$22,111 - $59,120

2018 Dodge Challenger Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.3

The 2018 Dodge Challenger is powerful with any of its engines, but the supercharged V8s deliver an obscene amount of juice. The ride is smooth, and fuel economy – at least with the base V6 – is decent. However, the Challenger doesn’t handle as well as some of its competitors.

  • "One of the 2016 Dodge Challenger's signature traits is its excellent ride quality. … 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. … In that way, the Challenger is the most classic muscle car of them all." -- Edmunds (2016)
  • In all, the Challenger is a much better cruiser than before, which is good since – even with the aforementioned improvements – it's still no match for the Camaro or Mustang when the road goes all bendy." -- Car and Driver (2015)
  • "While the biggest news this year is the SRT Hellcat and its 707-horsepower supercharged V8 engine, the reality is that every 2015 Dodge Challenger benefits from significant upgrades. The standard-issue automatic transmission is now the excellent 8-speed we've enjoyed in the Chrysler 300. Here, it helps even the V6 SXT achieve new performance heights." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)

Acceleration and Power

Depending on which trim you want, the Challenger comes with one of five engines. The base engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that puts out 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. It’s smooth and has ample power, but it isn’t quite as energetic as rival base engines.

The base engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that’s responsive and shifts smoothly. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard in all V8-powered Challenger models, and the eight-speed automatic is available. The manual is easy to shift, but the emergency brake is operated by a pedal, and it can get in the way when moving your left foot on and off the clutch pedal at times.

All of the available engines are V8s. Many R/T and T/A trims feature a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that produces 372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque when paired with an automatic transmission (375 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque with a manual transmission).

The R/T Scat Pack and the Challenger 392 trims (like the T/A 392) feature a 6.4-liter V8 engine (equivalent to a 392-cubic-inch V8). It puts out 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque.

The Challenger Hellcat features a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 that puts out a borderline-irresponsible 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.

The new-for-2018 Demon goes a step further with an engine that’s actually irresponsible (in a good way). It also features a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, but in the Demon, it puts out up to 840 horsepower and 770 pound-feet of torque.

All of the V8s deliver outstanding acceleration and more than enough power for any real-life driving situation. The higher-powered Hellcat and Demon trims have physics-defying acceleration and are right at home doing runs down the drag strip.

The V6 gets the best fuel economy of any engine. It earns an EPA-estimated 19 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway, which is about average for a muscle car. The lower-end V8s get about 15/16 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The supercharged V8s get the worst fuel economy, at 13 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway.

  • 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." -- Edmunds (2016)
  • "Around town, the V-6 is quiet and subdued, and the overall feeling is one of massiveness and maturity. This particular model doesn't encourage displays of raw testosterone, as do the brutal Challenger Hellcat or the naturally aspirated Hemi models." -- Car and Driver (2015)
  • "The R/T's 5.7-liter V8 sounds great and is plenty quick, but it's somewhat limited by its sub-6,000-rpm redline, which seems to cut in right when the party's getting started. The 6.4-liter V8 revs more freely and makes a lot more power besides, with a soundtrack that's totally NASCAR-worthy when you're deep in the throttle." -- Autotrader (2015)

Handling and Braking

Rear-wheel drive comes standard in the Challenger. All-wheel drive is unavailable in the majority of trims, though the Challenger GT trim comes standard with AWD. There are also several performance upgrades available in select trims, including Brembo brakes, high-performance and competition-grade suspension systems, and a Bilstein adaptive damping system (for rapid suspension adjustments).

The Challenger feels like a big car, and it lacks the agility of many competitors. Though the steering is sharp and the brakes are strong, there’s a decent amount of body roll when taking turns compared to other sports cars. It's worth noting that the GT AWD trim offers significantly better road grip, and it's handling is more adept as a result. The Challenger's ride quality is excellent.

  • The Challenger's responsive steering helps maneuverability, but the car just feels big, especially on narrow roads and tight corners. The gas and brake pedal are responsive and easily modulated." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • The Challenger may look mean, but it's surprisingly docile behind the wheel. Steering effort is light, ride quality is luxury-car smooth, and road noise is subdued by performance-car standards. However, there's no getting around the Challenger's considerable mass, which imparts a commanding feel on the highway but becomes quite evident on tight roads. Although sportier Challengers are capable by the numbers, they feel big and heavy when driven like sports cars." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "The Hellcat is a more extreme machine than the Scat Pack, but it's just as comfortable when puttering around town. That's down to its three-mode suspension, which offers a surprisingly compliant 'Street' mode. 'Sport' mode and super stiff 'Track' mode are also available. The Hellcat is a couple hundred pounds heavier than the Scat Pack, but it boasts higher cornering limits thanks to its Track suspension setting and wider 275-width Pirelli tires. Again, the Hellcat is much more balanced and well controlled than you'd expect from a big muscle car, but it's still not as nimble as a true sports car." -- Left Lane News (2015)

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