Even though the last Demon performance coupe rolled off the production line just a few months ago, Dodge is again itching to stoke performance flames that the dragstrip-shredding Challenger halo car left behind, which brings us to the 2019 lineup. With a new, Demon-like model called the SRT Hellcat Redeye at the top of the bonfire, Dodge didn’t just stoke the flames – it doused them with gasoline.
The 2019 Dodge Challenger lineup was unveiled in Portland, Maine, last week, and showed that FCA still has plenty of tire-ripping plans for its long-running musclecar. With other carmakers moving toward crossovers and SUVs, FCA remains committed to producing over-the-top heavy-hitters under the Dodge name, and they’ve got good reasons to. Sales numbers for the Challenger and Charger are up 70 percent since 2008 and up three percent between 2016 and 2017 alone. The company sees more opportunity in the musclecar market because the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro have shifted into dedicated sports car territory.
So Dodge is going all in on Challenger with a variety of sub-models, each more outrageous than the last. For instance, there’s the Challenger SRT Hellcat, which debuted nearly four years ago. It receives a new hood with a dual snorkel air intake system that helps squeeze more power out of the supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 that lies underneath it. Now up to 717 horsepower and 656 pound-feet of torque, the SRT Hellcat isn’t even the most powerful car we saw last week. The SRT Hellcat Redeye steps into the Challenger line with an outrageous 797 horsepower and 707 pound-feet of torque coming from its HEMI. Also refreshed and certainly not an also-ran is the Challenger R/T Scat Pack, which at 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque might seem tame, but only in comparison to its Dodge brothers.
The 2019 Scat Pack will get several of the Hellcat’s performance features as standard equipment. Launch control and launch assist help detect wheel hop and tire slip to get power to the ground more efficiently. SRT Drive Modes and SRT Performance Pages bring customizable drive settings and vehicle performance data to the 8.4-inch infotainment screen in the Scat Pack. The model is also now offered as a widebody, which adds 3.5 inches to the width of the car.
The Hellcat and Hellcat Redeye feature adaptive damping suspension with auto, sport, and track modes, as well as 15.4-inch Brembo brakes. Electronic power steering helps the vehicle steer more quickly with the large, wide wheels. Line lock engages the front brakes to hold the car stationary for burnouts and can also be engaged for rolling burnouts. Both cars are offered in widebody as well, which improves quarter mile times for both cars to 10.9 seconds for the Hellcat and 10.8 seconds for the Hellcat Redeye.
On the Road
After the limited run of the dragstrip-focused Dodge Demon, the SRT engineers were challenged to come up with a car nearly as fast but with more street cred. The Redeye checks those boxes and then tears the paper up and flips the table over on its way out of the building. On the narrow, winding backroads between Maine and New Hampshire, the widebody Redeye was content to chew up the miles and soaked up the uneven plow-torn pavement as well as any other grand tourer – this from a car that does the quarter mile in under 11 seconds. Thanks in part to dazzling electronic engine controls, both the Redeye and Scat Pack are just as happy shuffling along at 35 mph behind a dump truck as they are running wide open on a clear stretch of pavement.
This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde demeanor is illustrated perfectly by the Redeye’s fuel consumption numbers: at full throttle, the car will drain the tank in under 11 minutes (1.43 gallons per minute) but can also achieve 22 mpg in every day highway driving.
With our test Redeye’s leather-covered ventilated seats, the cars are comfortable, maybe even plush by some standards. The reality of what you’re driving is never that far away, though, as the combined rumble and whine of the supercharged V-8 are strong reminders of what lies just in front of you.
On the Track
A lot has been said about the Demon’s nutty straight-line performance. But where that car was a story of compromise and tradeoffs, the Redeye and Scat Pack feel more balanced and inspire a level of confidence on the track that far exceeds most drivers’ abilities (including mine.)
Dodge and the SRT team lined up several Challenger R/T Scat Pack and Redeye pre-production units for us to whip around Club Motorsports’ 2.5-mile track in Tamworth, New Hampshire. With several elevation changes and zero of the course’s 15 turns able to be taken flat out, there were plenty of opportunities to put the cars through their paces.
With 300 fewer horsepower and a mellower demeanor overall – a strange thing to say about a car with nearly 500 horsepower, the Scat Pack is a more forgiving vehicle than the Hellcat on the track. The gentler (?) nature of this car allows the driver to manage the track more than the car, which meant that we could chase the best driving lines and enjoy the dynamics of the course instead of worrying about losing the rear end by rolling onto the throttle too quickly after a turn. Most people will find the Scat Pack will easily take them to the limits of their skill level and beyond.
The Redeye is a different story. Even during the slower warmup and cool-down laps, the tremendous power made the track feel much shorter than it is, and a romp on the gas pushes the big coupe well into triple digits with very little effort. With the constant threat (or promise) of having the rear end step out with too much throttle, the Redeye needs unfailing attention to stay in line.
Both cars ran all morning in near-90 temps without brake fade or cooling issues. That’s a testament to the robustness of the components that make up these cars, especially when considering we tracked them both all day with the air conditioner and cooled seats running.
Pricing and Availability
The 2019 Dodge Challenger starts at $27,295 before destination. Stepping into performance territory with the R/T Scat Pack will cost $38,995, which is a lot of car for the money, even after a $1,000 gas guzzler tax on manual transmission-equipped models.
On the SRT side, the standard Challenger SRT Hellcat starts at $58,650 before destination – more than $5,000 less than the 2018 Hellcat, and the SRT Hellcat Redeye is priced at $69,650. Both cars carry a $1,700 gas guzzler tax.
Production of the 2019 Challenger line will start this fall, with vehicles showing up at dealers in the fourth quarter of 2018.