2021 Dodge Challenger Review
No automaker stretches the life of a vehicle quite like Dodge. The brand has asked its two-door muscle car, the Challenger, to soldier on into its 14th year of production since this generation debuted for the 2008 model year. How do you keep such an aging vehicle relevant? By blowing the doors off the competition with horsepower. Three versions of the Challenger boast more than 700 horsepower, and two more offer very substantial V8 engines. Even base Challengers pack a decently strong V6.
Dodge has also done a nice job of keeping the Challenger fresh with continual updates. This year there's the new SRT Super Stock. It comes with many of the same drag-racing-oriented upgrades as the limited-edition Demon from 2018, such as special Nitto tires and special suspension tuning. But it's also safely detuned and decontented — it's only cranking out 807 hp — to avoid usurping the famed Demon. Also on tap for 2021 expanded availability of the Widebody treatment, which you can now get on the Scat Pack Shaker and T/A 392.
On top of this you get a spacious cabin, the biggest trunk in its class, and a robust infotainment system. At the end of the day, this muscle car is about giving you hair-raising thrills a quarter-mile at a time. But it can also serve as the coolest comfortable commuter on your block.
The Challenger concedes points to rivals when it comes to interior refinement and sporty driving dynamics. But drivers who value comfort and utility will likely prefer the Dodge.
How does the Challenger drive?
The Challenger is always a hoot to drive. With the 6.4-liter V8, power is readily available in any gear at almost any speed. We tested the R/T Scat Pack Widebody with the manual transmission. Zero to 60 mph took just 4.9 seconds at the Edmunds test track. It's properly quick but slower than other modern muscle cars by a few tenths. Braking is strong. Our test Challenger stopped from 60 mph in 105 feet, a short distance for such a big vehicle.
The Dodge's beefy size makes in-town maneuvering a bit tough, but it's a champ out on the open road. The Challenger is pretty capable on curvy roads too. Well, as long as you don't try driving it like a nimble sports car. Its mass and weight become readily apparent if you try to drive quickly through tight turns.
How comfortable is the Challenger?
Our tester, with the Widebody package, had a stiffer adaptive suspension than even the standard R/T Scat Pack, but it didn't ruin the ride. Highway ride quality is very good, and seat comfort is near the top of the class. A relatively quiet cabin helps make this a nice place to be for long rides.
Dual-zone climate control is standard on the R/T and it maintains the desired cabin temp well. The climate is controlled via the touchscreen or knobs and buttons directly behind the shifter. Our test car had the optional heated and ventilated front seats. The seat heating works well, but the ventilation could be more effective.
How’s the interior?
The Challenger is a king among the muscle coupes in passenger and cargo space. It's far more practical than its crosstown competition and has the roomiest cabin in the segment. The rear seat isn't quite fit for all sizes, but it's far bigger than competitors' back seats and offers three seats versus two.
Outward visibility is generally poor, but that's typical for the segment. The blind spots over both shoulders are significant, and the windshield pillars obstruct forward sightlines more than average. A large-display rearview camera and blind-spot monitoring help considerably, but the camera quality is low.
How’s the tech?
This is one of the best plug-and-play systems out there. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto accompany the Challenger's already user-friendly Uconnect system. It's very easy to use with multiple solutions for the same commands. But the interface looks a bit dated compared to those in the rest of the class.
The voice controls use an easy-to-learn structure and accept basic commands for the audio, navigation and hands-free calling. Connecting your smartphone makes things even more familiar. The Driver Convenience package adds blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. They worked well during our test without false alerts.
How’s the storage?
Big American coupes aren't exactly perfect examples of utility, but the Challenger leads the class easily in this category. The trunk opening is large, and its capacity blows the class away with a midsize-sedan-like 16.2 cubic feet of cargo space. The rear seatbacks fold in a 60/40-split for extra utility.
There's decent small-item storage throughout the cabin, but the cupholders are right behind the gearshift, which is somewhat problematic with a manual transmission. The door pockets are small, with small bottle holders up front. In coupes this size, space is at a premium, but the Challenger uses what it has relatively well.
How economical is the Challenger?
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the 6.4-liter V8 is 17 mpg combined. That's one of the lowest ratings in the segment, even before you add the Widebody package. The wide tires add rolling resistance as well, making real-world fuel economy even lower. In our testing, we struggled to even meet the EPA's city estimate of 14 mpg.
Is the Challenger a good value?
The Challenger offers decent equipment for the money. The 6.4-liter engine is appropriately priced against other V8 upgrades in the class. The Widebody package adds big bucks to the price tag, but the resulting wheel, tire and suspension upgrades — not to mention the enhanced visual swagger — make it worth it.
The Challenger's interior build quality is solid, but the quality of the materials becomes less appealing the higher you go up the trim ladder. By the time you're into Hellcat territory, it'll be obvious that you're paying for a big motor, not an exquisite interior design.
The Challenger, especially with the Widebody package, is an American muscle car with a heaping helping of personality. It'll put a massive smile on your face every time you drive it. It's also surprising how well the car's styling has aged considering that the car has been around for more than a decade without a full redesign.
Which Challenger does Edmunds recommend?
It gets overshadowed by the brutish 700-plus-horsepower trims above it, but the R/T Scat Pack is a remarkable muscle car for its price. Of course, it introduces the potent 6.4-liter V8 engine to the lineup. But it also brings key improvements to the brakes, suspension and even the infotainment system that make the Challenger both more agile and more livable.
Dodge Challenger models
The Challenger comes in five main trim levels: SXT, GT, R/T, R/T Scat Pack and SRT Hellcat. But within those trims you have a range of choices ahead of you. All-wheel drive is available on the SXT and GT trims. The R/T and SRT Hellcat trims offer a number of increasingly powerful engines and performance upgrades.