By on March 2, 2022

Dodge decided to nix the six-speed manual for Challenger Hellcat models last November, indicating that it would be a temporary issue. The automaker allegedly planned to deliver an updated version and said it was actively calibrating the powertrain to see what worked ahead of pulling the old version from the assembly line. It was minor news and everyone following the industry promptly forgot about it, assuming three-pedal Challengers would be back in action before anyone noticed.

It’s now four months later and the option is still nowhere in sight. 

On Tuesday, Road & Track realized you still could not configure the coupe with a manual transmission if you also wanted the Hellcat’s 6.2-liter supercharged V8. This sent waves of panic through the automotive press, who similarly failed to realize that the car still wasn’t available with a clutch. In fact, only the relevant Mopar forum goblins seemed aware that the configuration was still absent — proving that nature has a plan for even the most humble of creatures.

They’ve been griping about the missing manuals since at least December (effectively doing our jobs for us), with the conversation gradually shifting from tepid annoyance to near-total defeat. Commenters almost immediately became pessimistic, stating that Dodge’s response was to repeatedly deny that the manual was gone for good was likely bogus. While a few remained optimistic, others quickly pointed out that the company has suggested that the current model would be replaced by a plug-in hybrid by 2024. They believed it would be pointless for the automaker to reintroduce a configuration that less than a third of customers have historically wanted, especially since the model’s discontinuation was looming.

From R&T:

While I only noticed this issue today, Challenger enthusiast forums have been talking about it since 2021. I asked Dodge what’s up with the stick-shift Hellcat, and a spokesperson explained that the six-speed manual was removed from the configurator late in the 2021 model year. The spokesperson described it as a temporary situation and said that a revised calibration for this powertrain combo will be coming that will allow the stick-shift Hellcat to go on sale again. The spokesperson was not able to say when ordering will re-open for the manual Challenger Hellcat, but specified that production of stick-shift models was suspended in November 2021.

It’s a disappointment, for sure, because the manual Hellcat was a charming mix of modern performance and retro engagement. But fear not: Challenger R/T models with the 5.7-liter V-8 and Scat Packs with the 6.2-liter V-8 are both still available with a six-speed manual.

Having driven those models with the Tremec TR-6060, it’s a little difficult for me to get bent out of shape over the Hellcat becoming automatic only. I believe the Challenger is the American grand tourer par excellence and it’s easily my favorite performance vehicle that lacks unassuming bodywork. If you’re looking for a powerful, engaging automobile with the kind of comfort that seems to be totally missing absent from today’s lineups, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal. But it’s hard to say that the manual configuration is a game-changer, especially on the higher trims.

As my tastes ping-pong between hulking, difficult-to-park automobiles with giant motors and squirrely, turbocharged compacts, I never thought I would gripe about driving a Challenger in an urban environment. I’ve kept several land yachts in New York City and my only real complaints about transitioning into a big Dodge was the brutal decline in fuel economy vs the highway. Then I spent several days navigating a manual-equipped R/T around town, accidentally punishing myself in the process. The clutch and gearbox are fine for cruising unencumbered across the country. But it gradually starts to become an annoyance when you have to spend a lot of time in heavy traffic, diminishing enjoyment.

While not overly stiff on the R/T or Scat Pack models, the Hellcat’s clutch is allegedly a bit of a workout due to it having the larger ZF-Sachs with 258-millimeter discs. Worse yet, the performance disparity grows in tandem with horsepower. I couldn’t see myself getting one even if a truckload of cash arrived at my door. Why purchase one of the fastest vehicles in Dodge’s lineup only to handicap it by selecting the manual transmission? The driving experience between trims is largely similar, with differences only emerging after their respective powertrains are given a genuine workout. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still have the option to ruin the car as we please. It just means there are better ways of configuring this particular vehicle.

However, Dodge has continued assuring everyone this will be temporary and my tastes don’t need to be yours. If you’re seeking an 807-horsepower goliath with a stick, there’s still a razor-thin chance the company will hook you up. But I’m thinking the utility of such a setup begins to evaporate somewhere around 500 hp.

[Images: Stellantis]

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22 Comments on “Manual Dodge Challenger Hellcat May Be Gone for Good...”

  • avatar

    What’s been the take rate of manuals in Hellcat cars?

    Update: Well duh, if I’d read through the article, it’s about a third. Which is pretty significant nowadays. So it sounds like a real problem.

    Can’t you do things to lessen the clutch pedal effort, like use a larger master cylinder?

    • 0 avatar

      Update continued – what about a dual-disc clutch? Can that improve the pedal effort, or does it only increase the torque capacity?

      • 0 avatar

        It’s already a twin-plate clutch – and has been, my 2010 R/T Classic has it as well – the Hellcat’s clutch is larger diameter though. Can’t speak to methods of reducing effort.

  • avatar

    Somewhere out there [email protected]’s head just exploded .

  • avatar

    Matt, you gave good reasons to justify sticking with an auto on the HC. However, “ruin the car as we please” is rather opinionated don’t you think? Most clutch cars are a drag in traffic, especially the NYC traffic that we both are way too familiar with. If one’s typical use does not include such driving, there is no reason that the clutch – even if it is rather heavy – would “ruin” the experience. Is it really like leg day at the gym? I’ve driven some built 60s musclecars and that is what I’d call a heavy clutch.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      Yes it was opinionated and I tried to showcase that.

      I am always happier to see people in the cars they want, even if it’s not something I would desire for myself. Frankly, I’d rather ride a motorcycle in the rain in NYC than something with four wheels and extra-stiff clutch. But I wouldn’t expect others to feel similarly. If you want that clutched-up Hellcat, I hope you get it.

  • avatar

    Matt, I know you’ve driven a manual Chevy SS. Is the Mopar products’ clutch any heavier than that? I’d describe the SS’s clutch effort as heavy if you’re used to manuals in small European or Japanese cars, but not as something that felt punishing in heavy traffic.

    • 0 avatar

      Never driven a Hellcat, but they calibrated the 6060 in the Viper to be as light or lighter than the SS application (and incidentally, much smoother and more linear). They are capable of making a great package.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      It’s been a long while since I’ve been in an SS. But I remember the clutch being one of the better aspects of the car. Pedal was weighty (perhaps stiffer than the Dodge) but not overly punishing and its rev matching made everything extremely easy. Though I do have to say that a majority of my driving was done in lighter traffic and I’ve spent far less time with the SS than the Challenger family. Still, I don’t recall the Chevy’s gearbox being quite as good and would recommend neither to anybody that does most of their driving in the big city unless they’re absolutely enamored with driving stick. Fortunately, both retain their defining characteristics as automatics and manuals.

      The SS feels more sporty in literally every sense and comparable configuration. But the Dodge is very visceral, substantially easier to live with on the daily, and much more comfortable to be in over long distances. I don’t think the clutch would be a deciding factor for most people.

      • 0 avatar

        The SS doesn’t have rev matching, I believe that’s only on Camaro and Corvette.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the response. I lived in the city throughout my six years of manual G8 GXP ownership (the last three of those years in extra-hilly Seattle). I had zero issues or annoyance with the clutch, and I don’t think from your description that I’d have an issue with the Mopar one either.

  • avatar

    Maybe they are working on a DCT transmission with shifts which mimic those of the great Mr. 4-Speed, Ronnie Sox.

  • avatar

    Too many embarrassing moments at various “Cars and Coffee” events around the country?

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The manual is still available on the R/T Hemi version.
    I think of the Hellcat as being a Shelby Mustang competitor which only offers a 10 speed automatic.

  • avatar

    Since these have hydraulic power steering, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to engineer a clutch boost system. But the automatics are taking over and all the engineers are working on electrics anyway.

    Some trucks use vacuum assisted clutches but there’s not much vacuum on these with wot and the huffer on top.

  • avatar

    I have driven a widebody Hellcat for the last 3 years, the clutch is fine, and as others have stated it’s no worse than other performance cars.

    Also worth noting, the Redeye and Superstock models have never offered the manual. That was offered up to the regular Hellcat only; so you were never able to get near 800 HP with a stick.

    This amount of power is unusable on the street regardless of transmission, to say the manual hinders the car or the enjoyment of it’s purpose in any way is silly.

  • avatar

    Pathetic automatic scum

    It’s a crime that for all the years Dodge made the hellcat engine, they only put it in one single vehicle with a manual.

  • avatar

    While I’d like to see the manual be available for those who want it — the 8 speed auto DaimChryFCAntis installs is excellent.

    All of my performance cars until my SRT were sticks. Not a paddle fan — but the manual mode with the shift selector is pretty similar to a sequential manual — and when traffic gets gummed up — full auto is so much better to deal with it.

    Who knows why it’s not being offered. I’m guessing one of Tavares’ spreadsheet jockeys went through the books and found warranty related numbers with the sticks that made both his bowtie and graduation cap tassel hanging off his fancy MBA sheepskin spin.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    But what about those stripes?

    Stripes that run off the upper surfaces, across the bumper, down the fascias, and right off the bottom look like you accidentally drove under a street line painter.

    End them on the hood and trunk, as God intended. She knows good design.

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