2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus
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Published on Wed, Dec 17, 2014
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
When Barry Newman took delivery of that 'Seventies Dodge Challenger in the movie “Vanishing Point,” it forever cemented the car as an American icon. Forty-five years later, the 2015 Dodge Challenger remains truest to the original pony cars of the muscle car era (four-wheel independent suspension, dual overhead cams and variable valve timing, notwithstanding). Harvey Schwartz reports on the new Challenger.
Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz
Sliding into the very comfortable front driver’s bucket seat and gazing at the instrument cluster immediately takes me back to the 1971 Challenger. Featuring the latest technological goodies, the cleanly executed instrument panel features an aluminum-stamped bezel that establishes the driver’s cockpit. For a high tech look, an innovative 7-inch thin-film transistor (TFT) instrument cluster screen extends through the driver’s bezel and provides a customizable display. The gauge cluster features a new analog speedometer and tachometer that straddle the instrument cluster and provide a heritage-inspired look with throwback radial numbers, concave shape and a needle-covered hub design, reminiscent of the ‘tic-toc-tach’ gauges from the 1971 Challenger. Wow! I can’t believe my eyes, looking at the retro, yet high-tech cluster. The TFT screen also comes with performance pages for Launch Control, 0-60mph time, 60-0mph braking distance, etc. My best time was 6.7sec. to 60mph from a standstill.
Additionally, the center stack neatly houses the segment’s largest available 8.4 inch Uconnect touch screen. A new trapezoidal shaped aluminum-stamped center console gives Dodge Challenger’s interior a fresh, asymmetric look, while its leather-wrapped surface and French-seamed accent stitching convey craftsmanship and style. The center console houses additional controls for the Uconnect touch screen above with ergonomically located redundant button and knob controls for audio and climate functions. A media hub with an SD card slot, USB outlet and audio jack is neatly housed inside the center console’s flocked armrest.
I tested the V6 powered Challenger equipped with the new, electronic shifting Torqueflite 845E 8-speed automatic including a driver-oriented T-handle that feels great and gives me intuitive gear selection besides offering an Auto Stick selector for added fun and fuel economy. The new sporty Dodge leather-wrapped, heated, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel features a sculpted rim so my hands have a sure grip at the 3-and 9-o’clock positions. Buttons to control the driver-configurable full-color TFT display are large and illuminated. Buttons for Uconnect and phone access now reside along the bottom edge of the horizontal spokes. My Challenger SXT Plus came equipped with the optional adaptive cruise control that is configured by buttons that are symmetrically opposite on the right side of the wheel.
Redundant audio buttons are again found on the back of the upper spokes. Aluminum/rubber faced foot pedals gives the interior a sportier look and feel. My test Challenger also came equipped with Nappa leather, six-way power-adjustable/lumbar/heated/ventilated driver’s-side and 4-way manual/heated/ventilated front-passenger-bucket seats that are very comfortable for long drives and very supportive when taking the Challenger to its performance limits. Additional features inside include push button start/stop, 2-12-volt plugs, storage slots in each door, dual map lights, sunglass holder, lighted glovebox, one-touch power sunroof, lighted dual cupholders, aluminum door handles and ambient lighting in the foot wells and door handles, plus grab handles above each door. The new interior is totally retro and modern and very unique, a pure driver’s car. What fun to be looking at the retro gauges and working with the new technologies.
Inspired by the iconic 1971 Challenger, the 2015 Challenger takes on a bold new appearance that draws on the 1971 model’s split-grille and split-tail lamp cues, updated for 2015 with four signature LED headlamp halo surrounds offset by piano black trim, single HID headlamps, projector-beam foglamps, a more pronounced and functional power bulge hood and a deep lower spoiler to bite into the air keeping the front wheels solidly planted at high speeds.
In profile, the 2015 Challenger’s signature muscle car proportions and large thruster rear-quarter panels stand out from the other Pony cars, while fender and belt lines tie together at the front and rear of the car to create a sleeker appearance. The flared fenders in my Challenger SXT Plus were filled with big 20X8-inch five-split-forked satin finished aluminum wheels with black pockets. They are wrapped with 245/45R20 inch Firestone Firehawk GT high-performance tires for excellent grip and traction. The power-remote/heated sideview mirrors are styled for aerodynamics while the deep lower side extensions give the car a more hunkered down look. Last but not least is the signature shiny cast aluminum fuel-filler door.
At the rear a new split tail-lamp design continues the historic 1971 model’s inspiration. For a more modern look, the Dodge brand’s signature LED treatment creates a single ribbon of light with each lamp. A redesigned rear valance provides the new Challenger with a widened, more planted appearance, while fascia-mounted dual, chrome exhaust outlets provide a high-performance finished look. The trunk lid spoiler keeps the rear solidly planted at high speeds. It’s retro and modern inside and outside.
Dodge is certainly not scrimping in the choice of powertrains available. They include the 3.6 liter V6, 5.7 liter V8 generating 375 horsepower, a 6.4 liter V8 generating 485 horsepower and the monster 6.2 liter supercharged Hellcat Challenger generating a ground-shaking 707hp. In my judgment choices depend on how fast you want to go, how much fuel you are going to use, and how many rear tires you will shred in one year’s time. My test Challenger came equipped with the 3.6 liter, all-aluminum, DOHC, VVT V6 engine that is both powerful and fuel efficient. Mated to the new Torqueflite 8-speed automatic, it was fun and exciting to drive everywhere I went. It generates 306 horsepower at 6,350 rpm and 268 pound-feet of torque at just 1,900-4,800 rpm. It returns an excellent 19mpg/city and 30mpg/highway. With a posted 0-60mph time of 6.7sec. on my Performance Page readout, it is no slouch, even for a 3,834 pound coupe.
The fully independent, Sport Tuned, suspension is smooth on the highway at triple-digit speed and precise when taking it through curving back roads. Up front is a short/long (SLA) setup with high upper ‘A’ arms, coil springs over gas-charged monotube shocks, stabilizer bar, lateral & diagonal lower with dual ball joint knuckles. The independent rear is a 5-link setup with coil springs, gas-charged monotube shocks, stabilizer bar and an isolated suspension cradle for less noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). By pushing the Sport mode button on the lower center stack I can use the very quick gear changes reducing shift times by 37%, while engaging a more aggressive transmission calibration. When Auto Stick (Manual) is engaged with Sport mode, I can select and hold the desired gear without unexpected shifts, including redline. Sport mode also engages throttle map and steering feel.
The new electric power steering system is a perfect match for the SXT Plus Challenger. It features three settings-Comfort/Normal/Sport that can be easily changed for how I want the wheel to behave with my inputs by using the Driver Settings on the 8.4 inch color screen. Steering response is further enhanced with a strut tower brace just behind the engine. Just a little tug of the wheel quickly and precisely moves the car’s heading.
My test Challenger SXT Plus came equipped with Performance Brakes to quickly and safely slow the car down from high speed. Up front are 13.6 inch vented discs clamped with large, dual-piston calipers, and 12.6 inch vented discs clamped with large single-piston calipers. Standard ABS, EBD and BA insure straight and true braking power and direction when braking hard on wet or slick pavement.
Standard features in my loaded Challenger SXT Plus not mentioned above include Uconnect 8.4 with the optional, awesome Harmon-Kardon 900-watt AMFM-Sirius-CD with 18-speakers including a subwoofer. When combined with a plethora of comfort and driver aiding features, it makes for a good ride. The list of options not already on the Challenger is voluminous, covering almost everything you might imagine, and lot of things one would never even think of.
The 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus is a pure driver’s car. Bold retro looks with all of today’s modern conveniences. It feels solidly planted at slow and high speeds, remains flat entering and exiting curving roads, shut the ESC/Traction Control systems to let the rear slide out for even more fun in the curves or for making your own donuts. It is a blast to drive, just pick any of four engine options!
© Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz
Name of vehicle:
2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus
$26,995, base coupe
$29,995.00, base SXT Plus
$36,165.00, as tested, including $995.00 destination charge
EPA mileage estimates (miles per gallon):
19mpg, city/30mpg, highway
3.6 liter DOHC V6 with variable valve timing
305 at 6350 rpm
268 pound-feet at 4800 rpm
Transmission: Torqueflite 845E 8-speed automatic Drive configuration: Front engine, rear-wheel drive Suspension Four-wheel independent with front and rear stabilizer bars Wheels and tires: 18 x 7.5 in. alloy wheels with 235/55R18 all-season tires Dimensions Overall length: 197.9 inches Overall width: 75.7 inches without mirrors Overall height: 57.5 inches Curb weight (lbs.): 3,834 pounds For more information about Dodge products, go to dodge.com