The 2021 Dodge Challenger is Mopar’s old-school alternative to the more recently updated and more focused Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. The Dodge Challenger is the name of three different generations of automobiles (two of those being pony cars) produced by American automobile manufacturer Dodge. However, the first use of the Challenger name by Dodge was in 1959 for marketing a “value version” of the full-sized Coronet Silver Challenger. From model years 1970 to 1974, the first generation Dodge Challenger pony car was built using the Chrysler E platform in hardtop and convertible body styles sharing major components with the Plymouth Barracuda. It was first introduced for the 2008 model year, with a refresh in 2015 including the debut of the supercharged Challenger Hellcat. Performance models emphasize straight-line performance with drag-strip specials like the Demon and Super Stock, unlike track-focused muscle cars from Ford and Chevy.
The Challenger has a classic muscle-car interior, with a simple design inspired by its 1970s-era predecessors and comfortable accommodations. Every Challenger features a touchscreen infotainment display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, but you’ll get a bigger screen on higher trims. Every Challenger has a version of Dodge’s easy-to-use Uconnect infotainment system. The feature-filled unit includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as standard equipment. The lower half of the Challenger lineup (SXT, GT, and R/T trims) includes a 7.0-inch display, while R/T Scat Pack examples and SRT models feature an 8.4-inch display. Those with the larger screen also include satellite radio capability. Six-speaker audio is standard on entry level models and a six-speaker Alpine premium system is standard on R/T Scat Pack and above. There are also two optional systems: a nine-speaker Alpine offering and an 18-speaker Harman Kardon setup.
Dodge’s big two-door is larger and heavier than its Detroit-based competition, a handling disadvantage that can’t quite be overcome with huge, grippy tires and a giant V-8. That said, the Challenger’s V-8 offerings provide a guttural growl, low-end torque, and near-endless smiles for the lucky enthusiast behind the wheel. We also appreciate the availability of AWD on V-6 models and regardless of trim, the interior features high-quality materials and FCA’s intuitive UConnect infotainment interface. And hey, Dodge will sell you a 717-hp supercharged monster with three pedals and a stick between the seats! The EPA estimates the 2021 Challenger with the V-6 and rear-wheel drive will earn 19 mpg city and 30 highway. Adding all-wheel drive into the mix nixes those ratings by 1 and 3 mpg, respectively. Challengers with the 5.7-liter V-8 are expected to earn up to 16 mpg city and 25 highway. Versions with the 6.4-liter V-8 are rated up to 15 mpg city and 24 highway.
The Challenger hustles through corners like a raging bull seeing red, snorting aggressively and swaying threateningly. The burly Dodge is a muscle car in the truest sense: It’s better on the street and the drag strip than on two-lanes and road courses. Since the lineup’s redesign in 2015, the models we’ve driven have offered a compliant ride that’s comfortable but a bit unrefined. Compared with the sharper and stickier handling of the Camaro and Mustang, however, the Challenger is too soft in tight turns and its steering is too numb. The slow-to-react helm is well suited to leisurely drives and easily controlled power-induced tail slides. The Challenger is more of a grand tourer than a focused sports car, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Its ethos is further emphasized by the Challenger’s quiet, comfortable cabin and smooth ride quality. The Challenger has loads of powertrain options. Six- and eight-cylinder, naturally aspirated and forced induction, RWD and AWD, manual and automatic; Dodge provides almost every configuration drivers could want.
The Challenger has not been the strongest performer in IIHS safety testing. A Technology package available on all trims adds rain-sensing wipers, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control. If you opt for the Driver Convenience package, your Challenger will be outfitted with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. It receives a marginal score in the small overlap front: driver’s side test and Acceptable ratings for roof strength as well as head restraints and seats. The optional front crash prevention system is rated as Basic. In NHTSA safety evaluations, the Challenger earns a five-star overall safety rating with four-star scores in frontal crash and rollover. The Challenger technically seats five, but those relegated to the back seat will have to fold the front chairs forward and wedge themselves back there. Front legroom measures 42.0 inches, but rear seat passengers have to make do with 33.1 inches. Compared with its pony-car rivals, the Dodge is far roomier inside, and adults can actually use the back seat and is the only car in the segment with five seats.
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