2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye and R/T 392 Scat Pack First Drive - Different, Yet Still the Same

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
2019 dodge challenger srt hellcat redeye and r t 392 scat pack first drive

I’ve always admired the Dodge Challenger for being very clear about what kind of car it is.

It is not a crossover pretending to have off-road chops. It is not a wagon pretending to be an SUV. It is not a four-door “coupe” that’s really a hatchback.

It’s simply a large American muscle car that offers a V8, loads of available power, and operates as a throwback to an era that existed before most folks younger than Baby Boomer age were born.

In short, it doesn’t mess around.

You know what you’re getting when you step into the Challenger – lots of mass and lots of power. For the 2019 model year, Dodge is sticking with the formula while addressing some long-stand concerns, such as handling. Dodge is also doing some DNA scrambling between the Hellcat and the late, limited-production Demon drag-strip car. All this mad-scientist work in the lab means Dodge has come up with some truly insane numbers.

(Full disclosure: Dodge flew me to Portland, Maine, put me in a nice hotel with media-themed décor, fed me excellent meals (there was lobstah), and gave me several laps in two different versions of the Challenger on a private race track. They offered me a hat, which I did not take).

Some of those insane numbers: 797 horsepower and a 203 mph top speed. Yup, 200 mph from a Dodge Challenger.

That particular Challenger is the SRT Hellcat Redeye, and it also offers 707 lb-ft of torque. That’s the fat cat of the lineup. The “regular” Hellcat now generates 717 horsepower and 656 lb-ft of torque.

The Widebody package made available on the 2018 Hellcat is now available on the Redeye model as well as on the R/T Scat Pack model. Opting for the Widebody package gets you fender flares that adds 3.5 inches, as well as 20-inch wheels measuring 305 mm wide.

Select Widebody for the R/T Scat Pack and you also get stiffer front springs, retuned shocks, and larger front and rear sway bars. The suspension has adaptive damping, the front fascia gets a splitter for cooling, and the rear spoiler is borrowed from the Hellcat. The six-piston Brembo front brake calipers grow larger.

We’ll discuss the R/T Scat Pack a bit later on in this review, along with other changes to the Challenger lineup. Let’s circle back, Dante-style, to the Hellcat Redeye.

The Redeye arrives with the Demon’s 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 under its hood, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The supercharger itself displaces 2.7 liters, boost pressure jumps from 11.6 psi to 14.5, the rev limit is 300 rpm higher at 6,500, and there are now two dual-stage fuel pumps, instead of just one.

Induction is helped along by new dual-snorkel hood (two scoops instead of one), an air intake along the driver-side headlamp, and an inlet near the wheel liner. The Redeye has the same air chillers, high-strength steel prop shafts, and 41-spline half shafts from the Demon, along with the same torque reserve system. Two final drive ratios are available – 2.62:1 or available 3.09:1.

Although there are changes to the “lesser” cars in the lineup, and the dragstrip-focused 1320 is also part of the crew now, Dodge gave us the chance to drive just the Hellcat Redeye and the R/T Scat Pack on track and on road.

On road, I was mostly well behaved with both, in part because of traffic and in part because of a desire to avoid Maine and New Hampshire’s finest officers of the law. That didn’t stop me from digging into the throttle here and there when the coast was clear, especially in the Redeye. Just tickle the throttle and you’re jumping forward with alacrity of the type that can scare passengers who’ve never sat in anything faster than a V6 Camry. You can leave each stop sign with immature tire squeals that induce giggles. All without doing anything to the drive modes or safety nannies.

The exhaust provides a great soundtrack for a drive – screw the radio. Needless to say, highway passes are effortless, except for that part about not overdoing it and finding yourself signing a ticket.

Other than the excess of power on tap and the exhaust note, the on-road experience of driving the Redeye isn’t much different from what came before. The ride is about the same, with the same mix of stiffness and large-car comfort as before, and the car felt composed in corners.

That exhaust note does get tedious at highway cruise speeds, however.

On track, the Redeye handled better than anything carrying that much power and mass (nearly 4,500 pounds for a Redeye Widebody) should, and it felt slightly better than the previous Hellcat. But the track star is the Scat Pack Widebody.

Around a couple hundred pounds lighter (depending on trim) and armed with the performance-tweaked suspension, the Scat Pack is far more responsive in corners than the Redeye. Yes, it offers less power (485 horsepower, 475 lb-ft of torque), but that also means you don’t have to be quite as cautious with the throttle on corner exit.

The track we took the cars to, Club Motorsports in New Hampshire, is a bit technical, with one long straightaway. Both Challengers handled the track well, but the Scat Pack was noticeably more agile, with quicker reactions. The Redeye seems better suited to courses with lots of straightaway between turns (think Road America), but it’s a matter of “good” versus “better” as opposed to “bad” versus “good.”

For some reason, I actually felt more comfortable in the Redeye, even though the Scat Pack was better suited to the job at hand. I don’t know if it was just that I happened to run better lines during my Redeye sessions, or if the car’s power helped me make time in the straight sections after I made a mistake, or if I was just more respectful of its power, thus not upsetting the car by getting on the gas too early upon corner exit. Whatever, maybe I am just weird – at the end of the day, both cars handled better on track than one would expect, given their size or even my most recent track experiences in previous Challengers (including Hellcats).

Dodge arranged things so we’d get plenty of track time (I sacrificed about 30-45 minutes for photos), but my unfamiliarity with the track meant I spent my early laps learning the line. One normally wouldn’t take to an unfamiliar track in a car with 4,500 lbs of mass and nearly 800 horsepower, but the Challenger was easy enough to drive – just be gentle, especially in the Redeye.

I did have a couple of “oops” moments, but nothing that truly worried me. There was one bit of easily corrected oversteer when I goosed the gas too early, and I encountered controllable understeer a time or two after making a mistake with the line or application of gas or brakes. While I am sure that there will be at least one owner who gets in over his/her head and biffs their new toy (and goes viral while doing so), the experienced track driver should be able to handle these cars after a bit of acclimatization.

Both Challengers still have a ways to go to handle as well the more track-focused versions of the Mustang or Camaro, or at least the ones I last drove (it’s been a while).

Just like you could with the Demon, there is a rear-seat delete option for both the Redeye and Scat Pack.

After driving out to the track in a Redeye, I wheeled back to the hotel in a Scat Pack with the six-speed manual – the same car I used for some of the photos you see here. The six-speed remains bulky and notchy yet accurate, with a slightly heavy clutch. That’s unchanged from before.

“Unchanged from before” describes a lot of the Challenger experience. You’ll notice I didn’t bother with interior photos – that’s because it’s mostly the same, with some minor badging and trim differences/changes. The most noticeable difference is the hood – the Redeye has the double hood-scoop look, while the Scat Pack borrows the hood from the previous Hellcat. You know, the aluminum one with the single hood scoop and the heat extractors.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t subtle changes. The basic Hellcat has standard houndstooth cloth seats and several leather and alcantara seat options, and it also has a 200-mph speedometer and flat-bottomed steering wheel. Pop for the Redeye and you get a 220-mph speedometer and Redeye logos appear in key places (such as the key fob itself).

The Hellcat, Hellcat Redeye, and Scat Pack come standard with the usual array of performance drive modes, launch control, line lock, performance pages, and launch assist. Other available features listed on the Monroneys of one or both cars I drove included forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, satellite radio, sunroof, premium audio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, heated front seats, heated and cooled front seats, navigation, Fiat Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system, USB port, Bluetooth, and power tilt/telescope steering wheel.

The stick-shift Scat Pack I drove rang the register at $55,550 (including $1,395 destination and delivery) and the Redeye cost $89,405 including the same destination fee. The Widebody package on each car was $6,000, and selecting the package that turns a Hellcat into a Redeye costs $11,000.

Lest we forget that there are other Challengers in the lineup, the SXT and GT models with rear-wheel drive get a performance suspension and “enhanced” steering, plus the houndstooth cloth seats, a new hood and front splitter, and 20-inch wheels.

There’s also the drag-race oriented Scat Pack 1320 model, which basically uses the drag bits from the Demon while keeping the Scat Pack engine. It only comes with one seat – the passenger seat and rear seat are available as $1 options.

Base pricing across the board works as follows (excluding destination): $27,295 for the SXT, $29,995 for the GT, $30,295 for the SXT AWD, $32,995 for the GT AWD, $34,100 for the R/T, $38,995 for the R/T Scat Pack (the 1320 is a $3,995 package and automatic-transmission-only), $58,650 for the Hellcat, and $69,650 for the Hellcat Redeye. All models have a $1,395 destination and delivery fee, and the manual-trans Scat Pack and both Hellcats get whacked with a gas-guzzler tax: $1,000 on the Scat Pack and $1,700 on the Hellcats.

There’s a certain level of insanity at play here, especially with the Redeye. An insanity we’ve already seen from FCA – a company that also makes Hellcat Chargers and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, and, of course, offered the Demon for public sale. But it’s a focused sort of insanity. Fiat Chrysler isn’t just building these cars because it can, or because there’s a market for them, or because of Dodge’s history, or because the brand has some weird aversion to green cars (there’s nothing stopping FCA from building more hybrids and EVs while also offering cars like this).

It’s building these cars because even in an era where we’re all sensitive (rightly so) to environmental concerns and fuel economy (speaking of which, my drive partner and I saw 21-22 mpg during our road drives), there’s still something magical about a screaming supercharger and horsepower numbers that were once reserved for NASCAR. With some sort of autonomous future possibly awaiting us, it’s nice to jump into a car that has a brute-strength outlook on life – even if yes, that car has an automatic trans and safety nannies that help keep you out of the weeds.

Change is often good, but sometimes, it’s best to keep doing what you’re already doing, and just do it better. That’s what Dodge and FCA have done here.

Neither will make any apologies for it.

[Images © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Aug 09, 2018

    I still wish I could get 6-speed manual with more doors (Charger ScatPack).

  • Krhodes1 Krhodes1 on Aug 12, 2018

    I've had a couple of Hemi Charger R/Ts as rentals lately, and I have to admit, they are silly fun. I can't really wrap my mind around *hundreds* more HP than that though. They drive and ride nicely, though the interior is pretty dire - is the Challenger better? The nicer 300s are actually REALLY nice inside now. I don't think I would ever buy one, but a good time on someone else's dime for sure. When you get on it that motor sounds like an artillery barrage. Though 14mpg (at $4+/gal) driven gently in suburban LA was a tad sobering.

  • Luke42 Manual transmissions are a workaround for the weaknesses of ICE engines.Electric motors don't have these weaknesses, so why reintroduce the workaround?P.S. My first 250k miles were in manual transmission ICE vehicles. I can probably outshift all y'all, and I can definitely drive a manual smoother than some automatics. While I'm proud of my obsolete skills, there's just no reason to pretend I'm driving an obsolete vehicle. An EV should drive like an EV.
  • SCE to AUX Lexus: "Let's add unnecessary complexity to an EV so it is harder to drive and breaks more often. After all, our parent Toyota hates EVs, and is hopelessly late to market with them, so this will be a fun diversion for a while until we figure out how to beat Mazda's sales numbers."
  • Roadscholar I like emotive shifts.
  • Dwford What's next, your blender only spins slow unless you spend $5.99/month for the "Puree Package?"
  • Jeff S We have had so many article about gas wars. A lighter subject on gas wars might be the scene from Blazing Saddles where the cowboys were around the campfire and how their gas contributed to global warming or was it just natural gas.
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