Road Tested: 2016 Challenger Scat Pack

The era of yesteryear’s muscle cars rings true for the kid in us with the likes of the current crop of the Mustang, Camaro and Dodge’s Challenger.

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SAN FRANCISCO — July 8, 2016 — One of my favorite childhood memories was growing up with an older brother who could drive and introduce me to the “hot rods” of the 60s. He was a Mopar guy all the way and we had a lot of fun drives down old roads in his 68’ Plymouth Roadrunner with a 383 magnum engine and four-speed manual. The era of yesteryear’s muscle cars ring true for the kid in us with the likes of the current crop of the Mustang, Camaro and Dodge’s Challenger.

The high belt-line on the body pays homage to the original design cues as does the fuel lid, front grill and rear end. The whole exterior looks as if it’s simply had a modest update from the Challengers of the late 60s and early 70s and that’s exactly what the designers were going for – they nailed “the look”.


This “Scat Pack” version of the Challenger houses a potent 392 cubic inch Hemi engine that churns out 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The car’s traction control system does a fairly good job of keeping the tires from spinning during hard take-offs and if you’d like to perform a smoke-show, then feel free to disable the traction control. Dodge pairs the engine with a formidable 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission, while we’d prefer a dual clutch, it’s pretty good. There are paddle shifters with a manual mode, however, its shifting between gears while in full auto mode, doesn’t seem to do the engine justice.

Inside, you’ll find one of the largest interiors of any of the modern day “retro-inspired hot rods” (Mustang and Camero), but that larger size is because the Challenger is also larger than the competition and consequently, heavier to boot. Tipping the scales at 4229 pounds, this is one heavy-ass hot rod and that’s a good part of the reason why it doesn’t perform better given its heavy weight. Look for 0-60 times to be in the mid 4-second range and the quarter mile time just under 13-seconds (depending on tires, track conditions and driver skill).

2016 Dodge Challenger Performance Control sport-mode set up
2016 Dodge Challenger Performance Control sport-mode set up

Dodge has incorporated some great performance applications built into its current iteration of UConnect. These apps show you real-time data for 0-60, quarter mile time, engine horsepower and torque as well as lateral g-forces. Not too useful to look at while driving – after all, shouldn’t your eyes be on the road – but great for any passengers to geek out on. Its launch-control app allows you to adjust the launch RPM which is fun to play around with but not very practical above 2500rpm as you’ll find the car will smoke the tires relatively easy. At least that was our experience with the stock tires on our test vehicle.

The sound system by Alpine does have some clear highs and mids, however, the lower frequencies lack the thump we get from competing audio systems by the likes of Infiniti or Harmon-Kardon found in other brands of cars. As far as the overall Uconnect experience, well it could use a processor upgrade to whatever computer is running it. We found the response time between pressing an on-screen button and the time the screen would update could be rather lagged most of the time – especially on the map screen.

2016 Dodge Challenger TorqueFlite 8-speed electronic shifter

Dodge has done a great job with the suspension on the Scat Pack version of this car with the suspension. While it still pulls around a .91g on a skid pad, it feels super flat through hard corners and does an admirable job of taming the mass – helping it feel lighter on its feet than one would think. Around the windy, hilly roads here in the Napa Valley, it was a blast to drive – the car practically begged to be pushed ever harder, faster around each corner. The Brembo brakes helped the car stop and feel very secure on the road.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any car that offers as much power as the Challenger Scat Pack for anywhere near the $40,000 mark – our test vehicle was $43,475 as configured. In the end, the car will largely appeal to those who grew up in an era when hot rods ruled the streets, the smell of burned rubber tickled your nose and have the income to pick one of these up.

In the end, Dodge has delivered a car that’ll fuel the dreams and aspirations of old-school Mopar fans to get their thrills tearing up the streets. While it could definitely be put on a diet to shed some pounds, it still delivers an exhilarating driving experience and with those beautiful exhaust notes that sound like an ill-tempered lion.

 

 

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