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2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Back

Serious muscle and world-class accommodation in a family sedan

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY

         • SEE ALSO: Dodge Buyers Guide


If you're looking for an anonymous transportation appliance, read no further. If you're in the market for something with exceptional fuel economy, leave now. If the performance and handling of a German factory tuner sedan at a fraction of the price seems like a good idea, think Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack.

With 485 horsepower, 475 lb-ft of torque, and suspension and brakes to match, the R/T Scat Pack is a 97-pound weakling only compared to its 707 hp, 650 lb-ft SRT Hellcat sibling. Priced in the $40,000 class, the R/T Scat Pack is a better value (if that matters to anyone looking…) and it's still going to be as underemployed in any legal North American road driving as the Hellcat or anything from BMW's M, Mercedes-Benz's AMG, or Audi's RS divisions.

It's quick, it's fast, it's loud, both in style and volume, and can pass anything but a gas station. The R/T Scat Pack is a fitting successor to Dodge's Charger muscle cars of the late 1960s, but is a far more civilized and much better-handling piece of machinery. And quicker and faster down the road than any of those. It's positioned as the gateway to serious V8 Dodge performance, above the 5.7-liter, 360-hp R/T and R/T Road & Track, but not as fancy (or expensive) as the SRT 392, which uses the same 6.4-liter / 392 cubic inch version of the current Hemi engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. And then there's the Hellcat…




All Charger models get revised styling this year. While not as dramatic a change as the last re-skinning in 2011, only the rear doors and roof carry over. Exterior styling is even more influenced by the second-generation Charger of 1969, the peak of the original muscle car era. The interior has been refined as well. All trim levels, even the SE and SXT vee-sixes, have an eight-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is the standard layout, with all-wheel drive available for the SE and SXT.

I've just finished a week with a well-equipped Charger R/T Scat Pack, with the leather interior package (and heated and cooled front seats, heated outboard rears, memory, and much more) and UCONNECT audio and navigation package. While the name plays to nostalgia, this beast is a thoroughly contemporary high-performance automobile. If its menacing looks, with the bulging hood, sculpted sides, and aero lowers are on the wild side, that's completely appropriate. This is a serious piece of machinery, capable of violent acceleration, deceleration, and cornering prowess best used on the track. PhD material for traffic school. It's also eminently comfortable, tractable in traffic (if frustrating!), and could be used as everyday family transportation. Yes, the ride is firm -- the suspension is correctly tuned for the Scat Pack's capabilities.

The muscle cars of the 1960s were mostly straight-line machines, hampered in corners by a lack of suspension, brakes, and tires capable of dealing with the power. And their advertised power outputs were usually wildly optimistic, 426 Hemi excepted. With a well-designed and executed fully-independent suspension, massive vented and slotted brake discs gripped by four-piston Brembo calipers, and wide 245/45ZR20 tires that are likely better than the best racing tires of 1969, today's Charger R/T Scat Pack is by far a better machine. It's quick, fast, has impressive grip and brakes, and with a little care can go 17 or 18 miles per gallon. Think that's bad? Not compared to a couple four-barrels or three two-barrels on a 426 Hemi or 440…

APPEARANCE: Before the nameplate's reintroduction for 2006, all Chargers had two-door bodies. The basic underpinnings have remained the same, with development - but exterior styling has become ever more evocative of the second-generation car of 1968-70. Even with the four-door body and consequent higher roof profile, the shoulder line and reverse-cut accent on the doors echoes the older car's graceful "coke bottle" (area rule) shape. SE, SXT, and regular R/T models have new variations of the Dodge "crosshair" grille; Scat Pack and SRT versions get a treatment that brings cousins Dodge Coronet and Plymouth Road Runner to mind. And a bulging aluminum hood with a functional NACA duct. Plus lower aero-kit trim and a small ducktail spoiler. All now have LED "racetrack" taillights. The Hellcat is similar, but a bit more extreme. So far, no Daytona aero nose and tall rear wing… so far.

COMFORT: The `68-70 Charger had bucket seats and a floor console, sporty stuff for the day. But those seats were flat, with minimal contour or bolstering -- not a major issue given the cornering capabilities of tires of the day. Now, in R/T Scat Pack trim, think contemporary European sports-luxury car, especially with the leather package. The well-bolstered front seats are power-adjustable, with memory for the driver's side. Grippy Alcantara faux suede is used for the centers, with leather outside of that and on the steering wheel rim. The front seats compare favorably for comfort and support with any European competitor. High quality materials and close-tolerance fit and finish characterize the interior. Instrumentation is beyond complete, but easily readable, with no glare problems. Between the driver information center and UCONNECT info and apps there is no guessing. All major audio formats are supported, plus the lovely stereo subwoofers under the rear bumper. There were times that the exhaust would resonate somewhere in the rear of the car -- that might be an annoyance in a quiet luxury car. Here? Surely you jest! Rear doors mean easy access for rear passengers, and the outboard positions are first-class accommodations. Trunk space is reasonable for the design and use, but watch road hazards as there is only a fix-a-flat kit, not a spare tire.




SAFETY: In addition to the mandated airbags, safety belts, structural collision protection, and antilock brakes, the Dodge Chargers may be equipped with Forward Collision Warning, adaptive cruise control, Blind-Spot Monitoring with Cross-Traffic Alert, a Brake-Lock Differential system to help in low-traction situations, and ParkSense and the ParkView backup camera to help when parking or backing out. For active safety, the R/T Scat Pack has large ventilated and slotted brake discs with four-piston Brembo calipers at each corner, quick steering response, and Right. Now. acceleration when necessary. It's a car for drivers, not operators.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Muscle cars of the 1960s were more about engine than chassis, and worked best in a straight line. This one has at least as much chassis as engine, and it has quite an engine. The front independent unequal-length A-arm suspension isn't that different from what was found on a 1969 Charger. The five-link independent system at the rear is far advanced from the leaf-sprung solid axles of old. Dodge calls the tuning "high performance". It's firm but not harsh. Compared to the similar Challenger R/T Scat Pack I drove about a year ago, the Charger feels heavier -- and is, by about 400 pounds. Wheelbase is four inches longer, overall length increases by three inches. In daily driving there is little difference, and neither are race cars. Even with the all-season (Goodyear Eagle RS-A) instead of three-season performance tires, grip is immense. If you want to know just how good, that information can be found in the driver information system. Just don't let it fall into the wrong hands…

PERFORMANCE: The current Hemi really only shares the name with its legendary 426 CID ancestor, which does live on in much-developed form in NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car dragsters. And although today's Hemi allegedly low-tech, with a cast-iron block and two pushrod-actuated valves per cylinder, iron is strong, and doesn't have to be overly heavy if designed and constructed correctly. Cross-bolted main bearings ensure a strong bottom end. Roller tappets make it compatible with modern low-viscosity, low-zinc oils to reduce emissions and fuel consumption. Maximum horsepower is 485 at 6000 rpm, with torque peaking at 474 lb-ft at 4200 rpm, but there is plenty of grunt from idle on. Enough so that I was only occasionally tempted to use the shift paddles to change gears in the new eight-speed automatic transmission. With 475 lb-ft, who needs a transmission? High high gears and low lows with minimal rpm drops between are the key to combining power and economy. In D at 70mph (not even the fast lane around here) the engine is turning less than 2000 rpm. Redline is 6400. It growls down low and howls as revs increase. Traction control and launch control help keep things more or less civilized, but it's never completely there, and all the better for that. Fuel economy? Not a reason to buy this, but with mostly normal driving and continuous balks from the Anti-Destination League, 16.4 mpg for the week. Long-term (since anyone last reset) mileage was 17.7 If I was really having fun, I'd expect single digits.

CONCLUSIONS: Want serious muscle and world-class accommodation in a family sedan? It's called Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack.

SPECIFICATIONS

2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack

Base Price $ 39,995

Price As Tested $ 43,280

Engine Type 16-valve pushrod OHV V8, cast iron block, aluminum heads with hemispherical combustion chambers

Engine Size 6.4 liters / 392 cu. in.

Horsepower 485 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 475 @ 4200 rpm

Transmission 8-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 120.2 in. / 200.8 in.

Curb Weight 4400 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 9.1

Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal.

Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline

Tires 240/45 ZR20 99Y Goodyear Eagle RS-A m+s

Brakes, front/rear vented and slotted discs with 4-piston Brembo calipers all around

Suspension, front/rear independent SLA / independent multilink

Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 15 / 25 / 16

0 to 60 mph

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Leather and Alcantara® Seat Package -- includes: heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, auto-adjust in reverse rearview mirrors, driver's autodimming, memory for radio, driver's seat, and mirrors, power heated outside mirrors with manual fold-away, Hectic Mesh interior accents, illuminated rear-seat cupholders $ 1,595

Customer Preferred Package 21W -- includes: UConnect® 8.4-inch touchscreen with AM/FM/SXM/BT/NAV 3.0GPS Navigation, HD Radio, SiriusXM Traffic™ and Travel Link™ with 5-year subscriptions $ 695

Destination Charge $ 995