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Why I Liked the 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack More Than The Hellcat

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Why I Liked the 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack More Than The Hellcat

During my time behind the wheel of the 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack, I tried my absolute hardest not to say it. The words crept closer to my tongue with every dive into a canyon hairpin and threatened to be spoken with every stab of the throttle. But I resisted.

Finally, as I clicked the left paddle shifter down from fourth to second gear, steered into another apex and dug into the 6.4L HEMI V8 and its 485 horsepower made the rear wheels screech as they clung to the road, I could hold back no longer. "This is better than the Hellcat!" I yelled over the engine roar.

Of course, I said those words out loud to no one, as I was driving without a passenger. Had I had someone riding shotgun, I may have brought up the Hellcat for means of comparison and intriguing conversation, but I certainly wouldn't have made myself look like such a fool by blurting out something so blasphemous.

And yet, a week after the drive, I still find myself thinking more fondly about my time in the Scat Pack than in the Hellcat.

To be fair, a lot of that is probably due to the driving route. Chrysler graciously set up a day of driving for the media in the hills of Malibu, which are notoriously tight and windy; certainly not the ideal place to test a 4,560-lb. muscle car with a reputation for protesting when you ask it to turn. If we had driven both the Scat Pack and the Hellcat on a racetrack, I may have a very different opinion.

But the fact remains that the Scat Pack is a more lithe, lively version of the Hellcat that still packs quite a whallop from under the hood. At 4,235 lbs. of curb weight, the Challenger R/T Scat Pack weighs some 330 lbs. less than the Hellcat, with a Bilstein sport suspension and eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission that make it the best handling Challenger ever.

While it may not make the astronomical 707 horsepower of the Hellcat, the Scat Pack's SRT-built HEMI has multi-port fuel injection and an active exhaust dual-muffler system to ensure its 485 hp and 475 lb.-ft of torque come on fast and furious. Sprints have been clocked from 0-60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. I can report that throttle response is stellar, and brings a hair-raising rumble to your right foot with each graze of the pedal. This, at a fraction of the price of the Hellcat.

Pricing for the 2015 Challenger R/T Scat Pack starts at $38,495 before destination. That puts the Scat Pack about $7,000 more than the standard Challenger R/T, but another $7,500 below the Challenger SRT 392. Not to mention, a whopping $21,500 less than the Hellcat, and if you like the Hellcat but would also like to save twenty racks, there is no shame in that game.

I found the Scat Pack to be very well balanced and composed on those Malibu roads, with very little discernible body roll and much better handling than expected. A feast of menu options allows you to customize your driving experience for comfort or performance, and both the ride and steering noticeably firm up when you toggle them into Sport mode. I left the Traction Control on for the run through the cliff-side twisties, and even if you select the Off position, Chrysler says the system still provides a teensy bit of help until you go all the way into Track mode.

The brakes are four-piston slotted Brembos up front that, while older and less powerful than the six-pistons in the SRT, were confident for my brisk canyon runs. The interior is a world away from the plasticized Challengers of the last few years, especially if you add the 8.4-inch UConnect system, and the optional Recaro seats are worth whatever they're asking.

Added up, the total package is exhilarating. I drove the 2015 Ford Mustang GT just days earlier, and found it a much more serious and calculated machine compared to the Barnum & Bailey fun of the Challenger Scat Pack. It is still large, and there will be no getting around that, but the Scat Pack has benefited from Chrysler's recent forays into overall refinement and is a breeze to control. Firm up the suspension and steering and the handling falls somewhere just short of pinpoint accuracy.

The difference between the Scat Pack and the Hellcat, I found, is the accessibility of all that fun and all that accuracy. The Scat Pack really did feel light compared to the weight of the Hellcat, which is not only heavy but also built like a tank at every angle to cope with the stress of that monstrous engine. You must be seriously pushing the Hellcat to explore the limits of its ability (the Hellcat is actually pretty quiet until you hit about 4,000rpm). I switched it from Sport mode to Track mode and pushed it for about ten minutes, and felt very little difference between the two. All that power is astounding, but it's also out of the realm of fun weekend drives through the canyons.

Like I said, I may have a different opinion if I tested these cars on a racetrack. But for my driving style, and my money, the Scat Pack is all the Challenger I need and much more.

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