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2015 Dodge Challenger

Frank Washington | 9/3/2014, 5:34 p.m.
We came to the City of Roses to test drive the 2015 Dodge Challenger. But that was really a misnomer. ...

We came to the City of Roses to test drive the 2015 Dodge Challenger. But that was really a misnomer. Yes, we drove the Challenger, well three of them, but the real news here was brand expansion rooted in horsepower.

Dodge wants to reassert its heritage as a mainstream performance brand and with the 2015 Dodge Challenger it takes a big step in that direction by offering a product for just about every power niche when the new Challenger goes on sale in the third Quarter.

There was a literal avalanche of variants. When the new Challenger goes on sale trim lines will include the SXT, SXT Plus, RT and RT Plus, RT Shaker, RT Plus Shaker, Scat Pack and 392 Hemi Scat Pack. The variants are so numerous they rival the powertrains on pickup trucks.

But at the heart of this Dodge Challenger product assault is the engines and there will be four; not one of them gets less than 300 horsepower. This menu of muscle cars is topped by the 707 horsepower 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat. It is in a class by itself and we’ll deal with that at another time.

Power for the lineup starts with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque; this is the lone Challenger engine that has only one transmission, an eight-speed automatic.

Then there is the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI® that makes 372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. But that output is when it is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. With a six-speed manual gearbox, the horsepower is bumped up to 375 with 410 pound-feet of torque. That incremental uptick in power and torque makes a difference to a true automotive enthusiast.

This engine has a cylinder shut off system for fuel savings when it is mated to the eight-speed automatic transmission. It has an EPA rating of 16 mpg in city driving and a respectable 25 mpg on the highway.

The 6.4-liter HEMI® developed by Dodge’s Street and Racing Technology Team (SRT) was more direct. With an eight-speed automatic or the six manual, this engine made 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque.

We secured a 2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L HEMI® Scat Pack for the drive on Historic U.S. 30 to the Crown Point Vista. It is the first purposely built scenic highway in the U.S. and the section we were on cut through the heavy foliage of the Columbia River Gorge. It was a winding, tight turns, two-lane highway with tree-formed canopies and speed limits of 25 or 30 mph. In other words, it was no place to unloose a car with almost 500 horsepower.

Still, there was much to learn about our test car. The six-speed manual transmission needed to be shifted firmly, especially when cross gate down shifting which was done often because of the slow moving traffic and the sight-seeing pedestrians.

The car was well-behaved. At low speeds the engine was almost silent, sight lines were great, the sport bucket seats were soft like easy chairs but they provided plenty of back and lumbar support. We didn’t check but the back seats looked like they could accommodate two adults in reasonable comfort.