Shakin’ it up |
It may not be a Hellcat, but it’s big, it’s orange, it’s loud and it’s fast.
As we anticipate the arrival of the all-new 2015 SRT Challenger on the Canadian media fleet, I was able to give one final goodbye to the outgoing model. Not any regular one, the Chrysler Group handed me the keys to a 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker. As soon as I picked up my Header Orange Clearcoat tester, I knew that there would be one question I would be asked repeatedly throughout my test week. “Is that the Hellcat?” I could not have been more correct – I was asked this question at least once each time I had the car out.
No, this is not the Hellcat. The 707-horsepower fire-breathing monster known as the Hellcat will be the flagship model in the redesigned 2015 Challenger lineup. The “Shaker” package driven here adds $5,000 to the Challenger and adds a Shaker hood, unique striping throughout the body, a fully functional Shaker intake, an appearance package all around and 20” polished aluminum wheels. It also adds everything on the Super Track Pac, which includes sharper steering, bigger brakes, special suspension, a three-mode stability control system and Goodyear Eagle tires. This thing means business.
The Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger now rule the American muscle car game. Over the past ten years or so, each of these cars has gone retro and pays tribute to their ancestors from the 1960s and 1970s. In my opinion, the Challenger has always won in the looks department. The other two cars look great, but the Dodge does the best job at paying homage to the 1970 model. It’s not necessarily pretty car, but definitely stands out from the crowd and looks big, mean, and menacing in any environment it’s put in. This Shaker model sounds the part too – the exhaust note is throaty and is unmistakably a muscle car.
It doesn’t just look the part either; the Challenger R/T has the numbers to back its evil stance. The 5.7L HEMI V8 puts out 375 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque. Oh yeah, and when you step on it, you can see the intake actually twist through the gap in the Shaker hood. My tester was equipped with a Tremec 6-speed manual and the pistol-grip shifter. Of the three muscle cars currently available, the Challenger is the only one that comes with a proper shifter that mimics those of the 1970s. It has short throws and is very easy to modulate, but the clutch is heavy and feels proper for a car of this style. I left the ESC on most of the time, because the R/T Shaker has enough power to get the rear tires skittish almost anywhere in the first three gears. This car is seriously quick.
Challenger enthusiasts may notice that this isn’t the 6.1L SRT motor, and they would be very correct. There have been rumours that next year’s Shaker model will be equipped with the larger motor, but I’m more than happy with this one for now. It’s rear-wheel-drive, and in Toronto’s cold climate, I wouldn’t really hesitate to put a solid set of winter tires on this model and drive it year-round. Those who buy the Shaker model probably won’t, as it’s a limited-production car, but with a regular Challenger R/T, this would be no issue at all. It would be a bit slippery in the worst storms of the year, but this is a car that will keep a smile on your face year round.
This is a muscle car, and its fuel economy reflects that. Because this is the previous-generation Challenger, there is no cylinder deactivation, so all eight cylinders are firing at all times. On premium fuel, I averaged 14.1L/100km on a combined city/highway cycle. The R/T can get away with regular fuel if you really want it to, but much like me, I doubt real enthusiasts will do anything less than pamper their Challenger. One longer highway run I managed to get a 10.2L/100km number, which isn’t really bad at all when you consider that typical premium commuter cars such as the Audi S4 do similarly on the highway.
As-tested, my Challenger R/T Shaker came out to $53,000, right in line with a comparable Camaro 2SS or Mustang GT. The interior on this car does feel just as mean as the exterior, but there are some things that feel a bit aged. Of course, this “problem” is already fixed as the new refreshed car is on its way as I’m writing this. My car came with a 6.5” UConnect infotainment system with navigation, Bluetooth, and iPod connectivity. This isn’t the newer Garmin-sourced unit in newer Chrysler models, and it does show its age. The car has beefy, comfortable heated leather seats, a power sunroof (a welcome addition in a muscle car), HID headlights, and even a 0-100km/h timer in the instrument cluster. The equipment list is great, but overall the interior of the Challenger does feel a bit outdated.
It may not be a Hellcat, but it’s big, it’s orange, it’s loud and it’s fast. Each year as the summer starts and progresses, I look forward to the American muscle gracing the DoubleClutch.ca garage. They’re raw, not all that refined, and drink fuel like no tomorrow. Despite all of this, they still have my heart. This was the first summer I actually got a chance to extensively drive a Challenger of any sort, and I came out very impressed. I guess those who live by the “Mopar or no car” motto are onto something…