Something my fellow automotive friends and I always find ourselves talking about is the debate of modern enthusiast oriented cars. Sure, double clutch transmissions and modern electronics have undoubtedly made cars faster, less harsh, and easier to drive for the mass market; but they’ve also caused some side effects for enthusiasts. While a good DCT like a Porsche PDK is unrivaled by a three pedal car in terms of shift speed, it’s just not quite as fun. The same can be said for so many modern innovations.

It seems the masses decided that lap times and technical babble became more important than driver engagement, after all it is easier to brag about statistics than it is to discuss the perception of steering feel and such. It’s hardly my opinion, just look at the modern offerings from the major manufacturers. Ferrari doesn’t offer a single three pedal option, the newest BMW M5 only comes with an automatic (a car originally only offered as a manual) and I can’t think of a single Lamborghini that offers it either. It seems that truly driver focused cars are gone, and Ring times are what really matters.

Who would really buy a one sided car that just focused on getting back to driving? Big V8s and sticks are dead. Or are they?

Enter Dodge

I know what you’re already thinking, and hear me out on this. Yes they’re not exactly the full on “driver’s” car because they all weigh roughly as much as Peterbilt 379. The Challenger and Charger aren’t exactly handling focused cars. They don’t lay down scorching lap times either, and therefore they just can’t be any good.

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That’s exactly why they are good. Dodge hasn’t focused on making a suspension to be track tuned; instead they made the suspension soft so the cars hook while drag racing. In lieu of this, they also offer a luxury type of ride experience. In this article I’m going to refer mostly to the Challenger (they’re quite similar to the Charger so there isn’t a reason to delve into both) and explain what I’m on about.

One of the things I have to quote from the legendary Jeremy Clarkson is simple, yet true. “If a car is built for the Nurburgring it won’t be any good in the real world” and he’s absolutely right. Instead, Dodge went right back to their roots. America is obsessed with horsepower and drag racing; so why not build cars that do that really well? So they did. Let’s start.

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Challenger Scat Pack

Image: Nathan’s Scat Pack drag racing

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If you’ve been reading my words for a while, you’ll know that my friend of almost 20 years and I do some YouTube stuff together and I do some freelance writing. One of the cars I’ve written about a few times was his 2016 Challenger Scat Pack. I’ve driven a few of these myself and even have an article about it here on Oppo. His particular car was optioned the way an enthusiast should; cloth seats, no sunroof, manual transmission, and not much else. That helped save some weight and kept the focus on what mattered – speed.

His Scat Pack was a gorgeous B5 blue, and going fast wasn’t the only thing this car was good at. It was gorgeous, it sounded brutal and it would eat miles with four adults that were “mostly” comfortable. We actually took this same car to the 2017 DSM Shootout, and with four adults in the car. Nathan owned the Challenger for a few years before moving on for business reasons, but the car never gave him a single issue. I want to highlight why this car was special, and what made it a truly great enthusiast car.

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Let’s start with the basics; the car was powered by a 392 cubic inch pushrod V8 that made 485 horsepower. That lovely Hemi was mated to a Tremec TR6060 transmission, the same one used in many of the best cars like the Viper. That 6 speed, that engine, and the limited slip differential made for a truly amazing package. From a roll (after about 10 miles per hour) we were able to defeat cars that shouldn’t have been beatable. Yes these cars are heavy, but you don’t really feel it when accelerating. Additionally there’s four pot Brembos with big slotted rotors on all four corners, so you don’t really when it when stopping either.

Handling wasn’t terrible by any means, but this car has a soft suspension and a high weight. It’s not a Cayman S and Dodge doesn’t pretend that it is. It would however destroy a Cayman in a stoplight race, and that’s exactly how Dodge DOES market this car. Considering the awesome ride quality, overall interior quality, reliability and feel, this car punches well above the price in which it sits. These can be had new for just above $40,000 and I would absolutely recommend one of these.

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My quick hot take – definitely buy one. If you’re an avid drag racer I’d recommend opting for the lovely 8 speed auto as they handle wheel hop better when the car is on drag radials. If you’re a racer that’ll only run a few times a year, get the manual for the engagement. Nathan loved this car very much and he’s undoubtedly one of us. This car gets a resounding stamp of approval. The Scat Pack is available in both Charger and Challenger models.

Challenger 1320

Image: Nathan’s Dad made a magazine cover!

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So, what exactly is a 1320 edition Challenger? Essentially this is a SCAT that is far more focused on drag racing. These cars are only available with the 8 speed automatic transmission and are only Challengers, sorry Charger fans.

Let’s talk about what Dodge has done to establish this as a true muscle car. First, the 1320 comes from the factory with a transmission brake. This allows the car to be launched without having a foot on the throttle and brake. Think of it like dumping a clutch, except less harsh. Second, dodge upgraded to 41 spline halfshafts (like the Demon) to reliably take the abuse. Third, they elected to use the new SRT adaptive suspension. The focus here is to allow the car to use the weight to its’ own advantage. Take a look at the picture above. This car (and all pictures of the 1320) belong to Nathan’s dad, and this car is very competitive and raced on a regular basis. Just look at that squat.

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The 1320 has more than just a trick suspension and beefy driveline though; there’s a cool down feature that allows hot lapping to occur without the worry of overheating. Also assisting with the heat is the really awesome hood borrowed from the Hellcat, and it’s known as the “Air Grabber” hood. It’s aluminum, the vents are indeed functional, and you can quickly tell that this car is built around function rather than excessive form. Like the Hellcat and SCAT, the 1320 also has the dummy side lights by the actual functional headlights and these are removable to let even more air in.

Image: Nathan’s dad ready to dominate

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The 1320 shares much of the tech and hardware from the Demon to allow consistent and fast drag passes. These cars drive very nicely and they ride like a true luxury car. That adaptive suspension is very neat and offers some of the best weight transfer I’ve seen in an OEM suspension The brakes are shared with the normal SCAT and that’s a good thing because this allows smaller wheels to be fitted for taller tires. Speaking of tires the OEM tires for the 1320 are drag radials. There’s really nothing that needs to be said about this, you know why you’re shopping this model. Technically this car is less driver focused than the manual transmission SCAT, but it is a drag focused car and that automatically evens it right back out. This is a car built for enthusiasts and nobody else really.

Nathan’s dad has been drag racing since before I was alive, and he’s owned some of the coolest Dodge products you can think of. He had very little to think about when he pulled the trigger on his 2019

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1320 and he has already basically worn down the stock tires. Dodge rates this car at a mid 11.7 quarter mile pass, but he recently cracked off an 11.69 pass in a bone stock car. This was a full weight pass, and that’s just insane when you really consider that the 1320 package starts $3995 over a base SCAT Pack car. This car is in the same league as the Carrera GT in terms of quarter mile acceleration.

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My quick hot take – if you’re a truly avid drag racing enthusiast, spend the extra and get this over a SCAT Pack. Nathan’s dad consistently wins money with the 1320 in bracket classes and he could also wax about ¾ of the mid 2000s best supercars in a stoplight race. That tells the story, I don’t need to say much else. Also, the name of the color on the 1320 in these pictures is indigo. It’s gorgeous!

Hellcat

So you really do need more power over the SCAT, and you can’t have enough? Let’s up the ante and talk about the Hellcat; 707 horsepower from a very supercharged 6.2 liter Hemi engine should do the trick. Here’s the funny part though; Dodge rates this car at a 11.4 quarter mile time stock. As you just learned, the 1320 will almost do the same. This is where traction is your friend. The Hellcat makes an earth shattering amount of power, and in order to fully harness the potential of this car, you’re going to need drag radials.

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Perhaps drag racing isn’t really the biggest thing for you, you just want to drive a fast car. I’ve got good news for you – you can get this car with the lovely Tremec 6 speed as well. Imagine for a moment that you’re rowing your own gears as you mash the throttle and allow that 707 horsepower to take you away. I’ve done it, and it’s wonderful. This car is a sweetheart of a machine and it’s also one of the most fun things you’ll ever do. With that being said…

I’m a drag racing enthusiast and I’d get the automatic if I absolutely knew I was going to be racing a ton. If I’m honest though I’d personally have the 1320. If I wanted a car to cruise and enjoy eating miles and spirited blasts in, I’d get the 6 speed Hellcat.

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The demonic Hellcat offers big 6 piston Brembos, 2 piece rotors, and tons of options for your own personal tastes. When I think of an enthusiast focused car, the Hellcat just always comes to mind. Dodge truly identified an audience that so many manufactures didn’t think existed; the sales prove we are here and we want these.

My quick hot take – These are available in Charger and Challenger models, simply identify what you want the car to do. Driver and not so much drag racer, I’d opt for the three pedal car. These cars drive very well, and the black key allows around 500 horsepower to tame it down for the wife or whoever else. These are cars that can and should be driven daily.

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Redeye

So, you’re just never happy are you? The Hellcat is just too slow and you don’t know what else to do with your life. That or you’re incredibly suicidal and you want to go your own way.

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Meet the Redeye; this is the most insanely ridiculously powerful car I’ve ever driven in my life. 797 horsepower is now extracted from the same 6.2 liter Hemi

The Redeye gets a ton from the insane Demon including the 2.7 liter blower chucking out 14.5 pounds of boost, twin fuel pumps and the awesome “Power Chiller” that uses the air conditioner to cool the intake temps down. These cars come in the wide body and narrow body trim, and the wide offers a set of 305 tires that I didn’t get to experience. Instead…

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Time to delve into the experience I had. I spent several days with a wide body Redeye that was on drag radials. Even then, if the tires were cold this car was beyond dangerous. Mash the throttle and unleash that blower and gasoline is simply converted into tire smoke and fear. I’d checked the pressure in the radials of the car I was given and lowered them down to about 20 psi for the rears. This totally changed things for the better.

Now once the tires had heat (and the quarters are covered in rubber) you can use launch control and literally lift the front tires. I’ve had a hard time finding a set in stone metric for what this car is supposed to be rated for, but it appears a 3.4 0-60 and 10.8 quarter mile blast is reliable. I was able to get a 3.1 0-60 and a 10.4 second quarter mile out of it on a very unprepared backroad. This car is fast. Very fast.

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Here’s the thing about it though; it’s also very luxurious too. The ride was very soft and compliant. The interior noise was shockingly on par with some of the best I’ve tested. The materials inside were fantastic, everything just seemed well put together. Yes these do only come with the beefed up 8 speed automatic, but it’s well suited to the car. I’m going to be honest, a manual in this car would be terrifying.

I say that because a car this powerful can and will wag its’ tail when the accelerator is pressed, therefore having two hands on the wheel is a really good plan if you enjoy living and breathing. Once heat is in the tires the Redeye will launch so hard and straight that you truly feel like your internal organs are pulverized into a fine powder.

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Yes I’m a hypocrite because I started this article talking about manual transmissions and such. But it isn’t just about that; it’s about building cars that are focused while being civilized. It’s about not following a cookie cutter flow chart for building a high performance car ( more on this later) and it’s about listening to what the people want.

The Redeye is so good that I don’t care that is lacks three pedals. I covered around 800 miles in one, through rain and shine, and through different types of roads. There was never a point in time that I wasn’t smiling like an idiot. Doctors should be writing prescriptions for a Redeye for depression patients, I’m serious about this. I’ve driven a lot of amazing cars this year, and by far and away this is the one I’d have. It’s comfortable, ridiculously fast, and it makes the best noises ever.

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Muscle cars never made any sense to me, I prefer Mitsubishi powered tin cans and European cars; but it all started to make sense the first time I drove this Redeye. It changed my entire perception on everything I’d thought I’d known about myself. This is a car that quite literally redefined who I am as an enthusiast. If you haven’t done triple digit pulls in one of these, you owe it to yourself to do it. That car, that noise, and that feeling will never die in my mind and heart. It’s that good.

Before you get out your pitchforks and say that I’m a Dodge fan boy, understand that Nathan and I used to get into near physical altercations over this. He’s a Dodge guy and I’m anything but that. In the age of electronic this, turbocharged small displacement that, let us embrace what Dodge is doing. They’re offering manual transmission vehicles, they’re offering large pushrod V8 powered cars with blowers on them, they’re offering us what our fathers (or maybe you) grew up living with.

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I always remember my dad talking about the muscle car era, and what it was like. It never really resonated with me, DSMs are my muscle cars. It all truly clicked between driving different SCAT pack cars and that week with the Redeye. There’s a sensational feeling that comes with instantaneous torque and 6.2 liter cold starts. I’ve never wanted one of these cars in my life. That changed about a month and a half ago.

My quick hot take – What can I even say, I feel deep in love with the Redeye. Yes I’d suggest one of these with a contingency; don’t buy this if you’re a novice driver. Be very aware that this car can and will kill you if you don’t respect it. Be real with yourself about your driving abilities and if you even slightly doubt it, buy something else or take some driving classes. If you’re up to the test definitely go drive one and you’ll want to own it. I truly do think this is the daily drivable car we all want that puts up hyper car numbers.

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Conclusions

I love Dodge now – yes I do. I never did before, but I can say I truly appreciate what they are doing. They offer something for us all. Fast SUV? The Durango SRT was incredible when I drove it. I’d love one for a daily. Need to haul the family but you don’t want an SUV and you need a manual? Grab a SCAT or a Hellcat.

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It’s bittersweet but we need to all be face to face with ourselves and admit that these types of cars aren’t forever. I mentioned the “cookie cutter” approach earlier and here’s what I meant. BMW, Audi and Mercedes all must have had a hand shake meeting and agreed to just build engines and that exactly displace .5 liters per cylinder and make all V engines a hot V. All the V8 Euros displace 4 liters, the 6 cylinder cars displace 3 and so on. The V8s are all twin turbo with the turbochargers situated in the V of the engine. It’s boring and it’s beyond predictable. What those cars offer in performance, they lack in soul. None of them offer a manual transmission and they all essentially feel the same.

That doesn’t sit well with me. I want my V8 to be big and rumble. I want my V8 to make me feel like they used to make my dad feel. The F10 M5 never did that for me; I found that car to be fast but boring. I’ve never turned in a mile in any modern SRT Dodge and found myself bored. It just doesn’t happen for me. These are cars aimed at the true enthusiast, not the mass market individuals that can throw ink on paper and satisfy the people at board meetings.

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Dodge really is kind of the last stand against those types of ideals. Someone like Audi would never offer anything as ridiculous as the Demon, and BMW hasn’t ever given us a true halo car. Unfortunately the Viper isn’t with us anymore, but let’s not forget that the ACR went around the world and dominated at tracks everywhere. A manual transmission, naturally aspirated engined, and American built car took on the best the world had to offer. It set records and made a statement. That’s why Dodge is killing it, and that’s why they’re currently my favorite brand.

Thank you for taking time to read my rant, and I’d encourage you to go drive any car in this article and give me some feedback. I am in no way affiliated with Dodge, just want to throw that out there.