New Car Reviews

First Drive: 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye and R/T Scat Pack 392

Wide-bodied muscle cars offer a great escape

PORTLAND, Maine — Travelers come to Maine to take a break from the daily grind. Situated on the water in the south of the most Northeastern United States, it’s a quaint far cry from the bustle of big city life.

Instead of taking a vacation, what if one could drown out the noise of the present with a V-8 engine, whether naturally aspirated or supercharged? We joined Dodge SRT in New England to sample the newest members of the Challenger clan.

The adventure started with a road trip out of Portland in the 2019 Challenger Hellcat Redeye wearing F8 Green and carbon-design stripes. It’s made to look even more muscular with a swollen dual-snorkel hood that provides meaningful air intake. The configuration was so cool even the woman at a tollbooth complimented the color and then said “Go on!” She indicated with her hands that she wanted us to do a burn out of the station.

Our Redeye tester was incredible on the highway. The engine’s 797-hp and 707 lb-ft of torque feel immense, even compared to the 707-hp and 650 lb-ft of the “regular” Hellcat. I’d had the pleasure of rumbling around West L.A. in the widebody version of the muscle car prior to it being refreshed. I remember it being grippy, theatrical, and capable of ludicrous acceleration. Even with additional ponies under the hood, the mega muscle car can lay down the power without a problem thanks to the optional wider body and bigger tires.

The glorious soundtrack of the 6.2-liter V-8 engine and 2.7-liter supercharger, a detuned version of the one that powers the even more insane Dodge Demon, announced our presence as we wound through New England’s hill country.

Like other SRT products, the Hellcat Redeye has customizable vehicle settings in addition to the selectable Street, Sport, and Track modes. I set my car into Sport mode for nearly everything, save traction control. It set the right balance of athleticism without putting the fear of the heavens in me every time I got on the throttle.

Ensconced in sweet burbles, pops, and overrun noises, the serendipitous distraction from the harsh realities of the world was made even more enjoyable with a road trip playlist featuring the likes of David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and the Electric Light Orchestra playing over the premium sound system. The music sounded full and warm and set the tone for our journey to Club Motorsports in nearby New Hampshire.

After chucking the Redeye through tight forest roads, I danced on track first with the Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 392 before trading up and back to the Hellcat Redeye. Although the Challenger R/T Scat Pack’s engine lacks a supercharger, it still wears a 3.5-inch wider-than-standard body kit and fatter, stickier tires, and uses stiffer front springs to offset the 200-ish pounds it saves compared to its higher-powered brother.

After whipping it around miles of road course, the Scat Pack proved to be a sweetheart in Dodge’s performance car stable. The suspension setup helps the naturally aspirated muscle car to carry speed through corners without any body roll. Its chassis was also stiffer than I expected. As I got more comfortable with the track, I felt like I was able to hoon through the turns with confidence and make the most of the 392 cu-in engine’s 485 hp on more of the track.

I then plunked into the air-conditioned cabin and ventilated seats of the Redeye, a merciful reprieve from Maine’s humidity-choked summer air. The difference between the two pony cars was noticeable the instant I hit the pavement in the hottest Hellcat.

The biggest advantage of driving this car on a track is having a clean conscience when the throttle is opened up all the way. On the road, the Redeye impresses with its theatrics. On the track, the Redeye can fully unleash its capabilities.

Accelerate too early and the back end starts to walk out. However a quick lift off the throttle lets the massive tires hook up again in an instant. The nose dives a bit more as well, but the car is so well sorted that it idiosyncrasies are easy to read and within a few laps I feel confident enough to sink into the Redeye’s natural rhythms.

A factual statement from the Dodge-provided coach in the passenger seat rewards my efforts as I reached the braking zone on the main straight. “That’s 130 miles per hour.” I’m too busy getting on the brakes to think about anything but the moment at hand. I’ve finally escaped.

After the cool-down lap, reality returns with unpleasant abruptness as we spot some unpleasant weather on the horizon. I eke out one last bit of joy before getting back on the road: a big, smoky burnout from a Hellcat Redeye in Yellow Jacket paint.

Rain came down on our trip back to the hotel so hard it was like driving underwater. I kept the Hellcat in Street mode to play it safe and the wide births of rubber offered plenty of traction in the less-than-ideal road conditions. The fantasy is over.

The Challenger lineup occupies an enormous range of price points, and offers plenty of choice for those seeking to benefit from some muscle car escapism. The 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye starts at $71,045. With options, costs climb even higher, with the IndiGo Blue tester we drove after the track session coming out to $89,405.

The Scat Pack 392 offers salvation for those looking to have a raucous driving experience without spending nearly as much cash. It starts at $41,390 and can be had with some really sweet options just over $50,000. Not a bad performance bargain.

You don’t need to go to a vacation destination to forget the woes of the everyday: the SRT family has got you covered.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Specifications

ON SALE Winter 2018
PRICE $71,045/$89,405 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 6.2 supercharged OHV 16-valve V-8/797 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 707 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE N/A
L x W x H 197.5 x 78.2 x 57.5 in
WHEELBASE 116.2 in
WEIGHT 4,476 lb
0-60 MPH 3.4 sec
TOP SPEED 203 mph

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