Duffer: The only prescription is more Challenger

December 20, 2019

There is an unusual but growing affliction among certain Americans who suffer from too much of a good thing, commonly known as “Dodge Challenger Fatigue.” Those affected by Dodge Challenger Fatigue no longer notice the gorgeous muscle car and can no longer distinguish the dozens of variants that have rolled out since the timeless retro-bod was relaunched for 2008.   

From the 840-horsepower wheelie-popping Dodge Challenger SRT Demon to the $30,000 base model SXT, news or sighting of another one barely raises an eyebrow because Dodge can’t keep outdoing Dodge with the same model. So much has changed in 12 years—the Chevy Camaro has been redesigned twice, the Ford Mustang has lived through two generations and branched off into an electric crossover, and the whole automotive industry has evolved into “Autos 2.0”—but not the Dodge. The Dodge abides. 

I had it and am relieved to be rid of it. It is hard to reconcile the lack of feeling or, at best, listlessness at encountering one in the wild, especially when memories of tracking a Hellcat at the Gingerman Raceway are as alive and visceral as that first kiss, that first love, of waxing Dad’s sheet metal before taking it out for the night. 

Fatigue sufferers take for granted that it was always there and will always be there, in Sublime Green or Plum Crazy or some other fun color that makes you smile like you do when reflecting on your feral teenage years. Also like your teen years, the rear-drive muscle car seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once. 

There is a remedy, and it is a choice. An urgent choice, perhaps. To overcome Dodge Challenger Fatigue, all you have to do is drive another Dodge Challenger and experience it as it was meant to be experienced, from behind the chunky wheel, through the wide angle over the long hood. 

Falling in love all over again happened in the 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody. Which one is that? It doesn’t matter. It was a Challenger. And it was all I needed to be reminded of love as rich as Yoo-hoo and Moonpies. 

The simple enduring greatness of the Dodge Challenger is that it is timeless, and, in its frozen age, does not age at all. If only we could be so lucky: bald head, back hair, bad joints.

The 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody might be the best everyday driving Challenger, with extra track bits thrown in for double duty. 

The Challenger R/T Scat Pack costs less than $40,000 and is powered by that familiarly comforting yet heart-thumpingly potent 485-horsepower, 392-inch (OK, OK, OK, editors, a 6.4-liter) HEMI V-8 with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain is the same, the interior is the same, loaded with modern conveniences in a classically unadorned packaging, yet the Widebody is 3.5 inches wider, with wider tracks front and rear. The spacious old-school interior strikes the balance between retro and modern enough to believe you could get it in a six-way power bench seat. You can’t. You also can't park it in the garage as easily. 

The $6,000 upcharge on the Widebody is best invested on the track because it comes with wider 20x11-inch forged aluminum wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero super low-profile 305 tires. They’re all-season tires, and since I was driving in the Chicago area when the tracks are closed, they did just fine. It comes with stiffer springs, adaptive damping, and, most importantly, upgraded Brembo brake system with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers. The brakes are the most vital component when tracking the near 4,500-pound Challenger. 

Tracking a Challenger is the best way to overcome Dodge Challenger Fatigue, but driving it around town provides a good dosage. 

2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

Those fatter fender flares from the Hellcat flex the muscle of this car. The bulging hood scoop flanked by heat extractors meant to cool the engine and reduce front lift sure look cool, too. The improvements to the R/T Scat Pack Widebody are all about airflow, including illuminated Air Catcher inner lights that shoot air into the engine, an integrated front splitter, and the Hellcat’s rear spoiler to improve downforce. If you want the look and feel of the Hellcat, but know that you’ll never optimize the 707-horsepower in the massive engine bay, the R/T Scat Pack Widebody is a sound runner up for $20,000 less in Widebody form. Other standard equipment includes launch control, SRT performance pages, and SRT drive modes.

Even though what’s under the hood and on the bulging body is unequivocally as cool as a white T-shirt and true blue jeans, the real charms of this Challenger are how it feels inside. It’s a time machine with an easy to use infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and an 8.4-inch touchscreen with the rearview on the market. It lacks standard active safety features and an ashtray, a bench seat, or pushbutton AM/FM radio, but it still feels classically cool. 

My Dodge Challenger Fatigue fades not only after driving one, but also with the knowledge that not all things last, however timeless. 

The automotive headwinds are turning against the Challenger. With the merger of Peugeot SA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and fuel economy standards going in one direction that is not the direction of V8s, the latest, long-running iteration of the Challenger won’t be long for this world. Like so much in life, the only time is now, no matter the fatigue.

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