2023 Dodge Challenger Last Call Shakedown Review
The last true muscle car
6.4L is Challenger's Goldilocks engine
An actually usable interior
What, do you hate fun or something?
Anna Kendrick is probably not the first celebrity you associate with the Dodge Challenger.
The year is 2012. The Portland native is enjoying a big career boost with Pitch Perfect, even if she’s been putting in solid work for a few years already. The Challenger’s been doing the same: it’s entered its fifth model year already, and the second with the 392-cubic-inch V8. “Cups” enjoys massive play, and it’s the “you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone” refrain that’s playing in my head over a decade later, behind the wheel of the 2023 Dodge Challenger Last Call Shakedown. Well, when the V8 isn’t drowning out any other thoughts.
There will never be another car like the Dodge Challenger. And whether Anna realized it at the time, she sure was right.
The Shakedown kicked off a string of Dodge muscle car special editions for 2023, which culminated in the bonkers Demon 170. Both the Challenger and Charger will bow out at the end of the year; the electric Daytona concept provides an idea of what will replace them. Possibly.
Technically, there are two Shakedown flavors, each limited to 500 units: a gray narrow-body with the 5.7-liter V8, and this, the black Scat Pack 392 Widebody. Under that shaker hood scoop lurks a 6.4-liter version of the Hemi; to be specific, at 6,407 cubic centimeters, this is just shy of 391 cubic inches. But the Challenger doesn’t care about your prissy metric system, and 392 is both historically relevant and just sounds cooler. The important figures are 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque, all sent to the rear wheels by way of an eight-speed automatic or the six-speed manual here.
On top of the standard Scat Pack package, the Shakedown adds the aforementioned scoop, hood pins, and offset stripe package, along with most of the available options. You’ll also find a smattering of eponymous badges inside and out. Pop that big ol’ hood and you’ll find a Last Call badge commemorating the Challenger’s design and production homes (Auburn Hills and Brampton, respectively).
A driving experience like no other
Confession time: up until the Shakedown, I had never driven a manual Challenger. My experiences with this platform exist on opposing ends of the spectrum: a V6-powered AWD coupe, and Hellcat Charger. That (probably) makes this the first and last four-pedal new car I’ll drive in a professional capacity: the Challenger has an old-school, foot-actuated parking brake.
I also drove this beast directly after my 2024 Ford Mustang GT first drive. The Blue Oval has continued to sharpen and evolve its beloved horse, and its vastly improved (and friendlier) manual transmission is just one example. The Challenger’s got a clutch pedal that needs to be stomped on, and my first note on the shifter reads “like rowing through a bag of hammers.” Ouch. The lever cants forward and to the left, sitting in neutral where you imagine first should be. Coming from more modern machinery, it’s awkward.
But this Tremec TR6060 grows on you. Like so many other parts of the Challenger experience, it’s brimming of character. There’s a satisfying ker-chunk as each gear slots home, the clutch has a clearly defined bite point, and the whole opera is strangely receptive to heel-and-toe.
Opera? More like metal. The Hemi is no longer the most powerful naturally aspirated option in Muscle Town, but it still has everyone else beat for sound. Best of all, it’s just so damned effortless. Torque arrives in bucketfuls from barely over idle, allowing the Challenger to smoothly cruise in high gears, or pin folks back in those BarcaLounger-like seats in the lower ones.
The widebody gets ginormous 305s at all four corners, even larger brakes, and an adaptive suspension. Don’t think any of that turns it into a sports car. The ride is harsh in even the softest setting, because there is a lot of mass to keep control of here.
Heart over head
It’s hard to care about ride quality or corner carving when looking out over that hood scoop. Well, barely looking past it. From behind that big steering wheel, tucked well under the window line, the Chally feels as wide as a football field, as long as a cruise ship. I’m pretty sure the passenger-side front corner is legally in a different town than the rest of the car.
But it’s cool, cool in a way the Mustang can’t match. The Camaro can’t even see the cool from where it’s standing—on a dealer lot, unsold, probably. The big, comfy seats remind me of visiting family or friends’ houses as kids, fighting over that squishy throne instead of sofa relegation. The back seat is comparatively huge, same as the trunk. The back row feels like punishment in the other two, but an adult can fit in here without a resultant therapy session.
Dodge was so far ahead of the infotainment game that it's taken until now for Uconnect 4 to feel old. It's still delightfully simple in operation though, and the red-and-black displays are so very on-brand. The Chally kicked off the line lock trend, and there's something still so appealing about what is essentially a burnout button.
Are some interior trim pieces looking decidedly low-rent now? Sure. Does that matter? Not even a bit.
Dollars and sense
“Sense” doesn’t enter the equation when buying a Challenger. It shouldn’t, anyway.
But the Shakedown comes close. I’ve long believed the Scat Pack Widebody is the sweet spot of the range: more than powerful enough, with a wicked soundtrack to match, and the looks-so-right stance. Tack on the collectability of this 500-unit special edition, plus the relative rarity of the manual ‘box, and I’m sure every single one could earn its owner money down the road, over the roughly $70,000 it costs in the US, or $85,000 CAD.
Please don't think like an investor, though. Buy the Last Call because you want to drive the hell out of it.
Verdict: 2023 Dodge Challenger Last Call Shakedown Review
I didn’t expect to miss the 2023 Dodge Challenger Last Call Shakedown so much after our week together. It’s a bittersweet farewell, because while nothing else can replace the experience, the Challenger’s 15-year reign makes me hopeful. Hopeful that whatever electric model Dodge is cooking up to replace it will continue to forge its own path, to chose character over outright performance.
Despite—or because of—its age, the Challenger presents an utterly unique driving experience, resolutely staying true to the muscle car experience right to the very end. Nothing else does it, and at some level, nothing else will again.
2023 Dodge Challenger Last Call Shakedown
485 hp, 475 lb-ft
US Fuel Economy (MPG):
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km):
Starting Price (USD):
$49,860 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD):
$69,085 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD):
$64,690 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD):
$85,670 (inc. dest.)