The Golden Age Is Now: 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

Front view of 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
The 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack.
When I was getting my learner's permit, one of the most fearsome and desirable beasts roaming the planet was the 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T with a 426 Hemi.  425 horsepower as measured in those days (they measured gross, not net then...works out to about 350 by today's standards) and a 0-60 time of six seconds. It would do the quarter in 14 seconds at 104 miles per hour.

When the 1972 models were introduced a month later,  the party was over, Thanks to a double-whammy of emissions regulations and insurance surcharges, the Hemi was dead and the most muscle a Challenger could muster was 240 horsepower from a 340-cubic inch V8.

Instantly, anything prior to that moment was regarded as "The Golden Age of Muscle Cars".

We were right, for a while.  Turns out we just had a 45-year intermission. In fact, the 60s and 70s were just a warm-up by comparison.

Rear view of 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
The 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack.
Case in point, the 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack.  Yes, there is an even more outrageous model of the Challenger (the 707-horsepower Hellcat), but that costs 60 grand before options and is a limited-production model.  The true successor to the '71 Hemi Challenger is the R/T Scat Pack...and it improves on the ancestor in every imaginable way, apart from perhaps size and weight.

Instrument display for 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack instrument display.
First, let's deal with the power.  485 horses...and that's net, not gross like in the old days. Despite the added bulk, it shaves a second and a half off the '71's 0-60 time.  That flies by in 4.5 seconds in the 2016.  14-second quarter-miles at 104 mph are now mid-12s at 114.  And that power makes itself apparent immediately.  Press the accelerator pedal like you would whatever car you drove last and you'll find yourself hurtling in whichever direction the steering wheel is turned.  Remember those old driver-training films about pretending you have an egg between your shoe and the accelerator pedal? Start there the first few times you put the R/T Scat Pack in gear. A slight tap of the go pedal to back out of your driveway will put you halfway up your neighbor's.  More than that and you're in his garage.

$37,995 is all it costs to access that kind of brute power.  That's about $6,000 in 1971 dollars...which is about $2,000 more than the base price of a '71 Hemi Challenger...but for that, you get a well-equipped, fully-realized car, not a bare-bones stripper with a big engine.

Standard equipment: Active exhaust, Brembo 4-piston high-performance brakes, a Bilstein high-performance suspension, sport mode, electronic stability control, all speed traction control, hill start assist, rain brake support, ready alert braking, rear parking assist, a backup camera, keyless entry and start, a theft deterrent system, a 7-inch display with Uconnect, and a six-speaker, 276-watt AM/FM/SiriusXM audio system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

There's also integrated voice command, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a tilt/telescoping steering column, dual-zone automatic temperature control, a six-way power driver's seat with four-way power lumbar adjustment, bright pedals, 20-inch polished aluminum wheel with black pockets, all-season performance tires, automatic projector headlamps, projector fog lamps, a Scat Pack 6.4 L fender badge on either side of the car, dual rear exhausts with bright tips, a satin black rear spoiler, satin chrome grille and a bright fuel filler door with that oh-so-cool 1970s Chrysler font spelling "FUEL".

Seats in the 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack
2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack seats embossed with the Scat Pack logo.

Our tester only had four options, the Interior/Exterior Scat Pack Appearance Group (a satin black fuel filler door, gloss black grille, high-intensity discharge headlamps, a Scat Pack bumblebee stripe, Scat Pack premium floor mats, and a performance steering whee) for $1,195, UConnect Nav with GPS Navigation, HD Radio, SiriusXM NavTraffic and SiriusXM Travel Link for $795, 20-inch Hyper Black II forged aluminum wheels for $1,095 and the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for $1,400.

Remarkably, the combination of the 6.4 Hemi and the eight-speed automatic keep the fuel economy in reasonable territory for the performance....an EPA-estimated 15 city/25 highway (which is only one mile per gallon less in the city and the same in the highway as the 5.7-liter R/T the Phoenix bureau tested last year...and that engine packs 109 fewer horsepower).

All told, with $995 destination charge, our Challenger R/T Scat Pack rang in at $43,475.  There are many lesser cars out there for much more money.  This may be the sweet spot in the 10-model Challenger lineup.  And it won't surprise me if 45 years from now, someone who's getting their learner's permit now ends up writing about it.