Muscle Cars You Should Know: Dodge Challenger and Charger Scat Pack

mcyskscatpackOfficially launched by the manufacturer in 1968, the Scat Pack – a nod to the Rat Pack, which was a fixture in pop culture at the time – was a group of Dodge vehicles that offered the highest echelons of Mopar performance. The Scat Pack initially included the Charger R/T, Coronet R/T, Coronet SuperBee, Dart GTS, and Dart Swinger 340.

$(KGrHqN,!l8E4vQWe-bfBOWH4fwgKQ~~60_35In 1970, the Scat Pack lineup expanded to include the Challenger and Charger Daytona models, and that same year, Dodge created the Scat Pack Club, hooking its members up with some cool schwag like jacket patches and bumper stickers, along with the Direct Connection catalog, which included Scat Package collections of performance parts.

By 1972, Dodge, along with the rest of the American automotive industry, had begun their change of course away from high performance, but the Scat Pack Club and all that it entailed had clearly left an impression on Mopar enthusiasts.

Dodge has never been shy about reaching back into their rich performance heritage for inspiration, and 2014 would see the return of the Scat Pack moniker as a three stage performance package for Challenger and Charger models equipped with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8, with upgrades spanning from cold air intakes and exhaust systems all the way to performance camshafts and ported cylinder heads.

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack2015 brought a wide range of changes across Chrysler’s LX platform, which underpins both the Charger and, in modified form, the Challenger. Among those changes was the inclusion of a new R/T package. At first glance, the R/T might have been dismissed as a trim package but, as it happens, it could just be the unsung performance hero of the Dodge lineup – the Challenger and Charger R/T Scat Pack models.

With the sheer fervor created when Dodge revealed the details of the Hellcat models, it’s not surprising that the Scat Pack cars took a back seat in terms of notoriety and, in turn, headlines. But at a near 40% discount compared to their Hellcat counterparts, the Scat Pack models make a compelling case for themselves in their own right.

The R/T Scat Pack offers essentially what the SRT Core models did for the 2013-2014 model years, meaning that while these cars do not carry the coveted SRT badging (unless you look under the hood), they do get the four-piston Brembo brakes, beefed up suspension, unique alloys, and other sundry bits you would’ve found on last year’s SRT Core model.

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat PackAdditionally, the R/T Scat Pack cars get the 6.4-liter Hemi V8 from the SRT 392, belting out the same 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque, along with a new performance exhaust system similar to ones used on the SRT 392 and Hellcat models and (on the Challenger) the choice of a Tremec six-speed manual gearbox or the new ZF-derived eight-speed TorqueFlight automatic transmission with paddle shifting. There’s a lot of talking points that can make these car seem compelling, but the one that sticks out to us the most is the fact that they’re currently the most powerful cars you can buy for under $40,000.

Observant horsepower junkies will note that the 6.4 gets a bump for 2015, up 15 horsepower and five pound-feet from last year. Dodge engineers tell us that rather than any mechanical changes to the big Hemi and its internals, the newfound grunt is all courtesy of thoroughly reworked engine management software. The end result is a 392 that feels noticeably more eager this year, and our butt dyno tells us there may be more gains here than the numbers Dodge is suggesting.

Whatever the case may be, a hearty stab at the throttle from a standstill will provide a smoke show that any gearhead would be proud of, and if you’re willing to behave yourself, the automatic-equipped Challenger is capable of 0-60 mph times in the low four second range and quarter mile times in the mid-to-low 12s.

scatpack035While an all-new Camaro SS is forthcoming and the latest Mustang GT will undoubtedly get faster over the next few years, right now, the Challenger Scat Pack is the current king of the stoplight drags among the three.

Settling in behind the wheel of a six-speed manual Challenger, the first thing we noticed is that, like the Hellcat models, the pistol grip shifter supplied on Challengers with three pedals on the floor since 2009 has been replaced with a more traditional cue ball-style unit similar to the one used in the Viper.

The loss of a bit of the Challenger’s unique identity is lamentable, but it was quickly forgiven when we discovered the new unit’s improvements over the former, with a firmer and more precise feel when rowing through the gears, along with the overall sense that we were less likely to miss shifts due to the more natural hand positioning.

Automatic equipped cars feature a Sport mode which alters the shift behaviors of the automatic gearbox, offering both firmer shifts and a sportier shift schedule for those who’d opt to let the gearbox decide when to change cogs on its own. Although not identical to the eight-speed used in the Hellcat models, it shares the same gear ratios with those 707 horsepower beasts, meaning that the automatic-only Charger does not feel lethargic or dull from behind the wheel. When set to full manual operation, it will fire off upshifts and downshifts with urgency similar to some of the best automatics on the market, though they are admittedly a step or two behind the ZF-supplied eight-speed unit used in the Hellcat models, which we would contend is the most well-sorted traditional automatic on the market today.

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat PackWhile the Scat Pack models don’t get the supercar-caliber six-piston Brembo calipers and massive, 15.4 inch front discs from the Hellcat, they do get four-piston Brembo units all the way around with plenty of swept area to work with, a setup which we would consider to be legitimately track-ready. They’re capable of getting the Charger from 60-0 mph in under 120 feet, and can do so repeatedly without noticeable brake fade while maintaining consistent pedal feel. It’s worth noting that if you were buying a top-shelf 2014 SRT Challenger or Charger, the brakes are essentially identical to the ones equipped on these R/T Scat Pack cars.

Handling has long been an item of contention for enthusiasts when it comes to these cars. We’d speculate that most of the people who think that these cars are incapable of taking corners simply haven’t driven them. True, the early Challenger and Charger SE and R/T models were softly sprung for performance duty, and when riding on all-season tires, as many of those cars were, it’s a recipe for both body roll and understeer. But that issue was remedied with the fairly substantial suspension changes that were part of the 2011 model year update, which included revised suspension geometry to go along with beefed-up hardware across the board. Now in 2015 the argument is simply outdated.

scatpack017Outfitted with the optional Goodyear Eagle F1 summer performance tires, along with the lowered springs, beefed up sway bars and Bilstein shocks that are all part of the Scat Pack suspension package, both coupe and sedan grip with tenacity and feel planted in the corners while simultaneously not punishing the occupants when the road gets bumpy. Paired with the new electrically assisted steering rack, which offers three different levels of steering weight, the R/T Scat Pack cars will hold their own on a road course in the right hands. A Porsche Cayman these are not, but if you’re still reading this, you’re probably not in the market for one of those, are you?

2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack707 horsepower steals headlines. Sure, the Hellcat is an absolute riot from the driver’s seat. Truth be told though, with damn-near 500HP and equipped to tackle drag strips, road courses, and daily commutes with confidence, the R/T Scat Pack cars constitute a fairly remarkable performance bargain for the coin. In terms of bragging rights they may have to live in the shadow of the Hellcat, but at just under forty grand for your choice of Challenger or Charger R/T Scat Pack, they also live in the realm of attainability for a much larger group of people, and roasting tires in real world beats daydreaming about it every single time.

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About the author

Bradley Iger

Lover of noisy cars, noisy music, and noisy bulldogs, Brad can often be found flogging something expensive along the twisting tarmac of the Angeles Forest.
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