The summer has come to a close, and perhaps it’s fitting that the final pony car I write about is Dodge’s Challenger. I’ve waxed on about the Mustang and the Camaro, and my numerous encounters with these cars over the last few years, and this is the culmination point.
In the recent past, I would have taken the Ford home then it was all about the Chevy; but in the end, today at least, the Dodge won me over and would get a privileged spot in our tightly packed driveway.
The girlfriend and I have much in common, as most couples should have. In my experience, opposites may attract but it’s a temporary thing. We're both passionate about many things (including cars obviously), despite coming from opposing factions. As an FYI, she has a real job but moonlights as an auto journo part-time. This passion that draws us together also draws us both to FCA’s car; there’s something purely emotional about every aspect of the Challenger.
She had the 2015 Challenger RT Scat Pack 6M a few weeks before I got my hands on it, and she was gracious enough to allow me a few turns of the wheel. She was instantly enamored with the car, while I resisted ever so slightly. I’d driven most versions of the car since its arrival in 2009 but by the time I brought the Scat Pack home, I’d fallen hard for the big brash pony car.
Scat Pack 3
A week before I picked up the presser, I’d made my way to FCA’s full-line party in Chelsea, MI. There, I got to spend some time at the wheel of an R/T Scat Pack3. It can get confusing but this kit is offered as a retrofit to 5.7L Hemi, adding upgrades to improve on the HEMI’s power.
The kit includes MOPAR performance CNC ported cylinder heads, hi-flow headers and catalysts as well as a Stage 3 performance PCM. For $4,500, output rises roughly 60 hp and 50 torques. Scat Packs 1 and 2 must be purchased as well, bringing total power increases to 75 hp and 45 lb-ft of torque. The final numbers trump the old SRT’s 6.1L output. The total cost of the upgrades exceeds $8,000 for 450 hp and 455 torques. There’s one catch, though: The car’s no longer street legal.
The extra power is immediately noticeable as is the deeper exhaust note. I did not get much wheel time, but I can easily imagine doing this to a used Challenger R/T, but not telling anyone about it…
The star of this review is the R/T Scat Pack Shaker. Going Scat Pack brings with it the responsibility that is harnessing a 485-horsepower 475 lb-ft of torque 392ci 6.4L V8. Ticking the Shaker box adds a functional shaker hood with cold-air induction. What is a Shaker hood? You’ll understand when you see one.
The first option that must be selected is the $1,000 Tremec 6-speed manual ‘box. The shifter will quickly become your second most immediate emotional link to the Challenger. Its semi awkward position, leaning far over to the left in 1st gear, requires a firm hand to shove through the gates. The pedals are not ideally positioned for the old heel & toe, but with the right technique it can be done. What am I trying to say? You need to work to drive this Challenger, and I love that fact.
Once the tranny is tamed, the 392 opens up to you with levels of satisfaction scarcely seen in the $50,000 range. The V8 roars to life at the prod of the Start button with a burble that gives you every reason to grin in fulfilment. I need a moment… Thinking back to my time with the car… Peruse the gallery while I gather myself.
OK, I’m back. Once in 1st, easing off the clutch and gently applying throttle is a momentous occasion. The No.1 most immediate emotional link to the car? The go-pedal. Toying with the V8 is an incredible feeling. It’s like a friendly caged lion that enjoys parading about, but when let loose, will ravage and dismember everything in its wake.
Torque kicks in at 4,200 rpm right around the time when the active exhaust note hits its peak. The swell of oomph is somewhat lessened by the sheer girth of the automobile itself, but the big galoot will still cover the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.5 seconds. The way it all goes down is infinitely pleasurable, but always under full control. It must be the closest modern way to experience what it must have been like in a 1970 Barracuda attempting the ¼ mile run. The 6.4L won’t rev sharply like Ford’s Coyote V8, but somehow as it closes in on its 6,400 rpm redline, time comes to a standstill and I’m alive in that moment.
Brembo brakes are part of the equation, however, I suspect that they would run out of stopping power after a few repeated hot laps. The Challenger does tip the scale at over 4,100 lbs (1,860 kgs) after all. Steering is electric, requiring 2.56 turns lock-to-lock with a 12.3:1 ratio. It’s fairly quick, reasonably precise and better suited to spirited driving.
You’ll want to ride all the time…
Damn. All I want to do is take the Scat Pack out again and drive! Part of this particular car’s appeal is its ride. Equipped with sport-tuned performance suspension with Bilstein shocks that sit 20mm lower than the regular setup, the Challenger Scat Pack actually drives better; the stiffer and lowered arrangement limits body roll while barely affecting comfort. Oh, and the car looks that much better for it.
Hot and smells good, too
On the topic of styling, the Challenger wins. OMG does it win. My tester, sorry, our tester, was ToRed with matte black wheels and, somehow, with the Delete Shaker stripe option. To point out that this car is sexy is like saying ice cream is cold. Every aspect, from the blacked-out front grille to the way the trunk is cut out of the body is perfect! I can say no more.
The cabin is just as cool. The ergonomics are nice. I especially like the pod located behind the shifter that contains the Sport button (which I almost never used!), audio and HVAC controls. The high-performance seats are great and the fit and finish are equally good. Through the Uconnect 8.4” touchscreen system, the Dodge Performance Pages are accessible to check the G-force metre or drag-race times. I love the old-school gauges mixed in with the information display between the two. Oh, and apparently, the car’s inherent odour is music to my girl’s nose, so I have to agree…
Love is not always rational
I love this car. It’s not sensible like my appreciation for the Volkswagen Golf R or for the RAM 1500 EcoDiesel, but somehow the Challenger R/T Scat Pack Shaker would have me sell my left nut and right kidney to call one my own. Yes, that bad.
I’m a huge fan of the Camaro and the Mustang (MUST drive the GT350!!), but at the moment the Challenger is the one tugging at my heartstrings.