2015 Dodge Challenger 3rd Generation Facelift
Only in its eighth model year did the Dodge Challenger's 3rd generation get a major refresh. The exterior changes only modernize what was already there and Dodge does not meddle too much with a winning recipe that resonates with owners. The interior is much improved though.
2015-2022 Challenger 3rd Gen Facelift Front Changes
The nose of the facelifted car is instantly familiar but also all-new. The bumper gets a center crease1 and bigger, more aggressive lower fascia with a bigger air intake2. The grille is more modern3 and brand-new headlights with four corona-ring LED daytime running lights feature prominently4.
2015-2022 Challenger 3rd Gen Facelift Rear Changes
The rear lights are completely revamped and the old, full-width bank of light units with its incandescent bulbs is replaced by big LED-strip taillights encircling the backup lights and turn signals1, split in two by a "Dodge" insignia in the middle2. A more shapely, scalloped rear bumper replaces the flat-slabbed old item with its singular horizontal crease down the middle3. A new shark-fin antenna can be seen on the back of the roof4, replacing the previous low-profile version.
2015-2022 Challenger 3rd Gen Facelift Side Changes
In profile, the facelift's different wheel designs are obvious, but other changes are far less noticeable. The most obvious of these is the longer, thinner, side marker lights on the bumpers1. The new shark-fin radio antenna can also be seen from the side, replacing the old nub-like antenna.
2015-2022 Challenger 3rd Gen Facelift Interior Changes
The interior on the facelift is totally different and nothing is carried over from the previous model. The drab, sedan-like dashboard with its squared-off air vents and upright center stack make way for a higher-quality item, oriented toward the driver and with proper provision for the integration of modern infotainment screens in the center between the curvy new air vents1. Said infotainment system and the gauge cluster are incorporated into one continuous pod that brings the controls closer together. The all-new gauge cluster's numerals follow the orientation of the needles and are no longer horizontal2. Their center portions are covered, so only the ends of the needles can be seen ascribing their arcs. A driver-information display nestles between the speedo and rev counter3. The door cards have been redesigned too, with new metal-finish door openers. There are brand-new steering-wheel options, too4.
Engine, Transmission, and Drivetrain
For 2008, the Dodge Challenger gen 3 was launched as a single model with one engine. This was a performance version, the SRT8, with a 6.1-liter Hemi V8 engine packing 425 hp/420 lb-ft. The SRTs are reviewed separately and for the purposes of this review, the first "normal" Challenger was the 2009 base SE V6, using a 250-hp/250-lb-ft version of the 3.5-liter Chrysler SOHC V6 engine with a four-speed automatic transmission, along with a mid-range R/T, which uses a 5.7-liter version of the Hemi V8 with 370 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque, coupled to a five-speed automatic. A six-speed manual transmission is made available on the R/T for 2009. With the manual, the R/T produces 375 hp. For 2010, the SE V6 also receives the five-speed automatic transmission, and the V8 R/T automatic is boosted to 372 hp/400 lb-ft and the manual to 376 hp/410 lb-ft. For 2011, the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 replaces the old Chrysler SOHC 3.5-liter engine, boasting outputs of 305 hp and 268 lb-ft.
Things remain unchanged until the 2015 model year when the Challenger receives its major facelift. It also marks the launch of the R/T Scat Pack with a 485-hp/475-lb-ft version of the 6.4-liter V8. All models that used to have the five-speed automatic transmission receive a new eight-speed automatic transmission for the 2015 model year. Some trims are renamed, with the V6 becoming the SXT. AWD becomes available for the first time ever on a Challenger for the 2017 model year in the form of the V6 GT trim.
2009-2022 Dodge Challenger Real MPG
Once enough examples of a certain car have been sold, the EPA publishes its real-world fuel-consumption figures, as submitted by owners. The ideal is that these should be true combined cycle numbers, but the EPA has no control over the conditions under which owners have achieved these figures. If they are way better or worse than the EPA estimates, they must be taken with a grain of salt. For example, the best figure of 28.9 MPG submitted for the 2011-2014 Challenger 3.6 V6 automatic was almost certainly achieved on the highway and not on the combined cycle, as was the 27 MPG submitted by the owner of a manual 5.7. However, with a range of figures available across multiple years, one does start to gain a feel for what is possible and it seems that the EPA is generally accurate or even conservative with most of its claims.
* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.
When it was still fresh, the NHTSA crash-tested the Dodge Challenger third generation against the less-strict pre-2011 criteria and it scored a full five stars across the board for all tests except the rollover test, which garnered four stars. The 2013 model was the first to be tested under the new criteria and it managed a five-star overall showing again, but with the side crash flagged because the driver's door opened. This problem was later addressed and the Challenger maintained its five-star rating all the way until the 2022 model year, with only the frontal impact and rollover tests getting four stars. Its IIHS scores aren't quite as good, mainly because the Challenger was designed before the small overlap front crash test was introduced; it never scored higher than "Marginal" in this field. For the moderate front overlap and original IIHS side test, it was given a "Good" rating and for its roof strength and headrests and seats, an "Acceptable" rating. These scores remained static right up to the 2022 model.
At launch, the 2008 SRT8 came standard with ABS brakes, stability control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and six airbags. However, that 2008 SRT8 wasn't the true base model, with the V6 SE assuming that position from the 2009 model year; it received the same safety features, except for the auto-dimming rearview mirror, which was available optionally. Absolutely nothing changed until the 2013 model year, when rear parking sensors became optional across the board. The 2015 Challenger lineup brought additional optional safety feature, notably a backup camera, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:
Side Crash Rating:
3rd Generation Dodge Challenger Trims
For the 2008 launch year, only a single trim was offered - the SRT8. The first V6 joined the lineup as the new base model in 2009. The SE, as it was called, became the SXT in 2012 and gained a V6 GT derivative with AWD in 2017. The R/T models are one rung up and mostly use the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine in different states of tune, except for the R/T Scat Pack, which has the 6.4-liter engine. The SRT8 was available from the start as a 2008 model and continued to feature for all model years, first as a 6.1-liter and then as the SRT 392 6.4-liter from the 2011 model year, slotting in above the V6 and R/T V8 models and below the supercharged models.
There were various special editions over the years - too many to mention them all, but here are some noteworthy editions:
- 2009 R/T Classic. This special edition, based on the 2009 R/T, comes with a retro theme and exclusive color palette, including heritage colors such as Toxic Orange, B5 Blue, TorRed, Furious Fuchsia, Plum Crazy Purple (last used on a Dodge in the '70s), and Detonator Yellow, as well as a functional hood scoop, 20-inch chromed alloys, retro graphics, black side stripes and R/T badging, "Challenger" badges on the fenders, and "R/T" badging in an egg-crate grille.
- 2010 Mopar '10 R/T. Based on the R/T, this limited edition comes in metallic pearl black only and with a choice of red, silver, or blue accent stripes on its sides, as well as black 20-inch heritage alloy wheels, a Hurst pistol-grip gear shifter, a Mopar cold-air intake adding 10 hp, custom badging, and other unique features. The package was marketed to commemorate the Panther Pink cars of 1970. Only 500 were made.
- 2013-2014 Rallye Redline Edition. Based on the V6 SXT Plus five-speed automatic, the Rallye Redline Edition gains a less-restrictive exhaust system and a cold-air intake to boost power to 305 hp. It also gains the R/T's shorter 3.06:1 final drive, as well as firmer suspension, quicker steering, thicker sway bars, bigger brakes, and 20-inch wheels.
- 2013 R/T Blacktop. This is essentially an appearance package applied to the 2013 R/T and comes with a choice of three paint colors, 20-inch gloss-black alloy wheels, gloss-black treatment for the fuel-filler door and grille surround, and red-accented matte-graphite side striping. Additionally, it gets three-mode stability control, including an off mode, and everything in the 2012 Super Track Pack.
- 2014 Mopar '14. The second Mopar special edition to come around after the 2010 version, the 2014 model comes with various aftermarket-style upgrades, and even more of these were offered than before, including the Shaker hood with a functional scoop, as well as being prepped to accommodate any of three Scat Pack power upgrades, boosting the 5.7-liter V8's outputs by as much as 58 hp and 47 lb-ft. Only 100 were made.
- 2014 100th Anniversary Edition. Based on either the V6 SXT Plus or V8 R/T Plus, this 2014-only special-edition appearance package commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Dodge brothers' launch of the Dodge Model 30. It's offered in eight colors, runs on special polished five-spoke 20-inch alloys with "Dodge Est. 1914 100" logos on their center caps, has "Dodge Est. 1914" fender badges, a body-color rear spoiler, a unique flat-bottomed steering wheel with three spokes, die-cast "Dodge Est. 1914 100" badges on the seatbacks, "100"-embroidered floor mats, a Boston Acoustics audio system, and many other unique features.
- 2017 Mopar '17. The 2017 edition of the Mopar-equipped Challenger commemorates 80 years of Mopar. It gets either a blue or silver body with a Pitch Black roof, hand-applied "Mopar 392" badging, a Shaker hood, Hellcat-derived black exhaust tips, and 20-inch alloys. A six-speed manual transmission is paired to the 485-hp 6.4-liter V8. Inside, it gets Mopar-emblazoned sports seats with contrast stitching and even a Mopar "birth certificate". Only 160 were made.
- 2017 Mopar '19. Based on the 2019 R/T Scat Pack, this Mopar variant comes in either White Knuckle or Pitch Black and sports Mopar Shakedown graphics with Mopar Blue center stripes, a scooped Shaker hood, hood pins, 20-inch alloys, and a decklid spoiler. Polished sill guards bear the Challenger logo and there are Berber floor mats and a dashboard badge too. Only 100 were made.
- 2019 R/T Scat Pack 1320. This special edition aims to make a track car accessible to more people and is based on the R/T Scat Pack with the 485-hp V8, adding street-legal drag radials, SRT-tuned adaptive suspension with a Drag Mode, the aluminum hood from the Hellcat, and many other features. Apparently, only 1,054 were made.
- 2020 50th Anniversary and Commemorative editions. The 50th Anniversary package celebrates 50 years of Challenger and was offered on the GT RWD, R/T Scat Pack, R/T Shaker, R/T Scat Pack Shaker, SRT Hellcat, and SRT Hellcat Redeye. Each of these trims received only 70 copies of the package, making them rare today. The package includes a hand-painted black hood, a black-wrapped trunk lid and roof, commemorative badging in a Gold School finish, and LED-illuminated "50" logos in the headlights. The 2020-only Commemorative Edition is for buyers that missed out on the initial run and it does not impose a production cap; however, it was offered on fewer trims - only the R/T, R/T Scat Pack, and R/T Scat Pack Widebody.
Dodge Challenger 3rd Gen Interior Overview
The Dodge Challenger is a proper four-seater, and although the rear seat isn't really spacious, adults will actually fit in with 33-odd inches of rear legroom. Entry can be difficult, though, as is usually the case with coupes. Impressively, they'll be able to take all their luggage along, because the Challenger has a spacious trunk that can accommodate 16.2 cubic feet of cargo.
The proliferation of trims is quite staggering over 15 model years and we've done our best to lay them out logically in this review. A multitude of packages and personalization options means that many trims are subdividable into a legion of other sub-trims, which are sometimes regarded as an option package and, at other times, distinct trims. In addition, the trims' names have changed over the years. To maintain customer interest, Dodge changed small things every single model year. With all the scope for customization, very few Challengers are alike, even those of the same trim. Here is a table of the default upholstery, but remember that these can change depending on packages.
2009-2022 Challenger Maintenance and Cost
The Challenger is a performance car, so meticulous maintenance is important if reliability is to be maintained, and this is probably why the intervals for lube services are only 6,000 to 8,000 miles apart. That said, some engines are better avoided, regardless of how well they've been maintained and the original SE's 3.5-liter Chrysler SOHC 250-hp V6 is one of them. This engine is prone to all kinds of problems, which worsen if it doesn't get clean oil frequently. Remember that this engine has a cambelt that must be replaced every 102,000 miles; it is a good idea to replace the water pump at the same time. The replacement interval for the air filters is 32,000 miles or two years on all engines. Spark plugs should be replaced every 96,000 miles on the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and every 32,000 miles on other engines.
The four- and five-speed automatic transmissions should have their fluid replaced at least every 120,000 miles, but you should halve this distance to prolong the service life of the transmission. Although Dodge does not specify a fluid-replacement interval for the eight-speed automatic transmission, doing so every 60,000 miles as well is a good idea to get the maximum mileage. Cabin air filters are replaced every 12,000 miles, cooling systems should be drained and flushed every 102,000 miles, and manual transmission fluid should be replaced every 40,000 miles. Most engines except for the 3.5-liter V6 are reliable, save for the odd cylinder-head problem.
Check Before You Buy
Technical Service Bulletins according to the NHTSA. Check service book for:
For the most part, the Challenger is robustly built with proven mechanicals and no delicate, highly strung technology such as multiple turbochargers and dual-clutch transmissions. Sadly, Dodge didn't have a proper entry-level six-cylinder engine around when the Challenger launched, so it used the much-maligned 3.5-liter Chrysler SOHC V6 engines for the 2009-2010 entry-level models, an engine that has become infamous for its unreliability and whose shortcomings were never successfully engineered out of it. These include its troublesome PCV system, oil sludge problems, underdesigned lubrication system, cooling issues, and lack of power. It also has a cambelt that has to be changed along with the water pump. The Pentastar V6 that replaced it for the 2011 model year is much more durable, although it did suffer a few cylinder head problems until 2013 - and occasionally still does. The traditional torque-converter automatic transmissions are tough if they get their oil changed on time. Stick religiously to the scheduled fluid changes and you should be good, and avoid engines that exhibit ticking sounds or misfires, both of which spell cam-drive problems.
The next section covers the bigger and more common 2009-2022 Dodge Challenger problems, but here are a few more minor ones to look out for nonetheless:
- Over the years, a few Challengers have experienced problems with either their camshaft or crankshaft position sensors. Throwing a P0010, P0016, or P0335 trouble code on a Dodge Challenger all indicate related problems.
- Although quite rare, excessive oil consumption has been reported.
- A few 2011 Challengers seem to have suffered fuel leaks due to a leaky fuel tank that must be replaced to the tune of $1,200.
- A few 2012 Dodge Challenger smart power window problems were reported. The odd electric window actuator can fail and replacing it will cost you in the region of $250.
- There are several 2009+ Dodge Challenger manual transmission or clutch problems. The driveline is tough and a clutch failure will be mostly due to a factory fault or abuse. Replacing it can cost nearly $2,000.
- There are a few 2012, 2017, and 2018 Dodge Challenger radio problems and Bluetooth issues, so make sure the head unit and Bluetooth connectivity work without a hitch.
- Infotainment software bugs are par for the course in modern cars and the Challenger seems to have experienced an uptick in 2015 and 2017. Most can be corrected by software updates, which should have been implemented by now.
Here are some more useful OBD2 error codes to be on the lookout for:
- The Dodge Challenger trouble code P0040, P0130, P0133, P0138, P0340, P0420, or P0430 relates to various problems with the O2 sensors.
- On a Dodge Challenger, the engine light and P0073 code mean that there is a problem with the ambient air temperature sensor, its wiring, or its connection. The ECM may also be at fault.
- The Dodge Challenger P0108 code means that there is a problem with the manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor.
- The P0113 code on a Dodge Challenger indicates a faulty intake air temperature (IAT) system.
- The P0128 Dodge Challenger code means that the engine coolant is not reaching the proper temperature.
- A Dodge Challenger P0302, 0303, or 0304 code would indicate that cylinder number two, three, or four is misfiring.
- The P0441, P0455, P0456, or P0457 Dodge Challenger code indicates that there is a problem with the evaporative emissions control (EVAP) system.
- The Dodge Challenger P0480 or P0481 code indicates a problem with the engine cooling fan.
- The Dodge Challenger code P0510 means that there is a problem with the closed throttle position switch (TPS).
- The Dodge Challenger P0520 code indicates low oil pressure and will be accompanied by the low oil pressure light.
- The Dodge Challenger P0741 error code indicates that there is a problem with the lock-up clutch inside the automatic transmission.
There are quite a few recalls for the 3rd-generation Dodge Challenger, but this is partly due to them covering no fewer than 15 model years, from 2008 to 2022. Here are the 2008-2022 Dodge Challenger recalls:
In the biggest recall in automotive history, millions of Takata airbags' inflators could rupture upon deployment, sending deadly shrapnel into a vehicle's interior. The 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Dodge Challenger airbag recall covers this issue. In a separate recall, some 2011 and 2012 Challengers were recalled because they may have incorrectly sized crimps on the wiring harness for the side airbags. The final airbag-related recall was for 2015 Challengers to replace a missing SABIC rear mounting bolt for the curtain airbag. In the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Dodge Challenger alternator recall, Chrysler recalled nearly 900,000 vehicles over five model ranges for alternator failure and various Challengers were recalled for a fault in the Wireless Ignition Module (WIN).
Some 2009 and 2010 Challengers were recalled because they may have been manufactured without a front wheel spindle nut and a handful of 2009 and 2010 Challengers were recalled for a faulty tire pressure monitoring (TPM) system. There were several 2010 Dodge Challenger power steering problems - they were recalled for a power steering hose assembly that may separate. V6-engined 2013 Challengers were recalled for a positive battery terminal at the starter motor that may short-circuit and 2014-2018 Challengers were recalled for a defect in the Powertrain Control Module (PCM). In two 2015 recalls, Challengers were recalled for radio software that could allow unauthorized access. 2015 Dodge Challengers were recalled because their instrument clusters may stop working; this software problem was responsible for the majority of 2015 Dodge Challenger instrument cluster problems.
2017 Challengers fitted with the 5.7-liter V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission were recalled because they may not remain in Park with the engine running. A few 2018 Challengers with the incorrect transmission rods installed may fail to shift to Park and could roll away. There was a recall for some Dodge Challenger backup camera problems, namely the display staying on too long. Some 2020 Challengers were recalled for having insufficient windshield bonding, which may cause the windshield to separate from the vehicle in an accident.
Which One To Avoid
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the lemon in the Challenger lineup is the 2009-2010 base SE with the troublesome and weak 3.5-liter Chrysler SOHC engine. It does not offer the power expected of a muscle car and the 2009 model is further hamstrung by an ancient four-speed automatic transmission. In terms of problems, 2012 is the worst year overall, though all the years from 2009 to 2015 are fairly prone to problems. Many of these would have been sorted out under recall or warranty. In terms of the age of the cars and their possible accumulated mileage, we'd generally avoid everything up to the 2014 model year, especially because these are the last of the pre-facelift cars and the old interior is genuinely drab and does not go at all well with the Challenger's muscle-car vibe.
Which One To Buy
We think that the 2016 model year is a particular sweet spot. It has all the benefits of the 2015 facelift, but with most of the teething troubles fixed. There honestly isn't a single bad Challenger in the 2016 lineup and although the V6 is not V8 quick, at least it offers you the AWD option - making it the only muscle car to do so. It's something to consider if you covet a Challenger but live in a state that gets snow in winter. We'd go for one of the 6.4-liter models if the budget allows because you'll never feel short-changed with 485 hp on tap.
3rd Gen Dodge Challenger Verdict
Some might say Dodge kept the Challenger alive beyond its sell-by date, but there was a good reason for that. The basic package is just right and Dodge managed to create a car that could not only go head to head with its Camaro and Mustang rivals in terms of speed and excitement but one which also offers a lot more practicality. It is a muscle car you could use every day, dressed in a suit that successfully toes the retro line and powered by tough and proven engines that can do big mileages if cared for. It might not have the handling prowess of its rivals, but it can do more things better and its practicality might just be what helps you justify spending your cash on a coupe.