by Gabe Beita Kiser
Ten years into the third Challenger generation and still the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 is far from being outdated. The Challenger carries its heritage on its sleeve with 1971-inspired muscle-car styling but at the same time is more contemporary than ever before. Roaring under the hood of the two-door coupe in SRT 392 guise is a 6.4-liter V8 engine powering the rear-wheel-drive setup with 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission regulates outputs by default with an eight-speed automatic transmission optionally available. The Challenger SRT 392 is a brute amongst the muscle-car segment with its massive size amplified alongside rivals such as the pony-car Camaro SS and Mustang GT. The bite matches the bark, though, and while it’s no Demon, 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds is nothing to make fun of.
As the 2018 Challenger still forms part of the third generation Challenger that debuted in 2008, updates and enhancements for the new model remain minimal. New functionality for the SRT 392 is a standard-fit Parkview back-up camera. Visually, the SRT 392 gets the option of Brass Monkey wheels, as well as low gloss black "5Deep” lightweight aluminum wheels that help shave off 16 lbs. New F8 Green and IndiGo Blue exterior paint options have been added to the lineup and B5 Blue and Plum Crazy make a return.
The SRT 392 is discernible by its 1971-inspired muscle-car exterior styling with split grille, pronounced and functional power bulge hood, bi-functional LED halogen headlamps and split-LED tail lamps. New 20-inch low-gloss black 5Deep lightweight aluminum wheels fill the moderately flared arches of the new SRT 392, or alternatively, you can select the Brass Monkey wheel options.
In terms of size and weight, the Challenger is a knight amongst pawns compared to its rivals, riding on a wheelbase of 116.2 inches. Riding 4.5 inches from the tarmac is a body measuring 198 inches long and 75.7 inches wide, standing 55.9-inches tall. The manual-equipped variant weighs in at 4,262 lbs while the automatic tips the scales at 4,286 lbs. Considered pony-cars, both the Camaro and Mustang measure around 10-inches shorter, and are around 500 lbs lighter than the Challenger SRT 392.
For 2018, the Challengers color palette comprises a total of 15 different exterior color options. New for the 2018 paint palette is F8 Green and IndiGo Blue, while B5 Blue and Plum Crazy make a return to the palette after being removed for 2017. Optioning one of the more intense color hues such as Octane Red, Go Mango, or Plum Crazy gives the Challenger even more of a traditional muscle-car vibe, paired with an assortment of stripes and decals as loud as the throbbing V8 beneath the hood.
Once the performance halo to the Dodge brand, the Challenger SRT 392 no longer even plays second fiddle to the top-performing trims of the brand such as the Hellcat and Demon. Even so, the potent V8 engine copes readily with the hefty weight of the monstrous muscle-car, propelling the SRT 392 from 0-60 mph in just 4.2 seconds when equipped with the six-speed manual gearbox. Equipping the automatic transmission leads to a marginally slower acceleration time of 4.4 seconds but gives an extra layer of day-to-day usability. Those figures seem quick in isolation, until you line-up alongside the new Demon at the strip, whose 2.3-second 0-60 time leaves the SRT 392 feeling like you accidentally engaged reverse. Still, for rear-wheel-drive, tire-smoking glory - as all good muscle cars are - the SRT 392 is as fun as it gets.
The SRT 392 derives its name from the size of its engine, with a 392 cubic inch (6.4-liter) naturally aspirated HEMI V8 developing outputs of 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. The engine is a familiar one under the FCA umbrella, shared with many of the brands' mid-tier to high-end vehicles. In true muscle-car fashion, the SRT 392 is equipped with a rear-wheel drivetrain and is given a six-speed Tremec manual gearbox as standard with the option of equipping an eight-speed Torqueflite automatic gearbox.
Throttle responses are as reliable and consistent as one might expect, with thumping power delivered precisely in accordance with the throttle application. Liberal use of the loud-pedal results in overcast weather, but hook things up just right, and off-the-line, the SRT 392 hooks up and flies. With no such thing as a turbocharger in sight, there’s no lag, and no drop off in power as you chase redline, and with 6.4-liters under the hood, overtaking just takes a prod of the throttle to leave all but the Hellcat and Demon for dead in your rearview mirror. The automatic transmission performs adequately, delivering smooth and accurate shifts, but it's the manual that adds to the enthusiastic driver's appeal with improved engagement and control.
The Challenger SRT 392 impresses with its ability to deliver a drive soft and comfortable enough for daily use while also offering competitive performance when the occasion arises, but the stigma of muscle cars being straight-line monsters isn’t cast aside entirely.
It is, after all, a massive vehicle and it drives like one. Though tuned for performance, the SRT 392’s suspension and adaptive damping system take care of most road inconsistencies and undulations with poise. The chassis remains solid and composed at all times and the large coupe stays planted to the tarmac. The steering is precise and weighted suitably according to the drive mode selected whether it be for casual or sporty driving. However, seeking the hard limits tends to yield heavy doses of body roll, while the tires struggle to contain all 4,200+ lbs and give way to understeer - easily corrected with judicious application of the loud pedal that quickly sends the rear of the SRT 392 sliding. In regular use, the steering makes the larger SRT feel nimbler than it is, but there’s no escaping the sheer size of the thing when trying to navigate tight spaces.
The six-piston Brembo performance brakes perform phenomenally in the SRT 392 delivering ample stopping power, offering much-needed confidence when it comes time to drop anchors and bring the SRT back to sane speeds.
The SRT 392 equipped with the eight-speed automatic transmission is the more efficient option of the two transmission choices, with EPA gas mileage estimates of 15/25/18 mpg city/highway/combined. Equipped with the six-speed manual, it returns estimates of 14/23/18 mpg. Utilizing premium unleaded fuel, the SRT 392’s 18.5-gallon gas tank ensures a range of 314.5 miles before requiring a refill, provided you’re able to remove the lead from your right boot.
The interior of the Challenger SRT 392 is immaculate, adorned with high-quality materials and built with attention to detail not often seen in this segment. Seating and key touch-points are donned with soft-touch materials and there are no rattles or squeaks to be heard. The overall interior layout is ergonomic and predominantly driver-centric. That said, the Challenger does also offer the best in-cabin passenger room. The seats throughout the cabin are spacious, luxuriously comfortable, and highly supportive. The driver's seat features six-way power-adjustability with a four-way power lumbar adjuster and both front seats include heating, ventilation, and easy rear-seat entry functions. Infotainment is delivered via an 8.4-inch touchscreen display and 18 Harman Kardon high-performance speakers with a 900-watt digital amplifier as standard.
The Challenger SRT 392 offers the best-in-class cabin room amongst two-door coupes, seating a total of five passengers with surprising ease. Head and legroom are ample throughout the cabin even for taller adults in the rear seats, and the seats themselves feel like plush sofas more than traditional seats. The Challenger’s doors open wide but are heavy and can prove problematic in tight parking spots or when parked on slopes. Nevertheless, ingress and egress are easy even to the rear seats by virtue of an easy entry system installed on both front seats. The driver is positioned behind the steering wheel within easy reach of all the controls and with suitable forward visibility. Due to the sleek C-pillar, however, rearward visibility is somewhat hindered, but thanks to the addition of the Parkview rear back-up camera, backing up is made a little easier.
Regardless of the models' venerable age, the Challenger is still adorned with luxurious upholstery and high-quality materials. As standard, the Challenger SRT 392 features an SRT leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel and aluminum sports pedals. The cabin is upholstered in premium Laguna leather with perforated leather inserts and embossed SRT logos on the Sepia or Black Performance seats by default. Optional for the SRT 392 is a Nappa leather interior with Alcantara suede bolsters, Alcantara perforated suede inserts and silver accent stitching with embroidered logo Performance seats in Black or Black/Ruby Red. The seatbelts come standard in Black with the option of red.
A key personal hallmark and a class-leading feature is the Challenger’s vast trunk and cargo capacity. One could store a set of golf clubs, a work suitcase, a laptop bag, a gym duffel bag, and a school bag in the 16.2 cubic foot trunk, with room to spare. The rear seat bench is 60/40-split folding for greater versatility.
In-cabin storage solutions comprise two small door side pockets on each door as well as a bottle holder, a sealed storage cubby beneath the center armrest, dual cupholders in the center console along with a little storage net pocket and small storage tray, and a decently sized compartmentalized glovebox. In the rear cabin are seatback map pockets on each front seat and the center rear seat backrest folds down to reveal dual cupholders.
Featured as standard on the SRT 392 are power, multifunction, heated, and foldaway exterior mirrors and a body-color rear spoiler with a back-up camera. The driver’s seat is six-way power-adjustable with four-way lumbar adjustability and features heating, ventilation, and easy rear-seat enter/exit functions. The steering wheel is heated as standard with power adjustment and dual-zone automatic climate control regulates the cabin. A power sunroof is an optional accessory and a suite of advanced driver-assist features is available within the optional Technology Package which comprises auto high-beam headlamp control, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Infotainment is a strong point for the Challenger SRT 392, forgoing lesser systems in lower Challenger trims and going straight for the Uconnect 4C system with an 8.4-inch touchscreen display and premium 18-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system. Standard functionality includes AM/FM and SiriusXM Satellite radio with CD/DVD/MP3 format capability. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are included as standard along with Bluetooth integrated Voice Command and Bluetooth audio streaming capabilities. The center armrest console comprises a media hub with an audio input jack and two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet is situated within the front console net pocket.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger has been subject to a handful of recalls commissioned by the NHTSA. The more pertinent and most recent recall pertained to a voltage regulator chip in the powertrain circuit board that could fail, causing a stall or a no-start condition. There have also been numerous driver complaints lodged to online authorities. J.D. Power gave the 2018 Dodge Challenger an overall reliability rating of 80 out of 100 which is above-average for the class. The Challenger is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile basic limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 received an overall rating of five out of five from the NHTSA. The IIHS results were a mixed bag, with top scores of Good for the moderate overlap front and side tests, an Acceptable rating for roof strength and head and seat restraint tests, and a Marginal rating in the small front overlap test.
The Challenger is equipped with six standard airbags and features active head restraints, brake assist, rain brake support, ready alert braking, and electronic stability control. As standard, the Challenger is also fitted with a ParkSense rear park assist system, Parkview rear back-up camera, hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring system, and a blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-pass detection. Advanced driver-assist features such as auto high-beam headlamp control, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and rain-sensitive windshield wipers are available in the optional Technology Package.
With the advent of the all-conquering Challenger Demon, many may have forgotten about the SRT 392. But its under-the-radar status simply adds to the allure of what is a highly accomplished muscle car in its own right, and one of the last of its kind. A naturally aspirated V8 and incredible performance are balanced with an impressively refined ride/handling balance, giving it a duality of purpose. Signature muscle car looks in an assortment of out-there colors give buyers the option to customize their SRT 392 in a number of ways. It backs this all up with quality infotainment, a commodious, comfortable interior, and high-quality build. However, it’s not quite as agile as the pony cars it’s regularly stacked up against, and there’s compromised daily usability by virtue of its sheer size. These are, of course, small concessions, and ones we’d gladly make to own an SRT 392. It’s a new take on classic American muscle, and it’s a true performance bargain.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 presents a strong case for performance value for money with an MSRP of $49,495, excluding tax, registration, and licensing fees as well as Dodge’s $1,495 destination charge.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 is reviewed as a standalone performance-based variant in the Challenger lineup. As a high-end performance-based muscle-car, it is equipped with a powerful 6.4-liter engine and either an eight-speed auto gearbox or six-speed manual and rear-wheel-drive. It is also fitted with a high-performance SRT-tuned Bilstein three-mode adaptive damping system with three selectable drive modes. Comfort and convenience are not forgotten, with a six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with four-way lumbar adjustability and features heating, ventilation, and easy rear-seat enter/exit functions. A heated sports flat-bottom steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control are also featured as standard, as is an 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality.
The only optional package available for the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 is the Technology Package which adds auto high-beam headlamp control, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and rain-sensitive windshield wipers. There is also a decent range of optional standalone accessories and add-ons available for the Challenger as well as vast customization elements. Everything from vinyl decals to a choice in wheels, there’s a wide enough range of choice to ensure no two SRT 392s ever look the same.
While some may be swayed by the theory of ‘new is always better’ and look towards the Challenger Demon for their performance thrills, the SRT 392 presents as a more reasonable daily performance car. It possesses enough power to enjoy, but not enough to kill you around every corner, and with the optional Technology Package equipping forward collision warning and adaptive cruise control - must-haves in our opinion - it’s well equipped too. We’d spec the 19-inch Brass Monkey alloy wheels and Plum Crazy paint job, plus some go-faster stripes in black to complete the look. And we’d keep things manually operated, because, with the SRT 392, you’ll want to be in control.
For $14,800 more than the SRT 392, one could opt for the now second-in-line Dodge Challenger Hellcat. Equipped with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 engine the Hellcat gets 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque that propels it from a standstill to the 60mph mark in a mere 3.5 seconds, a second quicker than the 392. The Hellcat also gets bespoke suspension and steering systems to give it enhanced performance, but a straight line is still where it performs best. But with a big ol’ supercharger strapped to the Hemi V8, the Hellcat is less economical than the SRT 392, returning 13/22/16 mpg on EPA cycles. These two models are two varying degrees of insanity, with the Hellcat reserved for those who like to live a little more dangerously. If you don’t frequent the dragstrip, though, the SRT 392 is the logical choice for a daily driver.
The 2018 Chevrolet Camaro carries an MSRP of around $7,500 less than the Dodge Challenger SRT 392. It is equipped with a 6.2-liter V8 engine with lesser outputs of 455 hp and 455 lb-ft, with that powertrain setup enabling a 0-60mph sprint in an equal 4.2 seconds. But with smaller dimensions and a greater focus on nimbler handling, the Camaro is easier to fling around and makes for a better sports car rather than a muscle car. But by virtue of the smaller dimensions, it offers a smaller trunk and less in-cabin room compared to the Challenger. It did receive better crash-test safety ratings from both the NHTSA and IIHS, though. The Camaro is considerably more affordable than the Challenger and offers similar straight-line performance and better handling dynamics. Though not as practical as the Challenger, the Camaro offers is the better performance car, making it our pick of the two..