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The Auto Channel; Enjoy The Drive: Dodge Challenger Ups the Game for 2019 - Keeping the American Pony Car War Going

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Dodge Challenger Ups the Game for 2019
Keeping the American pony car war going

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

With a bit of shock and awe Dodge gave us the 840-horsepower Hemi powered Dodge Challenger SRT Demon last year. Dodge only built 3,300 Demons for sale in the U.S. and Canada.

The Demon is done. But now for 2019 some of the Demon “cool stuff” has found its way into new Challenger models.

The Demon’s Hemi engine now lives in the 2019 Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye. With revised engine calibration brought about because of a new dual-snorkel hood air intake you can get 797 horsepower and 707 lb.-ft. of torque. The new Hellcat Redeye will cover the ¼ mile in 10.8 seconds topping out at 131 mph.

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The SRT Hellcat gets a horsepower bump too. Now up 10-horspower to 717, again coming from new calibrations with more air into the engine with the new dual-snorkel hood.

Challenger R/T Scat Pack now gets the Widebody treatment with the same fender flares from SRT Hellcat Widebody, which adds 3.5 inches to the overall width. R/T Scat Pack Widebody rides on 305/35ZR20 Pirelli tires mounted to 20 x 11-inch forged aluminum wheels. 

The Scat Pack Widebody will pull 0.97Gs, up from 0.93, in lateral acceleration. Quarter mile time is down two tenths, and 2 seconds have been clipped off the lap time around southwest Michigan’s 2.1-mile GingerMan Raceway. The Dodge/SRT engineeers regularly test at GingerMan and those 2 seconds per lap equate to 12 car lengths, which is a bunch.

Widebody versions of the new SRT Hellcat Redeye as well as the SRT Hellcat are offered, along with the standard body.

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The Hellcat Redeye has launch assist and torque reserve. New ducts add needed brake cooling. And with the new higher speed rated tires it’ll top out at 203 mph.

Remember that stripped out, drag racer Demon interior? Well Dodge has also kept that going in the form of the 485-horsepower R/T Scat Pack 1320. It comes with just one seat; the front passenger seat and rear seat can be had for just a buck. The drag race focused 1320, complete with its “Angry Bee” fender logo, has the Demon shock and spring set up with a few tweaks. Along with Drag Mode, Line Lock, TranBrake and Torque Reserve, the Nexon drag radials will take you down the quarter mile in 11.7 seconds at 115 mph.

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So what does all this performance cost. The SRT Hellcat Redeye will run you a cool $69,650 plus $1,700 Gas Guzzler Tax (GGT). The SRT Hellcat is $58,650 also plus $1,700 GGT. Note here, however, that’s a $5,000 price drop from last year. The R/T Scat Pack is $38,995 plus $1,000 GGT. And, the 1320 package costs $3,995 and the Widebody adds $6,000.

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Did I mention that you can get a Tremec six-speed manual in the 485-HP Scat Pack (but not the 1320) and also in the Hellcat (but not in the Redeye.)

Now that you have the big picture let’s get to the driving. Dodge/SRT engineers knew they needed to make these cars perform to the max. There’s plenty of competition also delivering lots of horsepower and performance, especially from the likes of the other pony cars--the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro.

The Challenger is a true GT car with seats for five and a roomy trunk. Plus it’s the best performing and quickest and fastest straight line car on the market. On the road is where it really all comes together. The Hellcats and Scat Packs need to be comfortable, docile, and easy to manage. And they are.

I drove both the new Hellcat Redeye and the R/T Scat Pack…this one with a 6-speed manual, for a couple hours each from coastal Maine to the 2.5 mile Club Motorsports circuit in Tamworth, New Hampshire. Club Motorsport sits in the White Mountains, carved in the side of a hill and provides 250 feet of elevation change around its 15-turn circuit.

Dodge had us drive both the Redeye and the Scat Pack around the track with a pro-driver coach sitting in the right seat. A warm-up, a hot lap and a cool-down was the drill. I chose to drive the 485-hp Scat Pack first, so as to take the tamer of the two on my initial foray around the circuit. This wasn’t my first visit here but still, I needed to get reacquainted.

Upon driving each Challenger it is quickly apparent that you can go very fast through the corners and down the front straight with speeds approaching 125 to 130 mph. The Scat Pack is easier to keep under control whereas the high horsepower of the Redeye can easily lead to trouble. Early braking is key. Both cars are nicely balanced and don’t exhibit any bad behavior. The Redeye was more work for me to get around the track, whereas the Scat Pack is more docile and thus a bit more fun.

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Both cars were automatics that made for easy two foot driving for smoother transitions. The SRT calibrations for upshifts and downshifts with the transmission in track mode allow you to just leave it in drive. Shift paddles make for more fun and help to eek out better lap times.

The wider tires, retuned suspension and power balance in the Scat Pack Widebody makes for a nicer lap than the Redeye, and more fun to drive. The Redeye is really fast down the straight which required earlier braking and, with all its power, throttle applications need to be a bit slower coming out of a turn.

I’ve been privileged, thanks to Dodge and SRT, to drive the Demon down the quarter mile and track-drive Scat Packs and Hellcats not only at GingerMan Raceway but at Autobahn Country Club and Road America. Road America is a very fast track with two long straights where you can easily get up towards 140 mph leading into tight turns that require heavy braking and proper turn-in point.

The Challengers are always up to the challenge and perform outstandingly.

Dodge told us that Challenger sales are up. Lest we forget, the 305-horsewpower V6 SXT priced at $27,295 will get you into a Challenger. The all-wheel drive Challenger SXT and GT models make for good winter safety as well as fun for those in the snow-belt states.

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I’ll see you down the road, or at the track.

© 2018 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

This report comes from an invitation-only Dodge launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Dodge provided my overnight accommodations, meals, and transportation.