Both the “regular” Hellcat and new Redeye version will be available in normal or Widebody configurations, though the shapely sheetmetal option is no longer a Hellcat exclusive. For 2019, the track-focused, naturally aspirated Challenger R/T Scat Pack trim will also be available with the wider track and fenders. The organ donation continues with a new Hemi-powered “1320” model receiving some of the Demon’s dragracing tech to make it the new choice for quarter-mile aficionados.
Challenger sales numbers held tight in 2017 (gaining 1% YoY) and are up 4% as of June 2018 – notable in a climate of palpably declining sales for passenger-car body styles. Changes for 2019 should help keep showrooms fresh in the age-old muscle-car scrap, as GM’s Chevrolet has its own lineup of supercharged and track-ready Camaros, and Ford has updated the Mustang for MY19 with an additional blown foe pending in the GT500.
Continuing on Chrysler’s fabulously long-running LA platform, all Challenger models will maintain their current assembly location at FCA’s facility in Brampton, Ontario, with 2019 production beginning this fall and vehicles starting to arrive in dealerships in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Hellcat plus Demon nets RedeyeThe biggest news for 2019 is the introduction of the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, which employs the monster motor from the drag-focused Demon. That 6.2-liter supercharged V8 made 808 hp on pump gas and now makes 797 in the Redeye. The 11-hp (1.36%) power pullback is due to a slightly more restrictive (0.2 Kilopascal) intake than on the Demon, via a hood that is aerodynamically compatible with the Redeye’s 200-mph top speed.
Thanks to intake revisions that include the new dual-snorkel hood (which is sealed all the way to a new airbox), 2019 Hellcats feature 18% greater intake air-flow and a 4° F (2° C) reduction in intake air temperature. The new intake accounts for the 10-hp jump (to 717 hp) in 2019 for the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 in the regular Hellcat.
All 2019 Challenger Hellcats get a new and 200-mph compatible dual-snorkel hood (left), which is only 0.2-Kilopascal more restrictive than Demon’s hood (right). (image: FCA)
Even with the Demon dearly departed, FCA claims the Redeye still hosts the world’s most powerful production V8, SAE rated at 797 hp (595 kW) @ 6300 rpm, and 707 lb·ft (959 N·m) @ 4500 rpm with 91 octane fuel. Dodge claims a 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) time of 3.4 seconds, a quarter-mile elapsed time of 10.8 seconds at 131 mph (211 km/h) and a tire-governed top speed in either body width of 203 mph (327 km/h).
As for extracting more power from what was already one of the world’s most powerful production engines, Chris Cowland, director of advanced and SRT powertrain engineering for FCA North America, coolly explained the options. “Either increase engine displacement–which we didn't do–or increase the boost pressure or RPM, and we did both.”
The logic may be simple, Cowland explained, but implementation is another matter. “It’s a huge thermo-mechanical challenge. It's getting hotter, and it's also withstanding significantly higher pressure. Lots of people can run crazy-tuned engines. But this engine has to pass all of our standard durability and validation criteria, and we put a full warranty on it.”
Compared to the standard Hellcat engine, the Demon-derived Redeye variant features 25 major component upgrades, including a larger 2.7-liter supercharger producing 1.0 bar (14.5 psi) of boost, vs. 2.4-liter/0.8 bar (11.6 psi). Other component upgrades include strengthened connecting rods and pistons, a higher-speed valvetrain (bumping redline 300 rpm to 6500) and two unique, dual-stage fuel pumps (vs. a single pump on regular Hellcats) that run at a higher pressure.
At full throttle, the Redeye fuel system delivers 1.43 gal/min (which would drain its 18.5-gallon tank in less than 11 minutes), but still manages an EPA hwy rating of 22 mpg. We saw a respectable 18-19 mpg indicated in a day of very mixed road conditions. Chassis components remain unchanged for 2019, but the power increases required supplemental brake cooling, handled by new underbody ducts that direct additional air to the front brakes.
The standard Hellcat remains available with either the Tremec TR-6060 6-speed manual transmission (with ZF-Sachs 258mm twin-disc clutch) or the 8HP90 8-speed automatic. The Redeye is 8-speed automatic only, but available with two final drive ratios, the standard 2.62:1 or an available 3.09:1 for enhanced launch capability. Top speed is unchanged regardless of final drive choice, but occurs in different gears (6th for the 2.62; 7th for the 3.09). During our day with the cars, both on the road and the track, power was never an issue.
“You can make all the power in the world, but if you can’t cool it, the customer can't use it,” explained Challenger SRT development manager Jim Wilder, “If I put my foot to the floor and four seconds later I'm overheating the radiator or the intercooler, who gets to enjoy that? Every molecule of air that goes through the grill, I want it to go through a radiator or a heat exchanger. We made sure all the sealing was as tight as it could be around the cooling modules. If I’m going to take the drag and the lift hit, I need it to work for me.”
Per the new underbody vents, that focus wasn’t directed solely at power. “That includes the brakes,” says Wilder. During test-track development “we picked up 4-5 miles an hour on the straightaways. That's a lot of energy. Again, it wasn't a huge challenge, it's engineering, that's what we do. But it was like, ‘Hmm, 90 more horsepower, more straightaway speed... yeah, that’s going to make the brakes hotter.”
A sweltering summer afternoon at the track proved the Redeye wholly capable of roadcourse stints, with steadfast cooling and braking capacity for consecutive laps at speed, all punctuated by cackling from both downshifts and the driver. Once rolling, acceleration doesn’t feel as brutal as 800-odd horsepower might suggest, but like sitting on the face of a wave, it is relentless. Particularly as the Redeye slings itself into triple-digits speeds, the 4,500-pound coupe winds the needle around its 220-mph speedo with unnerving swiftness.
Two new track-focused models, extra AWD trimTrack-day enthusiasts seeking corners will want to consider the new 2019 R/T Scat Pack Widebody, which features the same wider fenders as Hellcat Widebody models, adding 3.5 in. (89 mm) to the overall width and riding on wider 305/35ZR20 tires. Dodge claims the larger, six-piston Brembo front brakes, wider wheels and tires and suspension upgrades featured on the R/T Scat Pack Widebody equates to a 2-s faster lap time at a 2.1-mile road course, compared with the non-Widebody Challenger R/T Scat Pack.
SRT Drive Modes and the comprehensive (Uconnect screen) SRT Performance Pages are now standard on the 2019 R/T Scat Pack. It also inherits the previous Hellcat’s aluminum hood with a single-intake flanked by dual-air extractors and the hollowed “Air Catcher” headlamps to improve engine-compartment cooling. With optional stripes tailored to the sculpted hood, the Widebody option arguably makes the R/T Scat Pack (below) the most handsome Challenger available.
Straight-line track fans distraught over the Demon’s passing should consider the new Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 (bottom), which FCA announced in July prior to the NHRA Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver. Named for the quarter-mile distance of 1,320 feet, the new model is powered by a 6.4-liter V8 producing 485 hp and 475 lb·ft (644 N·m) and is mated solely to the 8HP70 8-speed automatic. This new street-legal Challenger model is non-widebody only and also snags some of the Demon’s drag-strip tech.
For inclement climates, FCA is adding another all-wheel-drive trim for 2019, with the base Challenger SXT trim now providing the $3,000 option. All-wheel drive is still V6-only for Challenger models, but it brings all-weather capability in the performance coupe close to a $30K price point (see pricing chart, below).
Already perhaps the best-looking throw-back pony-car coupe – particularly in widebody guise and when paired with some of the brilliantly nostalgic paint shades – Dodge previewed a particularly tasty metallic blackberry shade (below) called “Black Eye” on the 1320. This year’s only new pigment is a tasteful grey labeled Triple Nickel, but that combined with the host of changes in the lineup for 2019 should easily keep interest in the Challenger fresh.
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