2021 Dodge Challenger
2021 Dodge Challenger
First introduced in 2008 as a faithfully-styled homage to the 1970 model, the 2021 Dodge Challenger has seen little in the way of styling updates but plenty in the way of extra horsepower. Its familiar looks haven’t aged, however, and neither have we sickened of the seemingly yearly power infusions.
Headlining 2021 is a new 807-horsepower Super Stock model. The new year also brings new memory functions for higher-trim models equipped with power-adjustable seats, mirrors, and steering column.
The engine lineup of the Challenger mirrors that of its four-door sibling, the Dodge Charger. At the bottom is the 3.6-liter V-6 that makes 303 horsepower. Unique among muscle cars is the all-wheel-drive option offered with this engine. It’s by far the most practical choice here, as backed up by EPA estimates of 19 mpg city, 30 highway, 23 combined with rear-wheel drive or 18/27/21 mpg with all-wheel drive.
The rest of the way up is all V-8 and rear-drive. The 375-horsepower, 5.7-liter V-8 in the R/T starts off the fun, followed by the 485-horsepower 6.4-liter V-8 found in the R/T Scat Pack. The 0-60 mph run is done in about five or four seconds, respectively. Both engines can be had with either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. Gas mileage isn’t anything great at 16/25/19 mpg for an automatic R/T or 15/24/18 mpg for a similarly-equipped Scat Pack. Opting for the manual sinks those numbers by 1 mpg.
If even the Scat Pack doesn’t cut the mustard, consider the pair of Hellcat engines. Offered with 717 horsepower in the Hellcat or 797 horsepower in the Hellcat Redeye, this supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 doles out power by the bucketful. Its 0-60 mph time is as fast as 3.5 seconds, and the quarter-mile is evaporated in about eleven seconds with the standard-equipment street-legal rubber. The Redeye comes exclusively with an 8-speed automatic, but the standard Hellcat still offers the choice of a 6-speed manual.
New for 2021 is the new, range-topping SRT Super Stock. Its 807 horsepower is the most the Hellcat engine has churned out since the one-year-only Demon model that saw limited production a few years back. It rides on 18-inch wheels and street-legal drag slicks and is designed expressly for quarter-mile dominance.
All that power should come with the requisite active-safety gear, but the Challenger dates back to before the proliferation of such equipment. Buyers can pony up for adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and automatic high-beams, but no amount of money will buy automatic emergency braking.
The NHTSA awarded the Challenger four stars overall for crashworthiness.
All prices reflect applicable destination charges.
The cheapest Challenger is the $29,790 SXT. That price buys the basics: a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, cloth upholstery, and a power-adjustable driver’s seat.
The $32,790 GT continues to use the V-6 for motivation but adds paddle shifters, 20-inch wheels, a performance-tuned suspension, and a working hood scoop.
At $36,490, the R/T is the cheapest V-8 model. Its list of comfort and convenience equipment mirrors the GT.
The $41,990 R/T Scat Pack trades off the 5.7-liter V-8 of the R/T for a 6.4-liter V-8. This is the first trim to come with the larger 8.4-inch touchscreen; there’s also heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Bigger brakes and launch control help manage the 485 unruly horsepower. A widebody variant of the Scat Pack is available for another $5,500.
Hellcats require shelling out at least $62,190. That money buys 717 horsepower, leather upholstery, bespoke suspension tuning, heavy-duty componentry, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and navigation. The similarly-equipped Hellcat Redeye corrals 797 horsepower for $73,790. Both are available in widebody trim.
The SRT Super Stock costs $84,085. A widebody kit and 18-inch wheels are standard, as is the 8.4-inch touchscreen, the base cloth upholstery, and numerous performance upgrades specific to improving quarter-mile times.
Not much needs to be said here, because who isn’t intimately familiar with the looks of the Challenger? Dodge penned the lines for this big coupe back in the mid-Aughts and it hasn’t gone back to the drafting table since. The Challenger is still as blatantly retro as ever.
But is there any need to fix what ain’t broke? The Challenger has carved out a niche for itself, and its throwback looks are as much a part of the persona as the big engines. Quad-lamp headlights, an upright front fascia, and the long hood topped with a functional hood scoop project in no uncertain terms what sort of bully this Dodge really is. The profile view isn’t as purposeful but is nonetheless pretty, with appealing proportions and satisfying lines that are teeming with old-school cool. The very defined trunk lid—no pseudo-hatch here—and full-width taillights out back round out the vintage aesthetic.
The Challenger’s cabin is as basic as a country drag strip, particularly in its more affordable forms.
The infotainment system is excellent. We’ve raved about the responsive and inherently logical Uconnect software for years, and time has not diminished the appeal of this system. Though the 7.0-inch screen on cheaper trims is good enough, we prefer the 8.4-inch unit used in the pricier models. Both sizes come standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Challenger seats four, and unlike its domestic muscle-car competition it can do so in full comfort. The back seat might feel a bit claustrophobic due to the low roof and small rear quarter windows, but leg room is plentiful and the cushions are just as plush as those in the Charger. This is the rare modern coupe with a back seat that isn’t just an upholstered shelf with seatbelts.
If there’s any complaints with the front seats, it’s that the outward view from them is limited. The Challenger’s retro style makes over-the-shoulder spotting tough, so make sure to get the optional blind-spot monitors.
The Challenger’s full-size bones mean that trunk space is excellent for the class. Buyers get a full 16.2 cubic feet to work with, which is more than many big sedans.
No Challenger feels slow. This car has power, even in base form. It might not be a Porsche in the corners, but on any sort of straight this big coupe shines. Punch the gas and let the 8-speed grab a lower gear. Whatever engine is under the hood will determine how hard you get shoved into the back of your seat.
Of all the options, most buyers will likely drive home with the 5.7-liter V-8. We see nothing wrong with that—for the price, its 375 horsepower is ample, and the available 6-speed is charming and keeps with the character of the Challenger. Five seconds is enough time to bring around 60 mph but not enough to enjoy the sound of the 5.7-liter—or any Challenger powertrain—under full throttle.
The Hellcats deserve special mention as well, though their price point puts them out of reach for many. That doesn’t make it a bad deal, though—on the contrary, the performance-per-dollar provided by the Hellcat shames pretty much anything not called the Corvette. It still can’t corner like an exotic, but the cannonlike acceleration and righteous noises make it a thrilling visceral experience. If anything will convert an autocrosser to a drag racer, this is it.
Driven responsibly, the Challenger is the ideal grand tourer. Sharing its platform with two full-size sedans means it gets excellent highway manners, tracking confidently down the interstate and hardly ever affected by bumps, jolts, and potholes.
Powerful, stylish, comfortable, and usable, the 2021 Dodge Challenger is the ultimate muscle car for those who want equal parts performance and practicality. Our pick of the litter for most buyers is the 5.7-liter R/T for its stellar value, though anyone who can afford to do so should step up to the Scat Pack and its 485 horsepower.
—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection