The Right Spec: 2021 Dodge Challenger
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.
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- Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
- Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
- Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
- Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
- ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
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.
'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.