So you’re thinking about the 2016 Dodge Challenger, eh? Here’s what you need to know first and foremost: It’s awesome. It may not be the most hyped American muscle coupe this year and it’s certainly not the most agile. And yet, from the surprisingly stout base V6 all the way up to the nuclear option (otherwise known as the 707-hp Hellcat), the Challenger is a modern classic.
For Dodge fans, our stating that the Challenger is indeed awesome probably comes more as an affirmation than as a surprise. It’s been a hit with consumers ever since the latest generation debuted back for the 2008-’09 model years. But while the muscle car styling and menu of powerful engines are of obvious appeal, what you might not realize is how practical the Challenger is. Adults can fit in the backseat. It has a trunk a full-size sedan could be proud of. The ride quality is comfortable. The features list is packed full of comfort, convenience, entertainment and high-tech safety items. Even the V6 gets decent fuel economy. The Challenger is a car that will please whether you’re taking the kids to school, driving across the country or participating in a burnout contest.
It’s true that the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro or 2016 Ford Mustang are better suited for hustling around tight turns, and both benefit from fresher-looking designs. Both can also be had in convertible form, something the Challenger does not offer. On the other hand, though, Chevy and Ford don’t offer four-door sedan versions, which is essentially what the Dodge Charger is. Furthermore, neither of those other American coupes allows you to say to your friends: “Yep, it’s got more power than a Lamborghini Aventador.” So rest assured, good muscle car shopper: The 2016 Dodge Challenger is awesome.
No Video Content
The 2016 Dodge Challenger is a five-seat, two-door coupe available in a dizzying number of trims and variations. It’s quite possible that the U.S. tax code is easier to understand.
The lineup starts with the humble V6-powered SXT that comes standard with 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, LED “halo” running lights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, cruise control, automatic dual-zone climate control, rear air vents, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-way power driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, two-tone cloth upholstery (black with beige houndstooth), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 5-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker sound system with an SD card slot, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.
From here, you can opt for the Cold Weather Group package that adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a more powerful alternator. The Super Sport Group adds 20-inch wheels, a shorter rear-axle ratio, steering wheel shift paddles and performance brakes. The Sound Group I includes a six-speaker Alpine sound system.
The V8-powered R/T differs with its 20-inch wheels, upgraded brakes and a decklid spoiler.
The R/T Shaker trim adds a “Shaker” hood with a large cold air induction scoop extending through the hood as well as the Super Track Pak performance items (see below), special two-tone leather seats with Shaker logos and a rearview camera.
The R/T Scat Pack trim adds the larger 392 V8, the Super Track Pak option (see below), Brembo performance brakes (four-piston fronts), an upgraded exhaust and a heated sport steering wheel.
Still with us? Going with the “Plus” versions of the SXT, R/T and R/T Shaker gets you the Cold Weather and Sound Group I packages, plus the rearview camera, rear parking sensors, foglights, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, smartphone app integration (Uconnect Access), voice commands, satellite radio and emergency communications functions. The SXT Plus also has the 20-inch wheels and a rearview camera.
You can also add the Sound Group II package that tacks on a nine-speaker sound system to the “Plus” trims. The R/T Scat Pack’s Leather Interior Group adds the leather seating, ventilation and power-adjustable steering wheel as well. There’s also the Premium Sound Group that adds an 18-speaker Harman Kardon sound system to the Plus and Scat Pack trims, while the Blacktop package adds blackout-themed exterior trim and a few other extra features from other packages.
The optional Super Track Pak (SXT, SXT Plus, R/T, R/T Plus) adds 20-inch wheels, performance tuning (steering, suspension and brakes), a shorter axle ratio, and performance reporting functions in the trip computer (0-60 timer, g-force loads, etc.).
To all of the above trims, the Driver Convenience Group adds bi-xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, power-folding mirrors, a blind-spot warning system, rear cross-path warning and remote ignition (automatic only).
There’s also a 392 Scat Pack Shaker trim level that essentially mixes the R/T Scat Pack’s performance elements with the R/T Shaker Plus hood intake and extra equipment.
The Challenger SRT 392 has the same engine as the Scat Pack and comes standard with the same equipment provided by the R/T Plus trim level and Driver Convenience Group package. It also gets upgraded Brembo brakes (six-piston fronts), forged alloy wheels, a special air intake, a high-performance adaptive suspension, sportier power steering settings, upgraded leather upholstery, extra vehicle information in the trip computer and the 18-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
Available on all but the SXT and R/T trims is the Technology Group that adds automatic wipers and high-beam headlight control, adaptive cruise control (automatic transmission only) and a forward collision warning system.
And finally, we come to the SRT Hellcat. It is equipped very similarly to the SRT 392, but adds a supercharged V8 engine, a different steering system and the automatic wipers and high beam control. It does not have foglights.
A sunroof and navigation system are optional on all Challenger trims, and Dodge offers a variety of retro-look side- and hood-stripe options as well. New SRT model buyers also get a one-day course at an SRT Driving Experience school.
The 2016 Dodge Challenger SXT models are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 305 hp and 268 pound-feet of torque. Like every Challenger, it is rear-wheel drive. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission available. In Edmunds performance testing, it went from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, which is quick, but a half-second slower than an automatic Mustang EcoBoost. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 23 mpg combined (19 city/30 highway), which is decent given the Challenger SXT’s size and power.
The R/T models get a 5.7-liter V8 good for 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque when equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission, or 372 hp and 400 lb-ft with the optional eight-speed automatic. With the manual, a Challenger R/T went from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds in our tests — that’s about a full second slower than the Mustang GT. We have not tested one with the Shaker hood. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18 mpg combined (15/23) with the manual and 19 (16/25) with the automatic.
The Scat Pack and SRT 392 have a 6.4-liter V8 that produces 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque regardless of whether you get the standard six-speed manual or optional eight-speed automatic. Expect this engine to bring the Challenger from zero to 60 in the mid-4-second range. EPA fuel economy is 18 mpg (15/25) with the automatic and 17 (14/23) with the manual.
The Hellcat has a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 good for a mammoth 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. It gets stouter six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmissions. In Edmunds testing it went from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds with the manual (essentially, the rear tires are overwhelmed by the power) and 4.1 seconds with the automatic and its launch control function. Given that power and the omnipresent temptation to use it, fuel economy should be substantially worse than the EPA estimates of 16 mpg (13/22) with the automatic and 16 mpg (13/21) with the manual.
Every 2016 Dodge Challenger comes standard with antilock brakes (upgraded on certain trims), traction and stability control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. A rearview camera is standard on the “Plus” trims, SRT 392 and Hellcat. Blind-spot, rear cross-traffic and forward collision warning systems are available.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Challenger SXT Plus with the Super Track Pak and summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 104 feet, which is excellent. An R/T with the Super Track Pak was actually longer at 111 feet. A Hellcat stopped in 108 feet.
In government crash tests, the Challenger received five out of five stars for overall and side crash protection, and four stars for frontal protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2016 Challenger its top safety score of Good in the moderate-overlap front-impact and side-impact crash tests. The IIHS also gave the Challenger its second best score of Acceptable in roof strength and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests. In the small-overlap front-impact test, the Challenger received the second lowest rating of Marginal from the IIHS.
Last year’s redesign gave the Challenger the stylish cabin it always deserved. A driver-centric theme is evident in the canted center console and configurable central dash display. Automatic-transmission cars sport a T-handle that recalls the selector used in the original 1970s Challenger, while the chunky baseball-like manual shift knob is pretty cool in its own right. Moreover, the small-diameter, well-contoured steering wheel makes for a pleasant interface between car and driver. Overall materials quality is very good, and the dash features handsome metallic accents. Plus, you can now get the cabin in a color other than all-black, with handsome two-tone options available in cloth and leather cabins.
Like other Dodges, the Challenger benefits from Chrysler’s user-friendly touchscreen interfaces. While the base 5-inch system gets the job done, we highly recommend stepping up to the superb 8.4-inch, multifunction Uconnect touchscreen. It features large virtual buttons, an intuitive layout and fairly quick responses. We also appreciate the big knobs and buttons for the climate system and redundant infotainment controls (volume, tuning, menu selection, etc.).
All of the above makes the Challenger competitive, but interior space is where it utterly puts to shame its Ford and Chevy rivals. The backseat is remarkably roomy for two adults, with good headroom and decent legroom. By comparison, the Mustang and Camaro are really for small children only. There are even rear air vents, though the big rear pillars that also hamper visibility admittedly make it a tad claustrophobic.
The 16.2-cubic-foot trunk is on par with what you’d find in some full-size sedans — and it gets bigger when you fold down the 60/40-split backseat. If you’re looking for the most livable muscle coupe, this is it.
One of the 2016 Dodge Challenger’s signature traits is its excellent ride quality. You could take this big coupe on an all-day road trip and feel as if you never left your sofa. The default suspension tuning of the base SXT is pretty floaty, however. As such, we recommend springing at least for the Super Track Pak option, as it includes firmer underpinnings. Otherwise, the Challenger actually handles rather well. This is especially true of the higher-performance versions, which provide a crisp, responsive and confident drive on a curvy road. Still, none of them will let you forget about the car’s sheer bulk, especially on narrow roads. The Mustang and Camaro are more agile and less imposing around tighter turns, and can be fitted with wider and grippier tires. In that way, the Challenger is the most classic muscle car of them all.
With 305 horses on tap, we were pleasantly surprised at just how quick the base V6 is, and it can still smoke the tires and swing the tail out if you so desire. However, if such behavior is on your to-do list, one of the V8s is what you’re going to want to achieve the full muscle car experience. The standard R/T’s 5.7-liter V8 accelerates smartly and makes lovely noises, while the bigger 6.4-liter V8 (used in the Scat Pack and SRT 392) pumps up the performance to a degree that surpasses the Mustang GT. And then there’s the 707-hp supercharged Hellcat, which can effectively be described as tire-smoking insanity. We hope buyers know a guy at the local tire shop, and if they don’t, well, they will soon.
Although the manual transmission is easy to operate, it does have somewhat long throws and is saddled with an annoying foot-operated parking brake that can get in the way when you’re sliding your foot from dead pedal to clutch. Having said that, this is a muscle car and opting for the manual is still the cooler way to go. Nevertheless, the eight-speed automatic is an excellent transmission that’ll return better fuel economy (should you care) and actually snap off quicker shifts for those planning on running quarters on Grudge Night.