2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

It’s likely every car enthusiast is familiar with the Dodge Challenger Hellcat. With 707 horsepower under foot and orders coming in faster than Fiat Chrysler Automobiles can fill them, the Hellcat is a popular beast. But the Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack is the Hellcat’s stable mate that gets less press, which is a shame because it’s a pretty special car on its own merits.

If you’re unfamiliar with muscle car history, you might not recognize the Scat Pack name. No, it has nothing to do with unintelligible lyrics set to jazz music or anything icky. Scat Pack was a performance package first used on the 1968 Dodge Charger R/T, Coronet R/T and Dart GTS. Scat Pack was for buyers who wanted to leave the showroom and head for the drag strip. At the time, Chrysler even created the Scat Pack Club, which offered members a newsletter with racing updates, tuning tips and other useful information for gear heads. The Scat Pack option package is essentially the same on the 2015 Challenger.

The option group consists of 20-inch by 9-inch polished aluminum wheels, a high-performance suspension with Bilstein shocks, Brembo four-piston calipers up front and driver-configurable modes for engine, transmission and steering response and launch control.

Launch control is important because the 6.4-liter Hemi engine packs 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. In the quarter mile, the Scat Pack Challenger has been tested to run in the high 12-second range and blast to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The Challenger weighs 4,200 pounds and change, but it’s still quick, as the numbers indicate.

2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

Even with all that power, the Scat Pack Challenger is rated for 15 mpg city and 25 mpg on the highway. Of course, the six-speed Tremec manual transmission or available eight-speed automatic designed by ZF and built by FCA help boost those mileage figures. A 3.09:1 rear axle ratio helps, too.

Despite its lineage as a drag racing package, that didn’t stop FCA from bringing a Challenger R/T Scat Pack to the 2015 Motor Press Guild’s Track Days at Willow Springs International Raceway where Speed News had a chance to wring it out for a few laps.

Here’s where the Scat Pack car rises above the Hellcat. Because the Hellcat has an enormous intercooler in the front — some 40 pounds in front of the radiator and A/C condenser— it feels a bit nose-heavy on track. That feeling is replaced with more neutral handling on the Scat Pack car. During our laps with the car, we felt it could use some stiffer springs or more buttoned-down shock valving, but the car still turned in like it wanted to and took a set pretty readily. It felt balanced and offered a ton of torque off the corners. So, yes, you can take a car aimed at drag racers and put it on a road course without much ado.

Because of the car’s weight, we suspect the brakes would need an upgrade for repeated track use, pads at least. In fact, during the day, the car’s handlers told the journalists in attendance that it had to sit out a session or two to cool off a bit, but they didn’t say whether that was for the engine or brakes or both.

Obviously, road-course driving is better suited to a manual transmission, so when I found the Scat Pack Challenger had an automatic, I was a bit disappointed. But I’ll tell you what, the ZF eight-speed is a pretty fun automatic, especially when you’re flogging it on a road course. Maybe those cool-down periods were for the transmission? During our laps, it worked extraordinarily well for something with a torque converter. Upshifts were crisp, positive and immediate. Downshifts were rev-matched to the next lower gear and just as quick as upshifts. Paddles were well located at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions on the steering wheel.

In fact, everything surrounding the driver was well located. Driver ergonomics were first rate. You could set up the seat to accommodate nearly any driver for road-course driving, and the tilt and telescoping steering column made it that much better.

2016 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus (shown in Ruby Red/Black)
2016 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus (shown in Ruby Red/Black)

So, could you buy a Challenger R/T Scat Pack and use it as a track toy? You could and it would do the trick, but it likely would need some upgrades to prevent heat-related failures, and even then it would still weigh more than 2 tons. However, as a street car and something to go goof around with at the track, it’s a blast. It’s so much fun you might even take up drag racing.

But do you know what the most surprising aspect of the Challenger R/T Scat Pack is? The price. It’s base price is less than $40 grand! $38,995 is the base MSRP, and it’s a lot of car for the money. Heck, because of it’s lengthy wheelbase, it actually has usable back seats, even with a tall driver at the wheel. I wouldn’t call it a track car, but I would call it a devilishly fun daily driver you can take to the racetrack and have some fun with.

Specifications

Engine:

6.4-liter Hemi V8

Horsepower:

485 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque:

475 @ 4,200 rpm

Front suspension:

Independent SLA with high upper A arm, coil spring over gas-charged monotube shocks

Rear suspension:

Five-link independent with coil springs, gas-charged monotube shocks

Transmission:

Torqueflite 8HP70 eight-speed automatic

Rear axle ratio:

3.09:1 limited slip

Curb Weight:

4,239 lbs. with automatic transmission

Base MSRP:

$38,995
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Image courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles