by Roger Biermann
The Dodge Challenger T/A range is old school cool! Taking its name from the old Trans-Am racers back in the 1970s, the Challengers TAs get a whole lot of race inspired cosmetic extras. In addition to matt black detailing, including the hood, all models feature a big hood scoop, ‘Air Catcher’ headlamps like the Hellcat – but on both inboard headlight modules – and even old school pins to secure the hood, though those are optional. The homage to the classic 70s racer is available in three levels – T/A, T/A Plus, and T/A 392, all of which feature a performance exhaust, and Dodge’s Super Track Pak.
It’s not just old school outside – the Challenger T/A gets throwback touches inside too, such as houndstooth cloth inserts on the front bucket seats. If that’s not your thing, the T/A Plus swaps them out for leather items with heating and ventilation. Whichever you choose, the seats are awkward and overly firm – not comfortable cross country at all. Visibility is shoddy too, all round, due to narrow windows, big structural pillars and a somewhat awkward seating position.
But where the interior excels is in its spaciousness – almost no other coupe offers this much of it for all occupants and cargo. Rear passengers have plenty of head and leg room, and the cargo bay will hold a copious 16.2 cubic feet, with space to expand thanks to 60/40 split folding rear seats. The Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro can’t touch the Challenger for roominess and practicality.
All TA models come standard with the Super Track Pak, which includes a dropped ride height by half an inch, Bilstein shocks, high-performance brake lining, three mode stability control that can be disengaged entirely, and sticker rubber on the Mopar forged aluminum wheels – Goodyear Eagle F1 on T/A and T/A Plus models, and Pirelli three-season performance rubber on the T/A 392.
The firmer suspension compromises ride comfort a little, though the uprated Bilstein shocks do a fair job of smoothing out small bumps. On severely broken tarmac and large bumps though, the ride can be incredibly jarring and at times unstable. The Challenger is a big car that handles well for its heft, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence through corners and it does wallow around quite a bit – an intentional 70s throwback, maybe?
Along with the sports exhaust, the T/As get a Mopar conical air filter. But other than that, the engines remain about the same. T/A and T/A Plus models get a 5.7-liter V8 that generates the same 375 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque as R/T models, whilst the T/A 392 gets the same 6.4-liter V8 as other 392 models, developing 485hp and 475 lb-ft. Rear wheel drive is the only way to do things, with a six-speed Tremec manual gearbox as standard. Buyers can opt for an 8-speed automatic to do the shift work though.
In addition to the illuminated Air Catcher headlamps, hood scoop and black detailing, LED illuminated T/A logos are found on the sills. T/A Plus models get leather seats with heating and ventilation, as well as power tilt and telescopic steering, upgraded audio, and Uconnect 8.4 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 392 models gets wider wheels, Brembo brakes and ‘392’ fender decals. The Challenger doesn’t perform well in small overlap crash testing, scoring ‘Marginal’ results from the IIHS, but scored best results of Good for the moderate front overlap and side impact test. Forward collision warning and blind spot monitoring are available
It might not be a track monster to rival a Shelby GT350, but what the Dodge Challenger T/A is, is a big middle finger to futuristic thinking. It’s the kind of car that makes you think, “Long live the muscle car!” and the T/A 392 is the one that sends that message most clearly.