“Yes sir!” said the young RCMP officer, following a low whistle, as he sauntered over to my lowered window. “We’ll see you coming from a mile away in this thing, good luck!” and he wasn’t wrong. At 17 feet long and 6 feet wide, coming in at 4200 pounds and sporting a burn-your-eyes-out green paint job, this 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack was hard to miss. It was a humid Saturday evening in early July, and the local PD decided a checkpoint was in order. Do you know how it feels to be sitting in a muscle car with almost 500 horsepower, next to a dozen cops, all staring you down? It’s a little unsettling, even if you are perfectly legal. I think that must be because this car makes you feel bad, it makes you feel like you’re breaking the law, or getting away with something you shouldn’t have done.
I’m not good with interacting with people, I should just be upfront about that now. I wish I could sit here and tell you the rest of my story like I had some witty and quick response to the officer talking to me, but in reality I just kind of grunted a “Uh, yeah”. Without checking any of my documentation, he just chuckled, told me that they’d give me a head start, and waved me on my way. Over the next few weeks, this car would prove to draw all sorts of attention, most wanted and some unfriendly, but attention nonetheless.
For 2015, we got some pretty crazy stuff from our pals at Dodge. No doubt you’ve heard about the 707 horsepower monstrosities they’ve dubbed as Hellcats, whom many now claim sit on top of the muscle car throne. I want to challenge (heh) that claim, not because the Hellcat isn’t the fastest or most powerful, no, I’m saying that the Hellcat can’t sit on top of the muscle car throne because they aren’t actually muscle cars.
Ok, hold on, put down your pitchforks and let me explain: the Hellcat does not hold true to the classic muscle car formula. If you look back at the 1960’s, a muscle car was born when a manufacturer put the engine out of their full sized boat anchor and yacht into the body of a mid sized coupe (for power to weight ratios) then made sure that the interiors stayed fairly basic in order to keep costs down. The end result was something cheap and fast that just about anyone could afford. The Hellcat might be fast, but at $60k as a starting price and with power/automatic/leather wrapped everything as standard inside the cabin, it sure isn’t cheap or sparsely equipped.
Ok, fine, sixty grand for a 700 horsepower car that can do 200 miles per hour might be amazingly inexpensive, relative to other cars capable of those feats, but it’s still too expensive for the everyman to afford. But now we turn our attention back to the Scat Pack.
I like to think of the Scat Pack as a sort of super duper track pack for the R/T trim level. Here’s what you get: the biggest selling point for the Scat Pack is most definitely the 392 cubic inch (6.4L in non-American) HEMI V8 taken from the boys over at Chrysler’s SRT division, which is now good for 485 horsepower and 475 foot pounds of twisting power (over the 372hp and 400ft-lb that comes with the regular R/T’s 5.7L). Underneath the Scat Pack you’ll find some pretty stiff Bilstein shocks, placing the Scat Pack around half an inch lower than its lesser R/T brother. Behind the 20 inch cast aluminium rims you’ll find slotted rotors and 4 pot Brembo calipers, which are actually straight off the 2011-2014 Challenger SRT (for ‘15 the SRTs all got fancy new 6 piston units and slightly larger rotors). Wrapped around those rims are Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercars, sized 245/45, and I can personally promise you that those tires will not last long with that big 392 and a heavy right foot telling the tires what to do.
Transmission options for the Scat Pack, and every other V8 Challenger for that matter, consist of a ZF HP8 8 speed unit, or the Tremec TR-6060 6 speed manual. While the particular Challenger we’re testing comes with the 6 speed 3 pedal setup, I have driven cars equipped with the HP8 before and can vouch for its speed, smoothness and efficiency. The Tremec in the test car just feels right, it feels natural. Yes, it is a little heavy, but this is a 4200 pound muscle car we’re talking about here. The throws are short and fast, each one ending in a very satisfying thunk. The clutch travel is an average distance, it’s heavy but not so much so that a few hours in slow traffic will cause cramping, and the grab point is fairly low on this specific car.
I do have two gripes that I would like to address here. Firstly is a complaint about the transmission itself. Tremec implemented a “feature” into the 6060 that I found to be very annoying. Essentially, when the car is moving at the perfect speed, the engine is revving at the ideal mark, when the computer determines that everything is right in the world, the transmission blocks you out of 2nd and 3rd gear. This means that sometimes, when a very specific list of requirements is met, you might be leaving from a redlight, attempt the shift from 1st to 2nd, only to be forced into 4th. The whole experience is incredibly invasive and jarring at first, and after it happens a few times and you get used to it, it just becomes an annoyance. I constantly found myself saying “No, I refuse to go into 4th gear, screw this” and coasting in neutral until the computer gave up and finally let me into 2nd, where the shifter belonged. Dodge and Tremec both claim that this feature is designed to help with fuel economy, but I would be very shocked to learn that it helped in the least.
My second transmission related complaint isn’t so much the transmission’s fault as it is the interior designer’s fault. The cup holders are placed directly behind the shifter, and they’re shallow enough that even an 12 oz can of soda can get in your elbows way from time to time. Much less serious, but it’s annoyed me enough times that I’ve felt the need to mention it.
The 392 equipped Dodge Challenger is surprisingly decent when it comes to fuel consumption. Dodge claims that the Challenger is capable of seeing 14 MPG city and 23 highway, which, if you’re light footed, is probably being conservative. Over a 350 mile trip, maybe 80% highway, I was able to average 25 miles to the gallon, and I wasn’t even shooting for fuel economy. Even after a few thousand more miles, I’ve rarely seen the average dip below 15, even after a bit of, erm, enthusiastic driving around town. Overall, not bad for a car of the Challenger’s size, weight, and power.
Performance wise, the R/T Scat Pack is a force to be reckoned with regardless of price, and the fact that they only cost as much as a nice midsize family sedan makes it that much more impressive. Dodge claims a 0-60 run in the mid 4 second range, the quarter mile marker comes up in the mid to low 12s, and that there’s an aerodynamically limited top speed of 182 miles per hour. Those are some very impressive figures for a car in this price range.
This Challenger has a few tricks up it’s sleeve when it comes to doing things that you probably should not be doing on public roads. First, you have the “SPORT” button. Fairly simple feature, in the Scat Pack it essentially gives the electric power steering a tighter and heavier feel, along with improving the responsiveness of the engine, and partially turning the traction control off, leaving stability control on partially to at least try to prevent you from making a boo boo. In the 8 speed equipped Challenger, Sport Mode is going to tell the transmission to shift faster and hold revs longer. If this car was an SRT, the Sport Mode would also get the suspension hunkered down and stiffen up, but alas, the Scat Pack does not come equipped with electronically adjusting suspension.
Hitting the “SUPER TRACK PACK” button directly under the sport button is how you activate launch control. It’s a simple system, you pick the RPM you want to launch at, depress your clutch, mash the gas and then dump the clutch. In the automatics the process is even easier, obviously removing the steps involving clutch work. Honestly, I found launch control a little underwhelming in terms of times, but the tire smoke was always spectacular. After a few minutes of practice it wasn’t hard to beat the launch control just by launching the good old fashioned way. Here is probably where I should note that for some reason I experienced significant amounts of wheel hop when launching in regular and Sport mode, but with TC fully off, or when using launch control, there was no wheel hopping to be found.
In the handling department, however, it is not exactly class leading. The 245 width tires are honestly a little skinny considering how much torque is being pumped out, and you’ll find them pulling and fighting for traction as they try to keep this monster of a car on the blacktop around a higher speed corner. Body roll is surprisingly kept to a minimal, thanks mostly to the slightly aggressive suspension setup. The brakes are good for day to day driving, although there have been some reports of overheating over continuous hard driving. I have not personally found any notable issues with the brakes. If you’re the kind of person who frequently does autocross days or spends a lot of time ripping up canyons, some of these things may be issues for you, but if you’re like most and only want a car like this for cruising and burnouts and drag racing, I doubt you’ll have many qualms.
Dodge’s Performance Pages are a feature you can access either through settings on the uConnect screen or by pressing the Super Track Pack button I mentioned earlier. I could almost write an entire article on the features contained within these pages alone, so I’ll just touch on them here. Firstly, they keep records, such as your best 0-60 run, your best 1/8th mile, your highest recorded speed, max g forces experienced, and so on. Performance Pages also provides you with a constantly changing image of what’s going on with your car, such as engine power output, intake air temperature, G forces currently being applied in any direction, tire air pressure, and gauges to monitor just about anything you could think of. My personal favorite feature is probably the christmas tree that pops up on your dash when you tell the car that you’re going to do a ¼ mile, ⅛ mile, or 0-60 run. You can view all of this information either on a screen in your gauge cluster, or on the big touchscreen display on your dash. I’m not entirely sure I would trust the timers in a life or death situation, but for messing around (on an enclosed course, obviously) they work perfectly fine.
We couldn’t have a write up on this Challenger without mentioning the looks now, could we? For 2015 Dodge gave the Challenger it’s first major update since its reintroduction to the market in 2008. With the classic pony car silhouette, with the long hood, short decklid, and low slung profile, the overall shape of the Challenger has not changed much for 2015, but it’s the smaller details that have changed. The updated design takes styling cues from the 1971 Challenger, with a dual snorkel grille, a revised hood design, a new front fascia, and a new rear fascia. Dodge did away with the famous single bar taillight look and replaced it with an equally retro and arguably sportier split taillight design, surrounded in gloss black. The taillights also now use similar technology to what’s found in the Charger, Dart, and Durango, with a continuous red strip that goes all the way around each light. Coupled with the orange DRL’s and halo headlights up front, the 2015 Challenger is just as easy to spot at night as it is in the day. Whether you get the base model SXT, or range topping Hellcat, it’s hard to deny that the 2015 Dodge Challenger is one of the most badass cars on the road today.
This specific Challenger came to me painted in the aforementioned bright green, which Dodge has affectionately named Sublime Green, as an homage to a similar paint option of the same name you could get on the Challenger in 1971. With the Scat Pack comes the Scat Pack appearance package, which includes the following changes: The snorkels on the grille, and the fuel filler cap, have been changed from billet silver to a mean black. The rear lip is also now flat black, and a flat black bumblebee stripe goes across the rear decklid and down both rear fenders, ending where the rear bumper cover begins. The appearance package also includes your choice of two unique rim options, one entirely flat black and the other gloss black with silver, which is what his car came with.
The really big news for the updated Challenger is definitely the interior. While the exterior of the Challenger has always been stylish, the interior felt outdated the day it showed up way back in 2008. By 2014 the Challenger’s interior was borderline laughable, and that’s something that even a lot of the actual owners would agree on.
But no more! No, for 2015 the interior has been completely revised, and does it ever make a huge difference. Gone are the harsh and squeaky plastics, the ugly dash and gauge cluster, the ancient infotainment system. The entire inside of the car has been covered in soft (or at least softer) touch materials, the doors have leather inserts and the dash is soft to the touch. Speaking of the dash, it now wraps around the driver, marking a clear separation between the captains seat and the rest of the cabin. Facing the driver is Chrysler’s exceptionally functional 8.4 inch touchscreen uConnect display, which is standard on all models, even this Scat Pack “bare bones” car. The gauge cluster has also been reworked and is now an excellent blend of retro and modern, mirroring the rest of the car.
Visibility is still poor though. The cars high beltline and low roofline equate to some very skinny side windows, and the large C pillar coupled with a small rear window result in fairly poor rearward visibility. Due to the low seating position and long hood, even forwards visibility can be an issue. Less than stellar visibility is unfortunately a common occurrence in the pony car segment, and while the Challenger is not the worst offender, it’s still worth pointing out.
A couple more quick notes about the Challenger’s interior: The rear seat room is surprisingly not terrible, and might actually be the roomies coupe I’ve ever been in the rear seat of. For any of you family people out there, it might be worth noting that the Challenger has a full rear bench seat and can actually fit 3 people, unlike the Mustang and Camaro who can only fit two in the rear. While it is technically possible, I would not recommend stuffing three actual real human adults in the rear for any amount of time, however, the Challenger is capable of fitting three normal sized child seats in the back.
The Challenger’s trunk is also notably spacious, and would easily be capable of hauling home a week’s worth of groceries, or your golf bags, or even camping gear… if you’re in to taking your Challenger camping, I guess?
Probably the most important feature of the Scat Pack, however, isn’t the big engine or fancy tires, but the options. There are a lot of options to select when buying a Scat Pack, you can have heated leather seats, heated leather steering wheel, automatic high beams, automatic windshield wipers, the list goes on and on, almost nothing comes standard. But wait, isn’t that a bad thing, shouldn’t you want as many features as possible as standard? Well, normally that would be a ‘Yes,’ but the Scat Pack is not a normal car. See, by making everything optional, it leaves the base price of this trim level fairly low, starting at just $38K in America. That’s almost 10 grand cheaper than the SRT, and over 20 grand cheaper than a Hellcat. Putting all the go-fast parts in a basically equipped car, sound familiar? Yup, Dodge took this one straight out of the classic How to Build a Muscle Car Handbook vol. 1. The Scat Pack doesn’t care about being nimble, or having all the latest gadgets, or breaking any records, it just wants to get out there and act stupid at a drag track, to do burnouts at red lights, to wake up the neighbors in the early hours of the morning.
This specific Challenger is not the $38,000 base model Scat Pack, it has been equipped with a few options. These include heated and cooled premium leather/suede power seats, automatic windshield wipers, automatic high beams, blind spot detection, and GPS navigation. All said and done, this car should run you just over $43K. Still a very respectable price for the performance, and still several thousand dollars cheaper than the SRT.
The Scat Pack exists to fulfill one need: to put a 485 horsepower, 182 mile per hour, 12 second ¼ mile, drop dead sexy car into the realm of possibility for your average Joe. That is why, in my humble opinion, the Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack is the most true to form, and therefore best, muscle car that money can buy in 2015.