Fast, Furious and 30 MPG!
Living in Southern California, where it seems everyone has a screenplay to pitch, it is not difficult to take moments in your day and imagine they are scenes in a film. I had one of these (a moment, not a screenplay) with the 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT.
I had just finished backing the Challenger into a shopping center parking space and three, helmeted,
nine-year-old boys come screaming around the corner of the store on their skateboards. The lead kid, without missing a beat or slowing down, says, “Cool car, mister!” Me: “Thanks!” Perfect scene for Furious 7, the latest in the Fast and Furious franchise, which by the way the Challenger is prominently featured.
For more than 45 years the Dodge Challenger has been known for its success in drag, sports and stock car racing. The famous Hemi engine muscled the Challenger to championships over the years and, today at your dealership, the 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat, with 707 hp, will snap your head back with stunning acceleration. But focusing on the performance and racing heritage of the Challenger doesn’t tell the whole story, especially since there is a version that gets 30 mpg on the highway. Hard to believe? Believe!
The 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus comes with the 3.6-Liter, Pentastar V-6, DOHC, 24-valve engine, with sequential multiport electronic fuel injection. This 220-cubic-inch all-aluminum engine produces 305 hp and 286 lb-ft of torque through the TorqueFlight eight-speed automatic transmission, delivering an EPA rating of 19 city/30 highway/23 combined.
In 958 miles of 70-percent/30-percent highway/city driving Clean Fleet Report averaged 26.3 mpg, which means we were surpassing the 30 mpg rating on the highway. Note: The EPA’s gas mileage formula by law is 45-percent highway and 55-percent city. Here in Southern California and in much of the U.S. our 70-percent/30-percent highway/city driving pattern is far more real world and is why we report it to you.
Running on unleaded regular (with mid-grade recommended), the 3.6-Liter engine was smooth and responsive overall, but we did sense a bit of rough idle when first starting the car. The eight-speed automatic had no trouble finding the right gear for around town or highway driving; the final four gear ratios are close together for smooth shifting and to maximize fuel economy. For more performance feel, there is a Sport Mode setting that provides improved throttle response and quicker shifts, as fast as 400 milliseconds as well as additional steering feel. To really get the most out of the transmission, pop the center console-mounted lever into Auto Stick M+/- and you can manually shift the transmission through a sequential pattern. You also can manually go through the gears by blipping the paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel.
Driving Experience: On The Road
The Dodge Charger SXT weighs in at a solid 3,834 lbs. For comparison, the Challenger’s Pony car competitors, the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, weigh in at 3,722 lbs. and 3,524 lbs. respectively.
Clean Fleet Report’s rear-wheel drive Challenger was equipped with the Super Track Pak option that
delivers a firm, but not stiff, ride, with no noticeable drift or pushing through hard cornering, and a
comfortable highway ride. The Super Track Pak comes with 245/45ZR20 three-season performance tires mounted on 20-inch polished aluminum wheels with graphite pockets for a very sharp looking wheel and tire combination. When pushing the Super Track Pak button you get a lowered ride height, performance-tuned independent SLA, or Short Long Arm, double-wishbone front suspension with coil springs over Bilstein shock absorbers, a beefier stabilizer bar, high-performance brakes and a three-way adjustable stability control system. The rear suspension is a five-link independent set-up with the same bits as the front.
The Challenger never felt heavy or sluggish and the response and feel via the electric power steering was acceptable and left you with a good feeling for the road. You even have the option in the Uconnect screen of setting one of three drive modes and activating the Launch Control feature. Dodge has gone to great lengths to give even the six-cylinder Challenger a performance feel, so you don’t have to step-up to the 5.7L or 6.4L Hemi V-8 engines.
Having cut my driving teeth on rear-wheel drive cars it was nice getting behind the wheel of one that could be driven hard through corners. Breaking the rear tires loose was never a fear nor was swapping the back end, which would be tough to do with the traction control turned on. If you have spent your life driving front-wheel drive cars (which are very good, of course), treat yourself to a test drive of the Challenger, or rent one for a weekend, to see what predominated in the automotive world pre-1980.
Wind and road noise was near non-existent and road imperfections were barely noticeable in the Challenger. For smoothness, the eight-speed automatic transmission had no problem imperceptibly finding the correct gear for whatever the demand. Plus, using the Sport Mode or paddle shifters raised the fun factor a notch or two.
As part of the Super Track Pak the brakes are vented front and solid rear rotors with performance brake linings. The brakes stopped with confidence but the pedal was a bit soft before steady pressure delivered the desired brake force. The power assist, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) has Rain Brake Support, all-speed traction control (TCS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
Driving Experience: Interior
The first thing you notice when sliding behind the wheel of the 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT is the two feet of dash to the windshield and then the seven feet of hood, totaling nine feet from your seating position to the front bumper. To say there is a large expanse ahead of the front seats is apparent and obvious. But, after a few minutes of acclimation, it all falls into place as being exactly like it should be with the hood length becoming part of the Challenger’s driving experience.
The SXT package starts with the nicely crafted soft-touch materials on the dash, doors and center
console, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and front Nappa Leather Sport Seats, which are heated and ventilated. The driver’s seat is six-way power adjustable, with four-way power lumbar adjustments, while the front passenger seat is manually adjustable. The seats offered good lumbar and thigh bolster support, but for some reason I was not able to adjust the seat so my upper back was supported. At 5’ 9”, I thought maybe it was a size issue, so I had a 6’ 1” associate try the driver seat and he too was unable to find a setting that supported his upper back. This did not make driving the Charger unpleasant or uncomfortable, but is worth noting.
The rear seats accommodate three, but realistically it would be two passengers and most likely they would be back there only for short trips. Yes, the leather is comfortable and there is a wide folding arm rest with cup holders – all good so far. But getting into the rear seating area, accessible through the single doors, can be a bit of a contortionist trick — as in: being flexible is a good thing. The seating position has a low bottom and an erect seat back, but does provide plenty of leg and headroom. The small side windows don’t lend to a panoramic view, so the feeling of being confined could be an issue for some people.
The trunk has a high lift over, but once inside, there is plenty of storage space. Lowering the 60/40 rear seatbacks will easily accommodate luggage and golf clubs for two people on a long road trip.
Having also reviewed the 2015 Dodge Dart and 2015 Chrysler 200, I appreciate more and more the simplicity in the Dodge/Chrysler dash layout design. The Challenger dash is non-flashy with a welcome minimalist tone and feel and contemporary asymmetric look. The dash is nicely sculpted with an ergonomically laid-out combination of knobs, switches and buttons for the climate and radio controls that are exactly where you want and need them. Chrysler calls this an “enthusiast’s designed cockpit” that will “highlight the muscle car’s performance abilities.”
Probably the best illustration of this is: When pressing the Super Track Pak button it reveals the Performance Pages and Performance Control settings on the 8.4-inch Uconnect
touchscreen. The Performance Control screen gets you a digital Tach and Launch Control and Drive Mode Set-up options. The Performance Pages screen includes digital Reaction Timers for 0-60, 1/8- and ¼-mile runs, digital gauges for coolant, oil pressure and temp, battery voltage, intake air temp and trans temp. The final read-outs on Performance Pages show G-Force, Horsepower and Torque readings. All are very fun to play with and are appropriate for a Muscle Car.
Our Challenger SXT Plus had the Sound Group 1 and Technology Packages that included an 8.4-inch touch screen display screen with navigation and the Uconnect system that comes with a six-month subscription plan. The infotainment system, which features Apple iPad-like simplicity, is among the most convenient and easy-to-use of all
the systems I have tested. The Alpine sound system has a 276-watt amplifier and six-speakers with AM/FM/CD/MP3 and HD Radio, with SiriusXM (one-year subscription included), voice command with Bluetooth, audio input jacks with iPod control and USB port.
The Challenger SXT Plus had convenience features such as power windows with one-touch down, power door locks, power and heated foldaway exterior mirrors, A/C with automatic climate control and rear vents, floor mats, remote start, keyless entry, 12V power outlets, power tilt and telescoping steering column, multiple cup holders, auto-dimming rear view mirror, rear view camera and cruise control.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Taking design cues from the 1971 Challenger, the 2015 version has a retro look with the split front grille and split tail lamps. Offered in 11 different exterior colors, including our test car’s Ivory White Tri-Coat Pearl, the Challenger has what Dodge says is a profile view of “muscle car proportions and large thruster
rear-quarter panels (that make it) stand out from the crowd.” I can add that the design has no unnecessary cladding or chrome work with tasteful piano black trim surrounding the four LED headlamps and a cool flip-up, chrome fuel door. The front-end lighting is completed by projector-type High Intensity Displacement (HID) headlights and LED fog lights integrated into the lower fascia.
The long, double bulge hood with two functional vents leads to a not-so-sloping windshield rising up to a flat roofline, ending in a short trunk lid, an integrated body color spoiler, fascia-mounted dual chrome exhaust tips and ribbon-like LED tail lights.
All-in-all, it’s a very muscular looking design that faithfully represents, but updates, the original Challenger from the early 1970s.
Safety and Convenience
The 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT has an Overall 5-Star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rating, with a 5-Star Side Crash, and a 4-Star rating for Rollover and Frontal protection. Safety and convenience features include nine airbags, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path Detection, Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), traction control, rain-sensitive windshield wipers, remote start keyless and proximity entry system, engine immobilizer and security alarm, Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM), brake assist, hill start assist and Adaptive Cruise Control.
The Blind Spot system works when a car is on your right or left rear side, where your natural blind spot would be, and a warning appears as a yellow triangle in both exterior rear view mirrors. When lit, the radio cuts-out with a gentle beep and, once the offending car passes, all warnings end and the radio returns to its previous volume. In the case of the Challenger, the Blind Spot technology is a must-have. From the driver’s seat, it is almost a completely obstructed view when looking over your right or left shoulder to the rear. Between the small rear side windows, head rests and high body shape on the fender, it is impossible to see cars in that crucial blind spot.
The Rear Cross Path Detection is helpful when backing-up and a car, child or other moving object unexpectedly crosses behind your car. This works separate from, but in-conjunction with, the ParkSense Rear Park Assist System and Rear View Camera.
The Forward Collision Warning system sounds an alert when the car senses the driver has not reacted quickly enough to an object in front of the car. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems across the manufacturers are a bit different, but these all worked well, were unobtrusive and helpful.
Pricing and Warranties
The Dodge Challenger has a base price of $26,995 with the Challenger SXT Plus Clean Fleet Report was driving having a MSRP of $32,680. Option Packages will add to these prices, as will the $995 Destination Charge.
All 2015 Dodge Challenger models come with these warranties:
- Three-year/36,000-mile Basic
- Five-year/100,000-mile Powertrain
- Five-year/100,000-mile Rust-Through
- Five-year/100,000-mile Roadside Assistance
Observations: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT
For more than 45 years the Dodge Challenger has built a heritage based on its success in drag, sports and stock car racing. The famous Hemi engine muscled the Challenger to championships and now the current version has a featured role in movies.
But the performance and racing heritage of the Challenger doesn’t tell the whole story, especially since we found a version that gets 30 mpg on the highway and is still fun to drive.
That next generation of car buyers that had a quick flash of recognition at the shopping center should make Dodge happy. Does it help sales today? Well, not with nine-year-olds, but maybe with their parents or anyone wanting to experience a muscle car at a very reasonable price. As noted, if you don’t opt for the higher powered versions, the 2015 Dodge Challenger gets respectable highway fuel economy and keeps it’s street cred with Camaro and Mustang, which it has been battling against for bragging rights over the past five decades.
Treat yourself to a test drive of this fun car. You just may drive home in something you never thought would possibly find a home in your garage.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
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