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.”
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.
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).