Dodge is revamping its lineup of muscle cars for 2015; using the stunning 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat as a calling card to show that it is possible to blend modern technology with traditional design cues to create an entirely new line of vehicles with power, distinctive heritage and celebrated silhouettes.
Though sales have slipped a bit in recent months – nothing unusual for a model about to get a major redesign – the muscle coupe has given competitors such as the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro a run for their money since Challenger was re-launched in 2009.
A big part of its appeal has been a distinctive design that “won’t get lost in a mall parking lot,” said Tim Kiniskis, head of the Dodge brand, during the first media drive of the 2015 model.
But performance also matters to these buyers, and as the most powerful factory-built muscle car ever, the $60,000 Hellcat is expected to serve as a halo car for not only the SRT line of performance cars, but the entire Dodge brand.
The newly merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to offer four different versions of the Challenger in 2015, starting with “base” SXT with a mere 305 horsepower V-6 and $27,000 price tag. The Challenger SXT will have an eight-speed transmission and boast a 30 mpg fuel-economy rating.
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The 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T model features the high-torque 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 making 375 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque, buyers getting a choice of either an eight speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission, at a base price of $31,495.
The Challenger R/T Scat Pack bumps things up a notch with a 6.4-liter Hemi and 485 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft. of torque. A throwback to the old Dodge Super Bee, it will launch from 0-60 mph in the low 4-second range, yet still is rated at up to 25 mpg highway with a starting U.S. MSRP of $38,495.
The Challenger SRT 392, new for 2015, is designed for those who want more than just raw performance. Its 6.4-liter Hemi will make 485 horsepower – with six-piston front Brembo brakes to scrub off speed. The SRT 392 rides on20 x 9.5-inch wide forged wheels, and it features a three-mode adaptive suspension and an all-new Drive Modes system to personally tailor the driving experience. Rounding out the package is an 18-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, the Challenger SRT 392 starting at $45,995.
The all-new Challenger SRT Hellcat is the first Dodge muscle car to go with a blower, the supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat engine pounding out 707 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque, making it the most powerful muscle car to ever roll off of one of Detroit’s assembly lines. Dodge underscored its capabilities by demonstrating an NHRA-certified 10.8 second quarter mile time.
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There is a price for performance, however, the new Hellcat starting at $59,995, a figure that includes a gas guzzler penalty, as well as the $995 destination fee.
“It was important that we establish a price walk for the Challenger,” which will compete with Ford’s new Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro, Kiniskis told reporters.
The Dodge and SRT brands now offer the most complete lineup of muscle cars, loaded with even more performance, technology, hardware and value, the maker claims – though both Chevy and Ford have been expanding their own line-ups.
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Dodge hasn’t strayed far from the design of the re-born Challenger that returned to its line-up in 2009 – which was, itself, a clear paean to the Challenger of the golden age of muscle cars.
The exterior and interior continue to recall the look of the 1971 Challenger but the coupe is more than just a retro-mobile, with 2015 bringing significant new technology upgrades, such as the latest Uconnect infotainment system with standard touchscreen, a 7-inch TFT gauge cluster, new performance electronic shifter, and Keyless Enter ‘n Go with push-button start.
Features such as Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, automatic high-beam headlamps, blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection and backup cameras are also available on the new Challengers.
“The Dodge Challenger has been on a tear – setting an all-time sales record in 2013 – its fifth year on sale,” Kuniskis said. And despite tough competition from the likes of the redesigned Mustang due to market later this year, Dodge is hoping to continue gaining ground in 2015 as the segment it competes in is expected to grow from last year’s 430,000 sales.
Kiniskis said Dodge isn’t just bringing a new Challenger into the muscle-car segment for 2015, it’s also in a position to claim bragging rights by offering the most affordable 700 horsepower car in America.
“The Hellcat version actually has the horsepower of much more expensive ‘Exotic’ cars with far larger price tags,” Kiniskis noted.
And while it likely won’t generate major sales, Dodge is betting that the Hellcat can draw into showrooms a hell of a lot of gawkers who’ll drive off with some other version of the Challenger.
(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)