Kowalski Would Be Proud: Driving the 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T

When you think of the modern Dodge Challenger, usually the Hellcat or Demon comes to mind right away. While it’s no doubt that 700 plus horsepower on tap is fantastic, not every one needs that. With all of the wide body Scat Pack and Redeye talk lately, one particular Challenger trim level that seems to be forgotten about is the R/T. Back in the day, the R/T was the big dog in the Challenger lineup but these days, when you mention the R/T, a lot of people tend to say “don’t you wish you had the SRT?”.

The truth is, not everyone needs to own a SRT. We recently took a brand new 2019 Challenger R/T out for the day and honestly, it’s one of the best bang for your buck trim levels in the Challenger line-up. You get Hemi power under the hood, performance enhancements from the SRTs such as launch control and Dodge performance pages and best of all, a price point that won’t break the bank!

Standard with the Challenger R/T for 2019 is the tried and true 5.7L Hemi V8 producing 375 horsepower and 410 ft-lbs of torque. It’s very manageable horsepower; not get you easily arrested horsepower. The R/T comes standard with the Tremec six-speed manual transmission but for an additional $1,595 USD, you can get the quick shifting eight-speed Torqueflite automatic. To make the R/T perform even better, it comes standard with the Super Track Pak which includes high-performance suspension, enhanced steering, 20×8″ Granite Crystal wheels and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters (on the automatic transmission).

If you want to bump up the handling and steering performance even more, the Performance Handling Group is available for an extra $1,495 USD which adds black Brembo 4-Piston brakes on all four corners, 20×9″ Black Noise wheels, upgraded springs, sway bars, Bilstein shocks, bushings and mounts. Also available for another $1,495 USD is the new Performance Plus Package that adds 20×9.5″ black forged wheels riding on 275/40ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero summer tires, a limited-slip differential and enhanced handling balance for improved cornering performance.

While driving the 2019 R/T, we were very impressed by the handling and general driving characteristics of it. It can be tossed into corners with ease and confidence and pulls hard coming into the straight stretches. The active performance exhaust is what really caught us off guard. For years, the SRT and R/T performance models severely lacked in the exhaust department; they were way too quiet! The factory exhaust on the 2019 R/T is light years better than the earlier R/T and SRT models and really doesn’t require any modifications in our opinion. It pops, growls and roars just like an aftermarket performance exhaust would. When opening up the throttle, the sound is absolutely addicting.

One of the biggest changes for the 2019 R/T is the standard upgraded scooped hood, front fascia and front splitter that was brought down from the previous year SRT model. While at first we were against the idea when it was announced, it’s grown on us and really adds more bang for your buck to the R/T. The only thing we’d change on the exterior of the R/T is a satin black rear spoiler and the addition of a R/T badge on the spoiler. The body colored rear spoiler just doesn’t accent the rear enough.

One of the best parts of the R/T is how differently you can option it depending on your taste and budget thanks to a number of appearance packages. If black is your favorite color (or shade), then the “Blacktop Package” is for you! For an additional $995 USD, this package gives you 20×8″ Black Noise wheels and tons of black accents such as a satin black rear spoiler, black grille, black fuel-door, black interior trim and black badging. Next up is the R/T Classic Package at $1,295 USD. This one gives you 20″ Classic II polished aluminum wheels, HID headlights, retro Challenger script badging and 1971 style R/T side stripes.

For an additional $2,500 USD, you can upgrade your R/T with the “Shaker Package” which includes of course the Shaker cold air induction hood, black rear spoiler, black fuel-door, black grille, retro Challenger script badging, a special dash plaque and a white instrument cluster. Last, for an additional $3,400 USD is our favorite, the “T/A Package”. This package gives you a satin black hood, fender top, roof and deck lid treatment along with black retro T/A side stripes, satin black rear spoiler with T/A logo, black fuel-door, retro script Challenger badging, Illuminated Air-Catcher headlights, Mopar Cold Air Intake System, 20×9″ low gloss forged aluminum wheels and a white instrument cluster.

Other appearance options include a power sunroof, red brake calipers, an engine block heater, Mopar Front Strut Tower Brace (with either the Shaker or T/A Package), various graphics and black hood pins. There are 15 colors available for the 2019 R/T; B5 Blue, Destroyer Grey, F8 Green, Go Mango, Granite Crystal, Indigo Blue, Maximum Steel, Octane Red, Pitch Black, Plum Crazy, Sublime, TorRed, Triple Nickel, White Knuckle and Yellow Jacket. Our test R/T came in White Knuckle and had a very Vanishing Point feeling about it!

On the interior, you’ll find pretty standard Challenger equipment on the R/T. Standard are black Houndstooth Cloth performance seats. Since our test R/T was equipped with the “Plus Package”, it came with heated and vented Nappa leather performance seats with Alcantara inserts. The Nappa/Alcantara seats are available in either black or Ruby Red.

Standard for the R/T is the Uconnect 4 system with a 7″ display but you can upgrade to a Uconnect 4C system with a 8.4″ display; with or without navigation. You have two choices for sound systems; Alpine or Harmon Kardon, both of which sound great. You can also option your Challenger with the Cold Weather Group, Driver Convenience Group, Technology Group, Mopar Interior Appearance Group, Rear Seat Delete Group and the Plus Package.

We found the interior of the Challenger R/T to be very comfortable with everything easy to reach. The vented seats worked great and kept us nice and cool in the warm weather. Our only complaint was the lack of spot to put your cell phone, something our 2008 Challenger SRT8 has. With today’s population being heavily attached to their phones, customers do look for that when purchasing vehicles. We couldn’t find a proper spot at all for our Samsung S8; it wouldn’t even fit in the cup holders. That’s a small downside though.

With a starting price of $34,295 USD, the 2019 Challenger R/T really is fantastic bang for your buck for those that don’t need the SRT 6.4L 392 Hemi engine but still want power and performance. It truly holds a valuable spot in the Challenger line-up and deserves a good look.

We’d like to give a huge thank you to Kyle Sethi and the team at Abbotsford Chrysler in Abbotsford, British Columbia for allowing us to take their Challenger out. Kyle truly is one of the best out there if you are looking for a new or used vehicle in the British Columbia, Canada area. Without him, these wouldn’t be possible!

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Cody Krueger

Car Feature Editor – cody.krueger@shawgroupmedia.com Since the age of 4, Cody has been obsessed with everything Mopar. On Christmas of 1998, Cody's parents gave him a rusty '69 Charger shell that his father saved from a field. Cody's garage still features that '69 Charger as well as the additions of a '71 Charger R/T, '71 Super Bee, '73 Duster, '08 Challenger SRT8 and a '13 Ram 3500. Cody can truly and proudly say that he is a true Mopar nut in love with all types of Mopars!

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