Guilty Pleasure: Driving Dodge's 2019 Challenger Lineup


Story by Tim Suddard • Photos Courtesy Dodge, Track Map Courtesy Club Motorsports

Nobody needs a nearly 800-horsepower muscle car to commute to work in the morning. Still, Dodge thinks you just might want one. In fact, Dodge has a whole line of new muscle cars ranging from the nearly practical to the totally ridiculous.

Introducing the Challenger Lineup For 2019

Introducing the Challenger Lineup for 2019

Dodge claims the SXT is America's lowest-price muscle car at just $27,295. Adequately powered by a 305-horsepower Pentastar V6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission, the SXT is a nice driving, riding, and looking car. We spent a week in one last year and found it to be a very nice cruiser.

Next up in the Challenger lineup is an industry first: the all-wheel-drive SXT and the more highly optioned GT model. These cars are still powered by the six-cylinder engine. Dodge personnel credit the Challenger's increased sales, especially where it snows, to the Challenger's available all-wheel-drive.

From there, Dodge amps things up a bit with the R/T. This car features a normally aspirated 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that is rated at 375 horsepower.

While another R/T model named the 1320 is aimed at grassroots drag racers, the model that really interests us is the R/T Scat Pack.

Still normally aspirated, this model is priced under $40,000 and geared squarely for the track-day market. A Tremec six-speed manual is standard, while an eight-speed automatic is optional.

With 485 horsepower on tap, this is a fast muscle car. While a bit pricey at $60,000, the optional widebody package includes seriously tough-looking flares, larger 305/35ZR20 tires mounted on 11" wide wheels, and six-piston 15.4" front and 13.8" rear Brembo disc brakes.

This package also includes SRT-tuned Bilstein cockpit-adjustable shocks and sport-tuned suspension. For the serious track rat, a rear seat delete is also on the option list.

From here, things get a bit crazy. The 717-horsepower, supercharged Hellcat in the widebody or narrow body configurations starts at $58,650 (plus the $1,700 Gas Guzzler tax) and can be ordered with the six-speed manual transmission.

The ultimate Challenger is the new Hellcat Redeye. Using a slightly detuned version of last year's 840-horsepower Demon engine, this insanely fast car is rated at 797 horsepower and 707 lb.-ft. of torque.

Available only with an automatic transmission, this 4,400-pound street car is said to reach 60 mph in just 3.4 seconds and turn quarter-mile times in the 10.8 second range. The price tag, considering the staggering amount of power and performance, is a rather reasonable $69,650 (plus the $1,700 GGT).

Driving These Cars On The Street

What is shocking is not how fast these cars are on the track, but how civilized they are on the street. We drove the R/T Track Pack and Hellcat Redeye versions on the rather marginal roads of Maine and New Hampshire.

The Redeye was a bit jiggly on the street, but the R/T was as comfortable as any other car its size. Surprisingly, in normal, spirited driving, you don't really notice or need the extra 200+ horsepower the Redeye provides. Apparently, when something is already overpowered, more doesn't really change things much.

In the corners, you can feel the 4,400-pound weight of the Redeye. The R/T is a couple of hundred pounds lighter, and that weight difference is more noticeable on back roads than the Redeye's extra power. Part of the reason is that the Redeye's extra 200 pounds is mostly on the nose of the car in the form of the supercharger and its plumbing.

Still, both cars get around corners amazingly well considering their heft. SRT lead suspension engineer Erich Heuschele and his team have done an incredible job working with Bilstein and other suspension partners in taming the Challenger chassis. If Erich's name rings a bell, it is because in his younger days he was quite the SCCA racer, chalking up many wins in Dodge Neons.

The R/T we drove was equipped with the delightful Tremec six-speed manual transmission. The lower gears are steep for breathtaking acceleration, while the top two gears are geared toward fuel economy. Because of this gearing, any passing done in fifth or sixth gear needs to be measured, as the acceleration is not as quick as you might expect. Drop the R/T into fourth and you can pass as many cars as you like as fast as you like.

Of course, this comment on passing was made after driving the Redeye. With 797 horsepower under your foot when driving the Redeye, every time you nail it to pass someone you cannot help but scream in glee and fear.

Driving These Cars On Track

After driving the rather rough, crowded backroads from Portland, Maine, to Tamworth, New Hampshire, we were treated to an afternoon at America's newest motorsports country club: Club Motorsports.

This track features perfectly smooth, new asphalt and what we were told is 250 feet of elevation change. The first half of the track is very like a hill-climb event.

While the hill portion of the track seems the perfect environment to test these cars' mettle, the question was would the second half, which is mostly downhill and hard on brakes, expose this portly duo's proverbial Achilles heel?

Again, surprisingly not so much. While the R/T and the Redeye especially tore through the hill-climb portion of the track like a kid tears through gift wrap on Christmas morning, this pair handled the downhill braking and curves with nearly equal aplomb.

Sure, you can tell that these cars weigh nearly twice as much as a Miata, but honestly, they make really fun, high-horsepower track cars.

In widebody form, there is so much tire and wheel under these cars, especially with some nannies left in place, that they were easy to drive fast.

Turn in is crisp. Brake dive is minimal, and corner exit is easy to control with any common-sense use of the throttle.

And of course, the short straight is where the Redeye really shines. We saw speeds approaching 130 mph before having to stomp on the confidence-inspiring Brembos to negotiate a rather tight left-hander.

While we are not sure the cars we used were equipped with stock brake pads, we saw no signs of brake fade despite our repeated lapping of this brake-heavy track.

So, Do I Want One Of These?

As our story's title suggests, the Challenger is a guilty pleasure, and yes, you should want one. These cars are bad-ass, especially in the widebody form that looks like an old Trans Am race car.

They are fast as hell, especially in V8 form, and they ride and drive as comfortably as a Camry in all but Hellcat trim.

From a fuel mileage standpoint, you might be better off with that Camry, but in six-speed R/T form, you can expect 15-20 mpg in town and a bit better on the highway.

Compared to anything from Germany, the Challengers are reasonably priced and presumably easily and inexpensively serviced anywhere in America.

While the Hellcat and Hellcat Redeye will garner all the media attention and be the ones to talk about at work or at the club, the one you probably really want is the R/T Scat Pack Widebody.

This car is everyday drivable, priced well under $50,000, and has 485 horsepower and tremendous brakes. And if you can afford the consumables (20" tires are much more expensive than 15" Miata tires), you could have a whole lot of guilty pleasure with this one. We know because we sure had one beautiful summer afternoon at Club Motorsports.

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Duke
Duke MegaDork
8/16/18 12:21 p.m.

404 error on the linky.

Donebrokeit
Donebrokeit SuperDork
8/16/18 12:49 p.m.

Link broken.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
8/16/18 1:08 p.m.

Link works for me. 

I'm still blown away that square 305's is a thing. On a muscle car. 

APEowner
APEowner Dork
8/16/18 1:13 p.m.

Apparently this is a special article just for mazduce.  I get a 404 error as well.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
8/16/18 1:16 p.m.

The internet gods want me to drive these cars on track, obviously. Call me Tim, I'm available. 

Duke
Duke MegaDork
8/16/18 1:27 p.m.

Link works now, but there seems to be some model name details missing from this section:

While another R/T model named the 1320 is aimed at grassroots drag racers, the model that really interests us is the R/T Scat Pack.

Still normally aspirated, this Tremec six-speed manual (eight-speed automatic optional) model is priced under $40,000 and geared squarely for the track-day market.

With 485 horsepower on tap, this is a fast muscle car. While a bit pricey at $60,000, the optional widebody package includes seriously tough-looking flares, larger 305/35ZR20 tires mounted on 11" wide wheels, and six-piston 15.4" front and 13.8" Brembo disc brakes.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Digital Experience Director
8/16/18 1:38 p.m.

In reply to Duke :

I think what you're seeing is that Tim skipped writing about the 1320–it's not the one we're interested in.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
8/16/18 1:39 p.m.

That intro section needs some serious cleanup.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
8/16/18 1:54 p.m.

Now if they could just figure out how to include all wheel drive in an R/T six speed car....

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
8/16/18 1:55 p.m.

And on their website it says 250ft of elevation change, not 700.

http://clubmotorsports.com/course

"On hundreds of rolling wooded acres with breathtaking views, we’ve built a heart-pounding ribbon through the woods: 15 turns over 2.5 miles with an elevation change of 250 feet. The road course is over 40 feet wide with a mix of long straightaways and left and right turns both uphill and downhill. It is designed to provide a thrilling driving experience, yet built with safety as the top priority."

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Digital Experience Director
8/16/18 2:06 p.m.

Sorry about that, z31. I fixed the elevation number. Seems like the PR rep told Tim the accumulated elevation change (up, then down, then up, etc.) instead of the total elevation change. Sorry it was unclear. 

 

NickD
NickD UberDork
8/16/18 3:04 p.m.

Other OEs: "We need more hybrid and EVs, and maybe a crossover or two."

Dodge: "We need more Challenger variants. And what else can we jam the Hellcat motor in?"

DjGreggieP
DjGreggieP Reader
8/16/18 3:05 p.m.

This is just making the want for a new Challenger worse... Maybe before the end of the summer I should see if I can get a test drive in one somewhere that isn't the entry level or a hellcat...

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
8/16/18 3:23 p.m.

At 4400lbs the CTS-V Wagon was an absolute blast on track and that was with "only" 556hp and 275 width tires. I read the article again and they still sound fun.

BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim MegaDork
8/16/18 3:51 p.m.
stuart in mn said:

Now if they could just figure out how to include all wheel drive in an R/T six speed car....

I'd probably make a beeline for the nearest Dodge dealer if they did figure that out.

I've driven a few R/Ts and V6s as rental cars. They're now the first car I check for when arriving at the rental lineup .

bigdaddylee82
bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
8/16/18 3:52 p.m.

I hadn't paid these much attention, for the most part all I see are SXTs, but what a coincidence that y'all posted this today.  I got passed by a unique Challenger this morning, it got my attention, and I even went to Dodge's website to look it up.

It was a F8 Green, 392, T/A, looked just like this one:

Man do I love that color!

I don't know what's wrong with me, I got a new '18 Hemi Ram Tradesman 4x4 Crew Cab work truck back in March, to replace my trusty '14 Silverado W/T.  I fully expected to hate the Ram, but other than the stupid shifter knob, it's bested the Silverado in just about every way.

Now I'm looking at Challengers?!?!?!?

I need help!!!

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
8/16/18 5:04 p.m.

I LOVE how the Challengers look. 

But can't get over how most of them are severely under-tired for their HP and weight. 

At $60k a GT350 or something other than a Challenger. 

Driven5
Driven5 SuperDork
8/16/18 5:13 p.m.
Tim Suddard said:
Dodge claims the SXT is America's lowest-price muscle car at just $27,295. 

Well, yeah...When you apparently have America's ONLY 'muscle car', you can tack "est" onto the end of pretty much any adjective to describe it.

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe UberDork
8/16/18 5:31 p.m.
Tim Suddard said:
 

Nobody needs a nearly 800-horsepower muscle car to commute to work in the morning.

Yes I do.

Its how I show my manhood and love of the environment. 

T.J.
T.J. MegaDork
8/16/18 6:44 p.m.

In reply to wearymicrobe :

Loving the environment could mean you want to see as much as you can in the time you have, so these apply. 

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
8/16/18 6:49 p.m.

Nice Mercedes!

Strizzo
Strizzo PowerDork
8/16/18 10:03 p.m.
Tom Suddard said:

In reply to Duke :

I think what you're seeing is that Tim skipped writing about the 1320–it's not the one we're interested in.

Yeah, but is the R/T scat pack normally aspirated and priced under 40k, or 485hp and pricey at 60k? 

TRoglodyte
TRoglodyte UltraDork
8/16/18 10:12 p.m.
wearymicrobe said:
Tim Suddard said:
 

Nobody needs a nearly 800-horsepower muscle car to commute to work in the morning.

Yes I do.

Its how I show my manhood and love of the environment. 

Smoke a tire for me or two goodsir, and when you want an SRT to replace that furd... 

Driven5
Driven5 SuperDork
8/16/18 11:13 p.m.

In reply to Strizzo :

I think they might be saying adding the wide body to the 'scat pack' is a $20k option...Maybe. I'm also not clear on where the 'track pack' they drove slots in the lineup, as I don't see it in their list of trims/options.

Strizzo
Strizzo PowerDork
8/16/18 11:30 p.m.

In reply to Driven5 :

looks like you can get the hellcat in "standard" or widebody, the latter of which comes with the aforementioned brembo 6-piston calipers, 305/35R20 tires, and fender flares that widen the car 3.5"

NickD
NickD UberDork
8/17/18 5:32 a.m.

Its interesting how Dodge chases more of an emotion than outright performance numbers. When Motor Trend did a Head2Head of the Hellcat Widebody with the Camaro ZL1, they repeatedly said that while the ZL1 was superior in every performance metric, they just keep thinking about the Hellcat even while driving the ZL1

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
8/17/18 10:25 a.m.

One of the reasons I love the high-po Challengers is because they are real cars.  

You can see out of them, you can put real humans in the back seat, and they are comfortable to drive daily.  The same can't be said for the GT350, or the any Camaro.   Yes, both of those cars will murder any Challenger on track, but they aren't any more fun--- they just turn better lap times.  

For day to day practicality, I'll take a widebody Hellcat (6-speed) over a Mustang or Camaro all day long.  

 

DrBoost
DrBoost MegaDork
8/17/18 10:34 a.m.
NickD said:

Its interesting how Dodge chases more of an emotion than outright performance numbers. When Motor Trend did a Head2Head of the Hellcat Widebody with the Camaro ZL1, they repeatedly said that while the ZL1 was superior in every performance metric, they just keep thinking about the Hellcat even while driving the ZL1

That's a HUGE statement right there. While the numbers aren't as good as the ugly Camero, the Challenger makes you keep thinking about it. In a good way.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
8/17/18 10:36 a.m.
NickD said:

Its interesting how Dodge chases more of an emotion than outright performance numbers. When Motor Trend did a Head2Head of the Hellcat Widebody with the Camaro ZL1, they repeatedly said that while the ZL1 was superior in every performance metric, they just keep thinking about the Hellcat even while driving the ZL1

No doubt, something like this (because I doubt I'll get to the track much at if all) makes my naught bits tingly. It's a tad low, and the wheel fitment a bit extreme, but man.

NickD
NickD UberDork
8/17/18 10:47 a.m.
DrBoost said:
NickD said:

Its interesting how Dodge chases more of an emotion than outright performance numbers. When Motor Trend did a Head2Head of the Hellcat Widebody with the Camaro ZL1, they repeatedly said that while the ZL1 was superior in every performance metric, they just keep thinking about the Hellcat even while driving the ZL1

That's a HUGE statement right there. While the numbers aren't as good as the ugly Camero, the Challenger makes you keep thinking about it. In a good way.

And I think people seem to confuse the fact that just because the Hellcat is not the best-handling car, does not mean it is a terrible-handling car. There's a big distinction there. It may give up a few numbers to the competition and not be as razor-sharp but it's not torsion-bars-and-leaf-springs-with-4-wheel-brakes bad like people make it out to be

Driven5
Driven5 SuperDork
8/17/18 11:44 a.m.
Strizzo said:

In reply to Driven5 :

looks like you can get the hellcat in "standard" or widebody, the latter of which comes with the aforementioned brembo 6-piston calipers, 305/35R20 tires, and fender flares that widen the car 3.5"

Yes, that too. But as written above the Hellcat portion, the article appears to (maybe) be talking about both a $40k 485hp R/T 'scat patk' and a $60k 485hp R/T 'scat pack' (track pack?) widebody with all the go-faster trimmings...Basically a widebody Hellcat, just without the hellcat engine?

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
8/17/18 12:19 p.m.
NickD said:
DrBoost said:
NickD said:

Its interesting how Dodge chases more of an emotion than outright performance numbers. When Motor Trend did a Head2Head of the Hellcat Widebody with the Camaro ZL1, they repeatedly said that while the ZL1 was superior in every performance metric, they just keep thinking about the Hellcat even while driving the ZL1

That's a HUGE statement right there. While the numbers aren't as good as the ugly Camero, the Challenger makes you keep thinking about it. In a good way.

And I think people seem to confuse the fact that just because the Hellcat is not the best-handling car, does not mean it is a terrible-handling car. There's a big distinction there. It may give up a few numbers to the competition and not be as razor-sharp but it's not torsion-bars-and-leaf-springs-with-4-wheel-brakes bad like people make it out to be

I've driven the Hellcat Widebody on track and it's a hoot!  They are way more competent than some folks think.  Yes they are heavy, but a bazillioin horsepowers and great brakes can make up for a lot!  To me, they really are the ultimate muscle car.  Not sports car.... muscle car.  

Driven5
Driven5 SuperDork
8/17/18 12:29 p.m.

From the sound of it, I might actually go so far as to call the widebody trim(s) pro-touring cars rather than just muscle cars.

NickD
NickD UberDork
8/17/18 12:37 p.m.
Joe Gearin said:
NickD said:
DrBoost said:
NickD said:

Its interesting how Dodge chases more of an emotion than outright performance numbers. When Motor Trend did a Head2Head of the Hellcat Widebody with the Camaro ZL1, they repeatedly said that while the ZL1 was superior in every performance metric, they just keep thinking about the Hellcat even while driving the ZL1

That's a HUGE statement right there. While the numbers aren't as good as the ugly Camero, the Challenger makes you keep thinking about it. In a good way.

And I think people seem to confuse the fact that just because the Hellcat is not the best-handling car, does not mean it is a terrible-handling car. There's a big distinction there. It may give up a few numbers to the competition and not be as razor-sharp but it's not torsion-bars-and-leaf-springs-with-4-wheel-brakes bad like people make it out to be

I've driven the Hellcat Widebody on track and it's a hoot!  They are way more competent than some folks think.  Yes they are heavy, but a bazillioin horsepowers and great brakes can make up for a lot!  To me, they really are the ultimate muscle car.  Not sports car.... muscle car.  

That was exactly how Johnny Lieberman and Jethro Bovingdon put it "The Camaro ZL1 is a sports car, the Hellcat Widebody is the perfected musclecar"

 

I still want to take a Hellcat (widebody or not) to a local autocross and just blaze the tires for the entire run and likely kill every cone in sight.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
8/17/18 2:49 p.m.

"That was exactly how Johnny Lieberman and Jethro Bovingdon put it"

 

Can't say I know who either of those guys are.....but if they agreed with me, they must be geniuses!  :)

 

 

NickD
NickD UberDork
8/17/18 2:57 p.m.
Joe Gearin said:

"That was exactly how Johnny Lieberman and Jethro Bovingdon put it"

 

Can't say I know who either of those guys are.....but if they agreed with me, they must be geniuses!  :)

 

 

Jethro Bovingdon most recently drove a Mercedes AMG GT GT4 at the 24 Hours Of Nurburgring and did quite well, so that's good company to have the same opinion as

yupididit
yupididit UltraDork
8/17/18 7:00 p.m.

Other than the widebody versions. I can't tell a 2010 challenger from a 2018 lol

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe UberDork
8/17/18 7:10 p.m.
TRoglodyte said:
wearymicrobe said:
Tim Suddard said:
 

Nobody needs a nearly 800-horsepower muscle car to commute to work in the morning.

Yes I do.

Its how I show my manhood and love of the environment. 

Smoke a tire for me or two goodsir, and when you want an SRT to replace that furd... 

Still has the SRT just in ACR form. I buy my dodges used.

I really like the 392 stripper in the widebody. Not sure I could swing the 6K it costs but it makes me think about a used one a few years from now.

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