Last year, Dodge released the Demon. It was a monster of a car, and the company let us drive it at the drag strip to get the full experience. That car was just a limited run. There are no more Demons being made, but Dodge wasn’t going to let the success of its SRT-crafted beast go to waste. So, for the 2019 model year, it took what it’d learned from the Demon and spread it around the Challenger lineup. Dodge improved performance and gave the Challenger evolutionary updates that help keep it modern and interesting.
Dodge invited us out to Portland, Maine, to test its new iteration of Challenger both on the road and on the track. We were able to get up close and personal with two new high-performance versions of the car. The R/T Scat Pack Widebody, and the new Hellcat Redeye. Read on to see what we thought of Dodge's new muscle car.
How the Challenger Lineup Breaks Down for 2019
Dodge started our day of driving with a presentation running us through the changes for the new model year. The lineup for the Challenger has some new additions to address different areas of the market. The Challenger lineup starts with its V6 models -- SXT and GT. For 2019 there will be rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive SXT and GT models. The GT version of the car is supposed to be the performance-leaning V6 Challenger. It gets some performance upgrades over the SXT, including better suspension, steering, wheels, seats, and hood and body. Those changes are commensurate with what's on the standard R/T model.
For those who know six cylinders isn’t enough, Dodge offers plenty of V8 Challengers. The first is the regular R/T. The 2019 R/T gets Dodge’s 5.7-liter V8 that’s good for 375 hp and 410 lb-ft of torque. From there, you can upgrade to the R/T Scat Pack which gets a 6.4-liter V8 that makes 485 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. For 2019 Dodge now offers the R/T Scat Pack Widebody, which takes the fender flares from the Hellcat Widebody and brings them to the R/T trim.
An additional R/T Scat Pack variation includes the R/T Scat Pack 1320. This drag-racing focused car was named after the distance of a quarter mile (1,320 feet). It features a drag-racing tuned TorqueFlight eight-speed automatic transmission, Adaptive Damping Suspension with Drag Mode, Line Lock, TransBrake, Torque Reserve, and 41-spline half shafts (the Hellcat and R/T Scat Pack have many of these features as well). It can run an 11.7-second quarter mile at 117 mph. The car is the fastest naturally aspirated, street-legal muscle car on sale today. It’s meant to be a blank slate for any serious drag racer who missed out on the Demon.
Next up is the standard SRT Hellcat. The Hellcat is the same high-powered muscle car it’s always been, but for 2019 it gets Dodge’s new functional dual-snorkel hood. This new intake helps the massive supercharged V8 breathe a little better, and it bumps the power up to 717 hp and 656 lb-ft of torque.
New for 2019 the SRT Hellcat Redeye is the car we were the most excited to drive. The idea behind this car is that the Hellcat has become possessed by the Demon. The car features the Demon's supercharged V8 engine with some adjustments. It makes 797 hp and 707 lb-ft of torque. This makes it good for a 0-60 time of 3.4 seconds, and it can do a quarter mile in 10.8 seconds at 131 mph. Its widebody construction gives it plenty of grip on the pavement, and its adaptive suspension helps the car be one of the most killer muscle cars you can buy today.
Stylish, Muscular, Modern, and Comfortable
As far as how the 2019 Challenger looks inside and out, not much has changed. Dodge does an excellent job of staying true to the model’s heritage with retro styling. Even the new additions like the dual-snorkel hood on the Hellcat models are both a look forward and a nod to past Mopar hoods. The widebody fender flares are a modern touch, but they help stretch the look of the Challenger out. We prefer the look of the widebody cars, though it can make them a little unwieldy on super-tight roads (it adds 3.5-inches to the car's overall width).
Inside, you get an attractive blend of modern technology and retro-styled accouterments. The gauges have an old-school feel, and there’s a simplicity to the dash that’s not found in many other modern cars. The Challenger just looks good. Add in the leather sports seats from the top trim levels, and you have a very attractive cabin that’s also just about as comfy as any two-door muscle car gets.
In the center of the dash sits FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system. This system is excellent and features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, and Navigation on an 8.4-inch touchscreen display. In the performance models, you also access things like launch control, line lock, and settings for suspension, steering, and traction within the system.
Big Car, Big Power, Big Fun
We drove both the R/T Scat Pack Widebody and the SRT Hellcat Redeye on the road and on the racetrack. Dodge had us drive from Portland, Maine, to Club Motorsports in Tamworth, New Hampshire. On the road, the R/T Scat Pack Widebody feels large and powerful. It’s planted in the corners and easy to control, even when you get on it. The HEMI V8’s rumble is a constant reminder of what kind of power is on tap, but the sound isn’t so loud or harsh that it annoys you.
The SRT Hellcat Redeye is a similar kind of beast on the road. It feels heavier and a little slower in the corners, but overall it’s a very similar experience. Our main complaint with the Hellcat Redeye is that you can’t exploit the engine’s power on the road. There’s simply so much there waiting to be tapped, and you can’t put your foot down without reaching speeds that would get you arrested. It’s a monster of a vehicle.
On the track is where you can really let the R/T Scat Pack Widebody and SRT Hellcat Redeye come to life. In Hellcat Redeye form, the weight of the large car is definitely felt in the corners, but the suspension handles things better than we thought. The car leans in turns, but it has more grip than we expected. You can genuinely hammer this car around a racetrack. Again, there’s so much power that you have to be careful going in and coming out of corners, but once you make the maneuver the thrust from the supercharged V8 is absolutely thrilling.
The R/T Scat Pack Widebody feels lighter and more nimble. It’s a little easier to control and you can really put the car where you want it as opposed to just trying to stay on top of the Hellcat Redeye. There’s less power in the Scat Pack, of course, but on if you plan on driving on a technical racetrack or a twisty canyon road, we’d recommend going with the Scat Pack instead of the Redeye. You’ll get plenty of power with a little more maneuverability. Still, either car will feed your need for speed. Just make sure to tap into what these cars have to offer responsibly.
The Best Challenger Yet
It’s somewhat surprising that Dodge keeps managing to make the Challenger better. The car’s bones date all the way back to 2008. That’s a decade the vehicle’s been on the road. We’re not complaining. It’s a testament to how good the car originally was when it came out. The fact that Dodge and the guys at SRT are still able to extract more from this third-generation platform is awesome. We loved driving the Demon and last year’s versions of the Challenger, but we’re happy to say the 2019 model is the best yet, no matter what trim level you buy.
Pricing for the Challenger keeps with Dodge’s tradition of affordability. The SXT starts at $27,295. If you want a V8 Challenger, you’re looking at $34,100 in the standard R/T trim level. Jump up to the Scat Pack and you’ll get stuck paying $38,995. The Hellcat comes in at $58,650, affordable for what it is, and the Hellcat Redeye starts at $69,650. Pricey, but when you think of what you’re getting, it’s a reasonable price.