2015 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack, 2015 Dodge Challenger range, 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T, engine. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Brendan McAleer
Driving a lime-green muscle car is a public service. Seriously, you might think this five metre-long showboat is just the kind of narcissistic nonsense that currently plagues the modern world, but it’s not. As we wind down through the Columbia Gorge, the 6.4L V8 grumbling away softly underhood, every single person who caught sight of it immediately started grinning like an idiot.
Portland, Oregon, is best-known for beer, bicycles, doughnuts, and weirdos. I’m not being facetious either, that’s practically the official slogan from their tourism board. It’s a city full of bridges that get as clogged as a coronary come rush hour, with streets narrowed by bike lines and hipsters – hipsters as far as the eye can see.
Well, enjoy my artisanal, hand-crafted burnout you tattooed fedora-enthusiasts. It’s the hit single from a band called My Right Foot, and you’ve probably never heard of it. And it’s not to be taken ironically either.
I kid, of course, because believe it or not, the Challenger engenders no such antisocial tendencies. This is a cruiser and a bruiser, the kind of car where you roll down the window to listen to the rumble instead of obsessing over Nürburgring lap times. It requires a bit of a sense of humour, a love of old school ethos, and an iPod full of AC/DC. Needless to say, I loved the hell out of it.
Refreshed for 2015, the entire Challenger lineup gets a sort of elephant-strength botox to take some of the flab out of the previous design. Up front, a newly lowered hood lip (Chrysler calls this a brow) now curls over the quad headlights, and the grille sports split rings in the manner of the 1971 Challenger. The face seems to glower from the four LED rings, but not in an overaggressive way. If anything, it reminds me of the old E39 BMW 5-series – and just look at how well those aged.
There’s a new front splitter for R/T and up models that visually lowers the Challenger, but the V6 model without it looks even more faithfully like the 1970s original. From the side, visual mass is reduced a bit by available striping packages, with wheel sizes running from 18-inch on the base SXT V6 models to an immediate jump to 20-inch alloys on everything else. Wheel width varies from 8-inch on the cosmetic-package wheels to 9-inch on the Scat Pack and 9.5 on the SRT 392.
Out back, designers have added in some black plastic to draw the Challenger earthwards, but it’s the single angle that’s still not quite right when you see the car on the road. Credit this to the fact that while the new car is within a cat’s whisker of the width of the original, it’s 120mm taller. In the lighter colours, it looks fine. In black, it’s just massive.
Happily, the Challenger’s sizable dimensions give it both a presence on the road, and plenty of space inside. While I klonged my head off the sunroof when wearing a helmet on the track, mostly there was plenty of room in the cabin with an upright driving position. It’s a tank, but as we squeezed out of the city, scraping wasn’t an issue. That’s the view up front – the three-quarter blind spots are huge, so set your mirrors right, and blessed be the standard backup camera otherwise you’d be squashing pedestrians and scuffing lampposts seven days a week.
The car we used for the first portion of the morning’s drive was a 6.4L Scat Pack, decked out on its flanks with the madly grinning little yellow-and-black mascot from the old Super Bee. Power for the big stove option is here a healthy 485hp @ 6,000 rpm and 475 lb-ft @ 4,200. Other engine options in the range include the 305 hp V6, which is actually rather sprightly, and the 375 hp 5.7L V8, your bargain V8 bruiser.
2015 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
The Scat Pack designation means you get the 6.4L sledgehammer, Brembo four-piston front brakes, a beefed up suspension, rack-mounted adjustable-effort power steering, wider alloys and grippier tires, and adjustable driver settings as part of the Uconnect system. The optional appearance package with which this car was fitted includes matte-look aluminium wheels, blacked-out grille surround, and a bumble bee stripe on the rear.
There’s a choice of transmissions, with the Challenger getting the excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox that made the SRT Grand Cherokee such a surprisingly economical highway warrior. Of course, this being a lime-green muscle car, there’s also a six-speed manual gearbox, which loses the pistol-grip shifter this year.
The eight-speed’s a far better fit for a cruising machine, but with an engine this big in a car this colossal, the stick just adds a sense of occasion. It’s like heel-and-toeing in a Sherman tank.