What Is The King Of Muscle Cars?

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The debate about who makes the best muscle car is not a discussion anyone will end anytime soon, but what car is the king of muscle cars?

The 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 is the muscle car world's current king. The car produces 1025 hp and flies down the track (0 - 60 mph) in 1.6 seconds. The car has been clocked in the quarter mile at 8.91 seconds. Only 3,000 units are being made for the US market and 300 for Canada.

The times are changing for muscle cars. Each one of the big three has made monumental moves in the past few months, all trying to position themselves for the future. GM has announced that 2024 will be the last year for the Camaro. Ford is bringing a new generation of Mustangs to the world. Now, Dodge has announced a “last call” for the Hemi Charger and Challenger. Each automaker is experimenting with how best to convert to electric cars and wrestling with whether an electric motor can power a muscle car (or whether it should). In honor of Dodge’s last call, we would like to pause for a moment, put our hands over our hearts and have a moment of silence as we pay homage to the power of American muscle. While we could praise the likes of the Pontiac GTO, Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, or even the Plymouth Road Runner Hemi, we felt we should address the current king reigning on the muscle car throne. (We will try not to let our love of Mopar muscle influence us, Wink. Wink). So, as our favorite cars make one final bow on the stage, let’s decide who is the rightful king of the muscle car kingdom.

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What Car Is The King Of Muscle Cars?

If the criteria you judge muscle cars by is sheer horsepower and speed, then the current king of the land (or street) is the 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170. This brute has been bulking up over the last few years, getting more powerful every year. In its last year, Dodge has allowed the 1025 hp 6.2L Hemi V8 to kick some serious ass and dispatch all foes. The Challenger SRT does 0 - 60 in the time it takes you to blink twice. With the standard 3.0 L supercharger, this car is so fast you might not even see it drive down the lane. The car has been clocked at an 8.91 second quarter @ 151.3 mph. By the way, the top speed is 215 mph.

If you are into g-forces, the Challenger produces over two gs of acceleration force, pushing your internals back into the seat. There is no question that the house of Mopar had put forth their Champion, capable of being the fastest and most powerful muscle car a street production car can handle. Unlike previous generations with one black key fob for limited horsepower and a red one to signal the car to release its full potential, this year, only one key fob is needed - the red one.

The Number Is Limited, And Its Too Late

The 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT will only be made in 3300 units (3k for the US market and 300 for our friend north of the border - Canada). At the same time, orders commenced on March 27, 2023 (recently, the company announced it had closed orders on May 15th). So, the only way to purchase a King of the Street 2023 Dodge Challenger is to buy a used one.

The new base cost was $96k, but with destination fees, the actual price is closer to $100,000. (Just last month, the final 2023 Challenger SRT was auctioned off at Barnett-Jackson for $700k, and the proceeds were donated to charity. The car hasn’t been built yet, so the new owner paid $700,000 for a build slot - production will end on Dec. 31st).

The Same Profile, Only Better

The Challenger retains a low, sleek squatty profile, so it is instantly recognizable, with its elongated hood scoop stretching across the middle. Dual round headlights are recessed into a black front fascia, and a distinctive SRT badging adorns the front. The car has a pair of Mickey Thompson staggered drag tires to provide serious grip and boost the acceleration (17 x 11 on the rear, 18 x 8 front). The alloy wheels come standard, but if your heart desires the 2-piece Carbon-fibers, it would have cost you an additional $11,495.

Dodge is having fun this last year with its exterior paint offerings. Owners could choose from 14 colors, including White Knuckle, Sinamon Stick, Plum Crazy, Sublime (classic lime color), or my favorite, Destroyer Grey. (There are others). If you had ordered one, you would have been asked whether you wanted the hood painted, a blackout, or extending the blackout over the hood, roofline, and trunk lid.

Inside There Are Choices

Owners who ordered the Challenger could delete the rear seat at no extra charge or choose their interior (cloth, black Alcantara/laguna, or red Demon leather). The instrument panel is bright, with easy-to-read gauges (even with the over-padded steering wheel). The large center steering wheel section holds what we surmise is an extra giant airbag, just in case something drastic happens and you lose control of the beast. (That’s comforting in a strange way).

A large infotainment touchscreen seems to display items nicely and should be easy to navigate. It functions like the smartphones were are used to, so the learning curve is easy to master. Navigation is extra, as it is the sunroof. There is a 2-speaker sound system that comes standard and saves weight, but those speed demons who need to jam while they cruise can upgrade to the Karman 18 speaker system with two subwoofers. (It might just take another half second to get to 60 mph).

The center console is functional with air-conditioning controls, and a hammer-like shifter handle that is unique and looks sharp. There are two angled cup holders (a car cannot have too many cup holders), and the center cubby is smaller than we’d like but still functional as long as you don’t overload it.

The back seats are still tight, but they are larger than the Mustang or Camaros, so we will give Dodge a few points for trying to accommodate folks. There are three seat belt positions, but you might need a shoehorn to get three adults into the back seat area.

Fuel Economy

No one expects an American muscle car to get decent fuel economy, and the Challenger will not win any EPA awards at its 13 mpg city and 21 mpg on the highway. (But then you don’t drive a Mopar muscle car for gas-sipping features, you drive it for other reasons)

There Is Mopar History

Dodge has a rich history with the Challenger, which emerged in 1970. Those early E-bodies weren’t that popular (the first year, Dodge sold over 76k, but sales plummeted after that). Dodge and its sister company Plymouth dropped the convertible option in 1971, determining there wasn’t enough demand to warrant the production. In 1974, Dodge pulled the plug on the Challenger but brought it back a few years later (1978).

The second generation was a square body style that looked nothing like a muscle car. Even a redesign in 1981 didn’t help, as it had smaller engine choices. Most Dodge lovers would just as soon forget those years as the Challenger and muscle cars, in general, seemed to lose their way.

Dodge has been making the Challenger in its third generation form since 2008, and when the retro version came out, Mopar motorheads loved the nod to the past. Over the years, the Challenger has seen its share of revisions and modifications as Dodge has tweaked with larger engines and more power and performance. During the last couple of years, Dodge has been determined to loosen the inhibitions of the car with the Hellcat and now the Demon.

Dodge has done a masterful job of including the old-school Mopar muscle in every ounce of the new Challenger. This car will have you whispering prayers and allegiance to the kingdom of Dodge as you scoot down the street. That is if you were lucky enough to order one. All we can say is, God save the King!

What Does the Future Hold?

Dodge recently announced that an electrified version of the muscle cars would exceed every performance category of any previous vehicle. While EVs will force many traditionalists to redefine what constitutes a muscle car, we are excited to see what unique muscle cars will produce in the next few years. Here’s hoping that the makers of muscle will respect the legacy of these classic cars.