Can any of the fresh 911's ageing rivals prevent Porsche world domination?...
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What is this? The Dodge Challenger is rapidly becoming the Porsche 911 of the muscle car world. Having started its third generation in 2008 with a relatively modest line-up, the nameplate has now become its own mini range of 15+ distinct models, each one packing its own unique mix of power and parts. And, as if those weren’t enough, Dodge has now added widebody versions to the Hellcat and R/T Scat Pack (don’t snigger). Plus, following the final production of the furious Demon, it has allowed key parts and technologies from the range topper to seep into yet more new variants. Which ones? On the drag racing side of things, that has given rise to the R/T Scat Pack 1320. This uses the regular 485bhp 392 V8 but adds the Demon’s adaptive damping with Drag Mode, line lock, transbrake, torque reserve and some extra chunky half-shafts, among other new bits. We haven’t driven this one yet, but it looks promising.
Then there is the R/T Scat Pack Widebody, which has borrowed the Demon’s flared wheelarches and then had its chassis retuned to make it better at cornering. We had a few laps in this one and it is without doubt the best handling Challenger you can buy. It would still be left for dust by an SS Camaro 1LE, but it’s appreciably better than ever before. And what about this Redeye then? This puppy is a Hellcat – itself uprated for 2019 to 717bhp/656lbft thanks to the better airflow caused by the dual-snorkel bonnet – just with the Demon’s ‘Hellcat high output’ engine featuring the bigger supercharger and another 80bhp/51lbft of go. Or rather it’s quite a lot more than that. It also gets the Power and After Run chiller functions to cool the engine during and between runs. Plus it gets the power reserve function for faster getaways and the strengthened drive train. You can also delete the passenger and rear seats in both the standard and Redeye Hellcats, just like the Demon. What it doesn’t get from its dual-horned big brother is the high-octane mode, plus all the drag-specific kit like the drag mode suspension, the transbrake, special drag radial wheels and tyres, etc. Think of this as a high-speed Demon – the Redeye can top 203mph in standard form, compared with a good 30mph less in the Big D, due to its drag tyres’ lower speed ratings. Sounds impressive – any more details? Oh yes. Plenty more. The new twin-snorkel bonnet, for example, along with the air catcher headlight intake and another in the wheel liner, improve airflow rate into the engine by 18 per cent. The engine now flows 1,134 cubic feet of air per minute – equivalent to 89 adults exhaling every second. The front discs are clasped by six-pot Brembo calipers, instead of the Demon’s weight-saving four-pots. And you can have a choice of rear drive ratios: 2.62:1 for better top speed, or the Demon’s 3.09:1 if you want more low end hit. Does it come in widebody only? Nope. You can have any combination of Hellcat or Hellcat Redeye in either original slim body or widebody formats. Unless you are looking to wring the very top speed out of your car on a regular basis, the widebody, with its wider 305 tyres is unquestionably the one to get. You need all the grip you can get with nearly 800bhp trying to find its way to the road. What’s it like to drive? The Redeye drives like you’d imagine a tuned Hellcat would. There are the same noises and responses, just more of them at a higher volume and speeds. The 0.3-litre larger supercharger still dominates the soundtrack at anything above idle, the tyres still want to let go with the merest prod of the throttle and you sit in sumptuous comfort throughout in the plus-sized cabin. Where the biggest differences lie is between the Demon and the Redeye. Run in Drag mode, the Demon is as floaty, soft and squidgy as its 70s namesake. It gathers itself together nicely when put in Street mode and can get better still in Custom where you can tune the chassis to your tastes. The Redeye is firmer, more controlled from the off and can, using Track mode, be made quite rigid. Driven on the road in Sport mode, it drives just like a wider-tyred Hellcat. Super comfortable, better steering feel and turn in. On the track, in Track mode, it stays remarkably composed for something weighing 4,500lb and with nearly 800bhp. You can carry appreciably more corner speed with the extra rubber, but you still steer just as much with the throttle as the steering wheel. It’s not necessarily a superfast way around a track, but it’s definitely fun. Is the Redeye worth the extra over the uprated Hellcat – is it the one to buy? In widebody form, yes. You get the better motor, a new set of toys to play with and more rubber to lay down. In narrow body, not so much. The standard Hellcat already has issues with grip on its standard tyres. So adding a load more power and torque doesn’t make that situation any better – unless all you plan to do is standing burnouts. Either way though, make sure you get behind the wheel of a Challenger soon – true muscle cars with looks and performance like this just can’t exist that much longer and we should be enjoying them while we still can.