Dodge decided to nix the six-speed manual for Challenger Hellcat models last November, indicating that it would be a temporary issue. The automaker allegedly planned to deliver an updated version and said it was actively calibrating the powertrain to see what worked ahead of pulling the old version from the assembly line. It was minor news and everyone following the industry promptly forgot about it, assuming three-pedal Challengers would be back in action before anyone noticed.
It’s now four months later and the option is still nowhere in sight.
On Tuesday, Road & Track realized you still could not configure the coupe with a manual transmission if you also wanted the Hellcat’s 6.2-liter supercharged V8. This sent waves of panic through the automotive press, who similarly failed to realize that the car still wasn’t available with a clutch. In fact, only the relevant Mopar forum goblins seemed aware that the configuration was still absent — proving that nature has a plan for even the most humble of creatures.
They’ve been griping about the missing manuals since at least December (effectively doing our jobs for us), with the conversation gradually shifting from tepid annoyance to near-total defeat. Commenters almost immediately became pessimistic, stating that Dodge’s response was to repeatedly deny that the manual was gone for good was likely bogus. While a few remained optimistic, others quickly pointed out that the company has suggested that the current model would be replaced by a plug-in hybrid by 2024. They believed it would be pointless for the automaker to reintroduce a configuration that less than a third of customers have historically wanted, especially since the model’s discontinuation was looming.
While I only noticed this issue today, Challenger enthusiast forums have been talking about it since 2021. I asked Dodge what’s up with the stick-shift Hellcat, and a spokesperson explained that the six-speed manual was removed from the configurator late in the 2021 model year. The spokesperson described it as a temporary situation and said that a revised calibration for this powertrain combo will be coming that will allow the stick-shift Hellcat to go on sale again. The spokesperson was not able to say when ordering will re-open for the manual Challenger Hellcat, but specified that production of stick-shift models was suspended in November 2021.
It’s a disappointment, for sure, because the manual Hellcat was a charming mix of modern performance and retro engagement. But fear not: Challenger R/T models with the 5.7-liter V-8 and Scat Packs with the 6.2-liter V-8 are both still available with a six-speed manual.
Having driven those models with the Tremec TR-6060, it’s a little difficult for me to get bent out of shape over the Hellcat becoming automatic only. I believe the Challenger is the American grand tourer par excellence and it’s easily my favorite performance vehicle that lacks unassuming bodywork. If you’re looking for a powerful, engaging automobile with the kind of comfort that seems to be totally missing absent from today’s lineups, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better deal. But it’s hard to say that the manual configuration is a game-changer, especially on the higher trims.
As my tastes ping-pong between hulking, difficult-to-park automobiles with giant motors and squirrely, turbocharged compacts, I never thought I would gripe about driving a Challenger in an urban environment. I’ve kept several land yachts in New York City and my only real complaints about transitioning into a big Dodge was the brutal decline in fuel economy vs the highway. Then I spent several days navigating a manual-equipped R/T around town, accidentally punishing myself in the process. The clutch and gearbox are fine for cruising unencumbered across the country. But it gradually starts to become an annoyance when you have to spend a lot of time in heavy traffic, diminishing enjoyment.
While not overly stiff on the R/T or Scat Pack models, the Hellcat’s clutch is allegedly a bit of a workout due to it having the larger ZF-Sachs with 258-millimeter discs. Worse yet, the performance disparity grows in tandem with horsepower. I couldn’t see myself getting one even if a truckload of cash arrived at my door. Why purchase one of the fastest vehicles in Dodge’s lineup only to handicap it by selecting the manual transmission? The driving experience between trims is largely similar, with differences only emerging after their respective powertrains are given a genuine workout. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still have the option to ruin the car as we please. It just means there are better ways of configuring this particular vehicle.
However, Dodge has continued assuring everyone this will be temporary and my tastes don’t need to be yours. If you’re seeking an 807-horsepower goliath with a stick, there’s still a razor-thin chance the company will hook you up. But I’m thinking the utility of such a setup begins to evaporate somewhere around 500 hp.
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