6* / 7.7** (8.1*)




Performance tested by: *C&D, **MT, ***R&T





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Challenger SRT Demon
2017
Front-engined, RWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
5017 / 2002 / 1458 mm
2951 mm
V8, 90-degree
6166 cc
OHV 16 valves
Supercharger
Twin-spark
808 hp (840 hp) / 6300 rpm
717 lbft (770 lbft) / 4500 rpm
8-speed automatic
F: double-wishbones
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
315/40R18
1940 kg
168 mph (c)
2.3 (c)
-


















































Performance tested by: -





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