Big, badass, and very green – three ways to best describe the Green Go 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 on test. The muscle car from nearly fifty years ago was reincarnated by Dodge in 2008, and has since re-solidified its reputation as one of the heavy hitters in the domestic halo car scene. It’s driven by protagonists like Dom Toretto in The Fast and the Furious film series, and never fails to turn heads on the road. It takes the age-old formula of a huge V8 engine up front, drive wheels out back, and a raw attitude that makes no compromises.
While there hasn’t been a generational change in nearly a decade, the Challenger has received incremental updates and refreshes to keep it relevant. Built on an old Mercedes-Benz E-Class (reviewed here) platform from the DaimlerChrysler days, the Chrysler LC platform features a double wishbone front and independent rear suspension, which are welcome touches relative to the solid rear axles and body-on-frame configurations of the past. Thankfully, these setups have also been proven to handle big power, as the top-trim Challenger Hellcat (reviewed here) and Demon models have shown, with 707 and 808 horsepower, respectively.
The T/A 392 Challenger in question doesn’t quite have the power output of the Hellcat and Demon, but it’s the next trim level down and still offers plenty of potency. A 6.4-litre V8 makes 485 horsepower at 6,000RPM, combined with 475 lb-ft of torque at 4,200RPM. Big six-piston front Brembo calipers on slotted rotors handle the stopping of more than 1,900 kilograms (4,200 pounds). Combined with what Dodge calls a “High Performance Suspension”, the Trans Am moniker (the racing series, not the Pontiac) suddenly makes a bit more sense, since this trim level is built to go in more than just a straight line.
Paired with the 6.4-litre V8 is a six-speed manual transmission with a cock-eyed shifter and a stiff but easily modulated clutch. Throttle response with the big, naturally aspirated engine is excellent, and rev matching and blips of the throttle happen very easily. An active exhaust system is all sorts of loud, and the Challenger’s V8 has a muscular tone, and for many, it’ll be the best sounding V8 between Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford. With the 475 lb-ft of torque on tap, the T/A 392 pulls ridiculously well between idle and redline, getting up to speed like a bat out of hell, even with a meatloaf’s worth of curb weight. For most, this powertrain configuration is plenty crazy enough, and opting for a Hellcat or Demon is only going to be for bragging rights. For those who do a lot of quarter-mile dragging or don’t want to shift for themselves, an eight-speed automatic is also available.
As equipped, the Challenger T/A 392 makes a good attempt to do well at handling and roadholding, but the big curb weight and overall husky proportions are definitely big elephants in the room. Ride quality is on the firm side, and the 20×9.5-inch forged wheels wrapped in 275/40ZR20 tires have to try their best to keep it all together. There’s still a good amount of boaty feel, and the Challenger certainly doesn’t feel as surefooted as its lighter Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang archrivals. It’s fairly difficult to determine just where the corners of the car are when maneuvering quickly, which makes for very deliberate and slower movements. Thankfully, straight-line traction isn’t a problem when ripping through the gears.
For all this fun, fuel economy is rated at 16.4L/100km in the city, and 10.4L/100km on the highway – automatic transmission equipped cars get light load cylinder deactivation and do about 1.0L/100KM better in each metric. After having a lot of fun in mixed driving, observed fuel economy came out to 15.4L/100KM. Fuel capacity is 70 litres, and premium octane is required. While the city consumption figure can empty a wallet fairly quickly, the relatively frugal highway number means that long distance road trips will be a bit easier on the pocketbook.
Inside, the T/A 392 on test had a relatively sparsely equipped interior. Cloth seats with a houndstooth pattern are the name of the game here, with six-way power adjustability only for the driver. Seat comfort isn’t the greatest, largely due to stiff seating surfaces and a lack of bolstering. Material selection and fit and finish remain fitting for a car equipped like the lower end of the Challenger spectrum – moving up in the trim and price range don’t make things any better. Squeaks and rattles were well-controlled, but the overall environment had a cheap feel. For those looking for the muscle car powertrain and driving experience, these points should matter less.
In terms of tech, Chrysler’s UConnect 8.4 system has been updated slightly, with a refreshed interface and the addition of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. Pairing an Android phone via a USB cable was a bit buggy, with the UConnect system fighting between Bluetooth and hard-wired USB interfaces. Be sure to check pairing compatibility, as your mileage may vary. Audio quality in the mid-level Sound Group II was lackluster, with a noticeable absence of clarity and poor bass control. For slightly more, the Harman Kardon audio is the system to have. In the central gauge cluster, a series of track-related performance measuring functions are also available, which log items such as 0-100KM/H time, quarter mile time, maximum g-forces in each direction, as well as braking distances.
All told, the Challenger came in at an as-tested price of $61,230 before taxes and fees. Among other packages and options, the $995 Driver Convenience Group added blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alerts, and high intensity discharge headlights. The aforementioned Sound Group II was $495, and the Tremec six-speed manual transmission was $1,000. A black Mopar hood pin kit – purely cosmetic and not functional – was $400, and navigation on top of the UConnect 8.4 system was $700.
As an overall package, it’s a hefty amount of money when considering it as a premium vehicle. The price to pay here is for a sweet-singing V8 engine and six-speed manual transmission that is guaranteed to make hearts race. Its aggressive halo headlights with intake inlets make a bold statement, and as a grand tourer meant to tackle long distance hauls and memorable road trips, the 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392 is a brawny muscle coupe that commands attention just about everywhere it goes.