For 2015, Dodge is updating the wildly successful Dodge Challenger, offering it in nine different models—SXT, SXT Plus, R/T, R/T Shaker, R/T Plus, R/T Plus Shaker, 6.4-Liter Scat Pack, 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker, and if rumors prove true, the as-yet unannounced supercharged SRT Challenger with 640hp “Hellcat” HEMI. When the 86 pages of Dodge Challenger PR material landed at PHR central, it was quite the task to sort through—and after doing much research and quizzing the Dodge boys, we think we’ve found the diamond in the coal mine—and it turns out to be (gasp!) the outgoing 2014 SRT Core Challenger. Here’s how we came to that conclusion.

Historically, most muscle cars have a high-profile, high profit-margin media darling, and a value-oriented dopplegänger that lives in the shadows. Good examples of this can be found in sibling rivalries like the Pontiac GTO/T-37, Buick Grand National/Turbo T, Ford Mustang GT/LX 5.0, Olds 442/Cutlass W-31, Pontiac Trans Am/Formula 350, and many, many more. It’s the value proposition that true gearheads seek out, not the feature-laden glamour queen. With nine new Challengers on the menu for 2015, we felt the need to cut to the chase and declare the best bang-for-the-buck, but first, some background.

While the 2015 Dodge Challenger receives a light facelift with a ’71-model throwback looped grille and taillights, it is the PowerNet electrical architecture that brings the biggest change. As of 2014, the Challenger was Chrysler’s only LX/LC/LD platform car not on the latest Chrysler PowerNet architecture—most famous for its multi-role TFT instrument panel and Uconnect feature set (first seen in the 2011 Dodge Charger). In the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Charger, the combination of the PowerNet architecture, TFT display, and Uconnect system are paired with upgraded interiors for a driving experience like none other—but at a price. That upgrade is now coming to Challenger, and you will be paying for it whether you want to or not.

Normally at this point in our overview, we’d be raving about the wonderful SRT-sourced 475hp 6.4-liter (ne 392) HEMI making its appearance in the rank-and-file Challenger line-up—specifically the 6.4-liter Scat Pack and 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker. (More on those later.) The big-mutha HEMI will no longer be exclusive to the SRT brand, and according to Dodge sources, “it will have a Dodge price.” That’s code lingo for “good value.” Pricing for 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI hasn’t been announced, but digging through the 86 pages of PR material gives us a hint with a dreaded asterisk. You can only get the 392 on the two most expensive Challengers. Those two models (the 6.4-liter Scat Pack and 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker) have a list of required equipment as long as your arm.

We were crestfallen to discover there is no 392 HEMI box you can check on the base Dodge Challenger R/T option list. If that were the case, we’d be looking at a base-model 475hp Challenger in the low- to mid-$30k range. Not gonna happen, and one of the biggest reasons is the 8.4-inch Uconnect screen and its obligatory entourage of interior trappings. In fact, so much content has been added that to keep the curb weight the same as 2014, engineers had to change the rear axle housing from steel to aluminum.

We were crestfallen to discover there is no 392 HEMI box you can check on the base Challenger R/T option list.

Of course, the one compelling reason for Dodge to build a 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI in the mid-$30k range is the 2015 Ford Mustang GT, which on the basis of its 420-plus hp, 3,400-lb curb weight, and starting price in the low $30k range makes it the car to beat. Dodge’s only hope—at least in a straight-line battle—is to put the 392 under the hood of the 4,160-lb. Challenger and send it down the road for near the same price. Anything less than that is a mission fail—which makes 2015 a very inopportune time to add significant cost in the form of high-tech wizardry. Our estimate for the 2015 with the 392 HEMI at $42k is purely an educated guess based on the pricing of the current year product and content. We hope to be proved very wrong, or it will be a slaughter house for Dodge.

…one compelling reason for Dodge to build a 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI in the mid-$30k range is the ’15 Mustang GT … Anything ...

The Uconnect Factor

Some will like the fact that the über HEMI’s 8.4-inch Uconnect screen is a mobile wifi spot with voice-commanded connectivity to all your favorite music streams. As far as high-tech gadgetry goes, it certainly appears to be a formidable competitor to Ford’s highly-touted SYNC MyFord Touch. You can do email, text messaging, internet access, Facebook, Twitter, phone calls, turn-by-turn navigation, Yelp, cheap gas finder, SiriusXM, IHeartRadio, enhanced GPS, and even Performance Pages. Uconnect Access Via Mobile will also allow you to turn your Challenger on or off, arm or disarm your anti-theft system, and lock or unlock your doors by means of your smartphone. You can record and share performance data from the Performance Pages with other Dodge users, you can make limited tweaks to the tune of your throttle response, shift times, traction control, active launch control; and record multiple streams of data such as g-force, acceleration, eighth- and quarter-mile et, braking distance, and engine power. The list of features goes on for pages, and the software geek will have a blast exploring the rolling laboratory that Performance Pages provides.

In a nutshell, the 392 HEMI-equipped Dodge Challenger is a chipped iPad Air on steroids attached to a 475hp V-8, and swathed in leather-lined luxury. If you go all-in with wifi service ($34.99 per month with a 10-gig data plan), Uconnect Advantage service ($19.99 per month), and the obligatory SiriusXM subscription ($9.99 per month), you’re looking at shelling out about $780 per year to stay connected behind the wheel—fuel not included, and no guarantees the NSA won’t follow you around in a black helicopter. Personally, I get in my hot rod to disconnect from the world, and so far, Dodge is not offering the 392 HEMI with a Udisconnect option. Bummer. (As a side note, base-model Challengers, including the R/T 5.7 HEMI and R/T Shaker with the 5.7 HEMI come standard with a less expensive 5-inch Uconnect screen and cloth interior. All this tells us a value-option 392 HEMI is possible.)

I get in my hot rod to disconnect from the world, and so far, Dodge is not offering the 392 HEMI with a Udisconnect option.

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

So what’s with the Shaker hood? Offered last year as an option on the 5.7-liter HEMI, The Shaker is now available on the 392 engine in Scat Pack Trim. Strangely enough, the engine is called the 6.4-liter HEMI when paired with the stock hood, but magically gains cojones with a 392 HEMI moniker when paired to the Shaker hood and a fistful of extra dollars. The Shaker does not, however, add any statistically measurable horsepower, in spite of Dodge’s claim of functionality. Nevertheless, our Chrysler PR friends tell us their market research indicates there are lots of baby boomers out there pining for the old days who want in on the nostalgia craze. Fair enough.

Not getting lost in the shuffle is the addition of ZF’s new 8HP70 8-speed transmission, which it shares with the Chrysler 300C and Dodge Charger for 2015. Christened the TorqueFlite 8-Speed in the Challenger, marketing types hope to cash in again on the nostalgia with a fortuitous name change. For those not in the mood to shift their own gears through the massively robust standard TR-6060 6-speed manual (which now offers a dual-disc clutch for lighter effort and more holding force), the paddle-shifted 8-speed TorqueFlite is said to offer better fuel economy and performance, though EPA mileage figures are still pending. When asked if the 8-speed trans in combination with cylinder deactivation on the 392 HEMI would produce EPA numbers good enough to skirt the $1,000 gas guzzler tax, our Dodge contact said “it’s going to be tight—we’re right on the line.”

Naturally, there’s a vast assortment of upgraded performance goodies within all eight levels of Challenger. Those alone could fill a story the size of this one. There’s a Super Track Pak suspension package, a High-Performance suspension package, a Performance Brake Package, a Brembo High-Performance brake package, and four different tires on nine different wheels. All Challengers get electric assisted steering with user-adjustable feel through Performance Page settings on HEMI cars, and a bowl full of alphabet soup with letters like EBD (electronic brake force distribution), EPS (electronic power steering), DST (driver steering torque), TCS (traction control system), and ESC (electronic stability control).

So what’s the best bang for the buck in a new HEMI Dodge Challenger? In the 2015 line-up, we’d go for the 6.4-liter 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI. It will cost less than the 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker by a few dinero without giving up any power. As for the price, we can read the tea leaves with a pretty good degree of clarity. In 2014, an ordinary 375hp 5.7-liter HEMI with the Shaker hood ran $37,495. If you subtract the cost of the Shaker, add a few grand for the larger 392 HEMI and required 8.4-inch Uconnect, the price absolutely won’t be any lower than $38k, and likely a few thousand higher due to the cost of the PowerNet electrical architecture, transmission, and interior upgrades. We’re calling it at $42k for the entry price of a 392. The strange thing is when we asked Dodge for a photo of the 6.4-liter Scat Pack car, they said they didn’t have one. (“The car doesn’t exist” were our contact’s exact words.) If you want to use your imagination, it will have the standard hood, Scat Pack graphics, but retain the cool grille with the raised ’71-theme chrome double loops.

The strange thing is when we asked Dodge for a photo of the 6.4-liter Scat Pack car, they said they didn’t have one.

The High-Value Dopplegänger

But there is another option. Late in 2013, the folks at SRT quietly announced the Challenger SRT Core model. Apparently, some complained the SRT was loaded with too much extraneous stuff that drove the price up and didn’t add performance. SRT stripped off the leather, swapped out the high-end Uconnect for a base version, then added some extra cool colors, kept the 392 HEMI with 475 hp and TR-6060 6-speed manual, reduced the number of available options, and slashed the price. The result was the 2014 Challenger SRT Core model, which sells for $41,480. As an SRT vehicle, it even comes with a free SRT Experience driving school—which kicks ass. (Dodge tells us the 2015 Challenger with the 392 HEMI will not come with the SRT Experience package.) And since we do have a photo of the 2014 Challenger SRT Core model in Plum Crazy (a canceled color for 2015), we’ll let you do the math on the year-end model clearance pricing, and see if you can get to an SRT dealer before they’re all gone for good!