Amidst hurricane of hype swirling around electrified powertrains, it is easy to miss fact that we are living through a golden age of internal combustion engineering. Government regulations and market trends have forced some automakers to reduce engine sizes and supplement power with turbochargers or electric motors. Meanwhile, other manufacturers have taken challenge in stride, opting to instead find ways to produce as much horsepower as they can while still meeting federal greenhouse gas restrictions. Dodge has led high octane charge in recent years, first introducing 707 hp Challenger SRT Hellcat in 2015 then following it up this year with the 840 hp Demon. Yet, while these twin halo vehicle epitomize the brand’s pursuit of performance perfection, they are priced beyond the budget of average car buyer and are thus out of touch with the company’s horsepower to people creed. At heart of 2018 Challenger lineup is the T/A edition, a package that marries old school styling to robust, 21s century equipment for a price that won’t break the bank.

Retro Looks, Contemporary Comfort

Since Dodge relaunched nameplate nearly a decade ago, a big part of Challenger’s appeal has been its classically-derived appearance. T/A stands for Trans Am and is an homage to limited release 70′ Challenger T/A 340 model that was built primarily so Dodge could modify it and compete in the Sports Car Club of America’s Trans-Am Series. In addition to essential Challenger front fascia, with its wide grille and 4 circle headlamps, the fourth-generation reboot features a matte Black Satin hood with a large Air Grabber scoop, matching black graphics running from just below the C-pillar to outer headlights and a rear spoiler with a T/A decal. Dodge takes things a step further by applying black paint to roof and decklid. For an extra $295, Dodge will throw in a set of black hood pins to add to T/A’s racing ready appearance.

Dodge did not apply retro stylings on exterior of T/A to interior, leaving it with modern niceties such as power seats and dual-zone climate control. Driver and front passenger seats are both well cushioned, equipped with mild side bolster, covered in Houndstooth Performance cloth and embroidered with “T/A.” The trunk has room for the light luggage of four people and while 16,2 cubic feet of cargo room is not a ton of room, it is still significantly better than the Ford Mustang’s 11,4 cubic feet and Chevrolet Camaro’s 9,1. For this year, Dodge has upped ante on infotainment system inside Challenger T/A , upgrading standard offering from a 5 inch touchscreen to a 7 inch display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Fiat Chrysler’s Uconnect 4 system.

A Need for Speed

Ranging between 3,900 and 4,450 pounds, Challenger is the heaviest of three American muscle cars and I would venture to say the T/A is on the heavier end of scale.

Powered by a 5,7 liter Hemi V8, T/A is ready to let out an intoxicating purr of engine noise with slightest bit of acceleration. In addition to Air Grabber hood scoop, T/A also makes use of a secondary air collection system hidden within inside headlights. Surrounded by LED lights, two inner headlights are hollowed out in middle, leaving a space for outside air to flow in and feed into the Mopar Cold Air Intake System to keep engine running smoothly. For an extra $7,600, shoppers can upgrade to a T/A 392, which comes supplied with a 485 horsepower, 6,4 liter Hemi V8 as well as a set of 6 piston Brembo brakes in place of base T/A’s standard performance brake package or optional 4 piston Bembos and a high performance suspension system. A new for 2018 Performance Handling Package makes 4 piston Brembos and the sportier suspension an option for all 5,7 liter Challengers.

High Performance, Reasonable Price

With addition of SRT Demon, Dodge has an unprecedented 16 versions of Challenger available for purchase in 2018. That’s more than half as many flavors as Baskin-Robbins. If value is what you want, R/T or all wheel drive GT are probably your best bets, both are around $34,000 after delivery fees and before dealer incentives, putting them right around the average transaction price for a new car. One provides a 375 hp V8 engine while the other offers powerful V6 and all wheel drive. Happy T/A customers are going to be those who prioritize style first and performance as a close second. Factoring in 20 inch forged aluminum wheels, which run an extra $1,095 on R/T, $700 Super Track Pak to get sport suspension and whatever else it costs to get Air Grabber hood and paint work, you are paying well over $4,400.

Whatever version you opt for, do not be surprised if you end up paying more than MSRP because of Dodge’s multitude of available add-ons.

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