Review: 2023 Dodge Challenger Shakedown

Words: Calvin Chan

Photography: Calvin Chan

Published: August 21, 2023


In today’s automotive landscape, the Dodge Challenger is a relic of the past, a dinosaur, a muscle car frozen in the mid-2000s. Yet this third-generation model has soldiered on since its debut fifteen years ago, carrying with it oodles of character, a dramatic exterior, and bold proportions that keep true to the brand’s DNA. Surprisingly, the Challenger we drove, draped in a black-on-black spec, seemed to catch more attention than many of the other 2023 sports cars we have driven this year. Passerbys wearing baseball caps or construction vests constantly wave us down, enthusiastically asking us to rev the engine or do a burnout. Sometimes we oblige.


The Challenger may be a fifteen-year-old teenager but that’s equivalent to about a hundred years in the automotive world, and not much has changed with each of its minor revisions. The engines are the same basic block and the interior is stuck in the past with unconvincing black plastics and average build quality. It’s a spacious cabin but one seemingly lifted from the Iron Age. The seats haven’t changed either - the same, wide, and albeit comfortable living room couches. But each year the Challenger spawns new special editions and 1,000 hp drag-strip-ready variants.


This year is slightly different because it will be the Challenger’s last with a combustion engine. No more supercharged high-displacement HEMIs. Rather, the future of Dodge’s muscle cars will be electric. So what better way to celebrate the Challenger’s rich history than with a line of seven special edition models, which Dodge is dubbing the ‘Last Call’. The first of these special editions is the Shakedown. The full name is as follows: 2023 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody Last Call Shakedown, otherwise and unofficially known as the DCRTSPLCS. Now that’s a mouthful, and there will be only 1,000 of these produced.


The Shakedown Special Edition is an additional $5,000 on top of the R/T Scat Pack and adds red interior accents and seat belts, white instrument gauges, a Mopar Shaker cold air intake with hood pins, unique exterior decals, and 20-inch black wheels with red calipers. These are in addition to the Challenger’s Widebody exterior kit.

And in this Pitch Black paint, it looks sinister, exuding both a modern and retro-vintage aesthetic, but it’s also a clue into the way this bulldog acts on the road. It’s a car that needs to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and wrangled around to get it to behave. The Challenger barks on ignition and violently rumbles on idle. The gear shifter vibrates on an infinite loop, the steering is slow and heavy, and the pedals require a significant amount of leg effort to depress.


But it’s an amazingly theatrical experience with a V8 war drum beating in front, the Mopar Shaker (sort of) shaking, and the rumbling of the seats like you’re in a D-Box movie. A delicate feather of the gas pedal makes you realize that this isn’t some rental-spec Dodge. The exhaust noise is deafening, and there are no trick exhaust valves either. The noise is always on.

The Shakedown is equipped with a 6.4-litre naturally aspirated V8 pushing out 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is unsurprisingly wicked and undeniably addicting. Letting third gear rev all the way out of the limiter is as satisfying as muscle cars get, and while it taps out at a mere 6,000 rpm, it always seems like it has another 3,000 rpm on reserve. There are sports cars with more power and turbochargers, but we would choose a naturally aspirated mill any day of the week for its linearity and responsiveness. Drivers can adjust the driving modes too and tailor the traction control, suspension damping, and steering effort. The engine mode is hard-mapped but there’s no adjustment needed. It’s on all the time, as it should be. If you want soft and tame, rent a Durango instead.


And one of the redeeming features of this aging Challenger is that it is still offered with a manual six-speed gearbox. And it’s an incredibly effective and satisfying gearbox at that. It costs an extra $1,000 but the added engagement from this Tremec example is worth its weight in gold. The shifter has short travel and the gates are well-defined but it requires a fair amount of force to slot it into gear. It’s not a light-action unit like in the Honda Civic Type R or Toyota GR86. If the latter two were Glock pistols, then the Challenger’s is a .50 cal Barrett sniper rifle. It hits hard with recoil but it’s ever so satisfying when you shift at the correct RPM.


The clutch pedal is heavy and can cause significant fatigue in slow creeping traffic situations, but the pedal travel is short, the bite point is easy to find, and it’s effortless to smoothly transition into gear, a feat that not many gearboxes offer. It’s user-friendly and there’s a shallow learning curve for beginners. Better yet, the Challenger and the 6.4-litre V8 feel like they were made for the manual. There’s a generous bandwidth to play around, and manual shifting offers that extra layer of freedom and accessibility to the power and RPMs. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is a smoother companion that’s better suited to daily use, but the six-speed is magnitudes more satisfying, yet it’s only 2 kg lighter than the automatic - must be a beefy unit to handle all that American torque. Legend has it that every time you rev the engine, a bald eagle will screech in its honour.


Of note, the Mopar Shaker cold-air intake doesn’t really shake all that much under revs. Granted, if it did we might suspect there were a few loose bolts, but it does slightly tilt from left to right when you add gas. It’s more of a gimmick if anything but we’re sure the V8 appreciates the extra breeze. The same goes for the hood pins with cables tied to them. They look neat but the cables distractingly fling around when they catch wind turbulence at higher speeds.


The driving position is situated too high up to feel integrated into the car. You always get the feeling that you’re sitting on top of the car rather than inside it. That makes the Challenger feel more unwieldy than it really is. It’s heavy and is the width of a highway lane, yet it feels commanding on the road and prefers to bolt down with all four tires pointing in the same direction. But make sure a gas station is in close proximity as the Challenger is a thirsty demon. A half tank only got us about 200 km, with a disappointing but anticipated yield of 17.9 L/100km. The 6.4L HEMIs also require 91-octane fuel.


The Dodge Challenger Shakedown sings an infernal V8 chorus that is unmistakably North American and backs the lyrics up with retro-modern looks and an unashamedly brash set of road mannerisms that stays true to its roots, combining it all to offer an unfettered yet delightful driving experience. Objectively inferior yet subjectively superior, the gas-powered Challenger is at the end of its tenure and while it wasn’t the sports car for everyone, what a life it’s had, and we can’t wait to see how Dodge electrifies it for a green and grand resurrection.


Photo Gallery:









Model: 2023 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Last Call Shakedown

Paint Type: Pitch Black
Base Price: $62,595

Price as Tested: $83,475
Wheelbase(mm): 2,946
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,017 / 1,990 / 1,465

Curb weight (kg): 1,949
Engine: 6.4-litre HEMI V8
Horsepower: 485 @ 6,100 rpm
Torque: 475 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD

Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 16.7 / 10.4 / 13.9
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 17.9

Tires: 305/35ZR20; Pirelli P Zero All-Season tires





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