2021 Dodge Challenger
It tells us the 2021 Dodge Challenger competes with the Chevy Camaro and Ford Mustang, but reality tells us it has a totally different personality. While all three American muscle cars are headlined by high-powered V-8s, there’s a big discrepancy in how they drive. Compared with the Chevy’s and Ford’s razor-sharp handling, the Dodge is better suited for relaxed cruising, with a crescendoing V-8 exhaust note always ready on command. Those who desire the mightiest version will want the SRT Hellcat (reviewed separately), which makes up to 807 horsepower. The Challenger’s interior isn’t always easy to look at or see out of, but it has comfier seats and more passenger space than its rivals’. Its capacious trunk, segment-exclusive all-wheel-drive option (available on V-6 models only), and roster of colorful paint options and retro-themed appearance packages also make it stand out from the Camaro and Mustang.
What’s New for 2021?
The Challenger lineup receives several minor updates for 2021. Dodge now offers a memory feature for models with a power-adjustable steering column, driver’s seat, and side mirrors as well as for the radio presets. A set of 20-inch wheels are newly optional on the all-wheel-drive SXT and standard on the all-wheel-drive GT. And R/T Scat Pack buyers can now add SRT branding to their Brembo brake calipers.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Challenger’s base 305-hp V-6 won’t satisfy thrill-seekers. The modest engine mates exclusively to the eight-speed automatic, but in the heavy Challenger, it lacks the acceleration and excitement of rivals. The Dodge’s Hemi V-8 engines are another story. The 375-hp 5.7-liter we tested had plenty of juice to powerslide on demand, and its guttural growl was gratifying. Those looking to maximize the Challenger’s potential will want the 6.4-liter V-8, which produces 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. We also drove the T/A 392 with the automatic and admired the exhaust’s startup sound and baritone roar when prodded. While we’re suckers for a manual transmission, the ZF automatic is incredibly responsive to throttle inputs, with quick power-on downshifts. The Challenger hustles through corners like a raging bull seeing red, snorting aggressively and swaying threateningly. The burly Dodge is a muscle car in the truest sense: It’s better on the street and the drag strip than on two-lanes and road courses. Since the lineup’s redesign, the models we’ve driven have offered a compliant ride that’s comfortable but a bit unrefined. Compared with the sharper and stickier handling of the Camaro and Mustang, however, the Challenger is too soft in tight turns and its steering is too numb. The slow-to-react helm is well suited to leisurely drives and easily controlled power-induced tail slides.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the 2021 Challenger with the V-6 and rear-wheel drive will earn 19 mpg city and 30 highway. Adding all-wheel drive into the mix nixes those ratings by 1 and 3 mpg, respectively. Challengers with the 5.7-liter V-8 are expected to earn up to 16 mpg city and 25 highway. Versions with the 6.4-liter V-8 are rated up to 15 mpg city and 24 highway. We’ve tested the all-wheel-drive V-6 Challenger and one with the 485-hp V-8 and automatic transmission on our 75-mph real-world route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen. Surprisingly, they both earned 26 mpg on the highway.