2019 Dodge Challenger Redeye and Scat Pack

Pomona, California - Taking a cue from Porsche and its 911, Dodge is spitting out enough versions of its perennial Challenger to make your head spin. Normally a vehicle of this advanced age would be trotting out to pasture, but no rest for the “new” Challenger, now entering its eleventh year and riding on a Mercedes-derived platform that dates back to the Cretaceous period.

The Brampton-built Challenger still kicks its heels like a young colt. Okay, a big overweight colt, but dang if it doesn’t have its charms.

Ah, but you’d never know it. Having just sampled three distinct iterations aimed at very slim slices of the enthusiast market, the Brampton-built Challenger still kicks its heels like a young colt. Okay, a big overweight colt, but dang if it doesn’t have its charms. The speed denizens at Dodge’s SRT division must love going to work every day. This one has to handle. This one’s going to be a grassroots drag racer. This one’s getting stupid horsepower.

Remember when cars were fun? Well, this big 'ol lug is a laugh riot, no matter how SRT slices it. Kevin Hellman, brand manager for Dodge, frames it like this: “The Challenger bucks the trend in the industry of cars going away. Actually, 2018 was the best Challenger sales year that we’ve ever had. About a year ago when we were finishing up our Demon build of 3300 cars, people were asking what are we going to do next. Our customers are asking us when are we going to get more power, more of this, more of that, so we didn’t follow up with just one car, we followed up with three. Three very distinct, different versions of the Challenger. The R/T Scat Pack 1320, R/T Scat Pack Widebody and SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody.”

Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody the new top dog

It’s fair to say the Challenger eliciting the most hysterics, histrionics and involuntary profanity will be the SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody ($101,945) that packs the same supercharged 6.2L Hemi V8 from the discontinued 2018 Demon drag car, although power and torque dip from 808 horses and 717 lb-ft to 797 hp and 707 lb-ft respectively due to the more restrictive twin nostril hood intake. It seems the Demon’s big scoop created too much high speed lift for the Redeye’s 203 mph top speed. Says Hellman, “The Redeye Widebody is really the best parts of the Hellcat with the powertrain of the Demon.” The Widebody treatment with its associated 305/35ZR20 rubber not only looks super cool, it adds much needed grip and traction.

Out on some snaking, smooth and classic California canyon roads, the opulently appointed Redeye shows off its two personalities - one of comfortable luxury GT and one of satanic speed siren that temps you at every turn. Or more like every straight. Put your foot in it, and your own screams of delight are completely drowned out but the howl of the exhaust and banshee supercharger whine. It’s a surreal experience.

Yes, the Redeye is big, heavy and insanely powerful, but it also carries itself with surprising composure, benefitting from a well tuned chassis, prodigious grip and accurate, communicative and nicely weighted electric steering. And never is the ride harsh or choppy, even in Sport mode. As a daily driver, it’ll work, and with that price tag you’re in a pretty exclusive club.

R/T Scat Pack Widebody for those who care about handling

However, if you want the ultimate handing Challenger and wish to keep about 43 grand in your pocket and your ass out of jail, the $59,195 R/T Scat Pack Widebody hits a sweet spot. It runs with a naturally-aspirated 485 horsepower, 475 lb-ft of torque 6.4L (392 cu.in.) Hemi hooked to an eight-speed auto or six-speed manual.

Jim Wilder, Vehicle Development Manager says, “As a team, we asked, what else can we do with the Scat Pack Widebody to make the most of this extra grip, but still keep it as an every day car? While the rear springs are carry over, there’s a thicker rear sway bar, and the front has the stiffest spring we’ve put on any of our Challengers. There’s a stiffer sway bar in the front, which is hollow, and a bigger spoiler in the back for more downforce. With this, at out test track, we picked up two seconds a lap over the narrow body R/T Scat Pack, which is twelve car lengths.”

Strafing the same canyon roads in the Scat Pack Widebody shows it to be a completely different animal than big brother Hellcat Redeye. Quite frankly, I’m amazed at how well this car handles. In Sport Mode, the adaptive dampers button it down, and while it rides stiffer than he Redeye, it is still perfectly civilized. With its lighter engine and stiffer front springs, the front end hungrily bites into corners and then carves with balance and precision. Put the power down and you’re rocketing to the next bend, all to the glorious soundtrack of that 392 cu.in. Hemi. The ZF-sourced eight-speed auto is quick to respond to paddle shift inputs, and as with the Redeye, its steering shows the Dodge boys have decoded the electric-assist puzzle. It feels totally natural.

As with the Redeye Widebody, this Scat Pack Widebody does look totally badass with those fender flares and 305/35ZR20 Pirelli performance rubber.

Straight-line maestro: R/T Scat Pack 1320 Widebody

If drag racing if more your thing, the 2019 Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 picks up where the Demon left off. Kevin Hellman says, “We couldn’t just have the Demon and then walk away from the drag strip.” And while the Demon was a very expensive limited run special, the 1320 is a regular production run vehicle – they’ll build as many as the customers want.

It uses the same 485-hp, 475 lb-ft 6.4L Hemi and as the Scat pack Widebody, but hooked only to the eight-speed auto. It gets all the associated drag hardware from the Demon: SRT-tuned Adaptive Damping Suspension with exclusive Drag mode, extreme-duty 41-spline halfshafts, line lock, TransBrake and specially developed Nexen 275/40R20l street-legal drag radial tires.

The name 1320 comes from the number of feet in the quarter mile, of which Dodge claims the Challenger will conquer in 11.7 seconds at 115 mp/h. Being a “grassroots” racer, the 1320 will theoretically do this all day without breaking and then drive you home in comfort. Having spent a morning mercilessly flogging a few Scat Pack 1320s at the famed Pomona drag strip, they sure seem capable of the former, and with regards to the latter, the drag-tuned adaptive damping is inherently softer than the regular street car, thus providing a cushy ride.

The 1320 gets the narrow body configuration and starts at $55,190 (standard $51,195 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T 392 plus the $3995 1320 Drag Pack). As with the discontinued Demon, the 1320 comes only with a driver’s chair, but the passenger seat and back bench can be added for a toonie. Or you can opt for the $1595 Drag Pack Plus Group that adds black edge premium floor mats, bright pedals, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, front passenger seat, ambient lighting, Alcantara climate front seats, leather 60/40 split rear seat, and child seat anchors.

Amazingly, the Challenger is trending up. Quite a feat for such a mature niche vehicle, and yet, as Hellman states, ‘People are kinda shying away from the boring cars, so the ones that are fun to drive and have personality, people are coming after.” No question there’s absolutely nothing boring about the Dodge Challenger, and with these three new iterations, the personality spectrum is certainly covered. For the past two years in the US, Challenger has beat the Chevrolet Camaro in sales, and this Brampton-built maven actually came out ahead of the Ford Mustang in the fourth quarter of 2018. Long may it run.

Currently available on autoTRADER.ca
Redeye now top dog, Scat Pack starts SRT fun 3/27/2019 12:00:00 PM