2019 Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320: We drive the discount Demon
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Hagerty burns 1320 rubber on the, uhm, 660 track?The limited-production 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon hit the automotive community like an 840-horsepower sledgehammer. With drag radials, a factory-supplied transbrake, and of course that 840 hp supercharged Hemi, it gave consumers a turnkey dragstrip thrill ride good for 9-second ¼-mile passes. The gearhead community took it to heart, even if not all the Demon’s owners took it to the track. Unfortunately, with only 3300 built, it was difficult to nab one when new—which in turn led to high prices in the secondary market.
Dodge saw an opportunity to put its Demon development to more widespread use for 2019. The Hellcat Redeye uses an improved supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi that borrows some of the Demon’s horsepower tricks to create a grand touring Challenger with 797 horsepower, but it’s intended to be more than a one-trick ponycar competitor, particularly in Widebody form. True drag racing aficionados will prefer the Challenger Scat Pack R/T 1320, which matches the Demon’s suspension and drivetrain with the naturally aspirated, 485-horsepower, 6.4-liter Hemi 392. Unlike the Demon, neither the Redeye nor the 1320 will be artificially limited in production.
Selecting the 1320 Drag Pack option adds $3995 to the R/T Scat Pack’s $39,990 base price. For that relatively modest sum, buyers receive 275/40R20 Nexen drag radials, the drag race-tuned suspension pulled almost part number by part number from the Demon—plus that model’s sturdier driveshaft, half shafts, and TorqueFlite transmission with transbrake. The result? A daily driver who can hit the dragstrip and maximize traction when needed.
We were invited to legendary Auto Club Raceway, home to the NHRA Winternationals, to try the new 1320 on the track and see how the Demon’s chassis components work with a more manageable power plant.
First things first: it’s time for a burnout. For a long time, conventional wisdom was that bias-ply drag slicks benefited from a traditional smoking warm-up, but drag radials just needed a quick chirp to clean off any gravel or errant rubber picked up on the return road. That’s not true for the newest DOT-legal drag tires, as they tend to have a greater margin of error built in that allows them to accept a lot more heat, and build a lot more grip, before they get greasy. This doesn’t mean that you have to do a Garlits-style smoke show and light the tires up past the Christmas tree—a few seconds is all it takes. Thankfully the 1320, like all 392 Challengers, is equipped with a line lock which makes this easier.
If you want to activate the line lock, start by selecting the Performance Control page on the center screen. Press the line lock button, and prompts will appear instructing you to apply the brake. Then press the “OK” button on the steering wheel. You can then release the pedal. The line lock is activated at this point, meaning that the front brakes are engaged while the rears are free to spin until the button is released. It takes a couple of tries to get the whole procedure down, but trust us, you won’t mind the learning process.
The 1320’s transbrake, which is activated through the infotainment screen and the shift paddles, can produce clean and consistent launches. But for fun, and to get enough torque off the line to transfer weight and get the tires to dig in, we’d rather launch the Challenger 1320 with one foot on the brake and one on the gas. The revised torque converter has a higher stall for more torque multiplication. Foot-braking the car while bringing the engine speed to just a couple hundred rpm above idle gave us a quick launch that didn’t shock the tires. We tried more and more aggressive application of the throttle on consecutive passes and were still able to get full throttle just before the 1–2 shift elicited a chirp of the tires. Subsequent shifts didn’t break traction, thanks to the TorqueFlite’s quick response.
The 1320’s suspension, borrowed from the Demon, uses a smaller front sway bar in conjunction with active dampers that act like the 90/10 drag race shocks of old, helping transfer more weight to the rear to plant the tires. It makes for a noticeable squat at launch, which, besides helping traction, adds to the visceral experience. It certainly doesn’t feel like a standard 392—this thing means business. Just look at our photo of the green Challenger launching and note the difference in fender gap in front compared to the rear. Once on the street, those quick-rebounding front shocks can be dialed back to restore daily-driver composure… if for some reason you’d want that.
Dodge wisely didn’t have the track’s timing equipment turned on for this event, as having a bunch of journalists trying to one-up each other could have turned ugly. However, we’ve already seen NHRA Funny Car driver “Fast Jack” Beckman behind the 1320’s wheel at Irwindale’s 1/8-mile track. Even with the night’s high humidity making track prep a losing battle, he was able to run 7.7-second E.T.s at more than 91 mph. Dodge claims the 1320 should click off 11.7s, which seems just right. It also gives owners some breathing room with their local track operators, as a roll bar isn’t mandated by the NHRA on 2008 and newer vehicles until they break into 9-second E.T.s.
After running the car at Pomona we’re convinced that the 1320 is a great platform for drivers who want to hit the strip on the weekend and hone their skills to NHRA spec. In the same way that the Hellcat brought supercar-level power to the family sedan, the R/T Scat Pack 1320 looks to democratize the Demon’s dragstrip-ready package. It’s a great way to get more-than-modest straight-line performance at a reasonable price.
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