Some vehicles do a better job at tugging at my heart strings and attempting to reverse my aging process.
Back in 2016, I had a Plum Crazy Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack that sucked me into its vortex. Only a few vehicles over the past 40 years have done exactly that. Only a few cars can throw me back to younger, fonder days. Only a few cars can steal my heart – even my soul.
That car did exactly that.
It took these past four years to reacquaint myself with one of the more powerful versions of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ North American modern muscle icon. Four years is a good amount of time to prepare myself to be taken away by an SRT-massaged "392" 6.4-liter V8 and its absolute thrust. Yet, I felt unprepared. Not even an F Performance Lexus helped in priming me from this massive blue hulk of thrust.
For one, this 2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack wore the extended fenders of the Widebody package. They were originally developed to house the suspension enhancements made for the Charger SRT Hellcat, along with the 305-wide, 20-inch Pirelli P Zero tires. Some may think this is overkill. Then again, would you consider a Liberty Walk kit on your favorite Japanese icon or an RWB Porsche "overkill?"
The Widebody kit is made for a new generation of modern muscle fans and Moparians (remember Moparians?). You need something to keep cars like the Charger relevant for enthusiasts. This is just one of those things.
For long before this website turned into V&R, I pointed out how Dodge has been the destination for Mopar loyalists. They do a great job developing new variants for iconic cars to keep the fans engaged and buying. This is not just about "Hellcating all things." It is a demonstration that heritage sells in a modern guise.
That is the charm of the Dodge Charger.
Even with the Widebody kit, the sound of thrust and fury from the dual exhaust tips, and the mass of an engine under the bulging hood, the Charger is a charmer. It gives you a new personality. It makes you wear only jeans and a t-shirt to a charity ball – social distancing and masking, included. It changes your streaming radio station or selects certain music files to play along with the sound of the exhaust.
Still, some people have pointed out that the basic platform and design of the Dodge Charger has gone on for too long. The second-generation LX platform and basic body shape debuted for the 2011 model year. The mid-cycle refresh was executed in 2014. Not much has changed since.
There is an argument both ways about this. One is whether FCA wanted to leave it alone to wither and die, while promising a new model underpinned by an Alfa Romeo platform. The other is the one I agree with – it is an icon, so why change a thing?
People are still drawn by Chargers. Mostly because of the Hellcat engine. I will argue that the 392 is just as desirable as the supercharged monster that still defies a rational business case. In a relative sense, the 392 is a rational engine.
Rational? Consider your Euro-loving friends who think that the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz AMG E 63 S are the only cars one should drive on this planet. Also, consider those who think a Tesla Model 3 Performance is all you need in life. If you understand their arguments, then you understand why you would go back to your Charger, rev it up, give all them the one-finger salute, and ride out in a blaze of glory.
Mopar performance is the main attraction to the Dodge Charger. From there, it is a matter of choosing which is for one. Four years ago, I concluded that the R/T Scat Pack was my choice for a Charger. I am happy to report that it stands as such today.
It’s not just how the driveline responds to the throttle. The engine is buoyed by a great eight-speed automatic developed by ZF. This transmission is perfect for the power band the 392 serves up to the torque converter. Power is sent to the rear wheels unapologetically.
Fuel economy is where you have to think logically about. For the record, I averaged 18.1 MPG.
The original concern I had with the tester was the Widebody kit. I feared that the wider width, track, and thick Pirelli P Zero tires would hamper cornering and overall handling. On one level, it did skew the turning radius of the Charger as I have to take more care on u-turns and even turning into parking lots with uneven curbing. On another level, the ride was quite firm, but not jarring. It held its own on the freeway with its extra suspension bits – including a set of Bilstein ADS shock absorbers – working to absorb various conditions.
The best part about this Charger R/T Scat Pack tester was not just the 392 and that exhaust note. It was the brakes. This Brembo set-up is attached some huge rotors – 15.4 inches up front and 13.8 inches in the rear – providing some of the most serious stops of any vehicle I’ve driven this year. Pedal feel is extremely good with quick response at the wheels.
To handle this performance is a cockpit that has not changed in years, but still feel appropriate for this specific car. It is a bit dated, but a Moparian will forgive the 10-year old basic instrument panel design – even with some recent additions. The thick-rimmed steering had fewer buttons that I’m used to – and that’s a good thing. Not everyone who drives an R/T Scat Pack would want it equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control (OK, I do!). But, you do get a set of dials and a very comprehensive information screen in the middle. You also get FCA’s superb UConnect 8.4 touchscreen and some key controls below it. The t-bar shifter has great logic, augmented by steering-wheel mounted paddles.
The front seats are supportive with some deep bolstering. There is a spot in the backrest hitting my upper back area that is the least comfortable spot for me. Otherwise, I can do longer stints in the Charger R/T Scat Pack with no fatigue. It also helps to have this upholstery scheme – black leather trim with caramel Alcantara inserts and the iconic Scat Pack bee stitched in the upper part of the back rest.
I wished that rear seat room was a bit better behind me. Still, you can fit four averaged sized adults inside the Charger. Not to mention, the 16.5 cubic foot trunk that can swallow luggage – and, on a slightly angle, Boomer in his bag.
One thing I noticed when I see this tester and its Widebody package is how "small" the Charger actually looks with it. It is as the width replaced the length by using some optical illusion. Still the fender extensions look just right and adds to the aggressive aesthetic you expect from a Dodge Charger. Let alone any modern muscle icon.
What amazes me about this big, wide, and aggressive machine is how much it cost. The sticker on my tester came to $55,955. All of this for under $60,000?!? No wonder why they sell without shopping for one!
Moparians will never consider anything else than a Dodge Charger (or Challenger, Durango, or Jeep Grand Cherokee) with a mass of power and an assertive personality. It is why you create cars that do not require a business plan to sell to a loyal customer base.
The Dodge Charger is a charmer. The more you add to the basic package; the more it will steal your heart. And, I gave in. Once you get into anything that is powered by the SRT folks, you’re going to have a change of personality and perspective. It does not matter what your politics are, who you love, or what you look like – you cannot resist the authoritative exhaust note of a Dodge Charger with a 392 or a Hellcat underneath its bulging hood.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
All photos by Randy Stern