The Dodge Challenger Needs Big Changes to Keep Up with the Joneses
We have known for about 8 months that the next generation Dodge Challenger will debut next April at the 2014 New York Auto Show and with the recent debut of the next generation Ford Mustang – the Mopar community is buzzing about what Chrysler might do with the next Challenger to help it stay abreast with the newest pony car. After looking at the basic specifications of the three Detroit muscle cars, it is very clear what Dodge needs to do with the 2015/2016 Challenger.
Over the past few years, the Dodge Challenger has sold substantially fewer units than have the Ford Mustang or the Chevrolet Camaro. Even though the Challenger offers the least expensive V8 option with the base R/T models powered by the 5.7L Hemi V8 with 375 horsepower, that model is significantly less powerful than the Ford Mustang GT or Chevrolet Camaro SS which each offer at least 420 horsepower. Also, when you consider the fact that both the Camaro SS and Mustang GT weigh quite a bit less than the Challenger, that differential in power becomes an even bigger issue. Yes, the Challenger does allow buyers to get into a V8 American muscle car for the lowest price but that comes with a pretty substantial difference in performance.
Dodge does offer the mighty Challenger SRT 392 with 470 horsepower but with a price starting around $41,000 – the Challenger SRT Core is about $10,000 more than the 420 horsepower Mustang GT and roughly $6,000 more than the Camaro 1SS. Even though the SRT variant of the Challenger offers quite a bit more power than the Mustang GT or Camaro SS, the fact that it is so heavy puts the 470hp Challenger in the same performance ballpark as the 420hp Mustang or the 426hp Camaro. This means that when a prospective buyer is shopping based on performance, the Challenger is a tough sell. Buyers can save a few hundred bucks and opt for the 375hp Challenger R/T but they will have a tough time keeping up with the Mustang GT and Camaro SS. Those same buyers can also pay an extra $11,000 or so and get the Challenger SRT but that model only offers slightly better real world performance than the cross-town rivals.
The biggest reason that the Dodge Challenger has not been able to truly go toe to toe with the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro is its weight. The Challenger is based on the same chassis platform as the Dodge Charger sedan and while the Challenger is smaller, it isnt all that much lighter. Because of that, the Challenger struggles to compete with the similarly equipped Mustangs and Camaros so if Dodge really wants the Challenger to be able to keep up with the newest Mustangs and Camaros, the Chrysler Group engineers need to figure out how to cut a bunch of weight.
The 2014 Ford Mustang GT with a manual transmission has a curb weight of 3,618lbs and 420 horsepower for a power to weight ratio of 8.61 pounds per horsepower. The 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T weighs right around 4,000lbs with 375 horsepower giving it a power to weight ratio of 10.67lbs per horsepower. If you step up to the Challenger SRT 392, the curb weight creeps up around 4,100lbs while the power output lands at 470hp for a ratio of 8.72lbs per horsepower – which is still slightly worse than the $30,000 Mustang GT.
Those numbers make it very clear that the Chrysler Group has to either make the next generation Dodge Challenger quite a bit lighter or quite a bit more powerful – all without raising the price too much. There have long been rumors that there is a far more powerful SRT version of the Challenger on the way that will pack the new Hellcat Hemi with a power output expected to be up into the 600-650hp range but that will be an elite model with an elite price…so it wont help close the sales gap any. However, should the company figure out a way to offer a similar power to weight ratio as the Mustang and Camaro – the high volume packages could prove to be much more popular with those buyers who are shopping with performance relative to price in mind rather than brand loyalty.