Dodge’s new Scat Pak packs plenty of punch

By Mike Hagerty

More than 50 years ago, Dodge made one heck of a racket in the performance car world with what it called the “Scat Pack.” For those of you who have only heard the term on nature walks, “scat” has other meanings, including a form of jazz singing, and the slang usage that applies here means “to go quickly.”

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Mike Hagerty/Special to the Town Crier
The Dodge Charger comes in bold colors and with a 485-horsepower engine that can take the car from 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. The base price is nearly $40,000.

That is the entire reason for the 2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Plus to exist – to go quickly. That engine? It’s a 6.4-liter Hemi V8. 485 horsepower, 475 pounds per foot of torque. So how fast does it go from 0 to 60 mph? The staff at Car and Driver magazine clocked it at 4.1 seconds. I’ll trust them on that, because putting your foot to the floor in one of these is like waving red meat under the nose of a sleeping lion. All of a sudden, there’s a monstrous roar and the rest is a blur.

Muscle-car throwback

This car is really nothing short of a miracle. The 1969-70 Scat Pack was supposed to be the end of an era. Insurance surcharges, emission controls and the rising cost of fossil fuel all conspired to kill the muscle car by the early-mid-’70s. And yet, here it is. Admittedly, performance cars of all types and brands have blossomed in the past 20 years. But it’s been Dodge that has managed to take one of the last remaining old-school four-door sedans and turn it into a fire-breathing monster.

The “392 HEMI” badge on the fender is a throwback of its own – to the days when engines were measured in cubic inches instead of liters. And it’s also an example of how far we’ve come. In Scat Pack One, the Hemi was 426 cubic inches. It made only 425 horsepower.

The closest engine in terms of size back then was the 383. And that was only good for 330 horsepower. Both those are gross horsepower figures – net wasn’t imposed until later, so lop another 75-80 horsepower off the 426 and 383 – maybe 350 and 265. That makes a real-deal 485 horsepower out of 392 cubic inches a very big thing.

It also makes the 2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Plus a full second quicker to 60 mph than the legendary 1970 Hemi, even though the 2020 is heavier. And thanks in part to an eight-speed automatic transmission with four drive modes – Automatic, Custom, Sport and Track – the Charger gets an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 15 mpg city, 24 highway.

The 1970 Charger Hemi? It gets 9 mpg, maybe 8 – 10 with a tailwind.

Plus, the Charger, as most other muscle cars from 50 years ago, was good for pretty much one thing – speed in a straight line. The 2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Plus handles. It stops. It’s not my favorite machine for carving up twisty roads in the Sierra foothills, but that’s more about having too much power on tap and too little space in which to indulge. The suspension and steering bits are spot on.

The other remarkable thing is price. It starts at $39,995. Load it up with goodies, like our tester had – the Widebody package that enables fatter tires, upgrades the brakes and further tightens up the suspension is $6,000 – and add a $1,495 destination charge for the bottom-line sticker price of $51,570. There are supercars roaming El Camino Real right now that cost multiples of that.

Ultimately, the 2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Widebody is all about outrageousness. And if that’s your thing, then, as the ads said back in the days of Scat Pack One, put a Dodge in your garage.

Mike Hagerty, vice president of membership for Western Automotive Journalists (waj.org), has been writing about cars since 1997. Read more of his reviews on his website (mike
hagertycars.com) and follow him on Twitter (twitter.com/mikehagertycars) and Facebook (facebook.com/mikehagertywritesaboutcars).

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Observations from walking and cycling in Los Altos

By Chris Hoeber

I first saw Los Altos in 1961 – moving with my family from Illinois – and I fell in love with the laid-back environment and smell of dried apricots in the summer. If I had fallen asleep and came back today as Rip Van Winkle, I would still recognize the downtown area and many of the streets – but not the traffic.

To put it simply, the current roadway infrastructure is not adequate for today’s traffic volumes, and there are significant obstacles to pedestrians and cyclists getting to where they want to go. Ironically, even with the reduced traffic prompted by the pandemic, I see conflicts due to the increased pedestrian/cyclist volume in my neighborhood.

As background research for this column, I read the Los Altos Bicycle Transportation Plan (2012) and the Pedestrian Master Plan (2015). They are both beautiful, thoughtful documents, with many pretty pictures. They address how roads should be designed and local incremental improvements, but they don’t clearly address these needs:

• How do people safely get from home to where they are going within the city – to schools, stores, the library, etc. – without getting in their car and adding to traffic?

• How do people get in, out or through the city – to work, visit grandma, etc.?

Despite good intentions, little or no pedestrian or cycling progress has been made since these plans were written. I’ve spoken to people who have tried to address these issues, and they are frustrated. It will take a long time to tackle the problems, and the local political process does not seem to have that kind of staying power. I contrast this with Palo Alto, which is implementing its second crosstown bicycle boulevard (Louis Road will complement Bryant Street on the opposite side of Middlefield Road, with several cross-connections).

Solutions for Los Altos

Typical Los Altos streets have unmarked shoulders that double as parking spaces and have no sidewalks. If they do have sidewalks, they often start/stop arbitrarily on opposite sides of the street at random intervals. Even major thoroughfares through the city such as Fremont Road and Miramonte Avenue have no provisions for pedestrians and inconsistent provisions for cyclists. Getting into and out of commercial areas is problematic.

As an example, I have been walking to Loyola Corners recently and just discovered the crosswalk on Fremont that crosses the northbound Foothill Expressway exit. It is completely blind – people in the crosswalk cannot see oncoming cars, and drivers cannot see the crosswalk until it is directly in front of them after rounding a curve. To put it mildly, none of the routes across Foothill south of downtown is pedestrian- or child-friendly.

What is needed:

• One or more safe east-to-west pedestrian routes and cycling routes to complement Foothill (for example, Fremont Avenue, Cuesta Drive and Covington Road).

• One or more safe north-to-south pedestrian and cycling routes (for example, Grant Road, Miramonte Avenue and Springer Road).

• Safe pedestrian and cycling interconnections from these routes to all schools.

• Safe pedestrian and cycling interconnections to all commercial and government districts (for example, downtown, Rancho Shopping Center, Loyola Corners and the Los Altos Civic Center).

Although I used major street names above to illustrate the need, separate parallel pedestrian and cycling solutions certainly need to be considered.

I left out north Los Altos and the part of Los Altos on the southwest side of Foothill, including unincorporated Santa Clara County, due to space limitations.

Chris Hoeber is a local resident, avid cyclist and founderof a cycling club. Email questions and comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Like people, cars shouldn’t sit too long

By Matt Pataky

As the weeks pass during the pandemic, it has become clear to me that there are certain trends forming in the automotive world. This month, I explore the challenges and can hopefully help you navigate them or even stop them from happening.

The most obvious problem has been dead batteries. Even when a car is not operating, there is a small drain on the battery. Depending on the car, the drain or draw is usually between 60 milliamps (.06 amps) and 50 milliamps (.05 amps), though it can be much lower than that.

The lower the draw, the longer the battery will hold up. If a battery is less than three years old and is healthy, it should hold up – meaning it can start the car – for a month. If the car has a defective electrical component, it can cause a 1- to 2-amp draw capable of killing the battery in a matter of days. If you unintentionally leave the interior dome lights in the vehicle (a 3-amp draw), the battery will be dead the next day. Kids are often the biggest culprits; my 4-year-old turned on the lights in our minivan three times last month.

Getting proper sleep

Modern cars have so many control modules that it can sometimes take up to an hour before the car’s battery reaches its minimum draw – a process called “going to sleep.” It’s similar to what our computers and smartphones do.
It’s important that cars go to sleep correctly, however. If a control module has a problem, it can hold up the sleep process and drain the battery abnormally. If the battery is weak, it may not have the power to put the car to sleep or wake it up. While a mouse wakes up a computer, modern cars wake up when they are unlocked.

After about a month into the shelter-in-place, cars started coming into the shop with programming problems. We had two BMWs with batteries that were at least 6 years old. In both cases, we had to install new batteries and reset the camshaft variable valve programming. We aren’t sure what caused the program corruption – it could have been during the going-to-sleep or waking-up process – but the root cause was a weak battery.

Rodent relocation

We are also seeing something I have written about several times: the great rodent relocation. Because so many cars have been sitting in the same place for months, rodents have found the engine bay of your vehicle to be an upgrade from the ivy patch.

Make sure to at least open the hood to see if there’s any rodent activity. Rodents love to eat the hood insulation and then stuff it in the intake manifold to make a cozy bed. If you see rodent droppings, twigs, bottle caps, chewed wires, chewed hoses or trash, it is time to take action. The sooner you stop their activity, the better.

I have no iron-clad remedy for keeping the rodents out of the engine bay, but I suggest setting traps outside the car and looking for an environmentally safe rodent spray. After we repair the damaged wires or hoses, we install rat tape, which stops the rodent from ever eating the wires or hoses again.

Just because your car has not been driven much lately does not mean everything is OK. Open the hood and check for rodents and try to find out the age of your battery.

Matt Pataky owns Sunnyvale Foreign Car Service, 15 Pioneer Way, Mountain View. For more information, call 960-6988, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit sunnyvaleforeigncar.com.

New VW Golf comes with a lot, including a reasonable price

By Mike Hagerty

If you could only buy one new car to do everything you do in your life, what would it be?

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Mike Hagerty/Special to the Town Crier
The new Volkswagen Golf seats five and has adequate cargo space. Equipped with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the Golf gets 28 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway.

A lot of people – Americans, especially – would default to the biggest, most capable all-weather machine they could afford and figure if it can handle that, it can handle the rest. In my mid-30s, that way of thinking possessed me to buy a Suburban with four-wheel drive. I owned it seven years. It never left two-wheel drive mode, I never had eight people in it at once, and I never filled the cargo area.

The truth is, the one car for most Americans is a German car that has simply been evolving over 45 years.

That car, of course, is the Volkswagen Golf: seating for five, better-than-average passenger and cargo room, reasonable acceleration and reasonable price.

Let’s do reasonable acceleration first. Zero to 60 mph happens in 7.7 seconds from the new 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It makes 147 horsepower – 23 fewer than the 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder engine it replaces – and yet the new Golf is one-tenth of a second quicker to 60 mph.

Equipped with a six-speed manual transmission as our tester was, the Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates are 28 mpg city, 36 highway.

The rear hatch area holds 17.4 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seat up. It’s hard to find a bigger traditional trunk in a car these days. Fold the rear seat down and the cargo capacity leaps to 53.7 cubic feet.

With seats in place, all five aboard will find plentiful headroom because of the upright design of the Golf, adequate legroom – the front passenger seat in the above photo is all the way back – as well as comfort and support from truly well-designed seats.

Europe got the next-generation Golf a few months ago. The U.S. is most likely in its last year of this generation, so apart from the 228-horsepower GTI and the outrageous 292 horsepower Golf R, there is only one way to get a Golf this year.

There’s one trim level, TSI. The base price is $23,195, and you get a lot for your money. It includes anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, alloy wheels, halogen headlights, LED taillights, a power sunroof, cruise control, an audio system with Apple CarPlay, and a lot more.

Our tester had no extra-cost options. An eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with Sport mode is available for $800, and the rest of the option list is really dealer-installed stuff (mud flaps, cargo organizers, roof racks, etc.). So, with the $920 destination charge, the bottom line on the window sticker reads $24,115.

That, my friends, is a screaming deal – $14,000 below the average price of a new car in this country this year. For a car that is way above average, and that probably meets 90% of the needs of 90% of Americans about 90% of the time.

There’s a reason the Golf, in a form close to the 1975 original, lives on today.

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Toyota 86 is a screaming bargain

By Mike Hagerty

There is a road in Japan called the Hakone Turnpike, a marvelous winding road with magnificent 360-degree views in some places and surrounded by the greens of nature. A road just made for a car like the 2020 Toyota 86.

”Toyota
Mike Hagerty/Special to the Town Crier
The Hakone Edition of the Toyota 86 has a metallic green exterior. The interior features leather and faux suede. The car goes from 0 to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds.

The Toyota 86 was, until a couple of years ago, the Scion FR-S and still is the Subaru BRZ. We’ve made no secret of our love for it from day one, calling it (and why stop now?) the true spiritual successor to the original Datsun 240Z.

Like the original Z, it’s not an overpowered pavement-ripper. It has just enough power in just a light enough body. In the case of the 86, that’s a 2-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine made by Subaru. With a manual transmission, it’s 205 horsepower. With an automatic, like our tester, it’s 200 horsepower. Zero to 60 mph happens in 7.6 seconds. The Environmental Protection Agency estimate is 24 mpg city/32 highway.

Now, where the 86 really shines is on your favorite winding road. The balance is superb, the response to inputs immediate and satisfying. This is the car that will have you taking the long way to everywhere you go.

The Hakone Edition is an appearance package – the Hakone Green paint resembles a metallic British Racing Green – with bronze wheels, a body-colored rear spoiler and a beautiful tan leather and black faux suede interior.
Base price is $30,590, which includes nice upholstery, a decent stereo, dual-zone climate control, heated seats and more of what we consider basics today that were unfathomable luxuries a half-century ago in the original 240Z.

It offers zero extra-cost options, which means that with $955 delivery processing and handling fee, the bottom-line price on the window sticker is $31,545.

That is an absolute screaming bargain for the fun you’ll have behind the wheel. If I were in the market, I’d find the 2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition very hard to resist.

Mike Hagerty, vice president of membership for Western Automotive Journalists (waj.org), has been writing about cars since 1997. Read more of his reviews on his website (tirekicker.blogspot.com) and follow him on Twitter (twitter.com/mikehagertycars) and Facebook (facebook.com/mikehagertywritesaboutcars).

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