What’s Next For Dodge?


As we learned the unfortunate news about Dodge killing off the Viper, it’s hard not to feel some sense of sadness. The Viper is a serious piece of Americana, a car that rivaled much of Europe’s best, at a much lower cost. The latest Viper ACR dominated virtually everything on multiple race tracks, setting several records along the way. If we’re honest, the Viper was an American hero, a General Patton of the car world. I know that I hate to see it go, because in my opinion, it’s dying long before it’s time.


Sadly, lackluster sales performance haven’t made a great case for continuing production of the Viper. Add in increasingly harsh emissions standards, and it is almost hard to understand how it’s lived for so long. With more enthusiasts claiming they want more “hardcore” cars like the E46 M3 CSL, it’s also hard to understand why more people weren’t buying it. 640 horsepower from an 8.4 liter V10, naturally aspirated nostalgic power delivery, gorgeous exterior appearance, in my opinion if the Viper was sold by anyone but Dodge, sales would have been far higher.


I say this because Dodge has been the target of negative press in terms of poor quality and brand image lately. Justifying over $80,000 dollars for a Dodge product seems irrational to many. In my opinion, any time you are spending that much money, badge appeal isn’t what I’m looking for, I want the most car for my money. Sadly, that obviously was not the case for everybody. In lieu of that, the American legend has to die.


Luckily, Dodge has some pretty incredible cars that still exist in their lineup, and I’m about to make a compelling case on why they’re dominating the American market in terms of performance.


The Demon


Ah yes, the Demon. It would be impossible to talk about the current Dodge lineup without discussing the Demon. You see, we have to say goodbye to the savage track weapon that is the Viper, and we say hello to the brutal Dodge Demon. To put it into context, the Demon is literally unrivaled. I truthfully believe it will remain unrivaled for quite some time.


Ford has the Cobra Jet Mustang, and Chevrolet has the COPO Camaro, both of those cars are capable of mind boggling acceleration, but neither of them can legally drive on public roads. Additionally, neither of them have any sort of warranty. This is where the Demon starts to flex it muscles, and earn the hatred of Ford and Chevrolet fans everywhere.


What we know as of right now is this:

  • At least 840 horsepower on 100 octane fuel
  • At least 800 horsepower on 93 octane fuel
  • The engine block, crankshaft, pistons, rods and bearings are all entirely bespoke to the Demon
  • The cylinder heads are also bespoke and CNC designed
  • The torque converter is redesigned, as is the differential and axles
  • Launch control allows at least 540 pound feet of torque from a launch
  • The options you would want to add, they cost $1
  • First production car equipped with drag radials, first production car to run a nine second quarter mile, as certified by the NHRA


That’s a pretty serious list of accolades, considering nobody else is even remotely close to that from a production vehicle. What really makes the Demon special however is the fact that all of this performance is available with a factory warranty. Yes, that’s right, a factory nine second quarter mile monster capable of pulling a wheelie is also backed by a full warranty.


Before you chime in and say something to the effect of “it can’t corner, who cares”, I’d rebuttal, “no shit” it doesn’t handle well. Dodge actually redesigned the entire suspension to be slightly softer for wicked launches, and let’s be completely honest here, they aren’t marketing this car in that way. This is not a huge trade secret, the Demon is heavy and riding on drag rubber, of course it doesn’t handle. It doesn’t need to.


I’ll add this, the muscle car era was a very special time in automotive history. There was a no holds barred free for all going on for quite some time, monstrous engines with insane horsepower figures were being stuffed into anything that would take them. America ate it up, embraced it, and earned a cult like following. Nobody gave a shit about handling or “road manners” because a 454 cubic inch V8 placed over the front axles isn’t exactly a great recipe for handling, and this is no different.


Whether you’re a Ford fanatic, Chevrolet Fanatic, or whatever it is you like, I think we can all agree that the Demon is a win for everybody that likes American cars. I say this as someone that generally doesn’t like American cars. Embrace it, because the facts don’t lie, and the Demon is the car to beat now.


The Hellcat


We haven’t forgot about the Hellcat Challenger and Charger yet, have we? Of course not! Unless you’re living in a remote cave, you know the Hellcat duo as the cars that dominated everything else before the Demon set the bar even higher. Following the same classic muscle car recipe, the Hellcats quickly became a household name. 707 brutal horsepower from a 6.2 liter Hemi V8, topped off with a glorious positive displacement supercharger, and if you bought the Challenger version you could even control all of that power through a Tremec six speed manual. Has there ever been anything more American than that?


Of course, the duo faced heavy criticism almost immediately. Weighing over 4,000 pounds, they became the target of thousands of internet memes. Still yet, Dodge had challenged the status quo, and raised the bar on what was possible from a production car. In today’s strict emission controlled world, generating power from any large engine, while still managing to meet emissions standards is commendable. BMW even downsized and turbocharged everything they make, solely because of this.


Yet Dodge said “hell no” and stick a middle finger to the EPA. They had managed to take a large port injected (instead of cleaner direct injection) Hemi V8 and stuck a supercharger on top of it. My question is, why aren’t we all embracing this harder? This is a push in the right direction, kind of a last stand, if you will.


We already know the Hellcat is immensely powerful, but it did have an Achilles heel. For reasons unknown, Dodge decided a 275 width tire would be up to the task of taming that level of power, and it wasn’t. Because of this little issue, hellcats were embarrassing themselves at the drag strip and losing races to much slower opponents. Embarrassing, yes. End of the world? No.


Quickly, Hellcat owners fitted the cars with larger drag radials and turned out some blistering fast ten second quarter mile passes. Heavy or not, there’s no denying how impressive that really is. With a few basic modifications, we’ve seen plenty of these same cars cracking the nine second range.


So in conclusion, the heavy weight and undersized tires are detrimental to the Hellcats, sure. However, for $700 you too can fit some drag rubber to a stock car and kick ass as the strip. At the end of the day, Dodge had the most powerful car going, that was of course until they beat themselves with the Demon.


The SCAT Pack Cars


Like the Hellcat, the SCAT pack comes in two flavors, the Charger and Challenger. Additionally the Challenger comes available with a Tremec six speed manual, and the Charger comes standard with the Torqueflite automatic. To be clever, Dodge basically took a standard RT model, and stuffed a large 6.4 liter Hemi in place of the anemic 5.7 Hemi.


485 horsepower, 0-60 in the low four second range, all available from the mid $40,000 range makes the SCAT pack an intelligent choice. The Camaro and mustang both come with less power, and smaller engines. Of course, both cars are lighter as well. Nonetheless, the more brutal SCAT pack take a different approach.


Chevrolet has streamlined the new Camaro much more than the comeback model it replaces, and the S550 Mustang has a “love it or hate it” touring car look. The Challenger looks very similar to the legendary 1970 Challenger and offers a genuinely retro look, with modernization where it needs to be. The Charger of course is very modernized and the Charger models of yesteryear never came in sedan form. With that being said, if you need a four door car for your needs, the Charger SCAT offers so much for the money.


We already know neither of them handle particularly well, but they both offer Bilstein suspension and Brembo four piston braking systems at all four corners, and optional lightweight forged wheels. The RT model with options can easily run past the cost of a lightly optioned SCAT model. My close friend owns a lightly optioned SCAT Challenger for example, and it came right in on the $45,000 mark.


Retro styling, premium braking and suspension, and a large V8 engine with a glorious voice, what more could one ask for? The interior is a pretty decent place to spend time as well. The large infotainment system runs the easy to use and intuitive uConnect interface, optional Nappa leather and Alcantara seating surfaces, you can get leather everywhere for an additional cost.


Taking all of this into consideration, the current performance cars that Dodge has on the market offers some serious performance for a rather reasonable amount of money.


So What’s Next?


That’s what I think so many of us want to know, with the impressive Challenger and Charger offerings, where do we go from here? Is it reasonable to think the upcoming GT500 will top the Demon? Will a future Camaro top the Demon?


The real question is, will they even top the Hellcat? Will Dodge yet again raise the bar? What’s going to replace the viper? I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts on this subject!

Dodge Challenger SCAT Pack Review


There are so many incredible cars to be had under $50,000 it has become almost overwhelming to try and find the best bang for your buck. Admittedly, I have personally driven many vehicles that fall right into this exact category, and I believe I’m about to make a compelling case for a particularly overlooked car.

Ladies and gentleman, the 2016 Dodge Challenger SCAT pack is a serious contender. Now, before you start digging up memes and going on a tirade of weight jokes, just hear me out. I was given the opportunity to drive a beautiful and well optioned SCAT, equipped with a six speed manual transmission. To be very honest, I too was completely skeptical.

I had driven a 2012 Challenger RT when it was brand new, also equipped with a six speed manual transmission, and I couldn’t have been more disappointed if I tried. For those of you not well educated on Dodge products, let me fill you in. The RT Challenger featured a 5.7 liter HEMI engine, good for 376 horsepower, and a 0-60 in about five and a half seconds. That’s not exactly terrible, nor is it exactly impressive. The problem is, the Challenger is a fat car. Weighing well over 4,000 pounds does not make a great case for performance whatsoever.

The 2012 felt numb to me, the steering was completely lifeless, the shifter was about as rubbery as a two dollar steak, and the brakes weren’t exactly great either. So, why is the SCAT pack so much better? It’s simple, everything has been changed to make the car far better. The engine is now a 6.4 liter 392 HEMI, making 485 horsepower. Transmitting this power is a masterpiece of a TREMEC six speed manual as previously mentioned. Clamping force comes from four piston Brembo brakes at all four corners. There’s a myriad of driver selectable parameters via the infotainment system, controlled by a button cleverly labled “Super Track Pak” which gives control over the engine, steering, suspension and launch control.

The particular Challenger I drove had featured some beautiful Nappa leather seats with suede center inserts, which were certainly grippy and extremely comfortable. Plastics in the interior have a rather nice feel, soft touch textures in place of traditional Dodge hard plastics. The center stack is surrounded by a stitched leather surface, which truly adds a touch of unexpected class. Honestly though, none of this matters at all. Sure, the interior of the Challenger SCAT is a pretty nice place to spend time, but it’s a far better driving device. After all, you aren’t buying one of these to keep up with luxury trends.

Press the engine start button, and you’re immediately greeted with a voracious exhaust note. Even at idle, the exhaust is beyond intoxicating. Going into the previously discussed driver options, you see sport settings for everything from steering, to traction control. I elected to set the steering in sport mode, as well as the engine, suspension, and put the traction into sport mode as well. Electing to turn the traction control from full to sport allows just enough slip to be thoroughly entertaining, but not quite enough to imitate a Mustang leaving cars and coffee.

Upon sliding the beautifully designed shifter into first, you almost immediately notice that the clutch is so easy to modulate, that your wife may just let you buy this car without killing you in your sleep. Seriously, this is by far one of the easiest clutches I’ve ever operated. Once the car is moving, prepare to be taken aside by just how incredible the shifter is to use, the throws are extremely short, and the action is very crisp and deliberate. I will venture to say that it is one of the best transmissions I have ever had the joy of shifting, and I have driven every generation of Porsche 911 after the 993. That’s some seriously high praise.

The real magic happens when you press the skinny pedal, and the heavy battleship takes off with some insane authority. 0-60 times are said to be right at four and a half seconds, and I believe that to be conservative. Despite weighing as much as a Orca Whale, the SCAT moves out without fuss. Through first gear, there’s a pretty nice amount of wheelspin, quickly grab second gear and the wheelspin ensues. Upon sliding into third, the traction light stops flashing, and the torque gives you some insight as to how a cannon ball must feel after being fired. You may think I’m exaggerating, but the power figures simply do not lie. The 392 has a way of delivering torque so well, that it seems as if the powerband never really starts or ends. It just keeps going, and going, and never thinks about stopping.

While you’re lost in the moment, coming past 100 miles per hour in what seems like the blink of an eye, you can’t help but love that beautiful exhaust note. The HEMI projects its’ voice very well, and is capable of giving small children nightmares for nights on end. When it becomes time to slow down, the Challenger does that at an even more stellar pace than it accelerated. The Brembo brakes show zero signs of weakness, and subduing the heavy Mopar is extremely easy. Brake fade was nonexistent upon my test, and I most definitely put the car though some abuse. It should come as no surprise that the brake pedal was rock solid, and offered a very nice and confidence inspiring feel.

Steering was better than I would have expected, most electric power steering racks are dull and boring, that’s not to say this was any different. Still lacking the true feedback of a hydraulic system, it wasn’t terrible. This was the area I found to be disappointing, only because the SCAT pack automatically gives the Challenger some Eagle F1 tires. With rubber of that caliber, I expect much more from my steering wheel. I’m not bashing it completely, but it is a weak point. Still yet, the suspension carries the weight of the Dodge very well. Handling was without a doubt better than I thought it was going to be, and I found myself attacking some highway off-ramps and truly enjoying what the car was doing. Obviously, no Challenger is going to be a corner carver in stock form, but the handling isn’t uninspiring, it actually becomes playful and confident as you get used to the weight of the vehicle.

I’m used to driving my 2300 pound Nissan as a daily driver, so almost doubling the weight for the Challenger becomes a new adjustment. With that being said, I came into this drive fully aware of what the car can and can’t do. What I didn’t expect, was to come away from this drive wanting to own this car. The truth is, I have been brutally hard on the Challenger ever since the day I drove the RT. I have always loved the exterior beauty, and let’s be honest, it is the most visually appealing of the group. The Camaro is beautiful, assuming you are blind in both eyes. The S550 Mustang is sporty, aggressive, and a step away from the traditional Mustang formula, and I do love that about it. However, the face lifted and redesigned Challenger is a work of art. The new grille design, the new LED tail light design, it all pays homage to the iconic 1970 Challenger, which is forever going to be one of the best looking classics. The 2016 model is everything I would expect from a vehicle at this price level. Wide, low, and retro, easy on the eyes is an understatement.

So, in conclusion, I will say this. If you think the basic RT is anything like the SCAT pack, you couldn’t be more wrong. Saying these two cars are anything alike, is a lot like saying that an iPhone 7 is like a vintage rotary phone, sure they both make phone calls, but that’s exactly where the similarities end. The SCAT pack takes all the shortcomings of the basic RT, and allows the car to become a finely tuned weapon. If you find yourself wanting to buy a weekend toy that is capable of being a comfortable daily driver should the need arise, do not discount the Challenger. Offering luxury, performance, beauty, and a reasonable sticker price, the decision starts to become an easy one.