2023 Dodge Challenger Black Ghost

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Some of you may remember Pontiac.

Years from now, some of us may remember Dodge. What happened to the former is on the verge of happening to the latter, some 45 years later.

And for the same reason.

In 1979, Pontiac announced the last call – for a big-engined Trans-Am. No more 400s – the 6.6 liter V8s that set apart the late-’70s TA as something unlike anything else you could buy at the time, including the Corvette – which had nothing bigger to offer than a 5.7 liter 350 cubic incher.

The word got out quickly. Deposits were made. The cars were sold before they were built. It shall not pass this way again, noted a wistful review of a 1979 Trans-Am with the 400 and the mandatory Hurst-shifted manual transmission.

And here we are, again.

It is the last call for the Dodge Challenger with the 6.2 liter supercharged V8. With any V8. Anno domini 2023 will be it. And then they will be gone.

Better hurry – because it may already be too late.


What It Is

The Challenger is Dodge’s hugely popular reincarnation of its 1970s-era muscle car. It comes only as a hardtop coupe – unlike its main rivals, the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro, which are available as hardtop coupes and convertibles. It also differs from them both in being a physically larger and much heavier car. It also has a huge (vs. tiny) trunk – and back seats that people can realistically sit in.

But the thing that sets it apart most of all is the availability of huge and almost surreally powerful V8 engines, exceeding 1,000 horsepower in the Demon (which comes with a factory-installed parachute system).

You can still get one with a V6, if you prefer. The $31,300 SXT and the $34,400 GT come standard with a 3.6 liter engine that makes considerably more power than the 6.6 liter V8 that powered the last big-engined Trans-Am. But the attention-getter is the $39,940 R/T, which gets upgraded to 5.7 liters and much more power than the ’79 TA’s 400.

If that’s not enough power, you can upgrade to a 6.4 liter V8 that’s almost as big as the old TA’s 400 and more than twice as powerful. The 6.4 Hemi comes in the R/T Scat Pack ($46,400) and this one can be complemented by a Wide Body exterior package that includes hunky fender flares that make this already menacing car look downright sinister.

In a good way.

If you’re hungry for more, Dodge has more to offer. The $70,590 Hellcat adds a supercharger that (literally) boosts the output of a specially modified, 6.2 liter version of the Hemi V8 to 717 horsepower.

But there’s even more than that.

The $78,640 Redeye ups the supercharged V8’s output to 797 horsepower – and we’re still not done. Super Stock and Jailbreak Challengers up the ante to 807 horsepower.

And for the last call, there’s the Demon – with 1,025 horsepower on race gas.

What’s New for 2023

The Challenger goes out with a bang. The car, itself, is largely the same as it has been for the past 15 years – chiefly because there has been no reason to fix what isn’t broken. Demand for Challengers has actually increased over the years because there is nothing else like it – and may never be, again.

Dodge is offering some last-of-the-line packages, including the Black Ghost – which comes standard with the 807 horsepower supercharged V8, special black paint (with “gator skin” graphics on the roof) the Wide Body exterior, a low-profile dual snorkel hood scoop and no exterior markings to indicate it is powered by the 807 horsepower V8. This one is limited to 300 examples, each identified by a serialized “last call” plaque under the hood.

There are also Shakedown and Swinger packages – both limited to 1,000 copies each.

What’s Good

Even with the standard V6, it has more power than most classic muscle cars with V8s.

Glorious plethora of available V8s.

The only one of the latter-day muscle cars that is a practical car – even with the 807 horsepower V8.

What’s Not So Good

Last call. If you haven’t already bought one, you might not be able to.

Under The Hood

The base SXT and GT Challengers come standard with a 3.6 liter V6 that makes 303 horsepower – which is an impressive number. It is power comparable to the output of probably two-thirds of the much larger V8s that came in mass-market muscle cars back in the late ’60s and early 70s – and much more power than the last-call muscle cars of the mid-late ’70s, including the 1979 Trans-Am with the last of the 400 (6.6 liter) V8s.

The latter only made 220 horsepower.

Unfortunately, you can’t get a manual transmission with the 3.6 V6 (a manual was standard with the last Pontiac 400 in the ’79 Trans-Am). An eight speed automatic is the only transmission with this engine. Even so, it is just as quick to 60 – which it can do in 6.3 seconds – as the ’79 Trans-Am with the 400 and four speed. It also returns 19 MPG in city driving and – wait for it – 30 on the highway. This accounts for the V6 Challenger having a Prius-like highway range of 555 miles (351 in the city).

You were lucky if you got 19 – on the highway – in the ’79 T/A. Or made it even 250 miles – anywhere – on a full tank of gas. Something this writer can personally vouch for, having driven one extensively.

It’s the V8s that are the stars of this show, however – starting with the 375 horsepower 5.7 liter V8 that is the standard powerplant in the R/T. This one is available with a six speed manual transmission or an eight speed automatic. An R/T Challenger can get to 60 in just over five seconds. It isn’t as quick as its V8-powered primary rivals – the Ford Mustang GT and the Camaro SS – chiefly because it’s a larger and much heavier car, with an empty curb weight of 4,157 lbs. vs. 3,730 for the Mustang (which also comes standard with a 460 horsepower 5.0 liter V8) and 3,685 lbs. for the Camaro (which comes standard with a 6.2 liter, 455 horsepower V8).

But there’s an app for that. Or rather, an upgrade.

Dodge offers a 6.4 liter, 485 horsepower version of its Hemi V8 as the centerpiece of the Scat Pack package, which also includes a Line Lock system so you don’t have to power brake the thing to get the tires sticky, heavy-duty cooling, Brembo brakes and more aggressive suspension tuning. The bigger engine – which is the biggest engine you can get in any of the three last call muscle cars – brings the 0-60 time down to just over 4 seconds, achieving performance parity with the Mustang GT and Camaro SS.

It’s available with either the six speed manual or a heavy-duty eight speed automatic.

More is also available – in Hellcat and Redeye iterations of the Challenger. These come with the latter day-equivalent of a dual-quad 426 Street Hemi – for those who remember the original muscle car era’s high tide before first last call – in the form of a supercharged 6.2 liter Hemi that starts at 717 horsepower and ascends from there (in Redeye Hellcats) to 797 horsepower and from there to 807 in the Jail Break, Black Ghost and Super Stock elaborations of the Hellcat.

This is close to twice the advertised output of the early ’70s 426 dual quad (that’s two four barrel carburetors) Street Hemi.

To capstone the era – which shall not pass this way again – Dodge is also building 3,300 Demons – which get an 880 horsepower version of the supercharged Hemi that puts out 1,025 horsepower on race gas.

These are street legal race cars – and so are the just slightly less ferocious versions of the Hellcat just delineated.

On The Road

The tested Black Ghost – with the 807 horsepower supercharged Hemi – is a car you have to learn before you can drive it.

Oh, it is easy enough to drive. Deceptively so. Anyone – including your just-licensed teenage kid (and your probably shouldn’t-be-licensed mother-in-law) can sit down, push the start button, put the mandatory eight-speed automatic in Drive and . . . drive.

But if they push the pedal down more than about a fourth of the way down – at anything less than 30 miles-per-hour . . . well, they’d better know how to drive. Even with rear contact patches wider than you got with all four tires together back in 1970, there is only so much that can be done to restrain 807 horsepower and more than 700 ft.-lbs. of torque.

You learn to drive with your right foot.

And steer, too.

It takes awhile to get a grip on what you’re dealing with here. Do not floor it the first time you drive it. Do not floor it the first time you try passing someone. Not unless you are truly ready.

Even then, it is almost never necessary.

What you’re driving here is a Nextel Cup stock car with AC and a very good stereo – one you’ll probably never listen to, because there are much better things to listen to. The keening wail of the blower, the pitch of which you can modulate with your right foot. The thunderous sound of the V8, itself – which will echo through eternity like the ancestral memory of what an angry Tyrannosaur must have sounded like when it threw back its head and let loose what must have caused everything else within hearing range to run.

This car has the same effect on other cars, when it appears on their sixes. The driver ahead glances up, looks in the rearview and sees menace. All black, a pair of yellow driving lights glowing; the wide and hungry-looking mouth of a predatory fish closing on you, fast. The effect is greatly enhanced by the double-scooped hood and the race car-style hood pins on either side of the scoops.

When you break left and launch yourself past them as if they were parked, take a split second to glance over and look at their faces. They have the look of someone who just dodged a bullet.

And in a way, they just did.

The stock car analogy holds the deeper you get into it. Probably 50 percent of the Ghost’s available power is hypothetical until you’re doing at least 50 – and even then, full throttle will skitter the rear end. Once the tires catch up – and can put it all down – you are gone. The speedometer reads 220 – and this seems very believable. After all, it’s what they’re doing at Daytona – and this Dodge has nearly as much power as those cars do.

And they don’t come standard with AC.

As Beldar the Conehead used to say, you will enjoy it.

At The Curb

The Challenger is a very different kind of car than the other two cars it competes with, the Camaro and Mustang. Both of the latter are compacts – each only about 188 inches long, bumper to bumper. The Challenger  – which is 197.5 inches long – borders on being full-sized. This is much more in tune with the original-era muscle car concept.

The original models – like the 1964 Pontiac GTO – were based on what were then considered “intermediates” – what we would consider today mid-sized cars. Camaro and Mustang were – originally – considered pony cars; they grew into muscle cars after the the intermediate-sized muscle cars had been run off the reservation.

This Challenger is much more like no-longer-available but once-very-common “personal coupes” – such as the Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevy Monte Carlo – and it shares with them the practicality that is lacking as regards Camaro and Mustang. They have rear seats – and trunks – but they are vestigial appendages that are as functionally useful as the appendix.

There is almost literally no backseat legroom in either the Camaro or Mustang – and “headroom” is a bad joke. The Challenger’s back seats offer a serviceable 33.1 inches of legroom and you can sit back there without crouching forward to avoid hitting your head on the roof. The Dodge also has a full-sized car’s trunk – 16.2 cubic feet – vs. the Camaro’s absurd 9.1 cubic foot “trunk.”

But it’s probably the looks that sell this thing as much as the thumb-in-your-eye engine offerings. Of all the three, the Challenger is the truest resurrection of the original. It looks so much like a 1970 Challenger you might think it is one. Restored – or maybe a “time capsule” example someone kept under cover for decades.

It is, truly, a miracle of styling as well as engineering – given all the government obstacles that stood in the way when Dodge brought the Challenger back in ’08 after a 34-year-sleep (the original Challenger and it’s Plymouth sister car, the ‘Cuda – were last made back in 1974, the final year before catalytic converters).

This one is “clean” – notwithstanding 807 horsepower. And it meets every federal “safety” standard, without having been uglified in the process.

The only evidence of the times is the weight. The Black Ghost  weighs an astounding 4,500-plus pounds, which is about as heavy as a full-sized Cadillac sedan from circa 1970.

Also, the price. The Black Ghost is a six figure car, almost. And even the run-of-the-mill Hellcat is a $70k car.  On the other hand, what does a pristine ’70 Hemi Challenger go for today? The answer is – a lot more than just shy of six figures – and you can’t just go down to your local Dodge store and order one, either.

The Rest

If the Challenger is such a winner, why is it going away?

Because it is being pushed away – just the same way that, back in 1979, the last of the big-engined Trans-Ams was pushed away. The difference then vs. now is that – per the above – the Challenger is “clean” and so ought to be unobjectionable. It “emits” very little that causes or worsens pollution.

But politics are a problem.

Engines – no matter how “clean” – are accused of causing or contributing to “climate change,” a political hysteria on par with recent accusations about the dangers presented by “asymptomatic” spreaders. It’s a bogeyman – but no less dangerous (to us) for being unreal.

And so this is the last call – for the Challenger – as well as its four-door sibling, the Charger. They are to be replaced by something with a motor – that eructs the sounds of the engine that will no longer be there.

The Bottom Line

History, unfortunately, repeats.

It shall not pass this way again.

. . .

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49 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t know how it is for the rest of y’all in your small part of north America, but here in western Wisconsin, we are absolutely littered with Chargers and Challengers, maybe a few more of the former rather than latter. I got behind what I assume was a Demon a few weeks ago. You could smell it from 100 feet behind it! Then there was the sound…

    • Hi Logan,

      Yup. People love these cars – the Charger and Challenger. They sell very well because they are what people want. As opposed to EVs, which a few want but most of us don’t and can’t afford.

  2. This write up evoked a sad nostalgia – even though the era has not quite passed.

    Just got back form a trip from Maine towing the camper. Not with a Challenger, but a Ram.
    Half a tank of gas from Maine to the People Republic of Massachusetts.

    Stopped twice for gas from there to PA, really to eat & stretch my legs. Could have made the trip with 1 gas stop.

    Try that with a golf cart.

    My glorious HEMI easily accelerates up the mountain when called upon. Such a disgrace this engine is being ripped out of cars on demand of the control via climaters.

  3. I bought a 2018 Challenger SXT last fall and thoroughly enjoy driving it. Even with the 3.6L V6 it packs 300 HP and if you stab the throttle from a dead stop the exhaust will growl and you can lay a patch of rubber. I liken it to the heir of the small block Challengers (340 and 360 CID) from the original E Bodies.

    I replaced a 2013 Mustang with the 3.7 V6 and the Challenger is a bigger, more comfortable car than the Mustang ever was. Which makes sense since it is derived from the Charger/300 platform.

    I cannot fathom driving a car with 700, 800, or even 1,000 HP. That’s IndyCar horsepower. That said this must have been what it felt like when Chrysler dropped the 426 Hemi and the 440 Six Pak, and eventually the E Body itself, along with Chargers, REAL Road Runners, and made all their midsize cars overstuffed “personal luxury” cars.

    I shall hold on to my Challenger as long as I can.

  4. An ultra powerful whale of a car that will get you in jail using 1/10th of its potential. No thanks. I like the non PC aspect of it. Nice review.

  5. Great article Eric. Enjoyed it a lot.
    For us mere mortals, the Challenger Scat Pack w/6.4 in the high $50’s is pretty darn nice, fast, and comfortable. The regular RT w/5.7 is still a dam good car to for the money is around $50K if I remember correctly.
    Eric, do you know when last order date is? Guessing soon.

    • Hi Vic,

      Yup! Every decade or three, I have a chance to drive something particularly special. This is a high water mark. Back in ’95, I could have bought a new Cobra R – which (at the time) was a very special factory “race special.” But at the time, $35k (as I recall) might as well have been the $200k a Black Ghost will run you now…

    • Hi Freeholder,

      I wish I could swing it. I will regret it, years from now. Just the same as I regret not finding a way to buy the new Cobra R I could have back in ’95. Ford offered. I was young and broke. Now I’m old and broke!

  6. What a wimpy video! Isn’t there a track or long stretch of highway where you can open that mother up? You look like you were going out for a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. Geez, a couple of years ago I was driving twice as fast in a Passat on the autobahn!

    No seriously I’m kidding, that car is a monster. I don’t know how anyone has any fun in it with all the traffic and speed monitoring? People in Montana the only ones buying them? At the prices they are selling them I imagine old rich people are buying them and parking them in the garage.

    • Hi Cashy,

      I have to follow a certain . . . policy with regard to test driving these things. We all know what goes on. But no one’s going to admit it – so as to be able to “get away” with it!

      • I do like how you give no shits about the double lines, Eric. 🙂 But then, why should you when you could pass a whole military convoy in 2 seconds flat?

  7. In China that is slang for people of color. Total insult. A ghost is nothing on Earth, has no power, no influence, is nothing.

    • THIS Ghost is named after the famous Detroit area street racing legend that has been profiled and (recently sold to be preserved), hence the “gatorskin” patter on the roof to emulate the vinyl roof on the original (which by the way, was ordered. owned, and driven by a black Detroit cop on his time off and passed down to his son after his death).

      • Indeed, R –

        I gather it sold (the original) for more than $1 million.

        PS: Apparently, a new Ghost will se you back $200k – assuming you can find someone willing to sell you theirs.

  8. If all the strum & drang of big, fat, noisy & smelly V8’s going through their gears, blower whining does not get you off, then you might try one of the 1000+hp BEV rockets that will scorch the old school in silent comfort without so much as smoking the tires. But then, to the fossils here, noise and drama are The Thing, right?

    • Oy vay Eric!
      They’re just pouring out of the woodwork lately. You can tell it’s one of them when they use words like “noisy”, and “smelly”.

    • Deguello –

      Some battery-powered devices are quick. They are also anodyne, soul-less things. Unlike this thing. Which is unlike any other thing – and that is part of the appeal. One battery-powered device is like all the others, fundamentally. Why even bother with more than one or two brands – that come in all the various shapes and sizes?

      Also, this thing isn’t tethered to a leash, as your battery powered device is. Even if I hot shoe the thing all over town and burn through a full tank in 200 miles, I can recover a full tank in less than five minutes – and be out having fun again while you sit and wait at the “fast” charger at least five times longer to recover a partial charge. Finally, the Challenger sells – at top dollar – without needing any “incentives” (or “mandates”) to shove it down people’s throats.

      • You know Eric, this got me to wondering. If you took a Tesla, and towed a small lawnmower trailer hauling a 4KW 220 generator, and ‘X’ gallons of gas to keep the generator at maximum output nonstop, would the btu conversion from gasoline to electricity be enough for the EV to go coast to coast nonstop? I suspect the additional weight being towed would still eventually overcome the charge rate of the generator, especially at 65-70 MPH.
        Any takers on doing the actual calculations on this?

    • Well, Deguello,
      As one of the ‘fossils here’, dragging around a 1 ton brick, or a fuel cell that takes 12 to 24 hours to refill, isn’t ‘My Thing’, for damned sure! I can still beat any EV coast to coast (and back) with a 40 year old, 54 HP, 500cc motorcycle that only has a 4.5 gallon capacity. The EV is like sex at age 19 or 20, hit & run with no endurance. If that’s all you can relate to, I guess that’s ‘Your Thing’, lol!

    • Deguello,
      What ‘Our Thing’ is, may well be something you will never get to experience as many of us ‘old fossils’ have. That would be to take a discarded heap of junk and, for pennies on the dollar, actually build something with your own two hands that knocked you socks off! Let’s see you wrap your own armatures, scratch-build your own PC boards, write your own software, and build your own ‘discount’ EV. Then, maybe, you will have some really rudimentary concept of what ‘Our Thing’ is. Plopping down a shitload of cash for a quick thrill is mere gratification, and has no satisfaction, or sense of accomplishment. Hell, I don’t even think today’s generation knows the difference between the two.

  9. I’ve said it before and I will say it again; I cannot express the degree of internal peace and thankfulness I have that I grew up in the age that I did. And that includes enjoying big, fuel-gobbling, powerful American cars, full-service gas stations (I still hear that *ding ding* bell in my head!), and being able to do all of the work on my car.
    Sadly, America is gone, and, as the author stated at the ending this piece, “It shall not pass this way again.”

  10. Astonishing level of engineering, to build this car and remain “compliant” with the Psychopaths In Charge! What might we have if their were no such psychopaths holding a gun to people’s heads? Colonies on Mars, mining asteroids? Tesla’s wireless power delivery (The real Tesla, not the self propelled cell phone)?

  11. ‘The thunderous sound of the V8, itself – which will echo through eternity like the ancestral memory of what an angry Tyrannosaur must have sounded like when it threw back its head and let loose what must have caused everything else within hearing range to run.’ — eric

    YeeHAWWWWW … preach it, bruthuh!

    It’s obscene that we have the technology — but not the governmental permission — to continue building the Black Ghost.

    We need a new country, or a new frickin’ planet to live on. This one has gone brain dead.

    • ‘The thunderous sound of the V8, itself – which will echo through eternity like the ancestral memory of what an angry Tyrannosaur must have sounded like when it threw back its head and let loose what must have caused everything else within hearing range to run.’ — eric

      Yes that’s the kind of writing that makes coming to the site worthwhile.

  12. Unbelievable the Auto Manufacturers have given no push-back on this Co² Hoax. The Man-Made Climate Change Bullshit takes about 10 minutes to disprove but instead, these Pussies wring their hands and drop to their knees with their mouths open. They would rather their Compainies commit suicide than to displease those Lying, Corrupt, Hypocritical Rat Clits circumventing the Constitution and making Laws which serve no one but themselves.
    Pontiac survived a couple of decades after its Swansong. Dodge will be gone much sooner.

    • The reason all the large auto companies are going along with the scam is that that the large mutual fund companies, like Blackrock, own controlling shares, and they push this stuff. What we need is a law that prohibits mutual fund companies from pushing politics on the companies they own on behalf of their customers. Any communication, direction, or announcement that prioritizes anything over profit or pushes any known political narrative (like “Climate Change”) should be a violation of SEC rules.

      • Indeed, Fred –

        I know a fair number of mid-level at people major automakers such as GM and Ford. They are appalled by what’s going on – but powerless to do much if anything about it.

  13. Another Mopar engine that didn’t survive the government axe (or did it? spoilers…)

    The Chrysler Turbine Car: Engineering a Revolution | Full Documentary
    https://youtu.be/fOIrB1fwVPc

    Great subject matter but the production is just annoying crap. Horrid pacing, the editor couldn’t go past one sentence without a cut, usually several cuts per sentence and jumps between different interviewers. Still worth a watch.

    Interviews with the engineers, drivers, and owners of the Chrysler Turbines. One of those projects that seems like it should work but never really got the bugs worked out, at least not at an affordable price. In the end it was killed off by big men with small minds. Jay Leno cooked his engine and has a group attempting to rebuild it. Maybe they can salvage some of the engineering and come up with better materials and manufacturing to get something going again.

    Ironically the tech lives on… in the M1 Abrams tank. Turbines for me but not for thee.

  14. I would drive one of these just to give St.Greta and the Greenies (good name for a garage band 😆) a heart attack.

  15. Sad that this is the end. I hope the next two years don’t repeat what happened in late 73 through mid 74 either

  16. Eric, I believe this car test made your week! After the last few months of testing those boring and unexciting EV’s, I bet this felt like Christmas. Not many get to test drive one and even far fewer get to own one. Too bad the car manufacturers got in bed with the feds instead of fighting like hell!

  17. My wif’s aunt and her father were in a childhood argument in the kitchen at the ages of 8 years or so. A butcher knife was involved and soon enough there was a deep cut in the aunt’s palm.

    Soon enough, blood poisoning set in and the situation became grim. A visit to the hospital, doctors sent her home with her parents and said there was nothing they could do. Sent her home to die.

    On the way back to the farm, the parents stopped at a neighbor’s farm to give the bad news. The farmer’s wife said, “Oh, I can fix that.”

    She sent her husband to the barn to scoop up some fresh cow manure.

    She then took a paper bag and placed the cow manure into the paper bag.

    She then stuck the infected hand of my wife’s aunt into the bag, by the time they returned home to the farmhouse, the blood poisoning had been stopped in its tracks.

    Avoided a lot of grief and everybody was happy.

    Dot gov has done about the same to the auto industry, the first cut is the deepest.

    There’s an analogy there somewhere.

    You need a farmer’s wife to provide the cure and some cow shit to make it happen.

    If you want answers to solve the problem, dot gov ain’t gonna have any.

  18. With the exception of a Hemicuda or older Power Wagon, Dodge ain’t my thing. Too bad the Challenger is being whisked into the dustbin of history by bureaucrats and climate wahhh-ctivists.

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