by Gabe Beita Kiser
The Challenger is now the only two-door available from Dodge with the venerable Dodge Viper discontinued as of 2017. The large muscle-car faces off against what most consider pony-cars like the Chevrolet Camaro SS and the Ford Mustang, but Dodge is fully willing to milk their muscle-car heritage to try and dominate the segment, which is where the T/A moniker comes into play. An old-school tribute to the Dodge Trans Am racers of the '70s, the Challenger T/A lineup consists of three trims, all packing big V8s and all boasting bespoke styling in the way of black detailing, old-school hood-pins, and Hellcat-inspired air intakes on the inboard headlights. The T/A and T/A Plus are equipped with a 5.7-liter V8 developing 372 horsepower, while the T/A 392 goes all-out with a 6.4-liter V8 engine with 485 hp on tap. Sticking to muscle-car tradition all T/A trims are equipped with a rear-wheel drivetrain, with buyers able to choose between an old-fashioned six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic gearbox. A worthy celebration of a decades-old heritage of racing, the T/A is a muscle car for the modern era.
While 2018's big news is the Challenger SRT Demon, the T/A hasn't escaped the new year unchanged, and is now outfitted with a seven-inch touchscreen display installed with Uconnect 4 system along with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality as standard. A Parkview rear back-up camera is also fitted as standard on all trims. F8 Green and IndiGo Blue exterior paint options are added to the 2018 color palette while B5 Blue and Plum Crazy are reintroduced. An all-new Performance Handling Package is made available for trims equipped with the 5.7-liter engine which includes four-piston Brembo brakes and high-performance suspension.
The Challenger T/A exudes 1970s-inspired muscle-car styling as seen on the rest of the Challenger range, but given a range of T/A specific elements in accordance with the badge. All trims feature a split grille, a model-specific hood with a massive air intake, and a rear spoiler with T/A decals. They are fitted with halogen headlights with LED halos and LED tail lamps, while the inboard headlights feature illuminated 'Air Catcher' intakes inspired by the Hellcat. The T/A and T/A plus ride on 20-inch low-gloss granite crystal lightweight forged aluminum wheels while the T/A 392 receives 20-inch low-gloss black forged aluminum wheels. Other nods to the Trans Am racers include matte black decals, and optionally, old-school pins to secure the hood.
The Challenger is one of the larger two-door coupes by a considerable margin. All T/A trims have identical dimensions, stretching 197.9 inches in length, standing 57.5 inches high and 85.8 inches wide. They all carry a wheelbase of 116.2 inches and ride with a ground clearance of 5.2 inches. With the manual transmission, the T/A weighs in at 4,232 lbs while the automatic transmission brings that weight up to 4,239 lbs. The Ford Mustang GT and Chevrolet Camaro SS have far lighter curb weights of 3,705 lbs and 3,685 lbs respectively and both are around ten inches shorter in overall length - they are pony cars after all.
For 2018, there are 15 exterior color options available for all the Dodge Challenger T/A trims. New to the paint palette are F8 Green and IndiGo Blue while B5 Blue and Plum Crazy are reintroduced to the palette after a one-year hiatus. None of the options set themselves aart as all are striking and complement heritage-inspired styling of the Dodge Challenger as classic throwback colors. The lighter paint options contrast better against the black exterior accents of the T/A while the darker options augment its aggressive muscle-car appeal. We favor the miltant F8 Green and the appropriately named Plum Crazy, but Yellow Jacket looks particularly good with the T/A's matte black adornments.
The Challenger T/A 392 is the more performance-oriented trim option from the T/A lineup with its larger 6.4-liter engine, Brembo brakes, and performance-tuned suspension. On the straight and narrow, the T/A 392 races from 0-60mph in just 4.2 seconds, the automatic variant can reach a top speed of 178 mph while the manual variant pushes it up to 181 mph thanks to outputs of 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque. The Challenger is equipped with a rear-wheel drivetrain, as is tradition for American muscle, giving it the benefit of improved handling and acceleration. Kitted out with T/A styling and the 392 cubic inch Hemi V8, tire-smoking glory is the order of the day.
Two engine options are available for the T/A badged Challenger range, both V8 in nature and high in displacement. But whether it's the 5.7-liter V8 engine with its 372 hp and 400 lb-ft on the T/A and T/A Plus, or the 6.4-liter Hemi V8 engine with 485 hp and 475 lb-ft found in the T/A 392, acceleration and power delivery from both powertrains are tremendous. Throttle responses are directly calibrated to the weight of your right foot, with natural aspiration key to the engines' responsiveness. Acceleration off-the-line is momentous, and the weight of the Challenger is no hindrance to the burly V8s. From the mid-range and onward the power delivery remains consistently potent, reaching higher speeds is a smooth and quick progression and overtaking is no challenge.
Transmission options available with both engines are a choice between a six-speed manual for those who like control, or an eight-speed automatic, which is more adept at allowing you to keep both hands firmly on the wheel. While the eight-speed automatic is the more economical transmission, the six-speed manual is certainly the more engaging transmission option and a great fit for the Challenger's muscle-car character.
Despite the sheer size and performance aspirations of the Challenger T/A, the ride quality is surprisingly plush. The sport-tuned suspension in the T/A and T/A Plus and the high-performance-tuned suspension in the T/A 392 handle most minor road imperfections and undulations surprisingly well, while larger road deformities and bumps do slightly unsettle the cabin. For its large size and hefty weight, the Challenger also manages to remain solidly planted on the tarmac around bends, provided you control throttle inputs to prevent heavy doses of oversteer. It doesn't present any sort of advanced or mind-blowing handling dynamics, and there are limits and boundaries that can't be pushed, but it does hold its composure suitably enough for the needs of most enthusiastic drivers.
The standard Brembo brakes are exceptional and suited to the hefty Challenger, delivering ample stopping power and control. Steering is fairly light on the whole, but the Challanger T/A fails to mask its size and never feels like a small car, particularly when navigating parking spaces. The precise steering does, however, make this more manageable.
All T/A trims, regardless of which V8 they're equipped with, feature an active exhaust system designed specifically for the T/A. Together with a revised intake, it gives the T/A a throaty bark, which goes against the typically refined levels of NVH in regular Challenger derivatives, but gives the T/A a hard-edged nature we love.
Both Challenger T/A engine calibrations return middling fuel economy estimates relative to class rivals. The 5.7-liter V8 matched with the eight-speed auto transmission is the more economical option with EPA estimates of 16/25/19 mpg city/highway/combined. Paired with the six-speed manual transmission, the setup returns 15/23/18 mpg. Estimates of 15/25/18 mpg come from the 6.4-liter V8 engine tethered to the automatic and 14/23/17 mpg with the manual. The 5.7-liter engine and eight-speed auto gearbox make the most out of the 18.5-gallon gas tank which when filled with the required premium unleaded gas, carries T/A onward for around 351 miles in mixed conditions.
Setting the T/A apart from regular Dodge Challengers are the period-specific Houndstooth cloth front seats and T/A embroidery, which in the T/A and T/A 392 are augmented with quality performance cloth while the T/A Plus features high-end Alcantara leather bolstering. The interior of the T/A is predominantly adorned with high-quality soft-touch materials and exudes modernity and sportiness. The overall construction of the Challenger is excellent, no squeaks or rattling can be heard from within the cabin and the doors shut with a solid feel. Fixes and finished are firmly fitted and a decent amount of attention has been given to the finer details of the interior. Though mostly driver-centric, the Challenger offers the best-in-class cabin room delivering prime comfort for all passengers. The driver's seat features six-way power-adjustability with a four-way power lumbar adjuster.
All Challenger trims can comfortably seat a total of five passengers. Room throughout the cabin is more than ample even in the rear seats, where adults over six-feet-tall will manage to find a comfortable perch, provided they can contort enough to climb in there. However, legroom in the center back seat is hindered by the large transmission tunnel. The Challenger's wide-opening and heavy doors make ingress and egress difficult in tight spots but are otherwise easy to live with. Getting in and out from the rear seats is also no problem. The driver is ergonomically positioned behind all the controls and with optimal outward visibility overall. The chunky C-pillars do impede on rearward visibility slightly, but this is mitigated by the Parkview back-up camera.
As standard, all T/A Challenger trims feature a leather-wrapped performance steering wheel and bright aluminum pedals. They come with black seatbelts as standard with the option of red. Standard in the T/A and T/A 392 are Sedoso/Houndstooth Performance cloth seats with Tungsten accent stitching in Black. Both trims also feature dark brushed aluminum interior accents. Standard in the T/A Plus are Black performance seats with Nappa leather trim and Alcantara suede bolsters with Tungsten accent stitching and Alcantara perforated suede inserts with an embroidered T/A logo. This trim features Hectic Mesh aluminum interior accents.
The Dodge Challenger is class-leading in terms of trunk and cargo capacity with 16.2 cubic feet of space offered in the trunk. That's more than enough room for any and all daily essentials and will easily fit three large pieces of luggage. Trunk space can be expanded for larger items by folding down the 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
In-cabin storage solutions comprise a small door side storage pocket and a bottle holder on each door, a decently sized center armrest console, dual cupholders in the center console, a small net pocket, shallow storage tray, and a sizable compartmentalized glove box. Each front seat is fitted with a seatback map pocket and the center rear seat backrest folds down to reveal dual cupholders.
Features as standard from the base T/A Challenger is a six-way power-adjustable driver seat with four-way lumbar support and an easy rear-seat entry/exit system, dual-zone automatic climate control, and 60/40 split-folding rear seats. The T/A Plus is outfitted with a heated steering wheel, power tilt/telescoping steering column, heated and ventilated front seats, and a universal garage door opener. Both the T/A and T/A Plus feature a 160 mph primary speedometer while the T/A 392 receives a 180 mph primary speedometer. All trims are equipped with a Parkview rear back-up camera and a Parksense rear park assist system along with brake assist, rain brake support, ready alert braking, hill start assist, electronic stability control, and a tire pressure monitoring system. A power sunroof is available for all Challenger T/A trims.
The base T/A is equipped with a Uconnect 4 infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen display and standard six-speaker sound system. The system allows for AM/FM Radio, Bluetooth, Integrated voice command, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay functionality. It is outfitted with a USB host flip and a media hub with an audio input jack and two USB ports. As standard, the T/A Plus and T/A 392 are outfitted with Uconnect 4C infotainment software with an 8.4-inch touchscreen display and premium six-speaker Alpine audio system. This upgraded system additionally allows for CD/DVD/MP3 format capability, Bluetooth audio streaming, and SiriusXM satellite radio with a one-year trial. Navigation is optional for all trims as well as either a nine-speaker Alpine audio system or an 18-speaker premium Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger has been subject to several recalls, the most notable recall pertaining to abrupt stalling or a no-start condition caused by a voltage regulator chip in the powertrain circuit board that could fail. There have also been numerous driver complaints issued relating to a variety of minor problems. It did, however, receive an above-average predicted reliability rating of eighty out of one hundred from J.D. Power. Dodge covers the Challenger with a three-year/36,000-mile basic limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
The base 2018 Dodge Challenger received excellent crash-test scores from the NHTSA with an overall rating of five out of five stars. The IIHS, however, gave the base 2018 Dodge Challenger mixed crash-test scores. It received the best possible rating of Good for only two of five individual tests.
All Challenger T/A trims are equipped with active head restraints and six standard airbags. As standard, all trims also feature brake assist, rain brake support, ready alert braking, hill start assist, electronic stability control, and a tire pressure monitoring system. A Parkview rear back-up camera and a Parksense rear park assist system are also installed as standard. Brake-park interlock is equipped in the automatic variants. Forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-path detection are optionally available.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger T/A is, in general, a good car. The base selection of features are favorable and its overall performance and character one-of-a-kind, delivering heaps of driver satisfaction and passenger enjoyment. The Challenger's key competitive highlights are its class-leading trunk and cargo capacity and abundant in-cabin passenger room. It is also equipped with a decent selection of safety and driver-assist features as standard with availability to many more.
Both engine options deliver potent acceleration, and the new soundtrack courtesy of the T/A-specific exhaust and air intake are simply intoxicating. Mix a hefty dose of V8 performance with the Trans Am inspired styling present on every T/A, and you've got a winning recipe that panders to the thrill of nostalgia.
The base Challenger T/A is priced at $37,495. The Challenger T/A Plus and Challenger T/A 392 are slightly more expensive with MSRPs of $40,495 and $44,995 respectively. Those prices are excluding Dodge's destination charge of $1,495 and are exclusive of tax, registration, and licensing fees. Independent dealers may offer dealer-specific incentives and unique pricing structures.
Comprising the Challenger T/A lineup are three trims: the base T/A, T/A Plus, and T/A 392. The T/A and T/A Plus are equipped with a 5.7-liter V8 engine while the T/A 392 is equipped with a larger 6.4-liter V8 engine that produces 485 hp and 475 lb-ft.
The Challenger T/A is the base trim from the lineup and is outfitted with a basic selection of features. As standard, it features a seven-inch touchscreen display, a six-speaker sound system, and houndstooth cloth upholstery, along with a range of T/A exterior trim.
Above the base T/A trim, the Challenger T/A Plus is fitted with a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, an upgraded Uconnect 4C infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen and six-speaker premium Alpine audio system.
The Challenger T/A 392 is better equipped for performance and handling from the outset. Above the other two T/A trims it is equipped with a high-performance suspension, Brembo six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers, and a 180 mph primary speedometer.
Available for all trims is a Driver Convenience group which includes power multifunction foldaway mirrors, high-intensity discharge headlamps, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, a remote start system (automatic transmission only) and a universal garage door opener.
The Performance Handling Group upgrades the T/A and T/A Plus with Brembo four-piston brakes with Black brake calipers as well as with a high-performance suspension.
Optional for the T/A 392 is a Leather Interior Group which comprises heated and ventilated Nappa leather/suede-trimmed front seats, a heated steering wheel, Hectic Mesh interior
accents, and a power tilt/telescoping steering column.
A Premium Sound Group is optional for the T/A Plus and T/A 392 which upgrades the audio system to an 18-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. The Technology Group adds auto high-beam headlamp control, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and rain-sensitive windshield wipers.
When it comes to muscle-cars, power is the name of the game, and in the case of the T/A we recommend opting for the T/A 392 being the biggest baddest T/A derivative. It pays proper tribute to the 1970s Trans Am racers with the big Hemi V8 delivering the most noise and the best performance, along with a little extra luxury. We suggest opting the T/A in the Yellow Jacket paint option and ticking the option box for the old-school hood pins which along with the matte-black exterior accents transforms the 1970's Trans Am racer tribute into a true showpiece.
The 2018 Ford Mustang GT carries an MSRP of $39,190, which is about $5,800 cheaper than the Challenger T/A 392. The Mustang is equipped with a smaller 5.0-liter V8 engine with a less power at 460 hp, but with less weight the Mustang is faster to the 60 mph mark by a tiny margin. The Mustang handles a little better than the Challenger, too. Consequently, head and legroom and trunk capacity are gravely more limited in the Mustang, the Challenger offers far more comfort for rear passengers. At the standard level, the Challenger is better outfitted with more comfort and convenience features and with far better tech and connectivity capabilities. For the higher price, the Challenger offers greater value for money in terms of daily drivability and luxury, and with the added tributes to the Trans Am racers, there's a sense of nostalgia on every T/A that the Mustang can't match.
The 2018 Chevrolet Camaro carries an attractive MSRP of $42,000, slightly more affordable than the base Challenger T/A 392. It is powered by a 6.2-liter V8 engine that produces 455 hp and 455 lb-ft aided by a default six-speed manual transmission. The Camaro is as capable as the Challenger when it comes to straight-line performance, and even better when the road gets twisty.However, the Challenger offers far greater utility than the Camaro, as the latter seats only four passengers as opposed to five, and only offers nine cubic feet of trunk space, almost half of what the Challenger provides. Although the Camaro neglects practicality to focus on performance and handling, making it more fun as a driver's car, but the big brutish attitude of the Challenger will be better suited to those who love classic muscle.