The Right Spec: 2021 Dodge Challenger

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

Long-time readers of this site (thanks, both of you) will recall the Ace of Base series of posts, natterings in which we ruminated on the state of a particular model and its entry-level trim. Thanks to a myriad of reasons, we’re morphing this concept into a new product for your eyeballs called The Right Spec. This time around, we’ll be teasing out what we think is the best spec of a given vehicle – we hope it generates some comments. Knowing you, the BnB, it surely will.

Also, I’d be remiss not to thank Tim for inviting me to scribe these digital words; my byline has popped up on TTAC for the better part of a decade, attached to no fewer than 875 posts in that amount of time, including 118 of those infernal commerce items that keep the lights on around here. Thanks for enduring those necessities, by the way.

All of which brings us neatly to our first stab at The Right Spec. Horsepower is an intoxicating drug, one generally taken in large and sometimes frightening doses by gearheads around the planet. When the almighty Hellcat variants started popping out of Detroit, there was plenty of ink spilled about them and the novelty of buying a 700+ horsepower machine with a factory warranty right off the showroom floor. These are glorious times.

But $59,570 (the base sticker price of a 2021 Challenger SRT Hellcat) is a lot of money, to say nothing of the $80,170 being charged for the psychotic Challenger Super Stock. Surely there’s a better spec – the right spec – somewhere in the mix?

We’ll direct your attention to the $40,645 R/T Scat Pack. While the supercharged 6.2L Hellcat engine gets all the press, the 392 Hemi V8 makes all the right sounds and cranks out a not-inconsiderable 485 horsepower. It’s paired as standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, which is an option one should select with great haste. Lest you think I’m blindly advocating to save the manuals, this is the same transmission equipped in my own V8 Challenger lurking in the garage.

Dodge is one of the few manufacturers on this planet with the stones to offer interesting paint choices, and it chooses to name them accordingly. As a bonus, none of them are extra-charge items on the R/T Scat. Your author will select the TorRed shown here because he is an irritating extrovert, though even muted tones have awesome names like Smoke Show and White Knuckle.

The $2,595 Shaker package is a tasty option, permitting the 392 to push a snorkel through Challenger’s hood like a rising submarine. There’s always an argument amongst Mopar types as to whether this feature actually improves performance but there’s no denying its cool factor – especially when paired with a manual transmission. Watching the scoop twitch with throttle inputs and gear changes is a visual treat that never gets old.

Skip items like navigation, extra stereo speakers, and upgraded seats on a Challenger. In terms of the latter, Dodge installs Barcaloungers no matter what upholstery you select, meaning it’s just as well to stick with the base houndstooth. The so-called Technology Group is a similar waste of money on a manual-equipped car, though the $1,295 Driver Convenience Group is worth it for the blind spot monitoring since over-the-shoulder visibility is equal to that of a tank.

Even without any of those options, the R/T Scat Pack represents a car priced at about 2/3rds of a Hellcat but providing way more than 2/3rds of the fun. We’re calling it The Right Spec. What’s your take?

Please note the prices listed here are in American dollars and currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less. Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.

[Images: Dodge]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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2 of 34 comments
  • Jacob Jacob on Jun 13, 2021

    All that stuff in the truck bed fits in my Honda Pilot just fine with the third row seat folded. With second row seat folded, it passes for a compact pickup, with a roof.

  • Challenjour Challenjour on Nov 22, 2021

    '16 SRT 392 Owner here. I think that the SRT 392 is 'The Right Spec' for me but they discontinued it in 2018. Think of it as a Hellcat with a Scat Pack powerplant. I tried out Mustangs, Camaros, some foreign coupes, but the Challenger just offers an unrivaled balance of comfort, usability, and thrills. Here's some things that made me select this car, plus this spec: - I can put actual people in the backseat - Trunk large enough for long road trips with my wife - Cruises with sedan-level comfort in size and ride - 392 and accompanying exhaust is just perfect for my liking - Looks very unique, really head turning - SRT 392 (and now Scat Pack) has the Hellcat tech goodies - SRT 392 borrowed the wheel/tire/brake setup from Hellcat as standard (Scat Pack on 245s I believe as standard) - Lots of miles on it and no problems. This powertrain and platform is pretty old so its got all the kinks worked out - no doubt why Dodge has high 2020 reliability scoring Negatives: - Gave V6 variants some SRT-style looks in the latter years - not a fan of that - More expensive that its counterparts - VERY inefficient if you like to have fun in it (good on highway though I will add) - Platform is older so it's heavier and less dynamic but that kind of lends to its muscle car fun factor so I see it as a positive as well. The 392 Power Plant is WAY more than enough power to make 275s useless traction-wise which is part of the fun - but for those looking for 0-60 stickiness or just a more unique, better look I think the widebody offers a lot of value.

  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three