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2015 Challenger rundown (updated)

As we get closer to the 2015 Dodge Challenger’s midyear launch, it’s worth looking at what’s coming down the pike.

The Challenger is moving from its current “LC” body to the “LA” body, as noted years ago by Allpar when plans first started. Most observers expect relatively few exterior changes to the car, though the dimensions will change along with key parts (including the floorpan); the classic Challenger lines will remain, but the front fascia will change, still maintaining links to the classic 1970s Dodge Challengers. The tail is likely to be modernized with smooth “light pipe” LEDs, and BMW-style “halo headlamps” seem to be in the works (at least for some models, possibly not for the base cars).

The eight speed automatic is likely to become standard across the board, but enthusiasts can still get the manual six-speed — if they opt for a V8. So far numbers appear to be too low to justify a six-speed V6 combination. With the eight speed, it seems likely that the standard Hemi and 392 SRT engines will both post faster acceleration numbers with the automatic. That leaves the HellCat V8, rumored to generate a stunning 665 or more horsepower — which would make it the most powerful production V8 in the world in a car costing under $1 million [updated — thanks, Danno].

There has been talk of using aluminum to lighten the body, and while this might be done with some panels, it seems unlikely that the car will be much, if at all, lighter than the current Challenger. Some critics have complained about Challenger’s weight disadvantage versus some Camaros and Mustangs, without mentioning that Challenger is also a considerably larger car inside; most critics have mentioned that Challenger is also more comfortable. Given the need to handle an extra 200 or so horsepower, it seems unlikely there will be any weight loss at all, but engineers are probably working hard to minimize the weight gain by using more high-strength steel and, yes, aluminum. But it seems unlikely, given costs, technology, the length of time this Challenger will be in the field, and the need to use the existing plant without completely changing the body shop, that the car will use aluminum as part of its key structure. Perhaps in 2018-2020, or whenever the next large cars are developed, but not now.

Update: It seems likely that rumors of a lighter-weight Challenger date back to plans to replace or augment Challenger with a “Barracuda,” a shorter-wheelbase car that would compete more directly with best-seller Camaro. However, these plans were publicly acknowledged by Chrysler executives, who said that they did not work — the Barracuda name was rejected by enthusiasts (since there were no Plymouth or Barracuda cues on the proposed car) and the vehicle just did not work. Instead, a new car will be added — a midsized, rear wheel drive car whose development and engineering is being shared by Dodge and Alfa Romeo. We believe engineering is led by Dodge, with Alfa Romeo having a small team that is participating in the “base car” and having total control of their own version. There are many open questions about this new car, including whether the Dodge will have room for V8s (including 392), since the Alfa is unlikely to go beyond its Maserati-Ferrari twin-turbo V6; but these are all separate issues.

The new Challenger will have the most extensive choice of engines of any Chrysler or Dodge car, with a V6 and three V8s. The current 392 Hemi will remain, supplemented by the supercharged 6.2 motor — now believed to retain the HellCat name when it appears before the public.

A comprehensive interior upgrade is expected, bringing Charger-like amenities, a configurable cluster, along with an electronics update to UConnect 2 with all the gadgets ’n’ gizmos that brings; the option list should grow to match 300C’s, including forward sensors, rear camera, adaptive cruise, and predictive crash protection.

For more, see: 2015 Dodge Challenger: the muscle cars return 

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