Dodge has lost a large chunk of its sales and market share after the late 2000s global recession when Ram division spun off and became a brand of its own. Things are definitely looking better now, but with 459,324 models delivered in the U.S. throughout 2018, Dodge is still way off of its post-recession record of 2013. They’re a little over 21 percent down to be more precise, as their 2013 sales amounted to 605,243 models. Still, Dodge’s domestic sales have exhibited a slight 2.75 percent growth compared to 2017 so that’s something at least. Especially considering how criminally outdated their lineup is at the moment. The 2021 Dodge models aren’t expected to change this dynamic much but that doesn’t mean the FCA division won’t at least try.
Dodge’s future looks bleak at the moment, however. With no intention to revitalize the lineup in foreseeable future, both of their passenger cars will be in their teens when the next-gen models finally arrive. It’s more of the same with their crossover/SUV duo of Durango and Journey, and – at the time of this article’s writing – still available Grand Caravan minivan. Although Charger’s and Durango’s sales are down by 9.2 and 4.1 percent respectively, Challenger, Journey, and Grand Caravan have actually recorded a growth of 3.4, 5.2, and 21.4 percent respectively. Judging by these figures, it’s clear to see that the venerable minivan serves as a driving force behind Dodge’s sales and that’s the main reason the FCA has kept it in the lineup. That and the fact they obviously give zero f…. about the entire Dodge portfolio’s advancing years.
It’s obviously more of the same for Dodge from here to unforeseeable future as nothing dramatic has been scheduled to happen during model year 2021. All models will carry over with very little or no changes at all, and it’ll be interesting to see how that’ll work out for the brand. For now, sticking with the old Chrysler strategy of battling the larger Ford and GM entities of the Big Three American car manufacturers with special edition and limited run models yields surprisingly good results given the circumstances.
Before we move on to dissect the 2021 Dodge lineup, let’s first address one of the most exciting rumors about the automaker’s supposed revival of the Viper badge. This isn’t going to happen for MY 2021 and probably for some time beyond as well. Even the late Sergio Marchionne debunked these rumors a month or so before his untimely passing and nothing has come out of the Dodge camp since. The next-gen 2021 Dodge Viper was supposed to downsize to V8 engine and possibly offer an automatic transmission for the first time – much like the C8 Corvette with which it’s competed throughout its life. However, we mustn’t forget that the sports car simply didn’t sell well and wasn’t making enough money for the FCA which was the main reason behind its discontinuation in the first place.
With that out of the way, let’s now focus on the upcoming Dodge vehicles for MY 2021.
The iconic pony car has managed to outsell the Chevy Camaro for the first time in history during MY 2018, with the Mustang still reigning supreme. With Camaro sales taking a nosedive for 2018, similar results are expected in years to follow as well. After providing the special 50th Anniversary Edition package for MY 2020, Dodge might further distinguish the 2021 Challenger lineup by dropping another limited-run model but nothing has been confirmed yet.
Challenger retains its overall design language which has been periodically updated since its arrival in 2008. There’s now also the optional Widebody kit which, as its name suggests, provides a wider aero package, different tires and brakes, and Bilstein adaptive dampers among other things. The mentioned Dodge Challenger 50th Anniversary Edition adds the fabled shaker hood, Gold School painted alloy wheels, and a number “50” logos both inside and out among other things. Since 1970 was the first production year for the iconic pony, Dodge will only produce 70 units for each of available trim levels (GT RWD, R/T Shaker, R/T Scat Pack, and R/T Scat Pack Widebody). Prices range between $4,995 and $5,995.
Inside, the Challenger carries over mostly unchanged not counting the mentioned special edition model’s exclusive features. Although aged, the Challenger still provides highly advanced safety gear, albeit at extra cost. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, and adaptive cruise control are all available across the range and are standard on the high-performance Hellcat Redeye trim.
Speaking of SRT Hellcat Redeye, the most powerful factory Challenger ever built boasts 797 horsepower and 707 pound-feet of twist – courtesy of its heavily reworked 6.2L supercharged SRT Hellcat V8 mill. The more conventional plain Hellcat models now produce 717 hp and 656 lb-ft which is still impressive. At the lower end of the scale, there’s either a 375-hp 5.7L V8 or a 485-hp 6.4L V8. Finally, the entry-levl models make do with a 3.6L V6 capable of putting up only 305 ponies. Most models can be outfitted either with a standard 6-speed stick or an optional 8-speed auto, but the Hellcat Redeye and V6-powered units are mated exclusively to automatics. At the same time, all-wheel drive is exclusively offered with the V6.
Despite being more than a decade old now, Challenger’s timeless design allows it to continue soldiering on successfully. With the next-gen models still far from sight, this will keep up for a while yet. Prices start from under $29,000 for the entry-level models and work their way up to the $80,000 mark for the Widebody-equipped SRT Hellcat Redeye. Don’t forget the gas guzzler tax and insurance fees later on.
The 4-door Charger muscle sedan is slightly younger than its 2-door Challenger coupe counterpart having been introduced back in 2011. With almost a decade on the market and with precious few meaningful changes, the intermediate is now clearly showing its age. That’s why its sales have exhibited the largest of downturns among all Dodge cars in 2018.
The Charger sedan for MY 2021 doesn’t differ much from its predecessors. The Widebody package is available here as well, and adds three-mode adaptive Bilstein dampers alongside larger brakes and wider tires. It’s available at extra cost on the range-topping Scat Pack and SRT Hellcat trims where performance plays the most important role within the entire range.
Dodge Charger is available with either a 7-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard across the range. Advanced electronic safety features are available at extra cost, but not on the entry-level models. You can order everything including adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.
Prices start from around $31,000 for the entry-level SXT trim, while the Charger SRT Hellcat with a Widebody kit costs at least $71,000 including the destination charge.
Charger’s powertrain lineup is a tad bit simpler than that of its illustrious pony car counterpart. The base models start with a 3.6L V6 capable of putting up 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque in the SXT or 300 hp and 264 lb-ft in the GT trim. The R/T trim ups the ante with a 370 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque 5.7L V8, while the R/T Scat Pack grade offers a 6.4L V8 which develops 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of rotational force. Last but not least, the range-topping SRT Hellcat’s 6.2L supercharged V8 still provides only 707 ponies and 650 pound-feet. An 8-speed automatic transmission serves as Charger’s sole trans offering, but at least the V6-powered models get an optional all-wheel drive.
The 2021 Dodge Charger carries over with minimal adjustments and provides the fastest and most powerful package available in a 4-door sedan at the moment. Not to mention it’s a bargain compared to some luxury sedans that come relatively close to it in terms of performance.
The mid-size Durango SUV also han’t been properly updated since 2011. That’s quite a lot for a vehicle in its class considering how the competition usually tends to do so in six years time. Give it a little more time on the market and the Durango will have done two average vehicle life cycles in one guise. And that’s exactly what the FCA is giving it. More time to try and do the same; provide solid sales figures which come as a bonus from FCA’s standpoint.
The aging design isn’t the only of Durango’s immediate issues. Its apparent lack of standard advanced safety systems clearly distinguishes it from the rest of competition as more and more vehicles in its class now offer plenty of standard running gear. Automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control can be ordered separately, however.
The Durango SUV’s prices start from $32,000 for the entry-level SXT grade, but the range-topping R/T models require $44,500 at the very least. However, one of the worst projected reliability scores and high depreciation scores will always be stacked against it.
There are two powerful engines to choose from which is something we’ve come to rely upon when it comes to Dodge. The base 3.6L V6 is good enough for 293 ponies, while the optional 5.7L V8 cranks up 360 horsepower. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard with both, and while a front-wheel drive serves as a standard as well, an all-wheel drive is also available with both.
It’s evident that the Durango isn’t long for this world – at least not in this state – but so far things have worked out for Dodge in spite of unfavorable odds. The mid-size SUV will continue milking its archaic underpinnings for unforeseeable time before the FCA and PSA brass agree on a future strategy after their recent merger.
Dating back to 2008, the Journey crossover is now in advancing years much like most of the Dodge Range. No changes have been scheduled for MY 2021, hence the mid-size car carries over the way it currently is. It did go through some slightly more significant changes during MY 2020, but nothing design-related.
Speaking of which, the Journey is now one the last two remaining models within the Dodge range to still don the old crosshair grille; the other being the Grand Caravan minivan. This is just a painful reminder of how outdated the two vehicles actually are. Other than that, the Journey also lacks any advanced safety gear but does get a standard rear park assist.
There are now only two trim levels to choose from with the $26,000 SE Value being the entry-level one and the $31,000-plus Crossroad serving as a range topper. The latter will also add a standard sunroof.
Power now comes from a sole offering after last year’s discontinuation of the optional V6. Needless to say, FCA has chosen to retain the wrong one as 2.4L 4-cylinder exhibits a serious lack of power for Journey’s size and weight. Rated at 173 hp and 166 lb-ft of torque, the inline-four is simply overwhelmed by modern expectations and the fact it’s paired with a pre-historic 4-speed automatic transmission is beyond ridiculous at this point.
The Journey’s woes don’t end there as its handling leaves a lot to be desired too. Furthermore, the three-row crossover provides body roll in spades. At least it offers something, right?! It’s evident that the Journey needs replacing ASAP but that isn’t happening for MY 2021. Maybe Dodge will put it out of its misery after that but knowing how sadistic they can be, I actually doubt it.
2021 Grand Caravan
Simply put: the Grand Caravan minivan. The best-selling vehicle within the Dodge lineup also dates back to 2008 and was long-ago scheduled for retirement. However, an unexpected growth in sales has prompted the FCA brass into prolonging its life for a while yet. How long does it have is still too early to say.
As already mentioned above, the Grand Caravan still clings to the previous generation Dodge design language which boasted a crosshair grille. With its time running out, Dodge simply decided not to bother with squandering resources on a makeover.
The minivan starts from $28,000 which renders it the most affordable vehicle in its class. There’s the answer behind its recent successes. Opt for the $34,000 SXT trim and you still won’t get any advanced active electronic safety features. Neither will you get the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto capability. At least the aging minivan offers Stow ‘N Go seats which help provide up to 140.3 cubic feet of storage space. Otherwise, there’s up to 78.9 cubes of space behind the second row and 31.3 cubic feet with all three rows in place.
There’s only one engine motivating the Grand Caravan but that’s perfectly in line with the segment’s policy. A 3.6L V6 with a front-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic transmission delivers 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.
The Dodge Grand Caravan might be playing its swan song but its Cinderella story is actually impressive. It might be due to its low entry-level price point or its household name in the segment but it’s actually selling better than a number of its more contemporary rivals. After Dodge decides to put it out to pasture, FCA’s minivan duties will be taken over by the Chrysler brand and their Pacifica/Voyager combo.