First drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T at Yas Marina Abu Dhabi
It almost feels like Dodge is exclusively a muscle-car brand. Sure, they also peddle the excellent Durango currently, but at the moment, their brand seems to be defined by the Charger and the Challenger, with a bit of Viper thrown in as well. Muscle-cars are known to only be straight-line warriors, so Dodge saw it fit to let us try out their latest Challengers and Chargers at the Yas Marina circuit no less.
The Charger was always a good drive, with the base V6 handling well, the mid-range R/T V8 handling a bit better, and the SRT 392 doing a nice impression of a sports car, even with its full-size dimensions. Let’s not even talk about the Hellcat. We drove the three non-Hellcat sedans on the track and came away fairly impressed with their abilities.
But the Challenger has always been an odd one. Based on a shortened version of the Charger’s platform, its earlier iterations weren’t as good around corners as the Charger. If you understand vehicle dynamics, it’s obvious why, given the shorter wheelbase and the oddly-high ground clearance. But then they started to improve.
When the “392” engine was introduced, Dodge introduced an adjustable air suspension system for the Challenger SRT which improved handling considerably. However, the lower-spec Challengers did not benefit from that system.
And that’s why it was a nice surprise to see that the 2015 Challenger R/T is actually a pretty good handler.
Jumping into the driver’s seat with an instructor in tow, we found the 5.7-litre V8’s 372 hp on offer to be more than adequate for track work, with a willing 8-speed automatic that wasn’t blindsided by aggressive driving.
The initial corners were handled with ease at less-than-dramatic speeds, with at most moderate body roll and no real tyre squeal. Having tested the waters of what’s possible, the instructor egged us to go further into turns before braking.
So we did. We braked right into the turns, to force the rear-end to step out on every corner. And step out the rear did, but it was subtle and gradual, without the ESP kicking in. It’s pretty easy to control with small inputs to the steering, before getting on the power again smoothly to avoid unnecessary wheelspin.
Unfortunately we were not allowed to turn off the ESP and just powerslide smokily around everything, but it was interesting to see that a car capable of that kind of hooliganism can be so controllable with the right inputs.
Inside, there’s an all-new interior inspired by the Charger’s, with metal and soft-touch surfaces as well as a new UConnect 8.4-inch touchscreen. It also remains the most user-friendly of 2-door muscle-cars, with just enough rear space for average-sized adults to squeeze in, and a big flat-floored boot that isn’t hampered by a huge spare wheel as it is in the SRT models.
So in short, the R/T is the most practical option in the Challenger range, only a bit more expensive than the V6, more than enough power, and decent handling for occasional fun on the track. And it continues to look great with the subtly-updated skin that’s still retro to the core.
For UAE prices and GCC specs, visit the Dodge buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and Dodge.