Quantcast

Home » Dodge Reviews »Featured »Reviews » Currently Reading:

On the Track with Dodge’s new Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

Robby DeGraff September 10, 2018 Dodge Reviews, Featured, Reviews 4 Comments

Out of Detroit’s three, the Challenger has always been the king at the drag strip, a king that rules with such a big crown the NHRA ended up casting down a ban on the late Demon variant. But can the big Dodge control itself at speed when the wheel isn’t pointed straight? Yes, oh gosh yes.

For 2019, Dodge’s Challenger lineup continues to deliver plenty of knock-outs. From the 306 horsepower all-wheel-drive Challenger GT (a car I still lust to pilot through a Wisconsin snowstorm with a ski rack on top), all the way north to the villainous Challenger SRT Hellcat. America’s most diverse muscle car keeps the nostalgia and performance train rolling.

A gray sky patched with dramatic clouds rose high above a rainbow of some of the latest hot shots from Dodge and Jeep at Gingerman Raceway, just a few hours outside of Detroit. Putting my recently renewed Midwest Automotive Media Association membership to good use, I headed to South Haven for track school. Consider this my “graduate school,” except, a lot louder, faster and more engaging. My coach riding shotgun was MotorAuthority’s Kirk Bell, a friend and trained instructor nothing short of a samurai behind the wheel. Apart from a few jaunts around Road America and hours in front of Gran Turismo, my track driving skillset was definitely in the amateur zone. Kirk would be guiding me through all eleven curves of 2.14-mile long Gingerman.

Driving the new R/T Scat Pac Widebody is an absolute riot of smiles. The Challenger in any flavor, is of course  large, but not once on the track did mine shake me or fade any coffee-provided confidence I had. In conversations, at times heated, with other motoring enthusiasts, it seems as if the Challenger always gets ragged on for its bloated figure and lackluster handling, often backed by biased, unrealistic comparisons like “but compared to my Subaru WRX” (vape, slowly exhale a tornado of smoke, vape again) or the comical “but a Mustang can… blah blah blah.” Yes, the Challenger isn’t as featherweight around the curves as say the Toyota GT 86, Mustang GT, or Porsche’s Cayman, but that’s to be expected. Truthfully you can track the Challenger, and it’s an addictive blast.   

I strapped on my helmet and slid into a tasty Plum Crazy Purple Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody, one of the newest members of the growing Challenger family this year. The Challenger R/T Scat Pack finds its niche between the R/T and SRT Hellcat, bringing 3-inches of bold aggressive flares at all four corners that allow a set of wide 305/35ZR20 Pirelli tires to tuck underneath, and a grand 485 horsepower from its naturally aspirated 392 HEMI V8.

Going into the SRT Drive Modes through the 8.4-inch touch-screen Uconnect system, still the best in the biz if you ask me, we customized our steering, suspension and transmission settings to our liking. With a thumbs-up from the flagman, I rolled on to the track. ringing the 6.4-liter V8 to life around Turn 2, I was pinned into a seat caked in leather and soft suede. 60mph, 70mph, 80mph boom, a hammer at the six-piston Brembo brakes aggressively brought the R/T Scat Pack Widebody to a rolling halt halt coming right into Turn 3, as I gradually swept into the throttle and barreling down the straight towards a minuscule orange cone on the bend of Turn 4. The car I piloted it around Gingerman had the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic and shifted exactly when I was needing it to. There was no need to play pinball with the chrome paddle shifters behind the Challenger’s thick leather steering wheel.

This thing felt like a Saturn V rocket on rollerblades. I constantly was reflecting how impressive the Challenger gripped everything and how responsive it was for its size. Handling was precise, and despite  wet slippery conditions with an occasional spillage of dirt across the track, the R/T Scat Pack Widebody never really lost control of its spoiler-topped tail. Leaving Turn 5 was a tricky feat, but Kirk rode aside me explaining the best approach to take in an effort to master it quickly and efficiently. Go out, out, out, then in and give it gas. “Aim for that cone, go,” he’d command. I’d tap the brakes, bring the car’s nose downwards, and ease into the throttle, almost clipping the cone at the apex of Turn 6.

The transition out of Turn 7 through 8, 9 and into 10A was the hardest part of the track for me. It was like that one impossible business stats problem on my midterms at Loyola that I could not wrap my head, or in this case, the Challenger around. Frustrated, I could not mirror the line perfectly, but after a few practice gos and again, superb instruction, during my last attempt I was able to blast into turn 10B at a few ticks over 80mph. My homework? To perfect that entire fluid transition. Next time, Challenger, next time.

Hard on the brakes, swooping right into the main straight, my foot got heavier on the pedal as the Challenger barked through hard shifts up to at one point 110mph. The purple beast just pulled and pulled and the sound was fantastic. No supercharger whine hear, just a healthy V8 ricocheting a grumbly exhaust note off the concrete barriers towards the starting line for another lap. I didn’t want to stop driving this car.

Lap after lap, I fell more and more in love with the Challenger. I’ve always adored this car. When Dodge pulled off this retro revival for the first time back in 2008, I was just a nerdy freshman at Loyola University Chicago and I remember my jaw just dropped in awe. It instantly became my “attainable” dream car, and since my finances at the time were dedicated to overpriced, underused textbooks, the closest I came to owning a Challenger came in the form of a cheap, $20 blue remote control model with flashy chrome wheels from the local Radio Shack. I still have it on my shelf back home at my parents house, collecting dust

The folks at FCA deserve a raise, for creating a breed of high performance vehicles with a ceiling-less amounts of horsepower. I think it’s a miracle, an absolute treat, that we live in a time where one could walk into their local Dodge dealer, stroll past a row of Grand Caravans and Journeys, and come home with a 700+ horsepower family sedan or 475-hp Durango. Fuel efficiency numbers, autonomy, plug-in things, and radar sensing safety gizmos are the hot “musts” for manufacturers these days, and while FCA follows suit with those trends, they aren’t sacrificing or overlooking selling vehicles with raw, astronomical, and bonkers insane horsepower.

Look past the absurd amount of crossovers being sold every minute, and appreciate that Challenger and Charger sales numbers continue to rise. Between 2008 and 2017, sales increased 70%, and after Dodge started offering its hot Scat Pack, (a nearly $4,895 package) for both the R/T Chargers and Challengers, sales for these high-performance equipped models jumped more than 25%. Even this year, Challenger sales are up 4% from last year. I spotted four (!) within a fifteen minutes on my motorcycle ride last night through the crisp air.

The thing in particular I applaud Dodge for, is building the Challenger for the masses.There’s a Challenger for everyone and bang-for-your-buck value is key here. When I got out of the R/T Scat Pack Widebody, I kept thinking to myself “All of that…for under $40,000? Sign me up.” Even with a starting MSRP $69,650 for the maroon 797-horsepower SRT Hellcat Redeye which Dodge brought out to show us, that’s a monstrosity amount of power and performance for the dollar. What you get here, is a package of fun, new-age muscle car nostalgia, regardless of cylinder count, transmission, or badge designations. You can bet I’ll be anxiously watching these powerful Mopar giants hit the used lots in a few years and have my down-payment ready. Carry on, Challenger you American legend you, carry on.

Highlights: Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody $38,995

  • 392 cid V8 with 485 horsepower, 475 lb.-ft. of torque
  • 3.5-inches wider than a normal R/T Scat Pack thanks to borrowed fender flares from the SRT Hellcat
  • 305/35ZR20 Pirelli tires wrapped around 20 x 11-inch wheels
  • Launch Control, Launch Assist, Line Lock, customizable SRT Drive Modes
  • Six-Piston Brembo front brakes
  • 12.1 second 1/4 drag time at 112 mph
  • Six-speed manual or Eight-speed TorqueFlite 8HP90 automatic

Highlights: Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody $69,650

  • Supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 797 horsepower, 707 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Two dual-stage fuel pumps
  • Launch Control, Launch Assist, Line Lock, customizable SRT Drive Modes
  • 10.8 second 1/4 drag time at 131 mph
  • 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds
  • Eight-speed TorqueFlite 8HP90 automatic
  • Adaptive damping suspension
  • 203 mph top speed
  • Largest factory supercharger of any production car at 2.7-liters
  • Advanced After-Run chilling system to keep engine temperatures cool after flat-out runs

[Disclaimer: Dodge invited us out to Gingerman for a drive event and provided the vehicle for the purpose of this story. All images copyright Robby DeGraff/Hooniverse 2018.]

  • Zentropy

    I prefer the clean look of straight sides vs. flares, but they are a worthwhile concession for the wider stance and extra rubber. This car nails the sweet spot in the Challenger lineup, in my opinion. The Hellcat/Redeye/Demon cars are impressive on paper and might be thrilling for a ride, but I would have zero interest in owning one. The Scat Pack WB, though, could be an everyday car.

  • Ross Ballot

    I dig. The Scat Pack was everything I wanted my R/T 100th Anniversary Challenger to be, but wasn’t.

  • outback_ute

    As I was leaving work tonight a JGC SRT was blasting up the road getting full value from the 392.

    I’m glad these Challengers exist, but they are not for me. Reminds me of a headline used by one of the local car mags years ago “teaching the elephant to tap dance”,

  • Luan

    What were the lap times the Scat Pack Widebody was putting down at Gingerman?