A lot of people associate America’s muscle car war to the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro. That’s accurate in some sense, but it’s also incomplete. There was a time when the Dodge Challenger made that a three-car fight. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case in recent years as the new-age Challenger, which debuted in 2008, has not exactly lived up to the sales stats of both the Mustang and the Camaro. Dodge knows this and is finally prepared to give the Challenger its long-overdue update in hopes to reclaim its status as a legitimate threat to both the Mustang and the Camaro.
The new Challenger is expected to arrive in 2019 but as early as now, reports indicate that the model will share a rear-wheel drive platform with the Alfa Romeo Giulia while also getting V-6 and Hemi V-8 powertrain options. Likewise, a supercharged 750-plus horsepower Hellcat is also in the pipeline.
Apart from the Challenger, Dodge is also beefing up its muscle car lineup by bringing back the Barracuda, a model that has sat in Chrysler’s garage ever since it was discontinued back in 1974. Once carrying the Plymouth name, the Barracuda will now be badged as a Dodge model and will only be available as a convertible. It will also share components and powertrains with the new Challenger, in addition to the Giulia’s platform. That said, expect the Barracuda to be shorter than the Challenger and carry a distinct design of its own.
The Barracuda will also arrive in the market in 2019, side-by-side with the Challenger as Dodge prepares to turn a new page in its muscle car history. It remains to be seen if Dodge can prepare the new Challenger and the revived Barracuda and make them worthy adversaries against the titans of the muscle car segment. Fortunately, time is on the American automaker’s side.
Why it matters
I don’t think I’m the only one who sees the current Dodge Challenger as a distant third in the pony car segment these days. It’s not that I’m being mean to Dodge or the Challenger model, but it’s just the truth. Ford and Chevrolet have done incredible jobs in keeping the Mustang and the Camaro in the forefront of the muscle car wars and it’s on Dodge to try to catch up with its rivals.
A new model is the first step in doing that, but Dodge still has to be careful about the car’s development. It doesn’t help that delays with the Alfa Romeo Giulia have cast some doubts on whether the Challenger will make it by its scheduled debut. Granted, FCA has said that the ills of the Giulia is tied into the model itself and not the platform that both the Challenger and Barracuda will be using. But if I were Dodge, I’m not taking my chances – not when its reputation in the muscle car segment is at stake.
If the new Challenger and the revived Barracuda fail to leave their marks in the segment, it’s going to be an even bigger hole for Dodge to dig out of. Add the looming 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards into the equation and it’s clear that Dodge will have to make some very important decisions down the road.
I hope that for the sake of the Challenger and the returning Barracuda that they’re going to be developed with an eye towards long-term sustainability, both in sales and in the eye of the loyal and passionate muscle car fan base. It’s hard enough to compete against the Mustang and the Camaro; Dodge can’t afford to shoot itself in the foot with more missteps on the development of the new Challenger and Barracuda models.
Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat