Harder and faster
THE GOOD
  • Looks aggro
  • Sounds aggro
  • Feels aggro
THE BAD
  • Drinks like a fish
  • Bad dead pedal
  • Is cop bait

The 2016 Dodge Challenger is a street brawler. Its angry bark, hunched shoulders and glaring headlights epitomise the muscle car. But if you can consider this rig a muscle car, then it’s fair to say Mopar has been pumping it full of protein shakes. 

In this industry we’re used to manufacturers throwing together lots of “look fast” bits without a lot of “go fast” to go with it. This is not that.

Thanks to the lovable gearheads at FCA headquarters, this press unit has been lowered by 20 mm, had its gaping maw forced wider open and its lungs opened up to give it more grunt, more walnut-packed stance and more presence on the road. They’ve even found a couple of bucks to spend at the jewellery store and this edition sports a cute little Mopar fuel cap and a very, very dirty looking Mopar short-throw shifter.

In this industry we’re used to manufacturers throwing together lots of “look fast” bits without a lot of “go fast” to go with it. This is not that.

The suspension upgrades not only look the business, but they dramatically improve the hefty Challenger’s balance and compliance. It makes it more predictable and more progressive. If you were in a closed circuit, controlled conditions sort of situation, you could throw it around 180 degrees in almost its own length then drive it out sideways for a solid 100 metres or so balanced securely at a mild slip angle. It will turn in a little more cleanly, take more of a set and walk more calmly out towards oversteer. The whole car is tamer for being ratcheted down just a little way and fitted with higher-spec dampers and springs.

By opening up the intake and exhaust of the 5.7L Hemi V8 the Challenger breathes better, which means it should make more than the stock 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. Though how much the stock programming is able to take advantage of that is another question. We weren’t able to put the Dodge on a dyno and FCA say they don’t know what the improvements would total.

Maybe this is a good candidate for a warranty-destroying chip. It definitely felt quicker than a stock Challenger, and sounded amazing. Not quite Hellcat amazing, but the addition of intake and exhaust orchestra had my little eardrums begging for more.

One thing they left out, and which does need upgrading though is the dead pedal. It’s hopelessly skinny and weirdly placed and angled – so is effectively useless. This is an issue when you want to “get up on the wheel” as they say in the southern states.

Those upgrades aside, this Challenger is pretty much your standard fare. Retro-yet-techy interior, with large analogue gauges split by massive, full-colour TFT screen that is as feature-packed and graphic-rich as any other car on the market. It puts some luxury cars to shame.

The Performance pages will give you the ability to track and record your 0-100 km/h times, 100 km/h to 0 times, quarter mile times and more. Naturally, we couldn’t use them because Dodge said “Oh hell no!” when I asked to take this to a drag strip.

Equally embarrassing for luxury marques is the $700 8.0-inch UConnect touchscreen with navigation. A fuller set of features you’ll not find, and the graphics are worthy of a techhead’s dream home entertainment system. Android Auto and Apple Carplay are not yet available on this system and that is its only downfall.

Elsewhere inside, you’ll get good stuff like a heated steering wheel and seats – which you can program to come on automatically when it’s cold out – I set mine to activate at anything under 20 degrees.

The retro Mopar shift knob only enhances the appeal here, but some might find the red leather interior a touch garish. I didn’t, because I believe subtlety is for awkward teenagers and that life is for the bold.

In terms of rear seat legroom – nope.

Cargo space is more than generous, at 468L you could fit more than a bit of junk in this trunk, and the opening is cavernous. Our weekly shopping made not a dent in it.

But enough of all the mainstream, daily grind stuff. It’s fair to say if you’re buying this car, you don’t care, or at least not much. 

More important to you, perhaps, is whether all the look- and go-fast bits are worth it? The 20-inch black forged aluminum wheels are factory options worth $900, they’re not Mopar but I think they’re a must-have on this car. And I think they’re well priced.

After that, you can get the suspension upgrade (shocks, springs, isolators and rear strut mounts) for just $861. The front strut tower brace is $408. That’s phenomenal value to my mind. At $615 the cold-air intake pays for itself in aesthetic appeal and intake noise sexiness immediately. I’d skip the $263 gas cap, myself, but the $193 short-throw shifter would be high on my list.

The most expensive of these mods is the $2,020 cat-back exhaust. That price might have a few people hesitating, but I wouldn’t.

Do the suspension upgrades turn this heffalump into a scalpel? No, but they do sharpen it up. It’s like a heavyweight boxer before and after some expert coaching. Sure he’ll knock out a few here and there early on in his career, but it’s only once you tame him that you get real results.

And it’s not like this is an expensive training camp. All told you can get into this rig as kitted out for less than $50,000.

That’s a hell of a lot of car and a lot of performance – not to mention curb appeal – for the money.

Specifications

Engine Displacement 5.7L   Model Tested 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T
Engine Cylinders 8   Base Price $39,895
Peak Horsepower 375 hp   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 410 lb-ft   Destination Fee $1,795
Fuel Economy 15.6/10.0/13.1 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $49,795
Cargo Space 468L  
Optional Equipment
Redline tri-coat pearl paint - $300, Technology Group (rain sensing wipers, automatic high beam) - $250, Driver Convenience Group (blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-path detection, body-colour, power heated mirrors, HID headlights) - $495, six-speed Tremec manual - $1,000, UConnect 8.4 inch touchscreen - $700, 20-inch matte black aluminum wheels - $900. Total Options: $3,345 Mopar add-ons: Suspension upgrade kit (shocks, springs, isolators, rear strut mounts) $861, Front strut tower brace kit - $408, cold-air intake $615, Mopar gas cap - $263, short-throw shifter $193, cat-back exhaust - $2,020. Total MOPAR add-ons: $4,360