2020 Dodge Challenger

By April 24, 2020

For more than a decade, the Dodge Challenger has attracted notice by virtue of its muscle-car profile, two-door coupe body, and high-powered engines. Spicy-hot looks mixed with vivid performance, in a modern-day paean to the past. Brash and thrilling even in less-potent form, the 2020 Dodge Challenger continues its role as a throwback to the original model, which debuted for 1970.

For 2020, Dodge marks the Challenger’s original debut with a limited-production 50th Anniversary Edition. It includes a shaker hood scoop, carbon fiber interior trim, a custom gloss black hood, roof, and trunk lid, and more. Only 70 cars will be produced in each trim and color combination.

The sizzling array of trim levels stretches from the base SXT to the SRT Hellcat Redeye. The latter’s supercharged V-8 engine, packed into a widened body, unleashes a mighty 797 horsepower. Engine choices include a base V6 and four different V-8s.

Challenger SXT and GT models use a 3.6-liter V-6 that makes a satisfying 305 hp and 268 pound-feet of torque, mated with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive is available for $3,000 with the V-6.

The Challenger R/T steps up to a familiar 5.7-liter V-8 that develops 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Offered only with rear-wheel drive, the R/T can be equipped with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or optional 8-speed automatic.

Next on the list is the R/T Scat Pack, which brings a lusty 6.4-liter V-8 (392 cubic inches, using the 1970s measure for displacement). Generating 485 hp and 475 lb-ft, the “392” can reach 60 mph in a dashing 4.4 seconds. It also comes standard with the 6-speed manual.

If that level of performance simply won’t suffice, the SRT Hellcat fits a supercharger atop a 6.2-liter V-8, issuing a startling 717 hp. Acceleration to 60 mph from a standstill shrinks to a raucous 3.5 seconds. The six-speed manual is standard here, too.

Dodge takes one final step on the performance with the SRT Hellcat Redeye. Offered only with the 8-speed automatic, the Redeye holds a ferocious rendition of the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, flexing every muscle to squeeze out 797 hp and 707 lb-ft.

Both the SRT Hellcat and SRT Hellcat Redeye are available in Widebody form, which adds 2.5 inches to the Challenger’s width. Tires are wider, too, adding to the coupe’s cool appearance and enhancing its prolific capabilities.

Although V-6 Challengers are relatively frugal, that word definitely doesn’t describe any V-8 models. With rear-wheel drive, the Challenger is EPA-rated at 19 mpg city, 30 highway, and 23 combined. All-wheel drive lowers fuel economy to 18/27/21 mpg.

With its 5.7-liter V-8, the R/T is rated at 15/23/18 mpg with the manual gearbox and 16/25/19 mpg with the automatic. The R/T Scatpack with the 6.4-liter V-8 dips to 14/23/17 mpg with the manual and 15/24/18 mpg with the automatic. The SRT Hellcat and Redeye are rated at 13/22/16 mpg. All V-8s require premium fuel.

Safety is hardly a Challenger strong point, due in part to archaic design basics. The NHTSA hasn’t fully tested the 2020 model, but the 2019 version did earn a five-star overall safety rating. It failed to earn a designation from the IIHS, with a “Marginal” small-overlap front test for the driver’s side and “Acceptable” ratings for roof strength and the seats and head restraints.

Standard active safety features are sadly absent. Blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warnings, and adaptive cruise control are all optional. Automatic emergency braking isn’t even available, much less standard.

Model Lineup

The Dodge Challenger is available in six trim levels: SXT, GT, R/T, R/T Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat, and SRT Hellcat Redeye.

The SXT base model starts at $29,590 and comes with the 3.6-liter V-6, houndstooth cloth upholstery, a power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and 18-inch alloy wheels (19-inch with AWD).

The $32,140 GT also includes the 3.6-liter V-6, but adds paddle shifters, 20-inch wheels, a performance suspension, and functional hood scoop. The R/T costs $36,090 and adds nothing but the 5.7-liter V-8.

Stepping higher on power, the $41,740 R/T Scat Pack comes with the 6.4-liter V-8. It also includes Brembo brakes, upgraded engine cooling, launch control, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen.

The SRT Hellcat is priced from $62,440 stretches high for performance with a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 with 717 hp, heavier-duty performance components, adaptive dampers, and a flat-bottom steering wheel. The $73,440 SRT Hellcat Redeye boosts output from the supercharged V-8 to a whopping 797 hp.

Exterior

Each Challenger flaunts a “classic” two-door body with a long hood and wide proportions. Wide haunches suggest the formidable performance that awaits. Widebody variants are broader yet.

Like early Challenger models, the deep-set grille is flanked by round headlights. Long, wide taillights also suggest the 1970s original. Most V-8 models have hood scoops or shakers. Despite a design that dates back half a century, muscle-car flair is as cool and energizing as ever. As before, plenty of packages are available to customize the Challenger’s body.

Interior

Within the sizable and comfortable cockpit, the dashboard cants toward the driver. Because the two-door shares its foundation with Dodge’s four-door Charger sedan, passenger space is pleasing,

Logically enough, large front buckets were developed with wide American bodies in mind. Spacious and thickly padded, they make the Challenger one of the most comfortable cars on the road. During spirited drives, smaller folks might even slide back and forth a bit.

As expected even in larger coupes, the back seat is small and cramped. Climbing into the rear compartment isn’t easy for adults, either. It’s best used occasionally and for children.

Durable-feeling houndstooth cloth upholstery, standard on all Challengers, recalls the coupe’s heritage. Despite a dark interior, fit and finish excel. Most surfaces are soft-touch. A 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen is standard, but some models get an 8.4-inch version.

At 16.2 cubic feet, cargo space may be dubbed cavernous. Liftover height is a tad tall and the opening is a bit small.

Driving Impressions

Challengers are big and heavy, but also stirring performers. Prolific power has to contend with vehicle weight, which becomes noticeable at times.

Naturally, acceleration potential is directly related to engine output. Even V-6 models are vigorous, but muscle-car purists can’t help being enticed by one of the V-8s.

In addition to satisfying responses, an R/T with the 5.7-liter V-8 emits a deep burbling note, reminiscent of Challenger models of the past. Don’t expect the bigger V-8s, topped by the supercharged monster in the aptly-named SRT Hellcat, to be quiet as they unleash blasts of unrestrained energy.

As expected, ride comfort varies by trim level. A price must be paid for peak performance.

Adaptive dampers on top models help the coupe cope with corners, assisted by clever tuning. Still, a Challenger doesn’t match its main competitors, the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, when the straightaway ends.

Final Word

The brash, retro muscle-car looks of the 2020 Dodge Challenger first attracts the eye, but what’s beneath the hood seals the bargain, especially when the sounds of big V-8 power enter the picture. Delightfully comfortable seats add to the equation, but not in the cramped rear compartment. Twin drawbacks cast a negative shadow: the lack of active safety features and atrocious fuel economy. The R/T Scat Pack is a great performance value, but base V-6 coupes are an outright bargain with their own brand of vigor and delightful driving.

 

—by James M. Flammang, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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