2015 Dodge Challenger : Track Day
We drive plenty of cars here at Gunaxin, and while most of them are very nice, few invoke our lust like the Dodge Challenger. So when we received an invite to Portland International Raceway for a day at the track with the 2015 Dodge Challenger, it was difficult to maintain our professionalism.
The rain kept our aggressiveness in check, and didn’t coöperate with our photographs, but nothing was going to dampen our spirit when we pulled on a helmet and stepped behind the wheel of the new Challenger. The big news in recent weeks has been the
Challenger SRT Hellcat and its 707 horsepower, but we were treated to seat time in the entire lineup, and all were impressive.
The Dodge Challenger is offered in a variety of engines and trims and it’s honestly a bit overwhelming for the average car buyer. We’ve taken college courses less challenging than trying to sort through the lineup presented in the media guide. The most important point to realize though is that if you dream of driving a Challenger, you will probably be able to find one that fits your needs and budget.
The Dodge Challenger SXT V6 with 305 horsepower starts at just $26,995 and the SRT Hellcat with 707 horsepower starts at $59,995. That is quite the range, with a full rainbow of trim levels falling somewhere in between. Dodge fans could spend hours on the website virtually building Challengers and still not exhaust all options.
Since its return in 2008, the Challenger’s sales have gone up each year. So it was important not to mess too much with a good thing. People like the exterior design of the Challenger, with its true muscle car looks. It’s big and tough, and isn’t trying to look cute or fit easily in your undersized garage. Whereas the 2008 to 2014 Challenger followed the design language of the original 1970 model, the new 2015 Challenger looks to the legendary 1971 model for design inspiration.
At the front, Challenger’s all-new fascia design is a menacing update of its 1971 inspiration. A larger power-bulge hood features more aggressive forward-located dual snorkel inlets for improved engine cooling, while an all-new vertical split-grille evokes the historic 1971 model.
One of the major exterior upgrades comes in the lighting package :
All-new quad projector headlamps give this Dodge muscle car a more detailed appearance, while a more aggressive brow “chops” the upper portion of the lamp design to give this 2015 Challenger an even more sinister attitude. For added style, four halo LED headlamps cast a cool glow from beneath the brow. Out back, the 2015 Dodge Challenger recalls the historic 1971 model’s inspiration with a new split tail- lamp design and new rear fascia. The tail lamps feature Dodge brand’s signature LED graphic with its smooth glow of LED lights that can be seen from blocks away.
Overall we dig the styling of the new Challenger and think they accomplished their goal of making a good thing even better. Sadly our favorite orange paint color is no longer offered on the Challenger, but some heritage colors are back for a limited time; high-impact B5 Blue, TorRed and Sublime Green.
While we clearly focused on driving the Challenger around the track without putting it into a wall, and making it pose for pretty photos, we didn’t completely ignore the interior. Neither did Dodge, as the interior has been completely re-designed from the outgoing model. The gorgeous photos in this section come from the press-kit, and they do a great job of showing just how badass the new styling is. Many thought the interior was a weak point on the previous models, but this re-design has clearly turned it into a strength.
“For 2015, we’ve infused the Challenger’s interior with our finest execution of craftsmanship, premium materials and world-class technology,” said Klaus Busse, Head of Interior Design – Chrysler Group LLC. “From its asymmetric driver’s cockpit surrounded with authentic materials, to the instrument panel, which houses a heritage-inspired programmable gauge cluster and the latest Uconnect touchscreen systems, the new Challenger exemplifies our dedication to elevating this iconic muscle car to new heights.”
The Challenger is as spacious and comfortable inside as it is big and mean on the outside. A big man can be comfortable in this muscle car, and not throw out their back just trying to get into it. We didn’t have too much time to explore the interior features and technology, but at first glance we were impressed.
The photo above shows the Hellcat getting a bit squirrely at the end of a burnout by a professional driver in the pouring rain. While it was definitely fun to watch, it’s also an example of the conditions we were dealing with at the track. Luckily the rain was intermittent, and we were able to lay down some laps with four different Challenger flavors. Here is a video overview of the engines and performance with a focus on the Hellcat at the end:
We’re far from experts when it comes to race performance and handling, but in general we found the Challenger manageable at the track. It’s big, heavy, and powerful…. really, really, powerful. It was actually the most powerful vehicle we’ve ever driven, and amazingly that fact didn’t completely terrify us in the rain. Clearly we didn’t push the vehicles to their full capacity in the wet, because we’re not stupid, but we still had plenty of fun.
Towards the end of the day the sky cleared for a while, and we had an opportunity to take the SRT Hellcat out on the track with the unencumbered red key and a professional driver in the passenger seat. Oh my does she purr, and scream down the straight like a cat out of hell. Eventually race tracks tend to have turns in them though, so we required some brakes and the ability to get around some corners :
Standard on both Challenger SRT models is the largest front-brake package ever offered in a Chrysler Group passenger vehicle, featuring all-new 15.4-inch Brembo two-piece rotors, the largest two-piece rotor Brembo manufactures in North America, with six-piston calipers for outstanding heat management/thermal capacity and longevity. Two new 275/40ZR20 Pirelli P Zero tires provide performance for all seasons. Both Pirelli P Zero Nero and P Zero tires are Y-Plus rated to handle extreme speeds of the Challenger SRT Hellcat.
Check out this video that was captured during a previous press wave in Portland. Although our time at the track was a bit wet, this is essentially what we experienced as well :
The 2015 Dodge Challenger is big, mean, loud and fun to drive. When we think of muscle cars, this is exactly what pops into our head, and it makes us smile. The Challenger doesn’t apologize for its power or styling, and that is exactly how we like it. They even turned the exhaust note of the Hellcat into a ringtone, and that idea doesn’t seem ridiculous to us. Not one bit.
The 2015 model has a completely re-designed interior and updated exterior. It’s offered in a variety of trims and engines, and has a wide range of price points, making it accessible to the masses. While the Hellcat is receiving all of the publicity for good reason, we think Dodge is going to sell a ton of the Challenger SXT model. We can’t wait to spend more time behind the wheel, and only wish they hadn’t gotten rid of the orange paint color. Maybe they’ll make a custom one, just for us?