By on June 10, 2021

2021 Challenger R:T Scat

Long-time readers of this site (thanks, both of you) will recall the Ace of Base series of posts, natterings in which we ruminated on the state of a particular model and its entry-level trim. Thanks to a myriad of reasons, we’re morphing this concept into a new product for your eyeballs called The Right Spec. This time around, we’ll be teasing out what we think is the best spec of a given vehicle – we hope it generates some comments. Knowing you, the BnB, it surely will.

Also, I’d be remiss not to thank Tim for inviting me to scribe these digital words; my byline has popped up on TTAC for the better part of a decade, attached to no fewer than 875 posts in that amount of time, including 118 of those infernal commerce items that keep the lights on around here. Thanks for enduring those necessities, by the way.

All of which brings us neatly to our first stab at The Right Spec. Horsepower is an intoxicating drug, one generally taken in large and sometimes frightening doses by gearheads around the planet. When the almighty Hellcat variants started popping out of Detroit, there was plenty of ink spilled about them and the novelty of buying a 700+ horsepower machine with a factory warranty right off the showroom floor. These are glorious times.

But $59,570 (the base sticker price of a 2021 Challenger SRT Hellcat) is a lot of money, to say nothing of the $80,170 being charged for the psychotic Challenger Super Stock. Surely there’s a better spec – the right spec – somewhere in the mix?

2021 Challenger R:T Scat

We’ll direct your attention to the $40,645 R/T Scat Pack. While the supercharged 6.2L Hellcat engine gets all the press, the 392 Hemi V8 makes all the right sounds and cranks out a not-inconsiderable 485 horsepower. It’s paired as standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, which is an option one should select with great haste. Lest you think I’m blindly advocating to save the manuals, this is the same transmission equipped in my own V8 Challenger lurking in the garage.

Dodge is one of the few manufacturers on this planet with the stones to offer interesting paint choices, and it chooses to name them accordingly. As a bonus, none of them are extra-charge items on the R/T Scat. Your author will select the TorRed shown here because he is an irritating extrovert, though even muted tones have awesome names like Smoke Show and White Knuckle.

2021 Challenger R:T Scat

The $2,595 Shaker package is a tasty option, permitting the 392 to push a snorkel through Challenger’s hood like a rising submarine. There’s always an argument amongst Mopar types as to whether this feature actually improves performance but there’s no denying its cool factor – especially when paired with a manual transmission. Watching the scoop twitch with throttle inputs and gear changes is a visual treat that never gets old.

Skip items like navigation, extra stereo speakers, and upgraded seats on a Challenger. In terms of the latter, Dodge installs Barcaloungers no matter what upholstery you select, meaning it’s just as well to stick with the base houndstooth. The so-called Technology Group is a similar waste of money on a manual-equipped car, though the $1,295 Driver Convenience Group is worth it for the blind spot monitoring since over-the-shoulder visibility is equal to that of a tank.

Even without any of those options, the R/T Scat Pack represents a car priced at about 2/3rds of a Hellcat but providing way more than 2/3rds of the fun. We’re calling it The Right Spec. What’s your take?

Please note the prices listed here are in American dollars and currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less. Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.

[Images: Dodge]

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33 Comments on “The Right Spec: 2021 Dodge Challenger...”


  • avatar
    Syke

    While your Ace of Base series was always a good read, I’m glad you’re replacing it with this. The best performance sweet spot is invariably a bare bones auto built up with carefully chosen options. And you’ve definitely hit the good package in your first try. Top of the line engines in American cars were invariably for the drag strip, not some scenario when the driver is expected to move the steering wheel in both directions, usually done in rapid motion. This appears to be a more balanced automobile.

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      To be clear, not every car featured will be a performance car. That said, of course we will take a vehicle’s mission/use case into account as we spec them out.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Your spec is a little too Bommerific for me.

    -Scat Pack Narrow body
    -8A
    -Torred
    -Dynamics Package
    -Alpine stereo
    -Driver Convience Group (Gives nicer headlights and blindspot monitoring)
    -Adaptive suspension

    Total in 2021 high prices: $47.9K

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    @Matthew:

    Love it! FYI, you can also copy and paste the URL for your build into the story so everyone can drool over your creation.

    Personally, I’d definitely add the nicer stereo and a sunroof, and the Dynamics Package.

    (Sorry if this URL comes out convoluted – I don’t know how to use the “tinyurl” thing…)

    https://www.dodge.com/bmo.challenger.2020.html#/build/exterior/30301/CUD202103LADX22A/2DG/APA,PVP,X9,ESH,DEC,TW8,WRV,HD,AJV,ACN,AZS,ATL,XSP,GWA,UAS,23G,DPM,3EJ

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Make mine sans the black rims and I’d take it

  • avatar
    Tim Healey

    @FreedMike I too like sunroofs and nicer stereos.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Awesome idea for a series.

    Lately I’ve noticed dealers advertising and encouraging special orders. In the past it was like requesting unanesthetized dental extractions.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Agreed!
    Just right price and performance. Get them before they re gone.

    I used to love late 60s GTO and Chevelle SS.
    BUT.
    Better performance, safety, quality and comfort reside in these Challengers.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The right spec on one of these is to go to the Ford dealer and buy a Mustang instead. I just can’t with the styling of this car. It was kind of interesting right at the debut but then had a very short shelf life, and now all it says to me is “I’M ON ROIDS AND IMMA BEAT YO A$S IF YOU LOOK AT ME WRONG.”

    If you allowed me to put a paper bag on it, I suppose it would be a narrowbody Scat Pack in anonymous silver with a stick and H/K audio, nav, a sunroof, the Brembo brake package, and the Tech and Convenience groups. The lip spoiler would come off as soon as I could get it to the body shop to fill the holes.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      The Challenger has charms that go beyond the bully-boy looks (which we’re going to have agree to disagree on – I’ve always liked the Challenger’s styling). The Dodge is bigger, yes, but that also means it’s easier to get in and out of, and it has a decent back seat and plenty of usable trunk space. And the 392’s exhaust note is beyond sexy.

      Having said, that…yeah, I’d take a Mustang too.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Yea, I’d have to +3 on the Mustang GT.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        In late 2019 I purchased a leftover 2018 Challenger GT awd in slate gray with option packages and the sunroof. It was an on the lot internet special for $28k which was $10k off sticker. At the time I was pricing out Mustangs but couldn’t find one on dealers lots to my liking and didn’t want to order one and wait. A premium package Ecoboost was going for $33-35k.
        I had rented a Challenger R/T Hemi from Hertz a few summers ago on vacation and was pleasantly impressed with it. I also rented a Charger SXT a couple of years ago which was more than ok.
        The Challenger more than meets my needs since it has enough room for the occasional passengers and the large trunk swallows up cargo. Last weekend I was moving some pieces of art, some of them fairly long wall sized and it handled them with the rear seat down with no issues.
        If I ordered one today I’d get a SXT or GT with the larger 20” wheel package and a few options or an R/T shaker.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The back seat is a real thing, but if that matters to you then the right move is to buy a Charger instead of a Challenger. (Or, better yet, a 300S, unless you want the 6.4.) I’m glad someone likes the styling of the Chally to counter the depths of my hate for it.

        • 0 avatar
          nrd515

          I counter your view as I pretty much hate the looks of the Mustang. Never really got the appeal of them, even going back to the first ones, and the current one looks bizarre to me, but much better than the horror show that the Camaro is now. As soon as I saw the concept for the Challenger I knew if they built it, I would have one. I am a 2 time Challenger owner, a ’10 R/T in Hemi Orange, and an ’18 Scatpack in TorRed. I liked my first one a lot, and I love the second one.

          Mine has pretty much everything except the technology package and sunroof(Never). The HK stereo is disappointing(I liked the one in my old car better, after I replaced the dash speakers), but the heated steering wheel keeps my hands from hurting all winter. I don’t use the back seat since my dogs checked out, but I do use the trunk, all the time. The Mustang fails on that alone.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            “much better than the horror show that the Camaro is now”

            Will no one rise to defend the stylistic triumph which is the modern Camaro? Anyone? Bueller?

            Speaking of Bueller: Note the education process depicted here (from ~1986) and then realize that these students today are the perfect age to be Barra and Farley’s direct reports:
            https://youtu.be/uhiCFdWeQfA

            Interesting factoid – U.S. sales [since 2000]:
            • Challenger peaked in 2018
            • Camaro peaked in 2011
            • Mustang peaked in 2000

            https://carsalesbase.com/us-dodge-challenger/

            https://carsalesbase.com/us-chevrolet-camaro/

            http://www.cjponyparts.com/resources/mustang-sales-throughout-years

    • 0 avatar
      MitchConner

      As the owner of both a 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT and 2017 Mustang GT convertible — all I can say is your mental projecting is impressive.

      Both cars are impressive in their own ways. Neither deserve the childish thought pattern you display.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    If the Harmon Kardon sound system shares anything with the one in the Viper, it’s an absolute must buy. Best stereo in any vehicle I’ve ever owned.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I’d take an Ace of Base Challenger as a replacement for the now-defunct two-door full-sized American car. No stripes. No scoops and spoilers.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I spent some time building myself one on a number of occasions over the last year or two.

    For me:
    392 aka Scat Pack (but after driving a “run of the mill” R/T Charger a few months back I feel like that would be enough power – but I’m thinking resale will look more favorably on the 392)
    Indigo Blue
    Dynamics Package
    Plus Package
    -Red/black alcantara interior
    -also includes Driver Confidence Group
    Manual
    Adaptive Dampening Suspension

    $48,420+++

    I’d like the Shaker hood but I can’t justify the extra cost.

    And it’s funny, this time last year this was priced on the website at ~$400/mo for a lease. Now $518/mo

  • avatar
    kkop

    Sold my (Header Orange) R/T last year and really, really miss it. Had already been surfing for a replacement and agree that R/T Scat Pack is a sweet spot:
    – 6MT
    – Shaker
    – Widebody

    That’s all I need – in ‘HellRaisin’ this time (what an awesome name)

    I _would_ immediately drive it to an upholstery shop though, and get rid of the cloth seats – the only thing I didn’t like about my previous Challenger.

    Oh, and source the pistol-grip shifter somewhere – looks so much better than the current golf ball.

  • avatar
    Dan

    There are no bad Challengers.

    Make mine the base Scat Pack in white, or maybe Frostbite, with the automatic and the +2 radio upgrade. Take idiotic dubs off, put bright 18×9 five spokes on, call it a day.

    Sadly nobody makes a 275/50R18 but 255/55s are everywhere and that’s not terribly far off.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    You left out one important line: 16/24. Premium.
    I had a very enjoyable week in one of these and ever since have kind of ached for one. And maybe someday will get one.
    But, still. That mileage. It was hellaciously thirsty.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Eh I go for a regular old R/T V8 manual with one of the uplevel stereo packages and the handling package that gives you a little bit fatter sway bar and a little bit lower ride height. Usually I can get that one in under $35K on the configuration tool.

    But I’m a cheap ba$tard.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Usually I can get that one in under $35K on the configuration tool. ”

      Don’t I wish that was still the case. At least on my zip code an R/T with only the performance handling package and the Alpine Stereo (which requires an additional package for the 8.4in screen) came to $39.5K. That’s still not terrible but like you said incentives used to make that a $35K car.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        I had, and enjoyed, a ’10 R/T for almost 7 years. When it came time to think about a replacement, it was going to be a 392. Once I drove a friend’s car with one back in ’12, there was no being happy with the 5.7 any more.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    I would get the widebody, leather and sunroof. Last time I spec’d one out it was $58k new with the manual. Found a B5 blue for $42K slightly used.

    Gotta pay the minivan off first. We got that in the limited package for the better sound insulation and it comes with the glass roof. It only has one option, the tow package.

  • avatar
    MitchConner

    I’ve got a 2017 SRT. Octane Red. Hellcat wheels. 392. Brembos. Black Laguna leather. 8 speed auto. Nav. HK stereo. Driver Convenience Group. It’s a wonderful car. Got it after my Dad’s lease was up for $12K under current market value because chip shortage.

    Unfortunately, you can’t get the leather outside of the Hellcat anymore. If you could, I’d get the same car but with the widebody kit and 11 inch wide Hellcat wheels. Guessing it’d sticker out around $50Kish.

    Might pick up the wheels and flares and bolt them on some day but don’t have the time to futz with that now.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    Why does any body need a vehicle that will go super duper fast in the low seconds? Nobody, that’s who. I go to a lot of car shows and the Challenger group all come in at the same time. The arrogance of them is outrageous. They think they’re special (they’re not).

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      As if Challenger owners are the only ones who drive like morons at car shows. Look at all the videos of Mustang drivers crashing their cars.

      Better a quick car than a slow one.

  • avatar
    kscott

    Must-haves (without these, a vehicle effectively doesn’t exist):
    • EPA city rating of at least 18 MPG
    • Either FWD or AWD (for high-performance, AWD is required; otherwise, either is fine)
    • Body style must not be ugly (among other things, this eliminates vehicles with an excessively high beltline)
    • Cruise control
    • Driver armrests must be positioned so that the wheel can be held at normal 9:00 3:00 positions with my elbows reaching the armrests. In 2017 when I was shopping for cars, the entire Honda and Mazda car lineups failed this test and got written off. The Ford Focus also failed this test, and that failure unfortunately included the RS.
    • A/C
    • The dash vents must be located so that in the winter, they can blow warm air on the driver’s fingers (both hands). Almost all cars pass this test.
    • Power windows & locks
    • Driver’s seat with tilt adjustment for the base
    • A spare tire of some sort
    • Tire sidewall height must be no less than on previous cars I’ve owned.
    • Important controls needed while driving must be physical knobs/switches that can be located by feel, without taking my eyes off the road.
    • Cargo area must be able to hold either a bicycle or an 88-note keyboard (i.e. foldable rear seat)
    • Interior color not black
    • Exterior color not black

    Highly desired:
    • Cloth upholstery (if it isn’t cloth from the factory, this can be fixed by a seat-cover shop as I had done with my 2017 Fusion; it’s just an extra expense)
    • Manual climate controls (in the past, I’ve written off some car models from consideration when they had auto climate control as the only choice)
    • No sunroof (I prefer less complexity/weight, although adequate headroom is an absolute requirement)
    • Seats with adjustable thigh supports (it’s puzzling why this feature is so uncommon)
    • Remote start

    Must not have:
    • Excessive cameras and electronic driver aids

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I agree with most of your list, with a few exceptions:

      I don’t drive enough miles to really care about fuel economy at this point.
      Must be RWD or AWD, not FWD, ever.
      Don’t care about a spare tire, that’s what AAA is for.
      Interior MUST be dark grey or black. Never a color, and FFS, never tan/brown.
      Exterior color must never be Silver, grey, black, white, dark green, or any weak color.
      Heated seats and wheel are a must.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I was cool with the R/T 5.7 manual. Got the 8 inch screen, sunroof and a decent stereo. It was fun to drive, but not fun to drive slow. But this is a good spec. If I were doing it again id ditch the roof and add the bigger motor and the blind spot detectors…this car has some blind spots.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    All that stuff in the truck bed fits in my Honda Pilot just fine with the third row seat folded. With second row seat folded, it passes for a compact pickup, with a roof.

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