The cleverness Challenger has been around since the late 1960s as a competitor to the behemoth that the Ford Mustang was and still is. It’s also the only one of the so-called ‘Big Three’ that still looks and drives like a traditional muscle car.
Where the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro have both opted to produce smaller, more fuel-efficient 4-cylinder turbo versions of their award-winning muscle cars, Dodge has remained steadfast, offering a fairly large V6 as a base model, along with a 5.7-liter V8 in the R/T trim, a 6.4-liter in the Scat Pack and their trademark Hellcat V8 in everything else. Compared to the Hellcat, the V6 is quite underpowered, but it’s still one of the better entry-level options on the market today, producing as much power as a high-end V6 Toyota Camry, but for less money.
So even though the Challenger in its current form has been around for nearly 15 years, it’s still a worthy competitor in the entry-level muscle car market. Here are eight reasons we love the Dodge Challenger SXT and two reasons we probably would never buy one.
10/10 Why we should buy one – it’s value for money
The Dodge Challenger SXT is pretty good value for money. The base engine starts with a V6, compared to the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang which both have 4-cylinder turbos. The Challenger starts at just over $30,000, while the Camaro and Mustang both start from around $27,000 — with the V6 in the Camaro starting at $29,000.
Although the Challenger is more expensive, it is bigger, more practical and equipped with more equipment as standard. It also comes standard with a smooth automatic transmission.
9/10 Why we should buy one – it can be optional with four-wheel drive
Unlike any version of the Camaro or Mustang, the SXT — and the GT trim above it — can be fitted with four-wheel drive. This adds to the practicality of the vehicle, allowing it to drive comfortably in snowy areas without the rear wheels spinning constantly.
This doesn’t mean the Challenger can’t be fun. It has the same four-wheel drive system as the Charger Pursuit, meaning the front axle can be disconnected, turning the SXT AWD into a regular V6-powered muscle car, which can burn the tires like anything else.
8/10 Why we should buy one – it has a good automatic transmission
When the Challenger was launched in 2008, it had a choice of three transmissions: a six-speed manual or a four- and five-speed automatic. The 4-speed manual transmission was a Chrysler unit available since 1989, while the 5-speed manual de 5G-Tronic Mercedes-Benz unit left over from the time when Daimler-Chrysler existed.
In 2014 Dodge introduced the award-winning 8-speed ZF 8HP automatic torque converter – a transmission used all over the world. The Challenger currently uses three versions of this gearbox, namely the 845RE for V6 cars, the 8HP70 for the non-supercharged V8s, and the 8HP90 for Hellcat powered vehicles. ZF also has the 8HP95 for use in the heavy-duty Jeep Trackhawk, RAM TRX and Dodge Durango Hellcat that can handle the stresses caused by increased weight.
7/10 Why we should buy one – it looks like a real muscle car
The Challenger is the last of the American muscle cars that still looks like like a muscle car. The Mustang and Camaro have shifted more towards the sports car look, with the Mustang even becoming the best-selling sports car on the planet.
The Challenger in that regard is stubborn, still square and non-aerodynamic, showing a disinterest in being frugal – all while being ridiculous and comfortable at the same time. All the right muscle car features that car enthusiasts want.
6/10 Why we should buy one – it has enough performance
With the base model with only a V6 engine, the Challenger SXT is pretty good in terms of performance. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 produces 303 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, allowing the 3800 lb behemoth to accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds.
This is as fast as a V6 Camaro and slightly slower than an EcoBoost Mustang, while being nearly 500 lbs heavier. Not bad for the cheapest trim level of one of the most iconic American models ever made.
5/10 Why we should buy one – it has some nice options
The Challenger has been relatively well equipped from the get-go, with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, sports seats, cruise control and two-zone climate control. That said, there are a few options we would tick just to make life a little more comfortable.
The main one is the Plus package, which includes most of the necessary technology, such as Android Auto, a bigger infotainment screen, better tires, better brakes, fog lights and some extra USB ports scattered throughout. It’s a $3,000 option, but it’s worth it. Another great option if you’re driving long distances is the $1,300 technology package, which includes adaptive cruise control, collision warning and automatic high beam control.
4/10 Why we should buy one – it comes in fun colors
Like the original, the current Challenger is available in a range of fun colors. Pitch Black and White Knuckle are the free options, while the other colors cost $95 or $395. Some of the more exciting colors include Hellraisin Purple, Octane Red, Go Mango Orange, Indigo Blue, Smoke Show Silver, and Frostbite Blue.
While many would probably go for more neutral colors like granite gray and triple nickel silver, the Challenger is a ridiculous muscle car. We’d probably go for the Hellraisin Purple or Go Mango Orange just to inject some color into the drab black, white and silver cars on the road.
3/10 Why we should buy one – it’s a good daily driver
Being a muscle car, the Challenger can be a real fun car to drive around a track or a drag strip. But, like the old muscle cars, it’s also a comfortable cruiser that can easily cruise across the country without driving the occupants crazy.
The Challenger has a large cabin, large and comfortable seats, plenty of room in the back for adults – hopefully on short journeys – and a huge trunk for luggage. If real GT cars like the BMW 4-Series Coupé, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé and Audi A5 Coupé are too flashy and expensive, the Challenger is a a lot cheaper alternative – even if it doesn’t quite have the same sophistication and sophistication.
2/10 Why we shouldn’t buy one – it doesn’t have a V8
While the Challenger SXT is a great budget vehicle, it lacks the one defining component that makes it a true muscle car: a V8 engine. This is the same problem that the Camaro and Mustang have, although they are even less worthy of the muscle car name thanks to their 4-cylinder engines.
The V8 engine is the grumpy heart of any muscle car, whether it’s a traditional pushrod or overhead valve engine, or fitted with a cross-plane or flat-plane crankshaft. A muscle car without a V8 is like Top gear without Clarkson, Hammond and May – not quite what it should be.
1/10 Why we shouldn’t buy one – it doesn’t have a manual transmission
While we can almost forgive the lack of a V8, the biggest thing that keeps us from buying a Dodge Challenger SXT is the fact that it doesn’t have a manual transmission. If you want a manual in a Challenger, the only way is to go for the R/T or Scat package – which respectfully costs nearly $10,000 and $16,000 more than the base SXT.
So while the Challenger SXT is worth competing with the Camaro and Mustang, it’s not exactly as desirable as the other two. Don’t get us wrong, it looks fantastic and menacing, but once the lack of badges becomes apparent, one can’t help but think, ‘oh, it’s just a V6’. It is a pity. At least he doesn’t have a 4-cylinder.