Last week Simply Real Moms was fortunate enough to attend the media unveiling of the new 2015 Dodge Challenger and Challenger SRT lineup in Portland, Oregon. We were extremely excited for this event headlined by the all new Challenger SRT Hellcat which boasts an unprecedented 707 horsepower from a 6.2L supercharged HEMI V8 engine with 650 ft-lb of torque, making it the most powerful production muscle car ever! With all the hype over the Hellcat one could easily overlook the other impressive models in the 2015 Challenger lineup which include the Challenger SXT, Challenger R/T, Challenger 6.4L Scat Pack, and Challenger SRT 392. Thankfully many of the new Challenger models were not only on display at this event but also available for us to take out on a 100 mile drive through a scenic and winding route along the Columbia River, and later take out for a serious test drive on the track at the Portland International Raceway. You got that right, Dodge let us put the pedal to the medal in the Challenger SRT Hellcat on a race track! Let us share with you some of the new features of the 2015 Challenger lineup:

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Exterior:

Dodge has made some exterior design changes to the 2015 Challenger that we feel have seriously improved the overall look of the vehicles. For the 2015 model year Dodge looked to the historic 1971 model Challenger for body styling inspiration, where previous 2008 to 2014 models were based more on the original 1970 model. One of our personal favorite changes aesthetically is simply in the headlights and taillights. The new projector headlamps with halo LED surround are very cool looking and help make the front end look even more menacing than before in addition to appearing more modern than the previous models (particularly with the headlight turned off). On the rear end of the vehicle the new heritage inspired split LED tail lamps with gloss black surround is a dramatic improvement in our option from the previous models. 2014 and earlier models had a tail lamp styling that encompassed the entire width of the rear end of the vehicle. In our opinion there was a bit too much light on the back end on the previous models, but the combination of the gloss black surround and the more defined and vivid LED tail lamp radically improve the appearance from the rear. Although the tail lamps are made up of a series of individual LED bulbs, they are covered by a filter lens that makes them look more like a continuous neon lamp.
Additional exterior design modifications go a long way to improve the stance of the vehicle and make the body more streamlined.

Rear End: Our least favorite part of the styling of the previous models was the rear end. Besides the large tail lamps we already discussed, the rear end of the previous models looked a little heavy and too fat or bulky. If you compare the 2015 and 2014 models side by side you can see that a lot of surface area was removed in the 2015 model, particularly in the bumper area. The 2015 models rear bumper is much shorter in overall height than older models. The combination of the new tail lamp design and reduced bulk on the rear end are fantastic improvements to the appearance of this muscle car.

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Front End: At the front end of the car you will notice that the brow (or front end of the hood if you will) has been lowered slightly and partially chops off the top of the head lamps from view which gives the vehicle a little more attitude and threatening appearance. Additionally the Dodge Challenger models include a more pronounced power bulge hood with snorkel inlets located further forward to make them not only more pronounced but also more functional in terms of engine cooling. The Challenger SRT models feature a lightweight aluminum hood with visual styling inspired by the Dodge Viper. These exterior elements were not only designed for style but for performance as Dodge spend 35% more development time in a wind tunnel to maximize aerodynamic performance. Just take a look at this photo of the front end of an SRT and tell us it isn’t intimidating…

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Color: Let’s not forget about one of the most prominent exterior elements – paint! The 2015 Challenger will be available in the following colors: Bright White, Pitch Black, Granite Crystal, Billet Silver, Jazz Blue and Redline Red. Premium three-coat color options are also available which include: Phantom Black Tri-Coat Pearl and Ivory White Tri-Coat Pearl. If you’re looking for a throwback shade, heritage high-impact B5 Blue, TorRed and Sublime Green are available but only for a limited time so go get ‘em now or forever hold your peace. (Badging and heritage inspired paint stripes vary by model)

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Interior:

For 2015 Dodge put a lot of focus on refreshing the interior of the Challenger models, and their efforts have paid off. The new interior is definitely an upgrade in comparison to the previous models, particularly from the driver’s perspective. The console of the vehicle surrounds the driver like a cockpit, with all gauges, screens and controls oriented around the driver’s seat in a very ergonomically inspired way. The ball shifter on a manual transmission or the driver-oriented T-handle on the automatic are located in a console between the driver and passenger seats that is clearly offset to the driver’s side and away from the passenger, as they should be. Similarly the touchscreen display is set in the dashboard at an angle such that it is tilted towards the the driver making it easier to view.  Since the driver of any vehicle is the only vehicle occupant relying on these features, it makes sense for them to be placed in such a way that they are biased towards the driver’s seat and Dodge has done a great job of laying them out in the driver’s favor.

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The 2015 Dodge Challenger features a 5.0-inch or available 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen display.  The touchscreen display includes many of the features you are accustomed to in many vehicles, such as navigation, radio, media, and climate controls, but our favorite features were the Performance Pages!  This is something we have never seen and is a fantastic digital addition for a performance vehicle.  The Performance Pages offers some fun features, especially for those who have the opportunity to take their car for a run on a local track.  The features include:

Timers:  The timers tab can be used to record: 0-60 mph time, 0-100 mph time, 1/8 mile distance time and mph, 1/4 mile distance time and mph, and more.  This tab can record your current time, last time and best time.  What a fun way to record your performance on the track right in your vehicle (plus this is a great way to establish bragging rights amongst your friends).

Gauges:  The Gauges 1 and Gauges 2 tabs can be used to display additional gauges without having to add them to your car aftermarket.  These gauges include some that you are accustomed to seeing and others that you may be interested in on the track.  The additional gauges include:  coolant temp, oil temp, battery voltage, oil pressure, boost pressure, air fuel ratio, I/C coolant temp, intake air temp.

G-Force:  The G-Force tab shows current and peak g-force applied at the front, rear and each side of the vehicle in addition to the current mph and steering angle.

Engine:  The Engine tab current boost pressure, horsepower and torque being applied by the vehicle.

We thought these were very unique and fun features to add to a touch screen display where they can be accessed when and if desired.  From our experience driving the vehicle, some of the features you would be interested in on a track (such as the current engine performance and current g-force tabs) are a little impractical as it is hard to take your eyes off the road long enough to read the data.  Granted this was our first time behind the wheel and perhaps more familiarity with the screens and content can make it easier to see at a quick glance, but for now we recommend letting your passenger report the data to you while you keep your eyes on the road 😉

Check out the format of the screens in this video:

One great thing about the Dodge Challenger’s interior, is it doesn’t compromise on space.  Many performance sports cars are so compact that they do not allow for much space in the back seats (or trunk), essentially making them two passenger vehicles (or four passenger vehicles that are extremely uncomfortable for the back two passengers).  Since most of us use our vehicles for everyday purposes (work, errands, grocery shopping, taking the kids to school, etc.) more often than we hit the race track, it is nice to see a sports car leaves sufficient room in the back seats for passengers and yes, even car seats!  This allows for this vehicle to be used for practical purposes, while not giving up it’s performance characteristics that make it a Challenger.

Performance:

The 2015 line of Dodge Challengers offers a variety of models with impressive performance throughout.  For example, the new class-exclusive standard TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission improves both performance and fuel economy (and can be further enhanced in the Dodge Challenger with Sport mode and paddle-shifter capabilities).  Challenger SRT owners can utilize the new Drive Modes feature to customize their driving experience by switching between four different modes that affect horsepower, transmission shift speed, steering, traction and suspension.  The four Drive Modes available include: Default, Sport (increased performance over default), Track (maximum vehicle performance), and Custom (yes … custom, which allows the driver to personalize performance settings to their liking).

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One thing about performance is that once you get that vehicle going you better have some power to stop it!  The 2015 Challenger line up introduces world class stopping power with available four-piston Brembo brakes and for SRT models the largest front brake package ever with 390 mm six-piston Brembo brakes.

The following is a brief rundown of models available.  For full descriptions and features specific to each model visit the Dodge and SRT websites –  www.dodge.com/en/reveal/challenger/ and www.drivesrt.com

– Challenger SXT and SXT Plus

– 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6:  305 hp, estimated 30 mpg highway

– Challenger R/T, R/T Shaker, R/T Plus and R/T Plus Shaker

– 5.7 liter HEMI V8: up to 375 hp, 410 ft-lb torque

– Challenger 6.4 liter Scat Pack, 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker and SRT 392

– 6.4 liter HEMI V8: 485 hp, 475 ft-lb torque

– Challenger SRT Hellcat

– 6.2 liter supercharged HEMI Hellcat: 707 hp, 650 ft-lb torque

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Experience:

So all this information is great but the real question is, what’s it like to drive?  Let’s start with the on-road portion of the drive.  After a presentation by Dodge representatives we were allowed to choose a Challenger from a variety of models and colors to drive on a scenic and winding road along the Columbia River.  We chose a 6.4L Scat Pack manual transmission.  It was raining as we climbed in and fired her up for the hour-plus ride.  As we took off, the first impressions were pleasing.  The vehicle was sufficiently roomy for a sports car, the seats were comfortable and supportive, and the textures and materials of the arm rests and interior finishes were pleasant.  As we hit the wet and rainy road the power of the 485 hp V8 was evident, but the the handling on the curvy road made it clear from the beginning that there was nothing to worry about.  The car gripped the road well in the rain even when testing the brakes going into turns and the acceleration coming out of them.  We thought the car handled very well for it’s size (as we previously mentioned its a bit larger than some competitor’s models) and the suspension and handling made for a comfortable ride through the twists and turn without feeling like you were getting tossed around or having to lean into your turns.  The long ride through Oregon took us not only along winding roads, but also very narrow roads, bridges, city traffic and some time on the freeway. The variety of driving environments made it pretty clear to us that this is a car that has some fun performance capabilities but can also serve as an everyday use car with its ride and comfort.  As most of the ride was pretty scenic, we had to stop to take some photos along the way (and the compliments we received on the vehicle from the public while taking these photos were plentiful):

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Challenger Waterfall

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After the on-road drive we arrived at the track of the Portland International Raceway were we had a variety of Challenger models, and of course a few Hellcats waiting for us to put to the test!  This was by far the best part of the experience.  Following a brief safety orientation and tour of the track we were turned loose.  We were allowed to drive any model on the track by ourselves, except for the Hellcat which required a professional driver to accompany you in the passenger seat (and after getting behind the wheel, it was clear why they were there).  We started out with the SXT and Scat Pack models in manual transmission (as firm believers that performance vehicles should ONLY be made with manual transmissions).  The V6 was impressive to say the least as it packed a much more powerful punch than we expected.  This vehicle held it’s own on the track and was surprising powerful and agile.  If you are in the market for a new car but don’t want all the muscle of the V8 models you will not be disappointed by the V6.  The 6.4 liter and 392 Scat Pack were a blast as well.  We estimated (based on a track map) that we had approximately 1/3 of a mile from the starting point of the first straight-away to the first turn (which was practically a 90 degree turn, therefore requiring some serious braking before entering the turn out of the straight-away).  In the pouring rain, we had no problem hitting 120 mph in the Scat Pack before having to lay on the brakes to enter the turn. We hit the 12 curve course hard considering the rain and pushed the vehicle as much as we were comfortable doing (not being professional drivers and all).  It was fairly easy to lose the rear end a little bit when pushing hard through the curves, but it always recovered quickly.  After a few laps it was time to give the HELLCAT a go!

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We started with the manual transmission Hellcat, and lets just say you can’t describe 707 hp without experiencing it!  The raw power was incredible – forget about punching the gas, the available power and torque are too much and you could lose control quickly.  With this beast its all about easing on and off of the gas … trust us, there is plenty of power there without putting the pedal to the medal.  The professional driver was very helpful in guiding us around the track and helping us identify the areas where you could really let it rip and where to use caution.  It was comforting having them along for the ride as the vehicles power was intimidating at first.  What was really impressive was the braking power of the Hellcat.  When you are ready to go from 100+ mph to around 30 mph in a few hundred feet, there is no problem doing it but just hold on cause this thing can stop a lot faster than the momentum of your body… if you aren’t prepared it has stopping power to throw you forward a bit.  What was most impressive about the braking was there was no evidence of fade in the brakes even after hours of repeated abuse by many drivers on the course throughout the day.  Those six-piston brakes sure make it a lot more comfortable going fast knowing they will let you stop when you are ready.

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Next it was time to give the 8 speed automatic Hellcat a try, and after the first lap we have one word for you … WOW!  What a game changer!  The position that we held for years was shattered in the matter of a few minutes…  No more can we say that an automatic transmission sports car is inferior to a manual!  To say the automatic Hellcat was impressive would be a serious understatement.  The speed and smoothness with which it shifted gears during acceleration was mind blowing, and it did this at what seemed to be precisely the right time in terms of speed and RPMs to maximize the vehicle’s performance!  There is no way a person operating a manual transmission could match the performance of the new TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic.  Not only did this vehicle impress during acceleration, but equally as much during braking.  With RPM matching technology this vehicle is specifically tuned to anticipate your next move when braking suddenly.  The transmission seemed to downshift proactively while braking, not only aiding in deceleration but also constantly maintaining precisely the right gear to provide maximum results for sudden acceleration!  It almost seemed like the automatic transmission was constantly “thinking” one step ahead of us as we tore around the track.

It is important to keep in mind the respect this car demands.  The professional driver repeatedly warned us to ease on and off of the gas, and in one instance we clearly realized why:  After a couple laps around the track we were feeling a little more comfortable and in one stretch of straight away we decided to try to surpass our top speed so far (which was 128 mph on the still wet track)…  We were quickly approaching approximately 70 mph but rapidly approaching the braking zone for the impending turn when we decided to go ahead a punch it.  What could happen?  We were already almost going 70 mph…  When we punched it you could instantly feel the back end get a little squirrely, like a quick little fish-tail action on the straight away!  The power and torque that were still available at that speed were unbelievable … and a little scary.

So what can we tell you about the Hellcat?  It is wickedly fun but also seriously powerful, so if you get behind the wheel pay it the respect it deserves and buckle up!

 

…Oh … we almost forgot!  We can’t leave you without a BURNOUT!

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