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First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L Scat Pack and SRT Hellcat

by Drew Johnson

Outrageous power and an upgraded interior are just two of the many highlights of the 2015 Challenger.

Sometimes being doomed to repeat history isn't such a bad thing.

Following the successful run of its 1970-themed Challenger, Dodge is jumping forward with a redesigned model inspired by the 1971 version of the iconic muscle car. That means the Challenger's throw-back styling remains, but thankfully the coupe's interior has been brought up to 21st century standards.

To sweeten the pot ever further, Dodge is adding several new models to the Challenger lineup for 2015, including a new HEMI-powered 6.4L Scat Pack and a 707-horsepower SRT variant known as the Hellcat. If you missed the first muscle car era, strap in as the second coming is officially upon us.

What's old is newAs the old saying goes, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', and that's exactly the mantra Dodge took with the exterior styling of the 2015 Challenger.

The Challenger has posted sales gains every year since being reintroduced for 2009, with a large part of that success down to the coupe's heritage look. Not wanting to mess with a winning formula, Dodge tastefully update the Challenger with cues from the 1971 model. Those subtle tweaks include a lower front brow, projector headlights with LED halos, split front grille and LED taillights with black surrounds. The Challenger has also been upgraded on the wheel front, with nine new designs on offer for 2015.

The interior of the 2015 Challenger is also a throwback, with the muscle car featuring retro gauges and a driver-focused center console inspired by the 1971 car. You can even get houndstooth cloth on select models. Chrysler's latest Uconnect infotainment system is a welcome modern touch.

The Challenger's interior is 95 percent new for 2015, with the car's headliner, rear trim and floors representing the lone carryovers. The Challenger still reigns supreme in the pony car segment for soft-touch materials.

Lineup shakeupMost of the Challenger's core models make a return appearance for 2015, but there have been some changes to the overall lineup.

The V6-powered Challenger SXT maintains its position as the line's entry-level model, but SXT buyers can now specify Dodge's previously unavailable Super Track Pack, which adds go-fast goodies like faster steering, beefier suspension, performance brakes and 20-inch wheels. The package also includes Dodge Performance Pages, so you can measure and keep track of things like 0-60 times and lateral g-forces.

Like the previous SXT model, the 2015 version uses a 305-horsepower of Dodge's 3.6L Pentastar V6, but a standard eight-speed automatic transmission (which also happens to be the only gearbox available) has increased highway economy from 27mpg to 30mpg. Performance has also improved thanks to the new eight-speed, with the sprint from 0-60 now requiring 6.0 seconds.

Those wanting a little more power can step up to the Challenger R/T, which employs a 5.7L HEMI V8. If you stick with the standard six-speed manual transmission, the HEMI develops 375 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque; opting for the eight-speed auto reduces those figures to 372 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. There is an up-shot to that reduced power, however, as the eight-speed car clips the manual by about 1mpg in city driving and 2mpg on the highway. In either configuration, the Challenger R/T can scoot from 0-60 in the mid five-second range.

The previous Challenger SRT Core has been discontinued for 2015, but a new 6.4L Scat Pack model fills the void. Although not technically part of the SRT lineup, the Scat Pack - which can also be optioned with a Shaker hood - employs an SRT-sourced 6.4L HEMI V8 making 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque. The setup also includes a track-focused suspension, up-rated Brembo brakes and a three-mode electronic power steering system. A six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic can be optioned without any performance penalties.

Dodge says the Scat Pack can hit 60mph in the mid four-second range with the quarter-mile flashing by in the low 12s.

The Challenger SRT 392 uses the same basic powertrain as the Scat Pack car, but receives an upgraded three-mode adaptive suspension, unique SRT design cues and a more comprehensive list of standard equipment.

The all-new SRT Hellcat not only tops the Challenger lineup for 2015, but also the entire muscle car segment. Thanks to a 6.2L supercharged V8, the Hellcat develops a Herculean 707-horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. Just to make those figures jump off the page a little more, the 6.2L makes more torque from just 1,200rpm (411 lb-ft) than the 5.7L HEMI V8 makes anywhere in the rev-band.

Though based on the 392 HEMI architecture, about 91 percent of the Hellcat's engine parts are all new, with most of those focused on making the engine stronger. With its supercharger huffing away at 11.6psi, the Hellcat's engine puts 21,000 pounds of pressure on each cylinder during every firing sequence.

Hellcat buyers can select either an eight-speed automatic or a six-speed manual adapted from the Viper. In another impressive show of the Hellcat's muscle, Dodge had to beef-up the Viper-sourced manual with its own dedicated cooler and heavy-duty twin clutch plates before it was ready for duty in the 707-horsepower Challenger.

If you can get its power to the ground, the Hellcat will hit 60 from a standstill in around 3.5 seconds. The quarter mile takes just 11.2 seconds on street tires, with the ET dropping to 10.8 seconds on drag radials. A launch control system is on hand to help you achieve those stated performance milestones.

For 2015, the entire Challenger range features a new Electronic Power Steering system.

So many choices, so little timeGiven the Challenger's wide array of models for 2015, we couldn't spend time in them all, so we decided to focus on the two newcomers - the 6.4L Scat Pack and SRT Hellcat.

Arguably the sweet spot of the Challenger lineup, the Scat Pack offers the same giddy-up as the SRT 392 but at a nearly $10,000 discount. You do have to give up some niceties in order to take advantage of the deal, but we doubt many performance junkies will mind.

Fire-up the Scat Pack twith its push-button start and the 6.4L HEMI barks to life before settling into a menacing rumble. The Scat Pack doesn't offer a butterfly exhaust system like its SRT counterpart, but its note is muted at highway speeds and delightfully raucous at wide open throttle.

And with 485 horsepower on tap, you'll want to spend most of the time with your foot to the floor. The Scat Pack feels as quick as its numbers would suggest, even with its 4,200+ pound curb weight.

The Scat Pack's slick-shifting six-speed manual is nothing short of sensational. However, the eight-speed auto is probably a better choice for those that have to wade through city traffic on a regular basis as the manual's clutch action is just on this side of heavy. The eight-speed is also no slouch, capable of delivering shifts in as little as 250 milliseconds.

Although tuned on the sportier side, we never found the Scat Pack's suspension to be overly harsh during our test drive around the streets and highways of Portland, Oregon. In fact, we might go as far as to call the Scat Pack's ride comfortable.

But unlike muscle cars of yesteryear, the Challenger Scat Pack doesn't fall all over itself in the twisties. The big coupe corners remarkably flat and, despite its comparatively narrow 245-width rubber, offers plenty of grip. The numbers say that the Scat Pack is slightly nose heavy, but the car feels neutral when pushed hard. If understeer does rear its ugly head, it can easily be defeated with a dab of the gas pedal.

The Hellcat is a more extreme machine than the Scat Pack, but it's just as comfortable when puttering around town. That's down to its three-mode suspension, which offers a surprisingly compliant 'Street' mode. 'Sport' mode and super stiff 'Track' mode are also available.

The Hellcat is a couple hundred pounds heavier than the Scat Pack, but it boasts higher cornering limits thanks to its Track suspension setting and wider 275-width Pirelli tires. Again, the Hellcat is much more balanced and well controlled than you'd expect from a big muscle car, but it's still not as nimble as a true sports car.

But what sets the Hellcat apart from most other cars on the market is its all-out power. From a standstill, it's almost impossible to get the Hellcat's 707 horsepower to the ground without roasting the rear tires. Luckily, launch control is just a few clicks away via the car's embedded performance app.

Once rolling on the track, that power is more manageable to deliver, but you still have to be careful when exiting turns. Mash the skinny pedal on a straightway and the Hellcat pins you to the back of the seat like few cars can. On the relatively short back straightway of Portland International Raceway, we saw the speedometer tickle 140mph.

Drag racers will likely prefer the more consistent power delivery of the Hellcat's optional eight-speed automatic, but the six-speed manual is best for grabbing this kitty by the scruff of the neck.

Not that it will be of much concern to Hellcat intenders, but Dodge says the 707-horsepower muscle car will return a respectable 20mpg on the highway.

With great power comes with great responsibility, and the Hellcat also has you covered on that front. The Hellcat comes with two keys, one red and one black. The red key unlocks the car's full 707-horsepower while the black key limits the Hellcat's 6.2L V8 to "just" 500 horsepower. For even more security, a pin-code accessed valet mode limits the car to 4,000 rpms, disables launch control, automatically starts in second-gear and significantly reduces engine power.

Leftlane's bottom lineRegardless of trim or spec, Dodge has created a much improved Challenger for 2015. The Challenger's interior is no longer a bland penalty box, and the 1971 exterior updates look awesome.

The Hellcat and its 707-horsepower is undoubtedly the crown jewel of the 2015 Challenger lineup, though the new 6.4L Scat Pack (and its $39,490 base price) shouldn't be overlooked. But whatever Challenger flavor you prefer, just don't delay. As the first muscle car era showed us, all good things must eventually come to an end.

2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L Scat Pack base price, $39,490.2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat base price, $60,990Prices include destination charge and gas-guzzler tax.

Photos by Drew Johnson.

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