Getting finer with age: The Dodge Challenger went through its last redesign way back in 2008. Sure, it’s seen a lot of under-the-skin changes, like the supercharged 6.2-liter sliver of awesomeness powering the Hellcat models, but its bones remain the same.
Despite its age, the Dodge Challenger has aged almost like a fine wine or cheese – much like its ancestors from the 1960s. But don’t confuse the 2021 Dodge Challenger for some fancy-pants, cheeseboard-lovin’ frou-frou coupe; this is a legit muscle car itching to jump the nearest creek somewhere in Hazzard County (yes, we know that was a Charger, and this is a Challenger).
But how does this good ol’ boy stand up against its more modern competition from Ford and Chevy? Find out below.
Tons of power, but you’d better keep it in a straight line: The 2021 Dodge Challenger doesn’t leave anyone craving for power. Even its base 3.6-liter V6 is impressive at 303 horsepower, beating the base Chevy Camaro’s turbo four-cylinder by 28 hp. However, it does come up short against the Ford Mustang’s 310-hp 2.3-liter four-cylinder and the Nissan 370Z’s 332-hp 3.7-liter V6.
The Challenger R/T adds a 375-hp 5.7-liter V8, but it also lags compared to the 460-hp Mustang GT and 455-hp Camaro LT1 and SS. The Camaro LT1 also adds a value element, as it rings in at just $36,590 (destination fees included), making it about $1,500 cheaper than the Challenger R/T and $2,300 cheaper than the Mustang GT.
The real fun starts in the Challenger R/T Scat Pack, which adds a 6.2-liter V8 with 485 hp and a four-second 0-60 time. The sprint time comes up a little short of the Mustang but matches the Camaro SS and LT1.
Things get ridiculous in the Challenger SRT Hellcat, which boasts a 717-hp 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that launches it to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, beating the Mustang GT350 and Camaro ZL1. The Hellcat also has a hotter tune in the 797-hp Redeye variant, which topples the Mustang GT500.
Finally, the king of the muscle car hill, the Challenger Super Stock, bumps the power to 807-hp and adds street-legal radial slicks and a drag-tuned suspension.
The Challenger is king in a straight line, but this 2-ton coupe has one enemy: physics. Once that bulky body heads into the corners, inertia takes over, and it’s hard to control.
The Mustang with one of its Performance Packs or any Camaro will do the trick for buyers looking for a better balance of straight-line speed and power. Buyers can also opt for the nimbler 370Z, but it rides on dated technology.
Retro styling that never gets old: Put the 2021 Challenger next to the 2011 Challenger and play a game of spot the differences. You won’t find many, and that’s OK with us. Dodge crafted a fine, timeless muscle car that has stood the test of time, and there’s no logical reason to change it anytime soon.
Sure, the Mustang and Camaro may look more modern, but in 10 years, their more modern looks will start showing their age. On the other hand, the Challenger will continue to age as well as the muscle cars of the 1960s.
Good tech, but it lacks in safety gear: Despite its retro looks, the 2021 Dodge Challenger has a modern cabin with all the latest features, including a 7-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and more. Buyers can even spend up and get an 8.4-inch touchscreen, a 900-watt audio system, and other goodies.
The Camaro also has a 7-inch standard touchscreen, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay, but its smartphone compatibility is wireless. The Challenger still requires frustrating USB cables.
The Challenger shines next to the base Ford Mustang’s standard features, including a cringe-worthy 4.2-inch non-touch infotainment screen and no smartphone integration.
In the safety tech department, though, the comparisons flip-flop. The Challenger has no available advanced safety tech. No automatic emergency braking. No lane-keeping assist. No blind-spot monitors. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
The Camaro is a step up with its optional blind-spot monitors and rear parking sensors, but it lacks available automatic emergency braking.
The Mustang sits at the top of the safety heap, as it at least offers a full range of optional safety gear, including adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, driver attention alerts, and blind-spot monitors.
Final thoughts: The timeless 2021 Dodge Challenger is fast in a straight line, giving owners plenty of bragging rights. But not every road is straight. Buyers who want some agility in their lives may be better suited in the Mustang or Camaro.
Despite its retro looks, the 2021 Challenger is loaded with modern infotainment tech, but the Challenger comes up with a goose egg in safety tech. If you’re concerned about getting the latest safety gear, your only real option is the Mustang.
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