Since the advent of the automobile, manufacturers have used a strategy of creating a “platform”, or vehicle architecture, which is modular enough to be adapted to create multiple vehicles from it. GM’s Zeta platform, for instance, underpins everything from the fifth generation Camaro to the Caprice sedan and numerous Holden vehicles sold in Australia.
Like a fine wine, the LX platform only seems to get better with age. And 707 horsepower.
Chrysler has had a similar game plan in effect for some time now with the LX sedan platform, which underpins the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300, along with the gone-but-not-forgotten Dodge Magnum wagon and, in a slightly shortened and widened form, the Dodge Challenger.
Contrary to popular belief, the LX platform is not derived from a Daimler design, but is instead an updated version of the Chrysler LH platform which had been tweaked to accept Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class suspension components, as well as rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive power trains.
Eleven years ago, a small group of Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 owners in Southern California got together to create the first annual Spring Festival of LXs, a celebration of all the vehicles that share this V8-friendly, rear wheel drive Mopar architecture.
Between the bargain performance of the R/T Scat Pack and the absurd awesomeness of the Hellcat models, the SRT 392 is something of an unloved middle child. That's kind of a shame because it has a number of advantages over the SP cars without a significant bump in price, including six-piston Brembo brakes, the Hellcat's three-way adaptive suspension, forged wheels, enhanced performance pages in the Uconnect system, and a number of other worthwhile upgrades. I also dig the unique powdercoated aluminum wheel color - hopefully that'll become an option on the Hellcat models eventually as well.
Initially compromised of just a few dozen cars, the LX Fest has grown exponentially over the years. It now attracts well over a thousand diehard LX owners to the show, many of whom have added their own personal touches to their rides in order to give them a custom, one-off vibe. Years ago, the folks at Chrysler caught wind of the LX Fest and began supporting the show in various capacities. FCA does this not only to meet these Mopar devotees, but to get a sense of the trends that enthusiasts have been gravitating toward too, and that research has helped to shape the evolution of the platform over the years.
Behind The Wheel
Similar to our Scat Pack drive at last year’s LX Fest, for the 2016 show the folks from FCA brought with them a handful of new LX-based offerings to give enthusiasts a look at what’s coming for the platform and to give us (the handful of journalist invited to attend) some seat time in the new hardware.
The first cars that caught our attention was a pair of Mopars painted in Go Mango orange. Although these two examples were of the SXT variety, FCA tells us the shade will initially be available on Hellcat models and will trickle down to the rest of the Challenger and Charger lineup later.
While the Go Mango models that FCA showed off were SXT models, we're told that the Hellcat cars will be the first available with the heritage paint option, while the rest of the trim packages will get the option later on.
This heritage color joins Dodge’s roster of throwback paint choices, which now include Sublime Green, B5 blue, and Plum Crazy purple, the latter of which we spent some quality time with at an undisclosed location.
Four tires were in fact harmed during this photo shoot.
Chrysler also brought out a new 300 offering with the 300S Alloy Edition. The 300S has always been a model that’s had a focus on style, with 20-inch wheels, premium audio, and a posh leather interior among the list of standard equipment.
This 300 was hard to ignore, it truly stood out in the crowd.
The Alloy Edition takes this a step further, applying a bronze hue to the wheels not unlike the Brass Monkey wheels offered on the SRT-spec Challenger and Charger, along with matching trim, titanium exhaust tips, a body-colored rear ducktail spoiler, performance suspension and uprated brakes.
Taking things a step further here is the inclusion of the Scat Pack Stage 1 Performance Kit on this test car. Not to be confused with the R/T Scat Pack models mentioned earlier, this is a dealer-installed package of performance parts directly from Mopar Performance that are now on offer to provide more performance tuning options for owners of 5.7-liter V8 models, specifically in the realm of engine output and sound.
Referred to simply as the Stage 1 kit on the 300 models, this includes a performance cat-back exhaust system, cold air intake, an ECU tuner and a performance oil filter. It tacks on about 25 more ponies to the 5.7-liter’s 363 horsepower while also improving the engine’s soundtrack substantially without raising the volume high enough to be obnoxious.
There are also Stage 2 and Stage 3 kits available, which dig deeper into the mechanicals, going as far as swapping the camshaft and porting the cylinder heads. But oddly enough, these higher tier kits aren’t emissions certified, which means that if you live in a state with smog laws you wouldn’t be able to legally operate a car with either of these kits installed. Here in California that makes these kits essentially a non-starter, and performance enthusiasts will have to make do with the Stage 1 offering.
Adding a cold air intake by itself won’t do much for engine output, though you will get more induction sound from the motor. This isn’t because the CAI doesn’t breath better, it’s because the stock ECU will simply dial things back to normal automatically. To get a real performance benefit from a CAI on these motors you’ll need to use an ECU tune that’s calibrated for a cold air intake system alongside it, which is included in the Stage 1 kit.
Speaking of Mopar Performance, their reps were also in attendance at this year’s LX Fest, and they brought along a Charger and a 300 that featured a wide array of Mopar Performance’s catalog parts, including their coilover suspension kit, bigger wheels, police package brake system, and various aesthetic tweaks. Unfortunately these two weren’t available for media drives, probably because the FCA reps were rightly worried that the first journalist behind the wheel would proceed to tear the front fascia off at the first steep driveway they encountered.
Yes, we’d have to find a way to entertain ourselves with a selection of Hellcat, Scat Pack, and SRT 392 options. Hey, it’s tough work, but we do what we can.
This pair of Mopar Performance-modified cars had a laundry list of MP catalog parts, but sadly weren't available for us to drive.
2016 doesn’t bring anything in the way of mechanical updates to the LX cars, but beyond the new options packages and paint choices, there are a few tweaks worth mentioning.
For 2016, this 900 watt stereo now sounds like a 900 watt stereo instead of a boombox glued to the instrument panel.
For instance, those with a 2015 model who’ve noticed their Harman Kardon premium audio system seemed a bit lacking should head on into their dealership and inquire about the audio amplifier and Uconnect system updates that have been rolled out since last year. After pairing my phone in a 2016 Challenger SRT Hellcat, I immediately noticed a significant difference between this stereo and the one in the 2015 model I spent a substantial amount of time in last year, even with the audio EQ settings flattened out.
While the hardware remains the same, the software updates appear to address the stereo’s lack of bottom-end presence and low volume, and some quick research on LX forums seems to indicate that owners who switched from a 2015 to a 2016 model have noticed this as well. So if you’re got a 2015 Challenger, Charger or 300 with that Harman Kardon setup, do yourself a favor and head over to the dealership and get these updates – it’s like an entirely different audio system.
There’s no doubt that the LX platform has a devout following, and part of it is due to the fact that Ford and GM have essentially abandoned the idea of full sized, rear-wheel drive sedans and coupes in this price range. But there’s a rumor going around that in a few years’ time, the LX architecture will be put out to pasture and replaced by augmented versions of the platform that the upcoming Alfa Romeo Giulia rides on. The result will likely be a smaller and substantially different 300, Charger and Challenger if they do indeed adopt that Italian architecture.
There’s a logic to it considering where the industry is headed, particularly in terms of weight savings and chassis rigidity, but you can’t help but wonder if that’s what all these Mopar fanatics at LX Fest are really looking for in their next Mopar. For enthusiasts, their ride of choice comes from the heart as much as the head, and the visual presence of these big, square-shouldered bruisers is a huge part of their appeal – as is their capacity for passengers, cargo, and housing 700 horsepower engines. What the future holds may be uncertain, but we’re hoping that FCA continues to give these folks something to look forward to at many LX Fests down the line.