Challenger and Charger. These names evoke a miasma of memories and emotions in car enthusiasts, going back to the 1966 model year for the Charger and the 1970 model year for the Challenger. They were originally bred to go up against the fastbacks from Ford and Chevy during the Golden Age of the Muscle Car, but they’re still around today, now outfitted with modern style and technology…
But you may have heard rumors of their imminent demise, and you may be wondering: “Can I still buy a Charger or Challenger at a Dodge dealer near me?” Absolutely—but you’d better hurry because, sadly, the rumors are true…
Stellantis, the current owner of Dodge, has announced that both models will be discontinued after the 2023 model year. There are rumors of an electric Charger Daytona coupe coming sometime in the future, complete with a fake V8 exhaust note. (Ugh—I want the real grumble!) No doubt it will be fast, but its inner workings will bear more in common with kitchen appliances than the glorious V8s—particularly the HEMIs—that rumbled down the thoroughfare on hot summer nights and literally smoked the competition out in stoplight drag races.
Soon, those gasoline-fueled experiences will be only memories—memories like the mighty 1969 Charger Daytona, which became the first NASCAR vehicle to break the once-unheard-of speed of 200 mph, or the modern-day Hellcat models that can duplicate that feat right off the showroom floor, or a certain orange Charger that folks of a particular age will remember jumping over creeks and construction zones while Waylon Jennings narrated the Duke Boys’ latest escape from the Hazzard County Sheriff.
So, what led to the cancellation of this dynamic duo of beloved Dodges? Well, we hinted at it above: the transition to electric vehicles. For better or for worse, carmakers are moving away from internal combustion engines and toward battery-powered motors. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a debate for another day, but the demise of the Challenger and the Charger (and soon also their competition from Ford and Chevy) makes one thing crystal clear: say “bye-bye” to the HEMI, because the Silver Age of the Muscle Car is drawing to a close.
The Final V8 Generation
There may be an electric replacement someday, but for now, you can still buy a good old-fashioned dinosaur-juice-powered Dodge muscle car. The Challenger carries on as a sinewy coupe with styling that’s completely modern yet readily familiar to those who remember the model’s early days. It sports a range of power plants ranging from a 303-hp V6 to the 807-hp Hellcat HEMI V8.
The Charger offers a similar engine lineup. It has also, of course, grown an extra pair of doors and is currently a sedan; this might have seemed like sacrilege to the drivers who prowled the boulevards of the ’60s and ’70s (“Four doors? People will think I have kids! The horror!”) but nowadays, when every other vehicle is an SUV, and almost every pickup truck has four doors, the stigma of rear doors is gone. And in an age of bland, streamlined sedans, the Charger’s beefy flanks make it possibly the most muscular-looking four-door car on the road.
The Challenger two-door is slightly lighter than the Charger four-door and offers slightly higher-performance variations of some of the engines that are available across both models. But of course, with two doors, you give up some day-to-day usability. That being said, the rear seat offers a couple more inches of legroom than its Mustang and Camaro competitors, along with three sets of latches for car seats, for when you need to appease those speed-loving toddlers; this makes it pretty usable for a coupe—just don’t expect your in-laws with bad backs to enjoy climbing into the back seat to go out to dinner. Whether that’s a feature or a bug is your call.
The Charger and Challenger deliver other practical features. Both offer all-wheel drive (AWD) in their V6-powered SXT and GT trims. While this AWD system is definitely oriented toward performance, it also delivers greater confidence when driving in slippery conditions. Both cars also provide generous, functional trunks, although the Challenger’s sleek coupe styling results in 16.2 cu.ft. of cargo space versus the Charger’s 16.5 cu.ft., though this is like fighting over grains of rice before eating the whole roast duck. The Challenger’s trunk also has a few extra inches of lift-over height and a slightly narrower pass-through to the back seat than that of the Charger.
Everything Under the Hood
Dodge has nurtured its reputation as a performance producer, so their clientele ultimately wants to know, “What makes it go?” The Charger and Challenger provide driving enthusiasts with an impressive range of engines; most are shared between them and have very similar specs, but wherever there ARE horsepower differences, the scales tip toward the Challenger.
With so many potent V8 options, it might seem like a cop-out to go with a V6, but this engine cranks out up to 300 hp in the Charger and 303 hp in the Challenger. Not all that long ago, this would have made it one of the most potent pony car power plants on the American market. With variable valve timing, electronic throttle control, high-flow intake and exhaust ports, and optional all-wheel drive, enthusiasts can easily enjoy a Dodge equipped with this V6.
5.7L HEMI V8.
Now we’re getting into what Dodge is famous for: a spectrum of HEMI V8 engines. This one features a modern evolution of the famed hemispherical combustion chambers along with variable valve timing and the Multi-Displacement System, making it a fine entry to HEMI-powered performance. Mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, it pumps out 370 hp in the Charger and 375 hp in the Challenger.
392 HEMI SRT V8.
Also referred to as the 6.4L HEMI, this thunderous V8 produces 485 hp in both muscle cars, channeled through either the six-speed TREMEC manual transmission in the Challenger or an eight-speed automatic in the Charger. This is available in the Scat Pack trims of both models.
6.2L Hellcat Supercharged V8.
Now we’re getting into “King of the Road” territory. With 717 hp in both models, this engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and offers full-throttle launches with Adaptive Electronic Control. The Challenger (in non-RedEye trim levels) also offers a six-speed manual if you dare to try to control that many horses with both hands and feet.
6.2L Hellcat Supercharged High-Output V8.
With 797-807 hp, depending on options, it seems like this much power should launch you backward in time when you stomp the accelerator. It comes only with an eight-speed automatic because, frankly, only professional race car drivers can handle this much juice in a manual transmission without ending up upside-down on a median.
You may have heard of this insane, built-for-the-dragstrip edition of the Challenger. With 1,025 hp, it actually offered a parachute as an option to help it stop after a nine-second quarter-mile run. Alas, all 3,300 Demons for the 2023 model year sold out by June of 2023, and Dodge no longer includes the Demon on the Challenger’s ordering page… but it certainly helped the Silver Age go out with a bang.