2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Plus Review
One big, brash blast.No Comments
It's heavy, it's powerful, and it's more of a blunt object than a precision instrument. But that doesn't make it bad; on the contrary, actually. It makes it fun as hell.
America: We're all about big things. And if there's one thing that we've always enjoyed in Super-Size proportions, it's cars. Look at post-war American vehicles compared to European ones; thanks to an overabundance of money and material, our cars grew to somewhat silly proportions. In the last few decades, that design element has largely drifted out of favor; but nobody told that to the Dodge Challenger.
Since its 2008 rebirth, the Dodge Challenger has been shouting 'bigger is better' from the mountaintops, despite a large majority of the American auto industry favoring smaller, tighter packaging. That's done the Challenger favors, though; in a world of subcompact this and crossover that, the Challenger reminds us what made America great in the first place - a larger-than-life attitude with the cars to match. There aren't many like it on the market.
The Challenger has been lightly refreshed for 2015, with upgrades to the interior, exterior, and drivetrain. Yes, the 707-horsepower Challenger SRT Hellcat is straight-up bonkers, but that's not what we're reviewing today. We're reviewing a model that's much more affordable, but still plenty fun. Think of it as the 'sensible' way to get a 375-horsepower V-8 into your garage. It's the Dodge Challenger R/T Plus, and it's practical enough to replace that boring family sedan of yours.
(N.B.: A memory-card corruption cost us the pictures we took of our Sublime Green press loaner. The pictures for this review, taken during our first-look media drive, cover the entire Challenger family.)
The first thing you'll likely notice is that everything subtly points toward the driver. It's less of a dashboard and more of a cockpit, which gives the driver the feeling that he is the center of attention (another thing that Americans love). All that hard plastic has disappeared, and in its place is a variety of softer-touch materials, all of which both look and feel far more premium than anything in the last interior ever did.
The seats, while being surprisingly soft, are well-enough bolstered to keep you planted during spirited driving and just firm enough to keep your lower half from going numb on longer drives.
Just stare at the damn thing. From the front, it looks like it wants to eat you alive. From the rear, it looks like it's going to kill you via tire-smoke asphyxiation. What the Challenger doesn't look like is any other car on the road.
Despite its 375-horsepower V-8, the Challenger R/T is as easy to drive as any other car out there. So long as you keep yourself from mashing the gas pedal, the car behaves just fine in day-to-day traffic. Its physical heft helps the car absorb pavement inconsistencies with ease, and even with the Super Track Pak's sport-tuned suspension (one of the several option boxes ticked on our tester), the ride never becomes uncomfortable, even after a couple hours of pounding iffy-quality interstate asphalt.
The Super Track Pak also includes Dodge's Performance Pages, which allows the owner to tweak the vehicle's systems to his or her choosing. In the R/T, we were able to adjust engine/transmission mapping, turn the paddle shifters on or off, set the traction control to a looser intervention threshold, and cycle between three different steering modes. Normally, you'd find this kind of customization on cars that cost way more than the R/T's mid-to-high-$30k average transaction price.
Overall, the Challenger drives like a muscle car. It's heavy, it's powerful, and it's more of a blunt object than a precision instrument. But that doesn't make it bad; on the contrary, actually. It makes it fun as hell. You won't be out-lapping a 2015 Mustang with similar equipment, but you'll be having way too much fun to notice. Your unceasing smile will blind pilots flying 30,000 feet above you. Just leave yourself enough tire tread to drive home.
That said, if those are things that won't bother you, the Challenger R/T is more or less flawless. Sure, there are cars that go faster around a track. There are cars that have bigger engines (although most of those are higher-trim Challengers). There are cars that get better gas mileage. But none of them do it like the Dodge Challenger. This car is big, comfortable, angry, and, for a starting price under $35,000, one of the most cost-efficient ways to have a torque-spitting V-8 to call your own.
The only thing it can't do is grow an extra pair of doors. Thankfully, that's why Dodge also builds the Charger.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Power Output: 375 horsepower / 410 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 16 city / 25 highway
Base Price: $34,495
As Tested: $40,570 (incl. $995 destination)
Sound Group II Package: 506-watt amplifier, 9-speaker sound system with subwoofer
Technology Group Package: Adaptive cruise (automatic transmission only), forward collision warning (automatic transmission only), automatic high-beam control, rain-sensitive windshield wipers
Driver Convenience Group Package: Blind-spot monitor with rear cross-path detection, power exterior mirrors with manual folding, HID headlamps, remote start
Super Track Pak Package: 20-inch black aluminum wheels with three-season performance tires, high-performance brakes, Dodge Performance Pages, adaptive steering, performance suspension, steering wheel paddle shifters, 3.90 or 3.07 rear axle ratio
Harmon Kardon Premium Sound Group Package: 18-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system with subwoofer and amplifier, spare-tire delete
R/T Classic Package: 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, script badge, heated steering wheel, HID headlamps, suede and leather high-performance ventilated seats
Individual Options: 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment with navigation, power sunroof, engine block heater, R/T side and hood stripes