The Subjective Route Towards Absolute Satisfaction

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack

Every December, I would compile a list of my favorite vehicles I have driven throughout the calendar year. In fact, I make two lists – one for V&R, the other for a print publication I write for. Between the two lists are some cars that I had the privilege and honor to work with. A few truly would actually tug at my heartstrings.

It's tough, because I do not publish my reviews and evaluations of every vehicle I drove throughout the year. Some get published on that other publication, because it yields a more captive audience than V&R – and it is published in print and app form. If they show up in that publication, I do not write a second review for this site.

However, some vehicles are worth discussing in both arenas. To think about it, this particular vehicle have been featured twice in that magazine – of the same generation! They both had V8 engines! What was I thinking when I submitted the last review of this car this past summer?

I know why. It was in purple. No, scratch that, Plum Crazy! That audience loves purple…Plum Crazy…whatever!

So do I. Plum Crazy is a color that put Chrysler on the map at its most formidable era. We're not talking the Airflow era or the Forward Look era. We're talking when they made muscle and pony cars that were legendary. The talk could be about General Motors and their arsenal of Small Block and Big Block monsters or of Ford with Cleveland and Windsor V8s. Mopar was a movement of HEMIs, Six-Packs and other big horsepower plants that were both magnificent and flawed.

On a personal level, Mopar machinery hits closer to the heart. We had a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda when I was a kid. It did not come with a HEMI or a six-pack or wore the Shaker hood. It did run a V8 under the hood, but that’s all you need. Still, the Barracuda and the previous 1965 Plymouth Satellite denoted a DNA that bleed Mopar.

Today's Mopar muscle does the same thing to me. Modern HEMI V8s connected to ZF-engineered transmissions inducing the same heart-stopping performance on repeat. Designs that pay homage to the past, while showing modern touches throughout. Interiors that include the latest connected technology and active safety features.

Still, you press the throttle and it goes like nothing else. It goes with ease, unlike a supercar of a higher price point and pedigree. It provides feedback, unlike some luxury machine that is built to be immune from the world. It is loud and proud, expected from a car that bleeds the colors of the flags of the USA and Canada.

This is the 2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack in a nutshell.

This summer heralded its arrival. My neighbors looked at it. A few folks went along for the ride. Everyone caught their eye on this beast – even the fellow car enthusiast who fashioned himself as the authority of exhaust noise.

As I thumb through a year's worth of vehicles I reviewed for all of my outlets, only a few of them had captured the imagination of everyone in my circle(s) of friends, colleagues and industry contacts. I already talked about the Porsche 911’s impact on this work. Its short tenure in my care saw astounded faces and absolute love come across that machine from Zuffenhausen.

The Charger was a similar story. I had the chance to work with it for the full review duration, as it became a part of my daily routine. Surprisingly, it is very livable.

I said it – livable.

First of all, it is a full-sized four-door sedan. Nothing against coupes, convertibles and roadsters, but having a livable rear seat and trunk space does make the difference. It means I can carry humans while the big V8 rumbles behind us. It means I have big comfortable seats to sink into and let the world become the Charger's oyster as it runs through it.

For all of its practicality, there is an element of badassness. Something you don't engineer or design, unless you know the kind of driver that would take the wheel of one. Someone who has no fear. Someone who loves the sound of muscle and fury that is truly North American. Someone who loves the Charger for what it represents.

I love all cars, trucks and SUVs. That's my job is to embrace each one towards evaluation and summary. To separate the objective part of the work is to leave the subjective out in the open. This is the danger of having me drive a Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack. The subjective becomes an important element of the story. That really doesn't work when you manage to work through at least 50 vehicles a year.

If we must talk specific data points, let me bore you with them. It had an SRT 392 HEMI under the hood – 6.4-liters with 485 naturally-aspirated horsepower. It was connected to the eight-speed automatic that offered smooth shifts and great transitions for the big V8. Power was sent to the rear axle. Yet, it yielded 18.9 MPG for its fuel consumption average.

The Charger R/T Scat Pack rode well and handled like a champ. You could leave it in the normal drive mode, but selecting Sport will ratchet up the revs and you could do a burn out in that mode. One could go into the Performance Pages through the UConnect 8.4 touch screen and set up Launch Control. Ah, the possibilities of absolute hooning with the invitation for law enforcement to ruin your party…

The Charger had great brakes, too! Having Brembos on this model helped its cause greatly. Steering's pretty decent, also. Though, I wished they had other tires than the Goodyear Eagle RS-A 2s that were shod on its 20-inch alloy wheels.

The sticker price of the Charger R/T Scat Pack in Plum Crazy came to $41,685. Keep in mind, that was a 2016 model and Plum Crazy was a limited run color, supplanted by Go Mango for the remainder of the model year. As for 2017, they added Green Go and Yellow Jacket to the color palette. Plus, they added Apple CarPlay for 2017. That I am very happy about!

I get that there are other Charger trim levels to look at. However, I can argue that the R/T Scat Pack is the car's sweet spot. This is not to diminish the "regular" 370 horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI V8. I could suggest the R/T Road and Track edition, with its improved suspension over other R/T trims. That way, you get the handling of the Scat Pack without the larger engine and the distinctive body updates.

You could also get the SRT 392 model. That you get a full upgrade in drive modes and suspension settings, along with other trimmings.

There is an interesting twist to the Charger picture. If you search inventory throughout North America, you would be lucky to find a 2016 with the 392 HEMI engine. You may have to wait until the 2017s arrive at your nearest showroom for a chance at one.

If you remember the initial hype about the Hellcat, then you probably heard how they were ordered by non-SRT dealers for their customers when they should not have been. You also probably heard that production was going to be tight through the 2015 model year and that extra orders were slated for 2016. If you went to any SRT authorized FCA dealer today, there is a Hellcat waiting for you. If not more than one.

I get the Hellcat. With 707 supercharged horsepower from a 6.2 liter HEMI V8, you got a car that is simply too fast for most folks. Yet, it has become the benchmark of audacity. In relative terms, these cars are affordable, next to other cars wearing 650 horsepower and beyond. After having driven one briefly, I simply cannot see the point of owning one practically. Then again, how many supped up muscle cars do you still see running and are driven daily by their owners?

If it were my money, I would pass on the Hellcat. It is not that I dislike the engine, but I rather have something more usable on a daily basis. Therefore, I would wait for a Charger with the 392 HEMI underneath its hood. In particular – I'll take the R/T Scat Pack as one of my own.

Why a Charger? Why not a Porsche 911? Why not a Lexus RC F? Why not a Volkswagen Golf R? Why not a bloody SUV?

My answer would be absolutely subjective and unfiltered. I describe the Dodge Charger, along with its LX platform mate the Chrysler 300, as my automotive sweet spots. They are not perfect, by any means. However, they have rear-drive biased platforms, powerful V8 engines and exude an air of "no care in the world." They are attainable and practical; audacious and bold. They are flawed, but very lovable.

You know a great indicator of a car? It is the way they get your attention without prompting. How many time shave your neck snapped because you saw something that caught your eye. Your eyes followed, as does the rest of your face and neck. Then, you react to it. Your eyes light up, you mouth gapes open and your ears perk when you hear its exhaust.

To each its own, but that is how I respond when I see a Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack come into view. Not just the R/T Scat Pack, mind you. It is the Dodge Charger – period. I could also throw in a Chrysler 300 S or C. Those cars still do it for me – unconditionally.

Professionally, I wish to apologize for this heavily biased review of the 2016 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack. Actually…not really. If you want something that take you back to the days of the muscle car, but want as much modern technology and convenience you want – I'm sure there are plenty of choices out there. This would be mine.

DISCLAIMER: vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

All photos by Randy Stern

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