2021 Dodge Challenger

2021 Dodge Challenger Review: Sticking To Tradition

by Gerhard Horn

It's going to be interesting to see what the muscle car segment in the USA will look like in ten years. For decades the recipe has always been big engines and rear-wheel-drive, as is the case with the Dodge Challenger, but what will the muscle car be like in a downsized world? Ford and Chevrolet have already given us a taste, offering small-capacity turbocharged four-pot engines in entry-level models. Dodge has stuck to its guns, however. The smallest engine available is 3.6 liters, nearly double what an entry-level Chevy offers.

The only concession Dodge has made is offering all-wheel-drive, but only on entry-level V6 models. The rest is still old-school muscle car. Is it time for Dodge to join the modern world, or should it continue to give the green establishment the finger until the EPA eventually kicks its factory doors down?

2021 Dodge Challenger Car Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs. 2020 Dodge Challenger?

If Dodge is planning to change, it won't happen this year. Alterations to the 2021 model are limited to a new memory function for the driver seat. It saves the position of the seat and side mirrors, as well as radio presets. This feature is only available on models with a power-adjustable steering column. The R/T Scat Pack's brake calipers can now be ordered with SRT branding, and the SXT all-wheel-drive model gets a new 20-inch alloy option.

Pros and Cons

  • V6 remains a capable engine
  • Optional all-wheel-drive
  • Roomier cabin than the competition
  • More practical than rivals
  • Comfortable ride
  • Turbocharged rivals are quicker
  • No driver-assistance features
  • Questionable cabin quality

Best Deals on Challenger

2021 Dodge Challenger Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
SXT
3.6L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$28,870
GT
3.6L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$31,870
R/T
5.7L V8 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Rear-Wheel Drive
$35,570
R/T Scat Pack
6.4L V8 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Rear-Wheel Drive
$40,645
R/T Scat Pack Widebody
6.4L V8 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Rear-Wheel Drive
$40,645

Challenger Exterior

The Challenger design is 13 years old, yet it still works. It's the grandpa in the muscle car segment, yet somehow it still manages to be handsome. Sure, there have been some tweaks along the way, but the dual round headlights and retro rear have stuck around since the beginning. Halogen headlights are standard, surrounded by LED daytime running lights, while the taillights are LEDs from the get-go. Base SXT models get 18-inch wheels as standard, growing to 19-inch wheels when AWD is equipped. For 2021, a new 20-inch alloy wheel option is also available, while GT models get these as standard, along with a hood scoop. All models get a body-colored rear spoiler as well.

2021 Dodge Challenger SXT / GT Front View Dodge
2021 Dodge Challenger SXT / GT Rear View Dodge
2021 Dodge Challenger SXT / GT Front View 1 Dodge
See All 2021 Dodge Challenger Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The only static measurements across the various configurations are the 116-inch wheelbase and the overall width of 85.4 inches with mirrors. Length varies from 197.9 inches on the standard model to 197.5 inches for the R/T Scat Pack Widebody. Without mirrors, the standard body is 75.7 inches, while the Widebody is 78.3 inches. The base SXT weighs 3,858 pounds, with AWD pushing this up to 4,060 lbs. The Challenger GT weighs 3,906 lbs (4,078 lbs with AWD). The R/T Scat Pack Widebody is the heftiest model in the standard line-up, weighing 4,314 lbs.

  • Length 197.9 in
  • Wheelbase 116.2 in
  • Height 57.7 in
  • Max Width 75.7 in
  • Front Width 63.4 in
  • Rear Width 63.8 in
  • Curb Weight 3,858.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

One of our favorite things about the Challenger is the available color palette. It's proof that the people behind the scenes had a sense of fun and whimsy. And when people have fun doing something, it usually results in a good product. There are 13 no-cost colors to choose from: Frostbite, F8 Green, Go Mango, Granite, Hellraisin, Indigo Blue, Octane Red, Pitch Black, Sinamon Stick, Smoke Show, TorRed, Triple Nickel, and White Knuckle.

  • Granite Pearlcoat
  • Hellraisin
  • Indigo Blue
  • Octane Red Pearlcoat
  • Pitch Black Clearcoat
  • Torred Clearcoat
  • Triple Nickel Clearcoat
  • White Knuckle Clearcoat
  • F8 Green
  • Frostbite
  • Sinamon Stick
  • Go Mango
  • Gold Rush
  • Smoke Show

Challenger Performance

The Dodge Challenger has some powerful lines and luckily has the engines to back up the promise made by the body.

Stellantis's well-known naturally aspirated V6 engine powers the base model. It still packs a powerful punch but not quite enough to deliver jaw-dropping performance. The 0 to 60 mph sprint takes a leisurely 6.5 seconds, as proved by independent tests. Both its turbocharged four-pot rivals are faster, but neither has as much character. Dodge is among the rare few offering all-wheel-drive, making the Challenger the default muscle car in cold-weather states.

R/T models are equipped with a 5.7-liter naturally-aspirated V8 producing 375 horsepower, while the R/T Scat Pack and R/T Scat Pack Widebody are fitted with the 6.4L Hemi V8 producing 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. This empowers the Dodge with a top speed of around 150 mph.

Dodge doesn't provide claimed acceleration figures, but the 5.7-liter is clearly faster than the V6, though still not entirely mind-bending. The Scat Pack models pack the kind of power we expect from a modern muscle car. After all, getting the rear end out is much easier with 475 lb-ft of torque, and that's what muscle cars are all about, right?

2021 Dodge Challenger SXT / GT Forward View Dodge
2021 Dodge Challenger SXT / GT Driving Back View Dodge
2021 Dodge Challenger Wheel Dodge

Engine and Transmission

The renowned Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 does duty under the hood on base models, developing 303 hp and 268 lb-ft of torque. This setup only supports the eight-speed automatic transmission but you can upgrade the standard RWD to AWD without restriction. While we do appreciate Dodge's commitment to a large capacity entry-level engine, one can't argue with the performance provided by turbocharged rivals. A 2.3-liter turbocharged Mustang gets to 60 mph almost two seconds faster.

The R/T upgrades to a 5.7-liter V8 that produces 372 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque when mated to the eight-speed automatic, and 375 hp and 410 lb-ft if you opt for the available six-speed manual gearbox. While we appreciate still having a manual option, this engine isn't particularly well suited for self-shifting. Peak power is delivered at just over 5,000 rpm and peak torque at 4,300 rpm. When it comes to manuals, we prefer an engine that can spin to at least 8,000 rpm.

Dodge's 6.4-liter V8 (485 hp and 475 lb-ft) suffers from the same problem. Colossal power, but delivered in massive lumps rather than linearly spread over the torque curve. For this reason, we recommend going the automatic route. It shifts much faster anyway, and there are steering-wheel-mounted paddles for manual override.

  • Engines
    3.6L V6 Gas, 5.7L V8 Gas, 6.4L V8 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Manual, 8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, RWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Muscle cars have traditionally been all about straight-line speed, and once again, Dodge remained faithful to the formula but to its detriment. Its rivals are far more capable when tackling corners. These include the Ford Mustang and Camaro, which is particularly impressive.

Driving the Dodge, you immediately notice how much weight you have under your hands when the wheels are pointed dead ahead. Apply any sort of lock, and the steering is lifeless and devoid of feel. Body roll is well-controlled, but that's the only praise. It's a hefty car with a suspension designed for cruising rather than canyon carving.

On the plus side, it is comfortable enough to use daily if you can stomach the awkward dimensions. Models with 20-inch alloys are more susceptible to bumps, but road noise is kept to a minimum.

The Challenger is a two-trick pony. It can hustle in a straight line with the right engine, and it can cruise long distances without breaking the driver's back. To be brutally honest, it feels dynamically limited thanks to its competitors now being multi-talented driving machines.

Challenger Gas Mileage

According to the EPA, the 3.6-liter V6 with RWD can manage 19/30/23 mpg city/highway/combined. Swapping to AWD drops these figures down to 18/27/21 mpg. The 5.7L V8 with a manual transmission estimates mileage returns of 15/23/18 mpg, or 16/25/19 mpg with the automatic box. The 6.4L Widebody gets 14/23/17 mpg and 15/24/18 mpg with the same specs. Not one of these models is especially frugal, but the most efficient Challenger can get 426 miles from its 18.5-gallon tank.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    18.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 19/30 mpg
* 2021 Dodge Challenger SXT RWD

Challenger Interior

The exterior has aged very well, but the interior of the Challenger 2-door coupe is a disappointment. We're inclined to look the other way thanks to the affordable pricing, but the Mustang delivers more at the same price.

Two things deserve praise, however. The Challenger is easily the most comfortable and spacious of the famous muscle car trio, and it can seat four adults. Thanks to continuous updates over the years, it has managed to stay on top of connectivity trends.

2021 Dodge Challenger Dashboard Dodge
2021 Dodge Challenger Cup Holder Dodge
2021 Dodge Challenger Vent Dodge
See All 2021 Dodge Challenger Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The Challenger's low stance and two-door coupe styling make it tricky to get in and out of, especially for rear passengers. Its doors open wide, but they are heavy. The front legroom (42 inches) takes up most of the interior space, but the 33.1 inches of rear legroom isn't that bad. Front headroom is ample at 39.3 inches, while the rear passengers get 37.1 inches. Front seats come with six-way adjustment (power adjustment for the driver), making it easy to find a suitable driving position.

Once inside, four fully-grown adults should be comfortable. This is one of the Dodge's unique selling points in comparison to its direct rivals. It's not an easy car to see out of due to the expansive rear pillars and the small rear window. Unfortunately, there's no blind-spot monitoring to help out in tricky situations

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.0 in
  • Front Head Room 39.3 in
  • Rear Leg Room 33.1 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.1 in

Interior Colors and Materials

The interior looks and feels cheap, but it is screwed together properly. Dodge dresses the interior in houndstooth cloth as standard. This even includes the top-end Super Stock, which we review separately.

On high-performance models, you get additional side bolstering to keep yourself in place. To get Nappa leather seats, you need to add the Plus Package at an additional $3,095. It adds a lot of interior kit, as well as better, higher-quality sports seats. There are three color options available: Black, Black/Ruby Red, and Black/Caramel. It costs $2,095 for the R/T Scat Pack and Widebody.

Challenger Trunk and Cargo Space

Yet another example of the Challenger's relatively spacious nature. It has a 16.2-cubic-foot trunk, which is just 0.3 cubes down from its Charger sedan sibling. That's more than enough room for the daily errands, including the school run. A new Challenger is the perfect car for a gearhead who isn't quite ready to move on to a family sedan yet. The rear seats can also be folded flat to increase luggage capacity on the odd days you need it.

Interior small-item storage is less impressive. Only front passengers get door pockets and a set of cupholders. The storage under the center armrest is small, and those are your only options. We suspect the front cupholders will likely be the default place for storing phones, keys, and sunglasses.

2021 Dodge Challenger SXT / GT Infotainment System Dodge
2021 Dodge Challenger Cup Holder 1 Dodge
2021 Dodge Challenger Trunk Space Dodge
  • Trunk Volume
    16.2 ft³

Challenger Infotainment and Features

Features

It's pretty apparent where Dodge spent most of the development money, and it certainly wasn't in the comfort and convenience department. Dodge gives you the basics across the range, while the nice features are restricted to the options list. Standard fare include a six-way power-adjustable driver's seat with four-way lumbar, a manually tilt-and-telescoping steering column, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, cruise control, a rear parking camera, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The GT spec adds rear park assist.

Infotainment

All models up to the R/T come with a seven-inch Uconnect system with Bluetooth, voice command, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and two USB ports. The R/T Scat Pack upgrades to an 8.4-inch Uconnect system and adds SiriusXM and a climate control display.

A six-speaker sound system is standard on both V6 models, and the R/T. The Scat Pack Widebody are equipped with six-speaker premium Alpine sound system with an amplifier. A nine-speaker Alpine sound system is available for the two entry-level models while the rest of the range can be upgraded to an 18-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. If you want the Harman Kardon sound system in a V6 model, you first have to upgrade the infotainment system to Uconnect 4C Nav.

Challenger Problems and Reliability

Challenger owners love their cars. That much is clear from its J.D. Power Ownership Survey. It scored 85 out of a possible 100 points overall, with the driving experience scoring higher than any other category. Dodge definitely hit the nail on the head as far as its customers are concerned.

It scores quite well for reliability, too. According to the NHTSA, no recalls have been issued for 2020 or 2021 models. There were a total of three recalls in 2019, though, for reasons including warning lights not illuminating, front tires that may be damaged, and a rearview image that remains on the screen after the system has been deactivated.

The Challenger comes standard with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles

Challenger Safety

In its review of the Dodge Challenger, the NHTSA awarded the coupe a full five-star rating.. The IIHS was less kind, though, giving the Challenger a rating of Good only in the side-impact and overlap front crash tests. It scored Acceptable and Marginal in the remaining categories. This is underwhelming in a world where most new cars receive much higher scores across the board.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

Dodge seems to have cut some corners in terms of safety, as is evidenced by the lack of standard driver-assistance systems. All models get six airbags, ABS brakes, traction and stability control, and a rearview camera. The GT model adds rear park assist. You can get blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision avoidance, but all of these items are locked behind a paywall.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Dodge Challenger a good car?

The newest Dodge Challenger looks like a much older car, which is especially noticeable at the lower end of the range. The Hellcat and Super Stock at least have their own unique selling points, but the rest of the range struggles to make a case for existing. All things considered, the standard Challenger range is left with only two unique draws: the availability of AWD and practical interior space. Sadly, neither are priorities when shopping for a pony car in the US.

The Camaro and Mustang are in a different league. Yes, they do the straight-line thing, but they can also handle corners. Adding driver assistance features to the Mustang is also cheaper, and high-end Camaros come standard with the smart safety kit.

While not the best, the Dodge Challenger still has some old-school charm, which endears it to die-hard fans of the traditional muscle car.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Dodge Challenger?

The base price of the Challenger SXT is $28,870 MSRP, while the GT retails for $31,870. These two are the only models available with AWD, which adds $3,000 to the sticker price. The V8 R/T retails for $35,570, while the R/T Scat Pack with the larger V8 goes for $40,645. The top-spec R/T Scat Pack Widebody has an MSRP of $46,640. Both the R/T and Scat Pack come with a $1,000 gas guzzler tax, included in the pricing above. These prices exclude the $1,495 destination cost of the Dodge Challenger.

2021 Dodge Challenger Models

There are five models in the 2021 Dodge Challenger range, excluding the high-performance variants, which have their own reviews. The standard powertrain is the V6, which puts out 303 hp and 268 lb-ft, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The base SXT kicks things off with a seven-inch infotainment screen, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, a rearview camera, and 18-inch wheels. AWD is available and increases the wheel size to 19 inches.

The GT trim adds a performance hood with a functional hood scoop and an SRT front splitter, performance steering and suspension (only available on RWD), performance bolsters for the front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 20-inch alloys, and rear park assist.

The R/T upgrades to the 5.7-liter V8 with up to 375 hp, an electronically controlled active exhaust system, a six-speed Tremec manual transmission, and 20-inch Satin Carbon wheels. The eight-speed auto is still available as an option, though AWD is not.

The R/T Scat Pack equips the high-performance Hemi V8 with 485 hp, Brembo four-piston performance brakes, line lock, and launch control, heated front seats and steering wheel, and the larger 8.4-inch infotainment screen with performance pages and the Alpine premium sound system. The Widebody Scat Pack upgrades to six-piston Brembo brake calipers, Bilstein adaptive suspension, Widebody front splitter and fender flares, and all-season Pirelli P Zero tires.

All models get the same safety features as standard, including six airbags, ABS brakes, traction and stability control, and a rearview camera.

See All 2021 Dodge Challenger Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

There are a variety of design packages available, depending on the model you choose. There are also packages that add more luxury and safety to the vehicle. The entry-level Plus Package ($3,095 on the SXT/GT, $2,095 on R/T models) adds Nappa leather seats, heated front seats and steering wheel, front and rear park assist, the larger 8.4-inch infotainment screen, and the six-speaker Alpine sound system, to name just a few. The Driver Convenience Group ($1,295) adds blind-spot monitoring, fog lamps, better headlights, park assist, and remote start. Adding the $1,295 Technology Package gives adaptive cruise control, auto high-beams, forward collision warning, and rain-sensing wiper. This package only costs $495 on the R/T model, as it already includes some of the features as standard. On certain models, you can add the Carbon/Suede Interior Package for $1,595 or delete the rear seats for just one dollar.

🚗What Dodge Challenger Coupe Should I Buy?

As a value-for-money proposition, the base SXT makes the most sense. You still get the same handsome exterior and all of the color options. Plus, you can add all of the comfort and safety features without breaking the bank.

If you prefer your Challenger with a V8, we'd suggest giving the 5.7-liter R/T a skip in favor of the Scat Pack. The 6.4-liter V8 is so much better and worth the extra $6,000. Dodge's older 5.7 V8 needs to be retired. Its specific power output is woeful, and there's a good chance it will be outperformed by upcoming updated versions of turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The Scat Pack also comes with line lock, launch control, and uprated four-piston brake calipers.

Check out other Dodge Challenger Styles

2021 Dodge Challenger Comparisons

Dodge Charger CarBuzz
Ford Mustang Coupe Ford
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Dodge Challenger305 hp19/30 mpg$28,870
Dodge Charger 292 hp19/30 mpg$30,570
Ford Mustang Coupe 310 hp21/30 mpg$26,670

2021 Dodge Challenger vs Dodge Charger

The Challenger and Charger are the same car, just with a different body. The lineup is exactly the same, as are the engine options and standard features. The Charger is the more practical of the two, though its trunk isn't that much bigger. But, having two extra doors makes a big difference.

Deciding between the two is a purely personal choice. It comes down to whether you're willing to sacrifice practicality for some retro styling. Having said that, the Charger is looking mighty fine these days. With its downward-angled headlights, bigger air intakes, and performance hood with power bulges (standard from GT spec), it looks very purposeful. Better even than the Challenger, at least to our eyes.

See Dodge Charger Review

2021 Dodge Challenger vs Ford Mustang Coupe

Things start falling apart for the Dodge when you compare it to the more modern Mustang. In fact, there are only two reasons why you'd choose the Dodge: you either prefer the design, or you like the added practicality. It definitely is reminiscent of images of the muscle cars of yesteryear.

While the Dodge's practicality is a nice touch, it doesn't really matter. Customers shopping in this segment want excitement, and the Mustang easily trounces the Challenger.

At the lower-end, the Ford's 310 hp 2.3-liter four-pot easily outperforms the older 3.6-liter V6.

The Ford's 5.0 Coyote V8 isn't as powerful as the Hemi V8, but the performance is so similar that you wouldn't even notice. And when it comes to tackling corners, the Mustang is in a different league. Add in Ford's comprehensive Co-Pilot 360 driver assistance suite as standard, better build quality, and nicer materials, and you have a much more compelling package. To take on the Ford, Dodge is going to have to completely overhaul the Challenger.

See Ford Mustang Coupe Review

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2021 Dodge Challenger Video Review

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