There is no more literal retro design interpretation than the Dodge Challenger’s. The 2009–14 model, which received a mild facelift for 2011, including a new V-6 and electrically assisted power steering, is closer in styling to its 1970-74 forbear than archrivals Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. But the problem with doing retro is, how does one update the car?
One way is to evoke some iconic early ’70s performance packages, which is fairly easy when you’ve got rear-wheel drive and Hemi engines in your arsenal. For 2015, the Dodge Challenger will be offered with the R/T and R/T Plus Shaker packages, with the 5.7-liter Hemi offering up to 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. The latter package comes with the recently revived shaker hood option.
A 6.4-liter Scat Pack option will deliver an estimated 485 hp and 475lb-ft (compared to 470 hp and 470 lb-ft from the current Challenger SRT) and will be available with the choice of a six-speed manual or eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission. The 392 Hemi with Scat Pack Shaker also produces 470 hp and includes what the Dodge boys describe as “maximum throwback” heritage (retro) style.
For the 2015 Challenger’s styling facelift, Dodge looked to the 1971 model, which added two horizontal, rectangular grille inserts that essentially split the ’70 Challenger’s grille design in halves and replaced the ’70’s full-width taillamps (as connected by the center backup lamp) with two separate lamps. The 2015 Dodge Challenger also features a more prominent power bulge in the hood.
By adapting these rather subtle cues, Dodge adheres to a mandate that Dodge chief Tim Kuniskis says fans of the current (and by extension, the original) Challenger demand: “Don’t screw up the design of this car.”
Dodge has no reason to do so, as the Challenger has kept breaking sales records for the past five years. That’s unusual for any sporty, aspirational model, let alone a two-door coupe, but both Camaro and Mustang sales also have remained strong in the last half decade. The Dodge Challenger is “the GT of the segment — bigger, wider, heavier,” Kuniskis says. In fact, it’s about half a foot longer than the ’70-’74 (which already was the biggest in the segment), because the current model uses what Chrysler now calls the “L” platform, the LX of the original Dodge Challenger, Charger, Magnum, and Chrysler 300, and the LY of the newer Charger/300.
The 2015 Dodge Challenger is on what Chrysler calls the “LA” platform, an evolution of LX. Dodge has updated the suspension and switched to cast aluminum for the axle housing. A standard sport mode adjusts the throttle, transmission, and steering. The electronic power-assisted steering (EPAS) can be set in your choice of normal, comfort, or sport. New safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection warning, cross-path detection, and forward collision warning.
The story of the ’15 facelift is really about style, however, including requisite interior upgrades. There’s a trapezoid-shaped center console surround with new retro gearshift designs to operate the six-speed manual (Hemi V-8s only) or eight-speed automatic (Pentastar V-6 or Hemi). With the automatic, the gearshift moves vertically, rather than acting as a kind of electronic throttle switch. The Challenger also gets a configurable seven-inch gauge cluster TFT display and a new, 8.4-inch center console touchscreen with Chrysler’s latest UConnect infotainment system. This all comes wrapped in a choice of fourteen new interiors, including Houndstooth, Tungsten Torque, Ballistic II premium cloth, Pearl White, and Ruby Red.
It’s all pretty appealing stuff, no matter what your feelings about this extra-large pony-car coupe. It ought to keep the Dodge Challenger selling right up to the 2017 model year, the rumored date an all-new car, possibly downsized and probably off a new Alfa Romeo-developed flexible rear-wheel-drive platform, is unveiled.