On the Road Review: Dodge Charger Scat Pack



Growing up, my best friend was fortunate enough to have a 1970 Charger R/T with the Magnum 440 engine and triple two-barrel carbs. Blue with a black vinyl roof, that Charger was a wicked fast car that was essentially a one-trick pony; it did not corner real well, and applying the brakes at supersonic speeds generated a real pucker factor in the nether regions — if you know what I mean.

Given that my father had seen fit to bestow me with a Saab 96 for daily driving, equipped with a British-Leyland V-4 and a four-speed-on-the-tree, you might well imagine that I reveled in the time spent in that Charger.

Those memories are recalled after another Charger experience, an all too fast week with the newest Charger, the R/T Scat Pack.

Looking at the Scat Pack, you sense many of the styling highlights made to the performance Chargers for 2015. Gone are the silly gun-sight bars in the front grille, replaced by an open face meant to swallow lots of air, complemented by a big hood scoop. This aggressive face proved to be helpful when charging up the highway, suggesting to left-lane bandits (at least those that occasionally use their rear view mirrors) that they should move right so swifter traffic can pass. With brilliant LED daytime running lamps, the Charger Scat Pack has a menacing look for sure.

This new look is featured on R/T, SRT and Hellcat versions of the Charger, while SE and SXT models continue with a thinner version of the crosshair grille used for several years. With the Scat Pack edition, Dodge now has four Chargers running three different Hemi engines.

Leaving this year’s annual NEMPA event in Kennebunkport, the Scat Pack soon became dubbed “Son of Hellcat,” our recent Challenger muscle car that embarrasses all others. The Scat Pack has many of the same features (virtues?) as the Hellcat; demonstrative Hemi V-8, balanced ride and drive dynamics, explosive exhaust note, composed performance as a daily driver. Like other 2015 Chargers, the Scat Pack also has new features inside, such as an excellent Beats Audio system with an in-trunk sub-woofer, or safety pieces such as laser cruise, lane departure and cross-path warning systems, as well as rear parking assist and new Wi-Fi hot-spot accessibility. As you can see, this Charger is no one-trick pony.

Equipped with a version of the eight-speed automatic that will be used in all Chargers now — V-6 or V-8 powered — the Scat Pack has steering wheel paddles and console-mounted slots for manual shift action by the driver. Thankfully, the Charger’s computer brain is smarter than the operator(s), as selecting downshifts when you should be pulling the upshift paddle, or pulling the console shifter for the next gear, is an act not completed, saving the engine (and the tranny) from the devastating results should you be so stupid when operating at redline. The rev-limiter cuts power, you recognize your error, perform the correct function, and the Hemi responds with another burst of power with the proper gear — usually with the Pirellis in search of traction, again.

Executed as designed, the Charger Scat Pack romps forward with a rip-snorting bellow from the dual-mode exhaust system, out-accelerating Camaro SS and Mustang GT but with room for four real adults, a trunk load of gear, and the balanced ride of a sedan perched atop a lengthy 120-inch wheelbase.

Tap the brake pedal to arrest any hyper velocities, and the huge Brembo brakes haul the Scat Pack down in a hurry. Pedal feel is precise, fade-free, and part of an ergonomically correct layout that lets everyone feel at ease behind the wheel of the four-door sedan. With supportive suede sport seats (heated and cooled here for your driving pleasure) the Charger’s driving position is more upright than you might expect — affording excellent vision and long-haul comfort.

If you watch any ESPN or Velocity TV, you probably have seen several of the recent Dodge commercials featuring the irreverent Dodge Brothers’ take on car performance. The most recent is the Morse code ad campaign featuring this car — the Scat Pack — messaging viewers, “I’d rather walk than drive your car.” After only a few days in the Scat Pack, I was feeling the same way.

This Charger is about so much more than the bodacious 6.4-liter, 485-hp Hemi engine, or the raucous exhaust note that you play on demand with your right foot. This four-door combines driving aids, performance, comfort and versatility into a package that no one else offers. The trunk is huge, 16 cubic feet — plenty of room for golf clubs, traveling gear for four, or larger items with the split-folding rear seats. Rear seat passengers loved the space and the comfort available to them, with heating elements too. In addition, anybody up front loved the usability of the U-Connect system, with its large color screen’s simple graphics and concise options. Dodge, and Chrysler, are doing the best job right now with organizing this entertainment/information space, making is accessible, and making it easy to manipulate while driving. Chevy’s MyLink is getting close, but the U-Connect system — with efficient steering wheel controls — rules this race.

For context, Ford’s Taurus SHO used to be a Charger rival. That car is heavy, plodding and slow compared to the Scat Pack — and crowded feeling. Only Chevy’s limited production SS sedan is comparable to the Scat Pack, but the Chevy is down 70 hp even though it is 300 pounds lighter. Certainly, there is no Avalon model that approaches this level of performance, nor any Buick — the only other full-size sedans in this class price and size-wise other than the Charger’s sibling Chrysler 300C. You have to step up and spend-up tens of thousands of dollars, to find German sedans with the grace, power and speed of the Charger Scat Pack.

Therein lies some of the Charger’s irony; this platform was developed 10 years ago when Chrysler was teamed with Daimler Benz and the E-class sedan was the foundation for this car. Pretty durable design one would have to conclude.

The Scat Pack’s base list price is $39,995 plus destination fee, about $12,000 more than a stock Charger SE with the V-6 engine. You can still buy a “regular” R/T model ($33,595) with the 370-hp 5.7-liter Hemi engine (with optional AWD for $2,000 more) plus the SRT/392 lists for around $45,000. The Hellcat Charger, with 707 supercharged Hemi horsepower, starts at $62,000. FCA/Chrysler is working on Hellcat models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee once engine production reaches demand levels.

Charger sales have edged up slightly this year, while doubling most rival full-size sedans that are seeing shrinking marketshares. The performance versions of the Charger, and the halo effect that cars such as the Scat Pack create, can only be good for Dodge (and Chrysler) as the brand reasserts its identity. Buyers are noticing; the Charger leads the full-size sedan segment in the J.D. Power APPEAL survey (Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout) for the fifth straight year.

This was affirmed when I exited the Scat Pack one day. The gentleman I parked next to ogled the Charger for a long time. He then climbed out of his car and proclaimed, “that is one bad-a—Charger.” After our week together, I cannot find anything that would argue that point.

Charger Scat Pack comes with the following standard features: high-performance independent suspension, three-mode stability control, 3.09 rear axle ratio, eight-speed automatic with manual sport mode, Parksense rear assist system, Parkview rear camera, 18.5-gallon tank, ready alert braking, keyless ignition, remote starting, 8.4-inch U-Connect screen with Sirius, automatic climate controls, eight-way power driver’s seat, auto-dimming mirror with Bluetooth speaker, reconfigurable instrument cluster, tilt and telescoping steering column, 60/40-split rear seatback, 20-inch polished wheels with Pirelli all-season tires, LED running lamps, LED fog lamps, plus Nappa leather/Alcantara suede sport seats. Options included: heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, memory settings for seats and controls, fold-away power mirrors, illuminated rear cupholders, Beats Audio with 10-speakers and 552-watt amplifier plus HD radio, and navigation. The Scat Pack comes with a five-year/100,000-mile warranty. The engine is built in Mexico, while the car is assembled in Brampton, Ontario. EPA mileage ratings are 15/25/18 mpg.

 

 

 

 

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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