The muscle car as we know it is soon to disappear, as electrification overtakes the engine bay, or supplants it entirely with a frunk, its motivation now residing elsewhere.
And at Dodge, which built its modern image around every increasing amounts of horsepower and dressed in menacing dross. For the Dodge faithful, it’s red meat, one that reaches its raucous crescendo in the Dodge Challenger Last Call Series — seven limited edition models each with its own unique persona that lends insight into this vanishing automotive breed.
As you know doubt know by now, the Challenger is offered in regular and Widebody versions, in ascending SXT, GT, R/T, R/T Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat, SRT Hellcat Redeye and SRT Super Stock trim.
All models come with rear-wheel drive, although V-6-powered SXTs and GTs can be fitted with all-wheel drive. Given the current version has been around since getting a major refresh in 2014, Dodge has kept interest aroused by turning up the performance wick and a plethora of trim packages.
Of the seven Last Call models, Dodge loaned us a Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody Black Ghost edition, the sixth of seven models. One of 300 to be built, it was unveiled in September 2022, it’s basically an SRT Hellcat Widebody with the High-Output 807-horsepower V-8 engine. Yum!
Yes, it’s painted black, as you’d might expect, which menacingly accentuates the dual hood-mounted air-intakes, and plays host to the subtle, yet way-cool, reptile skin-textured roof panel. There’s also a large white stripe wrapping the trunk and rear quarter panels.
A chrome fuel filler door and letters spelling out the Dodge name on the hood are thoughtful retro touches that contrast beautifully against the black paint. A deep front-end spoiler and hood pins add the finishing touch to a vehicle not intended for those in the witness protection program. The shape might look familiar, but this is a beautiful update for the ol’ boy.
The inside should be familiar to anyone who’s been in a Challenger during the past decade. But there are updates, such as the leather and microsuede accents that enrich an interior which nevertheless can’t hide all of its plebian roots. And there’s genuine carbon fiber, and seats that hold you in place and have the requisite firmness without being punishing.
The instrument panel was always functional, but hardly distinctive, something true of the who interior. At least the Black Ghost trim elevates it somewhat. That said, it was impressively assembled and lacked any squeaks or rattles.
As you’d expect, the front seat proved roomy, although storage space is adequate at best. The rear seat is better than you might expect, but then again, at more than 197 inches long, this is nearly a full-size car, at least on the outside.
Challengers start with a 3.3-liter, 306-horsepower V-6. The Black Ghost is the other extreme, boasting an 807-hp Supercharged High-Output V-8 that generates 707 pound-feet of torque. While all models come with or can be fitted with an 8-speed automatic transmission, a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission standard on the R/T, R/T Scat Pack and SRT Hellcat models.
All models come with Sport, Track and Default modes, but the Custom mode lets drivers tailor the car’s response, adjusting its horsepower, transmission shift schedules, steering, automatic transmission paddle shifters, traction and suspension. Yes, it has an Eco mode, but why would it ever be used?
That said, much like the throwback that it is, the Hellcat is a thirsty beast, rated at 15 mpg in mixed city/highway driving. Our week-long test drive, which included about 60% highway driving, returned 15.4 mpg. And keep in mind that Dodge recommends using mid-grade 91 octane fuel.
Safety and Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t rated the 2023 Dodge Challenger, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has, and its ratings are mixed. It ranks the Dodge as Good in moderate overlap front and side crash tests. It’s rated as Marginal in small overlap front driver-side testing and Acceptable in Roof strength and head restraints and seat ratings.
The Dodge Challenger’s Uconnect software is still among the easiest interfaces to use among any automaker. Thankfully, designers not only included large knobs for volume and tuning, they also have a hard button for the SRT screen, where adjustments to the car’s performance can be made. The system proved responsive. Less thrilling was the audio system, with a tinny treble, ground-shaking bass and a total lack of mid-range that did much to reveal the poor sound of SiriusXM. It did a far better job when playing our personal music library.
And of course, it had the requisite USB plugs, although its age was showing in its lack of a wireless device charger.
The Challenger is a resplendent anachronism, one that makes itself clear once you release its foot-operated parking brake. Keeping the tail planted calls for judicious use of the throttle; a heavy foot sends this puppy sideways. Unless your names are Bo and Luke, this can come back to bite the unsuspecting at the most inopportune times.
Even a quick getaway from a traffic light can cause the back end to bossa nova. But that’s its joy. The electronic nanny state doesn’t step in to bring the car between the lines when all you want to do is clip the apex. It doesn’t shut off the car at a traffic light, taking with it the air conditioning. OK, we did appreciate the blind-spot detection; over-the-shoulder visibility is terrible.
The paddle shifters proved to be a whole mess of fun, scaring the bejesus out of bystanders when using them to extract ultimate power and cylindrical song. They actuated quickly and added a dimension of fun for those who have to share the car with non-manual-driving mate. But the exhaust note, while welcome for, say, daily driving, became a noticeable drone when driving longer distances on the highway.
2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody Black Ghost Specifications
|L: 197.5 inches/W: 78.3 inches/H: 57.5 inches/Wheelbase: 116 inches
|6.2-liter supercharged High-Output V-8 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive
|13 mpg city/21 mpg highway/15 mpg combined
|807 horsepower and 707 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $99,315; As tested: Not available
There’s a raw uncivilized nature to the 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody Black Ghost that is a rare commodity in a soon-to-be watt-driven world. It’s certainly a change of pace, with a power profile nearly beyond the capacity of the platform to control it. That lends it an outside, outlaw persona that has kept sales percolating for years.
But Dodge is wise to set it out to pasture. We are at. A point where drivelines have matured with the help of electrification. The fierceness is there, so is the speed; but the control is superior. One could argue whether this is. Good thing or not. And given that agas engine is nothing but a controlled explosion, its lack of presence lends EVs an unearthly calm. One is better than the other, merely different.
But having driven an increasing number of electrified vehicles that effortlessly, silently and swiftly provide incredible amounts of speed, this car feels like an anachronism — albeit a resplendent one.
2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat — Frequently Asked Questions
How much will the 2023 Hellcat cost?
The 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat starts at $69,895 before destination charge, options and taxes.
Will Dodge make a 2023 Hellcat?
Yes, but it will be its final year of production.
How much horsepower does the 2023 Hellcat Jailbreak have?
It boasts 807 horsepower.