I’ve driven my fair share of Challengers on both extremes - from the standard V6 to the high-performance SRT and Hellcat models. But I never had any time behind the wheel of the R/T with its 5.7 V8. That changed in the summer when a bright orange Charger R/T Shaker was dropped off for a week. This allowed me to ask a question that has been sitting in my head for some time: Is the R/T the best bang for your buck in the Challenger family?
The Shaker sets itself apart from other Challenger models with the use of a ‘Shaker’ scoop that prominently pops up from the hood. There is also a blackout treatment on several trim pieces and wheels that make it look even more imposing on the road.
Along with the scoop, the Shaker package does add a new cold-air intake seated right in front of the driver’s side corner. This addition should boost the output of the 5.7L HEMI V8 (372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque when paired with the eight-speed automatic. But FCA’s spec sheet doesn’t say anything about the Shaker Package adding more oomph or not.
When you first start up the R/T Shaker, it makes presence known with a deep and loud exhaust note. I had to do a double-take the first time as I was wondering if I was given either an R/T Scat Pack or a Hellcat by mistake.
While it may lack the high power numbers of the 6.4 and supercharged 6.2 V8s, the 5.7 is no slouch. 60 mph comes in at just over five seconds and power is seemingly available at any speed.
My tester came with the optional Performance Handling Group that adds upgraded springs, sway bars, and a set of Bilstein shocks. This does improve the handling by a fair amount with less body roll. But it doesn’t feel nimble due to a curb weight of around 4,158 pounds. The steering has a quick response, but there is a noticeable lack of road feedback. If you want your muscle car to have some handling, consider the Camaro or Mustang.
Nothing new to report on the Challenger’s interior. It still has the angled center stack, retro-inspired gauges, and easy to use UConnect infotainment system. The seats are where the Challenger loses some points as it feels like you’re sitting on top of cinderblocks.
The Shaker package is surprisingly good value, adding $2,500 to the base price of the R/T which begins at $34,295. But you’ll need to be careful on the option sheet, or you’ll end up with something quite expensive. My tester came with an as-tested price of $46,555, which is $300 more than an R/T Scat Pack Widebody with the 6.4 HEMI V8.
The Dodge Challenger is getting up there in age and sadly cannot compete with the likes of the Camaro and Mustang in terms of handling. But Dodge is still able to offer a lot of performance in the form of the R/T. With a potent V8 engine, old school styling, and different packages like the Shaker to make your Challenger stand out, the R/T is possibly the best value and well-rounded model in the lineup.
Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 5.7 HEMI VVT V8 Engine
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 372 @ 5,200
Torque @ RPM: 400 @ 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/25/19
Curb Weight: 4,158 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario
Base Price: $34,295
As Tested Price: $46,555 (Includes $1,495.00 Destination Charge)
"Shaker" Package - $2,500.00
TorqueFlite Eight-Speed Automatic Transmission - $1,595.00
Performance Handling Group - $1,495.00
Driver Convenience Group - $1,295.00
Power Sunroof - $1,295.00
UConnect 4C Nav with 8.4-inch Display - $1,095.00
Alpine Sound Group with Subwoofer - $995.00
Shakedown Graphics - $495.00
Wheels for the week: 2020 Toyota Corolla XLE. We'll be taking this one on a trip to Virginia and testing out how close to the 37mpg highway rating we'll get. It's equipped with Toyota Safety Sense which means I'll have radar cruise control for the trip (Yay!). The shocking part is the price: $28,084 for a Corolla that doesn't even have the biggest engine. But it's got heated seats, so that will keep Albert Maisto happy.