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2020 Dodge Challenger Test Drive Review
The Challenger combines a spacious interior and retro styling with modern technology and heart-pounding performance.
With its stablemate, the Dodge Charger, the Dodge Challenger is one of the last remaining modern muscle cars. The Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro have both eschewed their “retro” phases to become more forward-looking sporty coupes. But the Challenger holds fast, trading on the past while using current automotive technology to create one of the most fun-loving coupes on the market. This puts the Challenger in a field of one, but for those seeking what the Challenger has to offer, nothing else is needed.
The Challenger is largely unchanged for the 2020 model year. It provides several new colors, some additional interior design choices, and adds a 50th Anniversary package for some trims.
Look and Feel
The third generation of the Dodge Challenger was released in 2008 as a faithful homage to the first-generation car of the 1970s. It was updated in 2015, but still taking direct inspiration from the classic. Through the years, the current-generation Challenger would receive several design updates, gaining all manner of vents, wings, and scoops, but the flowing, muscular silhouette would remain.
The recessed headlights and grille strike a menacing pose, hinting at the possibility of performance residing behind them. Inside, the Challenger boasts a beamy cockpit with controls and panels that envelop the driver. This is a conscious design choice, intended to evoke the “driver-focused” cockpit of a high-performance car. The modern infotainment screen and semi-digital instrument panel blend with the vintage-looking bezels. It is a marriage of old and new, though it can feel a bit dated if you don’t appreciate what the design is attempting to convey.
Dodge offers the Challenger in nine trims, presenting a “choose your own adventure” of fun driving. This trim lineup includes SXT, GT, R/T, R/T Scat Pack, R/T Scat Pack Widebody, SRT Hellcat, SRT Hellcat Widebody, SRT Hellcat Redeye, and SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody.
Standard features on the SXT include 18-inch aluminum wheels, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, remote keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, and a 7-inch touchscreen.
The GT trim adds larger 20-inch wheels, a pronounced hood scoop, remote start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, and unique houndstooth cloth seats.
The R/T has a similar look to the GT, but adds a V8 engine and a number of performance upgrades, including an active exhaust system. The R/T Scat Pack adds a unique wheel design, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and the larger 8.4-inch touchscreen.
Leather seating is available on most models, and some high-performance trims come with synthetic suede material. Hellcat models have a dual-intake hood scoop setup, designed to feed the massive engine below it. For 2020, Dodge adds new available colors, including Frostbite, Hellrasin, and Sinamon Stick. The GT and R/T variants are available with the 50th Anniversary package. These models come in unique colors and feature a blacked-out hood.
The Dodge Challenger's SXT and GT trims come with a 3.6-liter V6 making 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. This engine routes power through an 8-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels or available all-wheel drive (AWD). These are the only two trims that provide an AWD option.
The R/T comes fitted with a 5.7-liter Hemi V8. With the 6-speed manual, this engine makes 475 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. With the 8-speed automatic, its output is 372 hp and 400 lb-ft.
The R/T Scat Pack upgrades the engine to a 6.4-liter Hemi V8. It makes 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. The Scat Pack is your best bet for performance-for-the-dollar. It also includes Brembo four-wheel disc brakes and launch control. These features are found in the following performance models as well.
The Hellcat features a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that makes 717 hp and 656 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic route power to the rear wheels. This combination provides a swell of acceleration, and the ability to find even more getup at highway speeds, although its fuel economy is expectedly poor.
If for some reason that is not enough power, Dodge provides the Challenger Hellcat Redeye. It provides the same supercharged V8, but cranked up to 797 hp and 707 lb-ft of torque. Power delivery is such that Dodge has determined only the 8-speed automatic can manage it. The automatic comes with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a tap-shift function on the shift handle. If you choose to use the manual mode, it is more effective to downshift twice where you might typically only shift once. This is due to the number of gears and how close the ratios are. The double-tap will more closely emulate the experience of downshifting a manual transmission.
All Hellcat variants come with two sets of keys; one red and one black. The black key actually limits power, in case you need to provide it for a valet… or a friend whose driving skills you don’t completely trust. The red key unleashes the full available power of the engine.
As the name suggests, the Widebody variants of the R/T Scat Pack, Hellcat, and Redeye feature flared fenders, wider tires, and a wider track. Combined with the adaptive suspension found on some Hellcat variants, it turns the Challenger from a more old-school muscle car into a modern cornering machine. Turn-in is very direct and the absence of body roll provides confidence in high-speed cornering. Depending on what model you select, the Dodge Challenger can be a toss-able sports coupe or a well-rounded performance weapon.
Many cars have some form of “Drive Mode” button. They typically feature Normal, Eco, Sport, and maybe a Sport-Plus setting. Dodge’s SRT Performance Pages lets you drill down farther than that. In addition to Auto, Sport, and Track drive modes, Custom Mode lets you tweak the output, suspension stiffness, and power delivery via traction control. Automatic-equipped models can also be customized with more active suspension mapping.
These performance pages also provide expanded engine displays, like boost pressure and oil pressure. Another page measures G-forces, and these pages also allow you to record lap times, 0-60 performance, and even quarter-mile runs.
Form and Function
This is where the Challenger separates itself from the other American sports coupes. The Challenger boasts a spacious cabin (for a coupe) with plenty of legroom and decent headroom. The Challenger also has an impressive amount of rear-seat legroom. A quick-release latch flips the front seats forward quickly, providing decent access to the back seat. The retro styling and large rear pillars mean sitting in the rear feels a bit like sitting in a tank. For the driver, visibility is somewhat limited thanks to the same attributes.
The Challenger provides 16.2 cubic feet of cargo space, which is impressive when you consider the Camaro has just 9.1 cubic feet. The Mustang is a bit closer, at 13.5 cubic feet of trunk space.
The Challenger’s traditional rear-wheel-drive (RWD) setup results in the large center console that rises up to meet the driver’s elbow. Thanks to the driveshaft below it, the center console cubby is not very deep. Thankfully, there are helpful storage cubbies in the doors. The AWD Challenger is further hindered by the additional drivetrain components. They result in a large hump that cuts in on space in the front passenger footwell. Overall, passenger space is far more than what you will find in either the Camaro or the Mustang.
The Challenger comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The Uconnect system is fantastic and has provided the standard for intuitive screen layouts, although other automakers have caught up and some rival systems may even be more powerful or more advanced.
The use of a tablet-like dock of icons at the bottom of the screen proves the importance of ease-of-use above all else. This is further aided by redundant buttons and dials. As advanced as any touchscreen system gets, it’s critical to have conventional volume and tuning dials.
The standard 7-inch screen also provides Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is another place where Uconnect shines, as users can easily switch between the car’s menus and the mobile platform screens. Rival systems require additional menu buttons to accomplish the same thing.
The available Uconnect 8.4 provides more of the same functionality, but it does so within a larger screen. This version also features a Garmin-based navigation system with real-time traffic updates. Though that may be unnecessary, as you may end up using your preferred navigation app through CarPlay or Android Auto.
R/T Scat Pack, Hellcat, and Hellcat Redeye trims also include an Alpine premium stereo system with a 276-watt digital amplifier. This sound system can be found on all other trims as an optional upgrade.
The Challenger also benefits from the digital display in the center of the instrument panel. Dodge brings that same philosophy of logical menu layouts to this screen. The large directional pad buttons on the steering wheel mean you won’t be distracted from the road when trying to change this display. Together, these systems prove the latest technology doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.
Standard safety features on the Challenger include front- and side-impact airbags, supplemental side curtain airbags, traction control, brake assist, and a child-seat anchoring system. The optional technology group adds forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control. Other optional safety features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path alert, and the ParkSense reverse sensing system.
The Challenger earns four out of five stars in front driver’s side crash testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It earns five stars for front passenger side testing, and four stars for rollover testing. It has not been evaluated in side-impact testing. The Challenger earns the best score of “Good” in many phases of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests. It should be noted it earns a “Marginal” overall score.
The most efficient version of the Challenger is the base V6 with RWD. It returns fuel economy of19 mpg city, 30 highway, 23 combined. The V6 with AWD returns 18 mpg city, 27 highway, 21 combined. If you want V8 power, the most efficient version is the 5.7-liter in the R/T with the 8-speed automatic transmission. It returns 16 mpg city, 25 highway, 19 combined. The least-efficient variant of the Challenger is the SRT Hellcat Redeye, which returns fuel economy of 13 mpg city, 21 highway, 15 combined.
Base MSRP for the 2020 Dodge Challenger is $28,095 for an SXT trim. The GT starts at $31,095 and opting for AWD adds $3,000 to the base price for each of these trims.
The R/T trim starts at $34,995, while the R/T Scat Pack starts at $38,995. The Hellcat incurs a more significant price jump, starting at $58,995. The Hellcat Redeye starts at $72,995, and the range-topping Hellcat Redeye starts at $78,295.
The Challenger represents the ideal of affordable performance. The R/T and R/T Scat Pack offer great power for the price. But automotive performance is more than just about going in a straight line. The widebody variants and available adaptive suspension have shown that the Challenger can take a corner as well as light up a drag strip. The Challenger has evolved from a nostalgia play into a complete performance sports car. It does this while providing the cabin space and creature comforts that make it a daily driver that can turn heads as well.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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2020 Dodge Challenger Top Comparisons
Users ranked 2020 Dodge Challenger against other cars which they drove/owned. Each ranking was based on 9 categories. Here is the summary of top rankings.
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Dodge Challenger Questions
Instrument Cluster And Gear Shift Knob Illuminate While Car Is Still Off.
I have a 2020 Dodge Challenger SXT, brand new, and when i got home today while driving my other car, i walked by the challenger and saw that the "Press break + push to start button" message was on a...
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