More of a time capsule than a modern performance car, the Dodge Challenger R/T is a muscle car in the truest sense of the term. Available in three variants, all versions of the Challenger R/T are strong straight-line accelerators and burnout machines with cushy interiors and lazy steering. While this may be unappealing to some, the charm of the Challenger is its defiantly old-school style and performance. The Camaro and Mustang have both evolved to become competent track weapons while the Challenger has intentionally stayed behind the times and coincidentally offers more space and comfort as a result of its large proportions and duller handling. Engine options for the R/T include a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 with 372 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, or a 6.4-liter with 485 hp and 475 lb-ft. Rear-wheel-drive and a six-speed manual are standard, while a paddle-shifting eight-speed auto can be specced for some extra dough.
The Challenger R/T benefits from a few small changes for the 2020 model year, with new 20-inch wheels now standard across the range. Depending on the model, the width of the wheels fitted varies from eight to 11 inches. Other changes include a new 50th Anniversary Edition produced in limited numbers and sold as a package. This package pays tribute to the Challenger's 1970 release, adding various badges and a satin black hood, roof, and trunk lid. New "high-impact" paint colors are also added to help make the model stand out. A Caramel Alcantara interior is now available as an option, while models with leather get premium stitching on the upper door panels and dashboard. Finally, Dodge has added new exterior badging.
The Challenger R/T is instantly recognizable as a retro muscle car, with a large central hood scoop, angular lines, and a split grille reminiscent of the original model's front end. While all models get dual-exit exhaust tips and 20-inch wheels, as well as LED daytime running lights, the Scat Pack versions integrate air intakes into the inner headlights. A trunk spoiler is fitted to each model, with Scat Pack versions earning a satin black finish here. The Widebody version also gains a Hellcat body kit, deleting the fog lights and adding fender flares. Limited-edition 50th Anniversary models get slight color scheme changes and various unique badges.
The large Challenger is predictably heavy, with base curb weight on the manual R/T starting at 4,182 lbs and swelling to 4,230 on Scat Pack models. Opting for the automatic means a starting curb weight of between 4,163 lbs and 4,236 lbs. Length is measured at 197.9 inches, with the Widebody model a little shorter at 197.5. The wheelbase measures 116 inches with height at 57.7 inches across the R/T range. The width of the R/T and R/T Scat Pack is 75.7 inches while the R/T Scat Pack Widebody is the same as the widest of any Challenger as it shares the same metal, thus measuring 78.3 inches across. With the side mirrors included, width is 85.4 inches.
The color palette for 2020 is the same as that for 2019, with the exception of the limited 50th Anniversary Edition models that gained "high-impact" paint in four new shades: Hellraisin, Gold Rush, Frostbite (also available on regular models), and Sinamon Stick. Other colors available for the special edition and the rest of the range include TorRed, Go Mango, and F8 Green. The regular range of R/T Challengers has access to more colors too, with Pitch Black, Triple Nickel, Octane Red, Indigo Blue, and Granite. The army-like F8 Green is not available on non-Scat Pack models.
The base Challenger R/T is fitted with a 5.7-liter HEMI that produces 372 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to accelerate from 0-60 mph in a little over five seconds. A six-speed manual transmission is standard across the range with an eight-speed auto available as an option, but with paddles allowing you to shift gears if you so desire. The better options for those wanting to really demolish their tires are the R/T Scat Pack and R/T Scat Pack Widebody. Displacement on this HEMI V8 is 6.4 liters, with outputs rated at 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. These models allow you to get to 60 in under five seconds, thanks to features like line lock and launch control. The wheels on the R/T Scat Pack are also wider, measuring nine inches across while the Widebody has massive 11-inch-wide wheels. Pirelli tires are also available, with the Widebody model earning access to ultra-sticky P Zero rubber. The Widebody also gets upgraded Brembos with six-piston calipers up front doing a much better job of bringing the bulky machine to a stop.
The Challenger R/T's base engine is a 5.7-liter HEMI V8. Paired with either a six-speed manual as standard or an eight-speed automatic, the engine produces as much as 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque (autos manage 372 hp and 400 lb-ft), which is respectable, but ultimately fairly low in a world where machines like the 797-hp Hellcat Redeye exist. The engine and the notchy manual gearbox nevertheless perform admirably, with overtaking requiring some revs but not too much effort. Off the line, the weight of the Challenger is apparent, but once the initial inertia is overcome, acceleration is strong. The available eight-speed auto is just as quick as the car itself, but there's something supremely satisfying about changing gears yourself in an old-school muscle car.
The R/T Scat Pack and R/T Scat Pack Widebody up the ante considerably with a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that produces an even meatier 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. With these models, acceleration is even more furious and burnouts can be executed with even greater ease, particularly since these models gain a line-lock feature, allowing you to warm up the tires before launch. Whichever version you opt for, that distinct American V8 rumble is omnipresent and addictively satisfying.
The Challenger range as a whole, whether you get the cheapest SXT variant, the R/T models we're reviewing here, or the buck-wild Hellcat Redeyes, is made up of cars that are designed to be comfortable, competent drag racers and cruisers. The Challenger is an imposing hunk of metal with far more size than you'd want if darting through tight canyon passes is your idea of fun. Thanks to its weight and lazy steering, it's not a car that you'd call adept at finding the perfect line. The size of the Challenger is always present in your mind, whether you're trying to string corners together or even just navigate city traffic. If setting lap times that aren't wholly embarrassing is what you want to do, the Camaro or Mustang offerings are far better suited to the twisty stuff. However, it is still fun to drive in that its character allows you to perform long, lurid, smoky slides with ease.
The benefit to the Challenger's setup is that it's exceptionally comfortable for a performance car, and the available Bilstein adaptive damping system brings ride quality to the best it can be. Small imperfections and minor bumps are managed with aplomb, and only the really big bumps on the road slightly unsettle the Challenger. While this results in the kind of body roll around corners that equates to average handling, no pony can compete with the Challenger for daily comfort. Its weight does cause problems when it comes to emergency braking, but the pedal feel is good and easy to judge. If you'd rather be certain of short, impressive stopping distances, the Scat Pack Widebody upgrades the Brembo brakes to six-piston units up front, causing the kind of negative g-forces that take your breath away.
The Challenger is a thoroughbred muscle car, but despite its old-school persona, it does employ a number of modern features. Among these is cylinder-deactivation technology that can allow the motor to run on half its cylinders when not under strain. Nevertheless, a 4,000-pound coupe with a V8 is unlikely to hasten the blooming of daisies as it passes by. The 5.7-liter V8 returns EPA figures of 15/23/18 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles when paired with the manual shifter, while the auto is marginally better with figures of 16/25/19 mpg on the same cycles. The 6.4-liter Scat Pack models fare a little worse still, with the manual scoring 14/23/17 mpg and the auto managing 15/24/18 mpg. All models are equipped with an 18.5-gallon gas tank, allowing the most frugal model, the R/T with an auto 'box, to achieve a mixed range of around 350 miles between fill-ups.
While the Challenger's imposing size makes it a chore to park, the direct advantage resulting from its size is a cabin that Ford and Chevrolet rivals can't come close to competing with in terms of size. Instead of cramped rear seat recesses that have had cushions overlain, the Challenger offers three remarkably useful perches. Naturally, six-footers won't be begging to sit in the back, but the rear seating area is still impressively spacious and all five seats are comfy. Unfortunately, while the design is driver-focused, clean, and simple, the build quality is typical of cheap domestic offerings and plastic is the most favored material here. Highlights include available features like ambient lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, and a g-force meter.
The Dodge Challenger is unique to the segment as a real five-seater, offering place for more than just your gym bags behind the front seats. Typically, getting into those rear seats is an effort, but once seated, passengers will note legroom that is good enough for the average five-foot-something individual, with headroom similarly acceptable. The doors themselves are long with large openings, making ingress and egress for occupants of the front seats pretty easy, although taller individuals will need to stoop or twist. Overall, the Challenger's cabin is a basic but comfortable place that never feels claustrophobic, and getting into something like a Mustang after a drive in the Dodge will feel distinctly confining.
While aluminum-look plastic is the highlight of the cabin, with soft-touch plastics surrounding it, some real metal can be found in the base R/T's cabin along with leather on the steering wheel and gear-lever boot. As standard, Houndstooth fabric adorns the seats, although plain black or red and black Nappa with Alcantara is available if you spec other interior enhancements too. These restrictions apply to each of the three R/T models, so if you want nicer upholstery, you'll have no choice but to upgrade the infotainment system and some other aspects of the car's specification.
With a spacious interior, the Challenger is one of the most comfortable and roomy performance cars available, but it's also one of the most practical. The cavernous trunk stows 16.2 cubic feet worth of your paraphernalia and luggage, while a Mustang GT only offers 13.5 cubes. Thanks to the wide opening, larger items fit with relative ease, and you can pack heavy for an extended road-trip with a partner. If you need more space, the rear seats flip down in a 60/40 split for maximum volume.
In that airy cabin, door pockets are small and designed more for bottles than overflow pocket items, while a pair of cupholders is fitted to the center console with another pair in the rear seats' center armrest. A small glovebox is also included, but finding a spot for your phone or your wallet will be an issue.
As standard, the Challenger R/T gets a few impressive features like an active exhaust system, automatic headlights, a seven-inch driver info display, keyless entry with push-button start, cruise control, and dual-zone climate control. You also get a six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, but only manual adjustment is available for the passenger seat. Hill-start assist, brake assist, and rear parking sensors are also fitted, along with a rearview camera. The options list is extensive, and offers up features like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. Other available features include heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, auto high beams, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a power sunroof. Standard on the Scat Pack models are features like launch control, line-lock, a drag-race timer, and a g-force meter. Adaptive dampers are also available, and remote start can be specced on any automatic Challenger R/T.
The standard Challenger R/T's infotainment system is not the same one you'll find on the Scat Pack Widebody, but that's not a complaint since the seven-inch Uconnect 4 touchscreen works brilliantly and the system is easy to navigate. It features all the usual highlights like Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, USB connectivity, and voice commands. Audio comes via a six-speaker sound system as standard, but if you want better quality, an Alpine six-speaker setup or a nine-speaker system from the same company can be had. For the true audiophiles, a Harman Kardon 18-speaker sound system is also available. The infotainment system's touchscreen can also be upgraded to Uconnect 4C, with an 8.4-inch touchscreen, HD Radio, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot available. Navigation can also be added.
The 2020 Challenger has not been subject to any recalls thus far, but it is worth mentioning that the 2019 model suffered two: one in March 2019 for faulty driver warning lights in the cluster that may not illuminate, and another in October for front tires that may lose air pressure, increasing the risk of an accident.
Dodge provides a basic warranty for three years/36,000 miles with the powertrain covered for five years/60,000 miles. Roadside assistance is included for the same period and a five year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty applies too.
The NHTSA has awarded the 2020 Dodge Challenger with four stars in their frontal crash test, one point short of full marks. Over at the IIHS where more stringent tests are conducted, the Challenger fared less impressively, managing mixed results ranging from Good in some tests, to Marginal in others, and Poor in the small overlap front driver's test.
As standard, the 2020 Challenger comes with rear parking sensors and the obligatory rearview camera. Also included are hill-start assist and brake assist, as well as an Enhanced Accident Response System, or EARS for short. Also standard are frontal, side, and curtain airbags. Optionally available systems include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. The usual electronic stability and traction control programs are also included as standard.
The Dodge Challenger is decidedly old-school and proud of it. Where others boast about efficiency, cornering ability, and advanced stability programs, the Challenger R/T in all variants is unashamedly retro. A big lump of V8 metal over the front wheels sends noise and power backward in the direction of the rear wheels, and plumes of smoke and a cacophony of noise is the result. Emerging from the billowing clouds is a missile that loves launching itself at the horizon in the way that only a brash V8 muscle car can. While handling is a secondary concern for the Challenger, the ride comfort is fantastic, the infotainment system is a joy to use, and the relatively affordable price tag of the Challenger is mighty attractive. The large trunk and spacious interior are added bonuses, too. If you want finesse and handling precision, look elsewhere, but if you just want a comfortable car to have ridiculous fun in without breaking the bank, the Challenger is still oh-so cool.
The 2020 R/T starts at a base price of $34,595, with $1,495 added to that for destination charges. The Scat Pack is not much more expensive, starting at $39,995 before destination. However, due to its thirstier engine, this model is subject to a $1,000 gas guzzler tax. If, however, you opt for the more efficient automatic variant, that falls away, thus making the auto effectively cost $595. The Widebody variant plays by the same rules but starts a fair bit higher in the price rankings, with its base sticker price set at $45,995 before fees and taxes. Fully loaded, you can expect to pay over $60,000. An automatic transmission adds $1,595 to the price of all models.
The 2020 Challenger R/T is available in three nostalgic flavors: R/T, R/T Scat Pack, and R/T Scat Pack Widebody. All models are rear-wheel-drive and feature a six-speed manual gearbox as standard with an eight-speed automatic as an option.
The base model is the R/T, and it's the only model in the R/T lineup that gets a 5.7-liter V8 with 372 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque (375 hp/410 lb-ft when equipped with the manual transmission). 20x8-inch wheels are fitted, along with HEMI fender badges, rear park sensors, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, fabric upholstery, an active exhaust system, and a seven-inch Uconnect infotainment system. A six-speaker sound system is included, along with a six-way power-adjustable driver's seat.
R/T Scat Pack models build on the base trim by adding a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 with 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. This model features wheels that are an inch wider and gains performance enhancements like launch control, line-lock, and a g-force meter. The spoiler on this model is painted in satin black, while "392 Bee" badges help distinguish the fenders. The front grille is also painted gloss black, and the headlights feature air intakes. In the cabin, the front seats gain heating along with the steering wheel, and the sound system is upgraded to an Alpine setup.
More aggression is added on the R/T Scat Pack Widebody with fender flares and 11-inch-wide wheels wrapped in Pirelli rubber as standard. It also gains an adaptive suspension and upgraded Brembo six-piston calipers in the front, as well as a shift indicator in the cabin. Pirelli P Zero tires are available as an option, as are red calipers.
A number of additional packages are available to enhance your Challenger R/T, but arguably one of the most iconic is the Shaker package. This costs $2,595 more on your base R/T, adding unique decals, a black gas-tank cap, special badges, gloss black interior and exterior accents, and of course, a special hood and intake system. It also swaps the dials on the instrument cluster for white-faced items. Those wanting more convenience can spec the $495 Technology Group package, adding auto high beams, auto wipers, forward-collision warning, and adaptive cruise control. If you take your racing seriously, as Dodge does, you can opt to have the rear seat deleted for just one dollar, but if you prefer a fancier interior, the Plus package adds a Wi-Fi hotspot, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a Nappa/Alcantara interior upholstery finish for an additional $3,195. A host of other trim, appearance, and performance upgrades are available, too.
While each of the R/T models exudes a cool factor that few others can imitate, the Scat Pack is our pick. Without the cumbersome fender flares of the Widebody, it's less of a shouty model but still has exhilarating performance thanks to a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 and wide wheels. We'd spec navigation and opt for the Technology Group package for its added safety and convenience features. We'd also tick the Shaker box, enhancing the looks and the classic style of the Challenger's retro shape. All in, you have a comfortable and powerful Challenger for a little less than $43,000.
With a price range of between $60,000 and nearly $80,000, the SRT Hellcat can cost double what an R/T does, but when you consider that a fully-loaded R/T Scat Pack Widebody is knocking on the door of the base Hellcat, the price makes one wonder which is the better deal. Aside from the obvious power increase coming from a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 producing 717 hp, the Hellcat also gets access to more upmarket materials and special gauges on the inside, plus a unique hood and better standard rubber. It also gets meatier 9.5-inch-wide wheels at all four corners. While the Hellcat is in some ways a symbol of brash excess and a relic in terms of ultimate performance, if you can afford to spend a little more and be capable of running ten-second quarter-mile times, why wouldn't you?
The Ford Mustang GT is arguably the Challenger's closest rival, and with a base price barely a thousand dollars higher, the Blue Oval-badged coupe isn't much more expensive. However, it is fitted with a 5.0-liter V8 that scores similar fuel economy figures but generates much more power than the base Challenger R/T model, with 460 hp versus the R/T's 375. Also standard with a six-speed manual, the Mustang is a more modern vehicle, although the Challenger has a slightly better infotainment system while the Ford has a better automatic transmission option. The Ford is also easier to park, thanks to its smaller proportions, but as a result, it gets cramped rear seats and a smaller trunk. While each of these retro sports cars has its own USP, the Mustang gets our vote for its improved handling, better base performance, and overall more modern execution.