Reviews

2015 Dodge Challenger Walk Around

While the 2015 Challenger doesn't look vastly different from its immediate predecessor (2008-2014), it preserves a design distinction that contrasts attractively with crosstown competition: the sleek contours are devoid of wide wheel arches and other visual braggadocio, yet there's no mistaking its muscularity, especially when someone lights up one of the big Hemi engines.

The LED headlight halos surround new projector beam lamps, augmented by low-mounted projector fog lamps. The split LED taillamps are also new, and there are nine wheel options, including 20 x 9-inch forged alloys, and, top of the line, 20 x 9.5-inch forged alloys from SRT in three different finishes.

An interesting Hellcat light variation substitutes air intakes for the inboard headlamps on each side. And the hood bulge is functional, with a pair of vents to exhaust hot air from the engine bay. All the Challengers have hood bulges of some kind, including the historic shaker hood, which, like the Hellcat's bulge, is functional.

As noted, the redesigned sheetmetal echoes styling details drawn from 1971, rather than 1970, augmented by wind tunnel development, an element that really was essentially absent in Seventies design.

Interior

Although the general shapes of the Challenger's redesigned dashboard pay tribute to the original, forget the hard edges and plastics of yesteryear. The new dash and instrument panel are upholstered in far more civilized material, with lots of soft touch surfaces and very little reflectivity. More important, the instrument binnacle and dashboard are equipped with 21st century electronics, telematics, and infotainment, as distinct from the mechanical instruments of yesteryear and infotainment that could be summed up under one heading: AM radio.

The new speedo and tach are analog-style electronic, there's a 7-inch thin film transistor (TFT) digital info display between the major gauges, and a new 8.4-inch touch-screen display option that's home for navigation and other systems. This includes the Performance Pages data that goes with the Fast Track Pack option, allowing the driver to track acceleration, braking, grip, and a vast variety of other performance metrics. The center stack display in the base Challenger SXT is a 5-inch screen.

The seats are new for 2015, offered in several styles and upholstery materials, ranging from mildly sporty to raceworthy. SRT Challenger models are tricked out with a sporty flat-bottom steering wheel and aluminum shift paddles when equipped with the 8-speed automatic transmission. A robust Tremec 6-speed manual is available with all the V8 engines, but the automatic's response times in track mode are race-quick, far faster than the stick shift.

A bewildering variety of features and options are available for the Challenger buyer, covering infotainment, connectivity, furnishings, and style, not only from the Dodge inventory of standard and optional features, but also from the vast array of goodies available through Mopar, Chrysler's in-house aftermarket supermarket. Opportunities for personalization are rich.

The Hellcat comes with two keyfobs, one red, one black. The red one unlocks the full potential of the supercharged engine. The black one is the fob you hand to valets and/or your kids. It removes some of the temptation for excess by limiting engine output to a mere 500 horsepower. That's an element of retro that doesn't translate: 500 horsepower would have made the Challenger king of Woodward Avenue in 1971.

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