Powerful, comfortable, well-appointed: about the only thing the Challenger isn't is fuel efficient.
"No, it's not the Hellcat," was pretty much my mantra for the last week. Everyone that approached me about the Sublime Green Dodge Challenger I was testing wanted to know if it was the 707-horsepower Hellcat variant that's been in all of the buff books. Unfortunately, it wasn't.
That said, the 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack that I was rumbling around in was still a beautiful beast and an amazing performer, both where performance and tech are concerned.
Under the hood is the SRT 392 Hemi, a naturally aspirated 6.4-liter V-8 engine that is a significant step up in displacement and power from the standard Challenger R/T's 5.7-liter. Power is stated at 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque, and drivers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or an eight-speed automatic. Our example was equipped with the TorqueFlite eight-speed auto with its T-shaped shifter. The gearbox features Sport and manual shift programs, as well as metallic steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
This is an engine that makes its power the old-fashioned way: by combusting ridiculous amounts of air and fuel. However, the stated fuel economy is higher than I thought it'd be, at an EPA estimated 15 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined. Cylinder deactivation technology enables the 392 to drop down to just four-cylinder operation when coasting at highway speeds and helps it to boost its economy estimates. That said, you probably won't get anywhere near those numbers. I only managed a 13.1 mpg average after draining the tank twice during our week of testing. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised; nobody really buys a muscle car to brag about how efficient it is.
Ironically, one of the first things I had to learn when behind the wheel of the powerful Scat Pack Challenger was a gentler throttle application. The combination of a hair-trigger on the throttle and an engine that will deliver massive amounts of instantaneous torque takes some getting used to. You'll probably chirp the tires a few times during your first trip, but quickly the beast is tamed, and the Challenger reveals itself as a remarkably comfortable and easy-to-drive 485-horsepower muscle car.
In the central position on the dashboard, you'll find the familiar 8.4-inch touchscreen of the UConnect infotainment and navigation system. You might be surprised to find that this brute has some pretty good brains to go with the brawn.
The system features Garmin-powered navigation with one of the best voice command interfaces this side of Siri or Google. Addresses can be requested in a single go ("Navigate to 1000 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco") without all of the hassle of multiple prompts and waiting. Most of the major infotainment functions are able to be voice-commanded without the need for physical input outside of the tapping of the steering wheel button, and the voice recognition was also very accurate.
Built-in audio sources include CD, Bluetooth, USB/iPod, HD and satellite radio, and an SD card slot, but drivers can add more digital streaming services via the UConnect apps portion of the interface, which lets you access a selection of smartphone apps (such as Pandora or iHeart Radio) from the touchscreen. For a subscription fee, a 3G wireless connection can be activated, transforming the car into a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot that passengers can access with their devices.
The UConnect interface, in this case, also has some interesting tie-ins with the Challenger's performance. Tapping the virtual button for "Performance Pages" brings us to a series of screens that allow the driver to monitor aspects of the engine's performance and status. If you're interested in keeping an eye on virtual gauges that display the oil pressure and coolant, battery, and transmission temperatures, here is where you'll find all of that and more. There's even a complex-looking combination gauge that displays the engine's current horsepower and torque output.
Many of these Performance Pages gauges can also be displayed in the small color multi-information display in the center of the Challenger's instrument cluster. Using the thumb buttons on the steering wheel, the driver can toggle between the various gauges, track fuel economy information, and watch horsepower and torque meters. There's even a set of performance timers that allow the driver to measure their 0-to-60 and 0-to-100 times, braking distance, 1/8- and 1/4-mile times, and more. Just select the metric you want to test, tap the OK button on the steering wheel to begin a countdown, and step on the gas when it says "Go." The system can even measure your reaction time when clocking drags. Obviously, you'll want to find a closed course, abandoned airstrip, or just a place out of the way of local law enforcement to do your testing.
Tapping the physical "Super Track Pack" button on the lower console brings up another set of performance controls on the UConnect screen. Rather than monitoring the performance, these are settings that allow the driver to adjust the Challenger's behavior. A set of virtual toggles allow the customization of the Challenger's Sport and Normal driving mode presets.
Here, engine output and traction control systems can be toggled between Sport and Normal settings; the power steering set to Sport, Normal, and Comfort settings; and the steering wheel's paddle shifters enabled or disabled. I chose to disable the paddles in normal mode because they're a bit awkwardly placed and far too easy to accidentally tap -- trust me, you'll draw a lot of angry glares and startled looks by unexpectedly dropping the 392 into first while rounding a corner in a busy parking lot.
The Super Track Pack screen is also where you'll activate the Challenger's launch-control system and set the launch RPM. Once launch control is active, simply line up for your run and hold the brake pedal with your left foot. Then stomp the gas with the right foot, and when the revs settle at the launch RPM, dump the brakes while keeping the accelerator planted. Now just hang on for dear life, swear a lot, laugh maniacally, and repeat.
A launch-assisted zero-to-60 run happens somewhere in the 4-second range for our eight-speed equipped example. The quarter-mile comes and goes in about 12 seconds. And smokey burnouts are just a tap of the traction-control button away and a slap of the paddle shifter away.
For all of the excessive power and the fantastic sound the V-8 makes at full bore, the R/T Scat Pack is also so very comfortable when just tooling around town.
The rubber meets the road at 20-inch wheels with 245-width Goodyear Eagle F1 contact patches. The R/T Scat Pack features an upgraded suspension that helps it to corner a bit better than stock and big four-piston Brembo brake upgrades at all four corners. Fortunately, Dodge didn't just slap on stiffer suspension bits and ruin the Challenger's ride quality in the name of ultimate performance. Rather, it also tweaked the suspension's geometry to retain the coupe's daily-driveable comfort.
With its deeply bolstered R/T seats, the Challenger offers pretty good support when cornering. However, these aren't racing buckets -- those seats are fairly wide-bottomed for big American butts, and in our example, heated and ventilated, which makes them better suited for commutes and longer trips. The steering wheel was power adjustable, as was the driver's seat. The suspension soaked up bumps and rode quietly, allowing me to enjoy the rumble of the V-8.
I was surprised to find that our example was equipped with an optional adaptive cruise-control system and a forward collision alert system. I was relieved to find a rear camera with cross-traffic alert as well as a blind-spot monitoring system -- both necessities if you ever plan on backing up or changing lanes in the thick-pillared Challenger.
The Challenger, as equipped, then presents itself as more of a grand cruiser than a track tool. It's a daily driver, not a weekend plaything, and that is just fine by me.
I fell in love with the Challenger, but it was a guilty pleasure. It's a car that, as equipped, doesn't make many compromises in being so unabashedly one of the last true "muscle cars." In fact, about the only real con that I could think of is the terrible gas mileage, but I also realize that fuel sipping isn't exactly in the Challenger's mission statement. It comes with the territory when you're talking muscle, but it's also the reason why cars like this may not be around for much longer. Enjoy it while it lasts, just make sure to bring lots of gas money.
From the surprisingly well-equipped cabin, I was able to enjoy the power and the noise of gigantic V-8 and thrill in the violence of its launch-controlled acceleration from the comfort of my heated seat. The dashboard tech is on par with the best in its class and the best in the business, but it's also unobtrusive and easy to use. That you can access many of the major functions without even touching the screen via the excellent voice commands really makes the Challenger R/T Scat Pack feel like a merging of the big meaty engines of the past with the tech of the future.
The 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack bridges the gap between the standard R/T trim level and the even more hardcore SRT model, starting at $37,495. However, our example was pretty close to fully loaded with a host of tech, comfort, and appearance upgrades bringing its as-tested price to $47,860. Sorry, UK and Aussie readers, this one's available only in 'Merica.
|Model||2015 Dodge Challenger|
|Trim||R/T Scat Pack|
|Powertrain||6.4-liter "392 Hemi" V-8, 8-speed automatic transmission, RWD|
|EPA fuel economy||15 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, 18 mpg combo|
|Observed fuel economy||13.1 mpg|
|Navigation||UConnect 8.4 navigation, voice command with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Hands-free calling, audio streaming|
|Digital audio sources||USB/iPod, SD card, Bluetooth, satellite radio, HD radio, CD|
|Audio system||Alpine premium audio|
|Driver aids||Optional blind-spot monitoring, rear camera, cross-traffic alert, proximity parking sensors, adaptive cruise control (>20mph), forward precollision alert|
|Price as tested||$47,860|