2016 Dodge Challenger

Starting MSRP: $26,995 - $62,495

Estimated MPG: 19 city / 30 hwy

2016 Dodge Challenger Review

The muscle car segment is small but competitive, and the 2016 Dodge Challenger continues to offer something unique in comparison with its two main rivals. Iconic styling and four engine choices – including the SRT Hellcat’s 707-horsepower V8 – are the Challenger’s primary attributes. Look closer and you’ll find user-friendly technology and good interior space for the class, making the Challenger a bit more practical than competing pony cars.

By Jim Sharifi
Last Updated 08/15/2016

The Dodge Challenger first made its mark as a muscle car in the 1970s. The current version was introduced for the 2008 model year and bears retro-styled sheet metal reflecting the influence of its predecessor. A V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission are standard, and they're teamed with rear-wheel drive. Three V8 engine options are offered, and each is available with the choice of an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission.

The Challenger sees few changes for the 2016 model year. A total of 10 trims are offered, ranging from the base Challenger SXT to the SRT Hellcat.

Exterior

Exterior
10

Retro-inspired styling is a muscle car hallmark, and the Dodge Challenger features nostalgic lines that have been updated over time while staying true to its 2008 introduction.

The Challenger has a commanding presence, with a wide stance and a profile that’s nearly 10 inches longer than the 2016 Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. Both of those competitors have been recently redesigned, but the Challenger still looks contemporary and maybe a little more grown up than its muscle car rivals.

Our test Challenger SRT Hellcat offered unique exterior details that made its prowess apparent from a standstill. SRT badges on the grille and spoiler are the first indicator that the Hellcat represents the upper echelon of Dodge performance, while subtle Hellcat logos on the fenders confirm it’s the most powerful muscle car in production.

The Hellcat also distinguishes itself with a blacked-out deck-lid spoiler, a unique front fascia and a trim-specific hood with an air intake and heat extractors. Our favorite feature? The “Air Catcher inlet port,” which funnels air directly to the engine through a hole in the parking light on the driver’s side.

Interior

Interior
8

No muscle car is known for exceptional interior space, but the Challenger continues to distinguish itself with seating for five, which is rare in the segment. The front seats offer plenty of head- and legroom, and the SRT seats that came with our Hellcat were unusually comfortable for sport seats, though some enthusiasts might want more bolstering.

Passenger space in the back seat is acceptable for short trips, where the Challenger offers more legroom than much of the competition. The trunk is also surprisingly spacious, with a wide and flat load floor and 16.2 cubic feet of cargo space.

Like the Camaro, the Challenger’s interior features a straightforward, driver-focused design with materials that are appropriate for the class. The infotainment screen and center stack are angled toward the driver, and all controls fall close at hand.

The Challenger’s standard interior equipment includes cloth upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable driver’s seat and keyless access with push-button start. Available features include a sunroof, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats and a heated steering wheel.

Performance

Performance
10

The base Challenger comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6 that produces 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. A 5.7-liter Hemi V8 becomes available on Challenger R/T models, delivering up to 375 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque.

Choose a Challenger R/T Scat Pack, 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker or SRT 392 and you’ll get a 6.4-liter V8 that generates 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. The Challenger SRT Hellcat offers the most power in the lineup (and more power than you’ll find just about anywhere else) with a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that makes 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.

An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with the base Challenger and optional on higher trims, which come with a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment.

Fuel economy is strongest with the base V6, where the Challenger earns an EPA-estimated 19/30 mpg city/highway. At the opposite end of the spectrum, our Challenger SRT Hellcat with the automatic transmission was rated at 13/22 mpg.

The base Challenger provides a pleasing driving experience with good power and composed handling in most situations. Still, it’s a sizeable vehicle that can feel a bit unwieldy in comparison with other sports cars, including pony cars like the Mustang and Camaro.

Our test Challenger SRT Hellcat is still a large car, but it offered athletic handling and world-class levels of power that should please even the most discerning enthusiast. Every aspect of the Hellcat’s performance is configurable through the Uconnect infotainment system. There are four drive modes (Track, Sport, Default and Custom) that provide unique settings for the engine, transmission, suspension and traction control.

The straight-line performance is a given with the Hellcat, and its 707 horsepower does not disappoint. Dodge claims a quarter-mile time of 11.2 seconds, a top speed of 199 mph and a 0-to-60 mph time that’s well under 4 seconds. This is a car that’s among the quickest on the road, with prodigious amounts of power, willing acceleration and a raucous exhaust note. Our test car’s eight-speed automatic was never caught off guard, and we were impressed by its responsiveness, particularly when we used the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

What really surprised us, however, was how well the Challenger Hellcat handled. The steering is quick and communicative, giving the driver a surprising level of connection with the road. At the same time, Bilstein shocks and a three-mode adaptive suspension system make the Hellcat impressively agile for a car that weighs nearly 4,500 pounds.

Technology

Technology
9

The 2016 Challenger’s standard tech features include a USB port, Bluetooth and a Uconnect infotainment system with a 5-inch touch screen. An upgraded version of Uconnect is available, bringing in an 8.4-inch screen, satellite radio and smartphone app integration. Navigation, a Harman Kardon audio system and a host of driver assistance features are also offered.

Our Challenger came with the larger Uconnect system with navigation, which serves as a hub for all audio, communications and climate settings. In the case of our SRT Hellcat, Uconnect also included an SRT Pages menu that allows you to dial in performance settings with a great deal of customization.

While Ford has made strides with its new Sync 3 interface, Uconnect continues to excel as one of the most user-friendly touch-screen systems on the market. Response times are instantaneous, and all of Uconnect’s menus are logically arranged. There are also dedicated climate and audio controls below the display for quick access to primary functions.

Uconnect’s only real demerit is that Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration is not yet offered. General Motors has rolled CarPlay out extensively for 2016, and Ford is following suit with widespread availability for the 2017 model year.

Safety

Safety
7

The Challenger comes standard with antilock brakes, automatic headlights, daytime running lights, electronic stability control and a suite of air bags. Optional features include a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning.

The 2016 Dodge Challenger received a top five-star rating for its overall performance in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the 2016 Challenger received top scores of Good in moderate overlap front and side crash tests. It got the second-highest Acceptable rating for roof strength tests, as well as for testing of the head restraints and seats. In small overlap front crash tests, the Challenger received a Marginal score, which is the IIHS’ second-lowest rating. When equipped with a forward collision warning system, the Challenger earned a Basic rating for front crash prevention.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
8

The 2016 Dodge Challenger starts at $26,995 plus a $995 destination charge. The V8-powered Challenger R/T is priced from $31,995, while SRT models start at $49,195.

A top-tier Challenger like our SRT Hellcat starts at $62,495 and comes with a strong list of standard equipment. Our test Challenger was optioned with Redline Red exterior paint ($500), an eight-speed automatic transmission ($2,995) and summer tires ($595). There was also a gas guzzler tax ($1,700), bringing the grand total to $69,280 after destination.

While the Challenger R/T offers a V8 at a lower starting price than a comparable Mustang GT or Camaro SS, it’s also down on horsepower when compared against those two models. At the same time, we realize that even though our SRT Hellcat offers stellar performance, its starting price probably puts it out of reach for a number of muscle car buyers.

A good compromise is likely the R/T Scat Pack trim, which brings in the larger 6.4-liter Hemi V8 and carries a starting price of $37,995. That model also comes with the upgraded version of Uconnect, and should retail for about $41,500 (including destination) after adding Technology and Driver Convenience packages that bring in desirable features like blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning.

Overall

Overall
9

It may not be as lithe as its chief competitors in base trim, but the 2016 Dodge Challenger is a full-fledged muscle car in its purest form. Four engine choices ensure there’s a model suited to just about every buyer, and the Challenger continues to offer interior space and ride comfort that make it more useable on a daily basis than other pony cars.

Where the Challenger really shines, however, is at the top tier with models like our test SRT Hellcat. Dodge has managed to take the most powerful V8 engine ever offered in a production car and implement it with flawless execution. The Challenger Hellcat sets the bar high with truly impressive straight-line performance, but it’s also surprisingly good when the road gets twisty.

The cherry on top is that the SRT Hellcat’s 707 horsepower isn’t overbearing. This is a car that will shine at the drag strip and still be completely comfortable during your daily commute. We just hope the drive to work has minimal congestion and plenty of straightaways.