Why Is the Ancient Dodge Challenger Still so Popular?

When your vehicle has received fewer redesigns than the Toyota 4Runner, you know it’s getting old. And yet, the Dodge Challenger is still remarkably popular. While the Ford Mustang may be ranked as higher on the used-car market, and Chevrolet’s updated the Camaro regularly, the Challenger actually beat out the Camaro in 2019 sales. In fact, the Challenger’s sales have only grown since 2009. But why?

The Dodge Challenger isn’t the only popular ancient muscle car

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition
2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition | FCA

The Dodge Challenger shares its platform with the Dodge Charger. And like the Challenger, the Charger’s also enjoying a growing popularity. In fact, the 4-door Charger is even more popular than the 2-door Challenger. FCA reports Dodge sold 60,997 Challengers in 2019, but 96,935 Chargers. And while Challenger sales dipped 9% compared to 2018, Charger sales grew by 21%. Autoweek reported that the Charger is the sales leader in large cars.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon | Dodge

While it’s true the Dodge Challenger didn’t beat the Ford Mustang in sales—Motor1 reported Ford sold 72,489 Mustangs—it handily beat out the Camaro’s 48,265. However, the Challenger’s customers are also younger than the Mustang’s or Camaro’s. And the Challenger and Charger combined make for the best-selling muscle car platform. The Mustang doesn’t share its platform with any other car. And while the Camaro has the same Alpha platform as the Cadillac CTS and ATS, total Alpha platform sales in 2019 couldn’t even come up to the Challenger’s alone.

But it is a bit strange for a car that rides on a 90s Mercedes-Benz platform, as Carwow described, to have such strong sales. And according to Motor1, that’s not likely to change any time soon: a full redesign reportedly won’t come until 2023.

The Dodge Challenger offers old-school cheap muscle

While the Dodge Challenger’s and Charger’s bones haven’t changed much, the cars have evolved somewhat. But they’ve never lost their retro styling, and Dodge plans on keeping it that way. The Challenger still closely resembles its counterparts in the 60s and 70s, according to Hagerty. And as the rise of classic SUVs demonstrates, consumers like old-school.

Another thing that’s old-school about the Challenger? Its engine options. For those who do care about fuel efficiency, there’s a V6. For everyone else, there’s a smorgasbord of V8 options. Not least of which is the supercharged, 707-hp 6.2-liter Hellcat engine. With it, the Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody can do 196 mph and 0-60 in 3.6 seconds.

But all this speed is surprisingly affordable. True, the Charger Hellcat Widebody starts at just over $71,000. But, as Kelley Blue Book described, a Challenger R/T, with a 5.7-liter V8 making 375 hp and 410 lb-ft, starts at around $34,500. And stepping up to the 6.4-liter V8, with 485 hp and 475 lb-ft, is only $5500 more before destination. Dodge is also offering some serious discounts on the car.

But the Challenger also has more to offer.

It’s surprisingly practical

One of the benefits of using such an old platform is that, much like Toyota’s 4Runner, Dodge has ironed out most of the Challenger’s problems. In fact, according to Car and Driver, it’s partially because of this that Dodge was ranked the most reliable American carmaker by Consumer Reports. The Challenger is actually Dodge’s most reliable product, receiving an “above average” rating by CR.

2020 Dodge Challenger GT AWD
2020 Dodge Challenger GT AWD | Dodge

In addition, the Challenger offers something neither the Mustang nor Camaro can—all-wheel drive. The Challenger GT and SXT can’t get the V8 options, but having AWD makes them significantly more usable in snowy locales.

2020 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat interior
2020 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat interior | Dodge

The Dodge Challenger is also remarkably usable on a day-to-day basis. It’s relatively spacious for a 2-door car, able to comfortably seat up to 5 people. The ride, even with sportier suspension, is comfortable. It has leather seats, available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the Drivers Convenience package includes blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection.

The Dodge Challenger might be ancient, but that’s part of what makes it so popular.

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