2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

Filed under: , ,

Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

We all knew That Kid. As a freshman, he was a big kid, overweight but surprisingly strong. Still, he was often picked on for his size. Then, he chatted with the football coach, who convinced him that his true calling was on the team’s offensive line. After a season on the freshman squad and a summer of two-a-days, this mild-mannered, husky high schooler returned for his sophomore year as a big, imposing, solid piece of muscle. Needless to say, the same bullies that picked on him were praying he’d forgotten about them as a 10th grader.

That’s the V8-powered 2015 Dodge Challenger. It arrived on the scene with a max of 425 horsepower and a bit of a weight problem. It completed its proverbial freshman year with a nice 2011 refresh, where the SRT8 was bumped up to 470 hp, but it still had some work to do.

Enter 2015, and fresh off three months of constant burpees and wind sprints, the newest Challenger is as big and powerful as it’s ever been, but it’s now got poise and potential, and my goodness, it’s fun in a way that Dodge’s muscle car has never been.

Driving Notes

  • What you see here is not actually a Challenger SRT – it’s the R/T Scat Pack. While the SRT does add wider rubber, six-piston Brembo brakes, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and standard leather, the meat and potatoes of the Scat Pack is the same. Under that long hood sits the same SRT-spec 6.4-liter V8, thundering out an extra 15 hp over last year’s car. With peak horsepower arriving at 6,000 rpm, all 475 pound-feet of torque showing up at 4,200 rpm and a 6,400-rpm redline, the 6.4 remains an engine that’s happiest being run hard.
  • That’s not to say there’s a lack of oomph anywhere in its rev range, though. The Challenger Scat Pack would happily annihilate the pair of Goodyear Eagle F1s that call the rear wheels their home, were it not for the electrical super-ego that is the three-mode traction control system. There’s a ton of torque, but it’s so surprisingly simple to manage, thanks to the predictable throttle response. Sport Mode sharpens that a bit, although the throttle is still easy to modulate, particularly on tip-in.
  • The engine’s goodness isn’t surprising – the 6.4-liter Hemi has always been a charmer. What’s made it better for 2015 is the inclusion of a modern automatic transmission. In place of the antiquated five-speed automatic of the 2014 Challenger SRT and R/T is ZF’s exceptional eight-speed unit.
  • As it was in the Jaguar F-Type V6 S I reviewed a few months back, the ZF autobox is a beauty. In automatic mode, it’s level-headed and unobtrusive. Switch to manual (and set the transmission to Sport) and the Challenger’s aluminum, wheel-mounted paddles become an intuitive and hilariously entertaining way of channeling the engine’s power. Upshifts are very quick – 250 milliseconds in Sport versus 400 milliseconds normally – and are accompanied with a sharp bark from the engine on upshifts.
  • For 2015, Dodge has finally paid some attention to the Challenger’s suspension, fitting the R/T Scat Pack (and all Super Track Pak-equipped models) with Bilstein shocks, a ride height that’s been dropped by half an inch and brawnier sway bars. Also new is a three-mode electric power-assisted steering system, as well as four-piston Brembo brakes.
  • The result of these upgrades is the best-driving generation of Challenger there’s ever been. The handling is sharper and more responsive, with less roll through the corners and less squat and dive under hard pedal inputs. Moreover, Dodge has managed to eke out additional feedback through the chassis, making it easier to judge grip levels from the sticky Goodyears. The ultimate handling threshold feels higher, too, like you can really go further before it gives up.
  • The new electric power steering is an improvement over the utterly lifeless rack of the old Challenger, largely because of the way it builds weight. From a small on-center dead spot, heft builds nicely and progressively. Feedback is still limited, but when you turn the wheel, it actually feels like you’re helming a 4,000-pound vehicle (that’s a good thing). Sport adds even more weight, but it still feels sharp and manageable.
  • Normally, I’d touch on the aesthetics and massively overhauled interior of the 2015 Challenger. But, before testing the Scat Pack, I spent a week with the Challenger SXT. Look for a full and thorough recap on the tech, interior and exterior changes when I review that car in the coming weeks.
  • Pricing for the R/T Scat Pack start at $37,495, which isn’t terrible, considering that everything I mentioned above – aside from the eight-speed auto – is a standard item. My tester added the $995 Technology Group (adaptive cruise, forward collision warning), $1,500 Leather Interior Group (heated and vented leather/suede seats, powered tilt/telescopic steering), $495 Driver Convenience Group (blind-spot monitoring, remote start), $1,995 Scat Pack Appearance Pack (HID headlamps, 20-inch black alloy wheels and assorted matching trim bits) and the $695 8.4-inch, nav-equipped touchscreen. Combined with the $1,400 ZF transmission and $995 destination charge, the total price rang up at $45,570.

Before 2015, the Dodge Challenger was the most loyal to the original idea of a muscle car, being both big and very quick in a straight line. While that was fine, it meant Dodge’s entry to the reborn segment simply couldn’t stand up to more focused competition. This refresh, though, is so comprehensive and so much more finely tuned that you forget about the car’s past.

The Challenger still has a bit of a weight problem, and if ultimate performance is your number one priority, both the new Ford Mustang GT and Chevrolet Camaro SS 1LE will provide a far better muscle car driving experience. But finally, Dodge has built a Challenger that you’ll not only want to drive, but that wants to be driven. That’s the kind of yearly change we can get used to.

2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink | Email this | Comments

Read the rest here:
2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack

Share/Save/Bookmark

Aging Prius, dropping gas prices putting hurt on hybrid, EV sales

Filed under: , , ,

Toyota Prius

“As Prius represents by far the biggest chunk of the hybrid marketplace, where Prius goes, the segment goes,” – Ed Kim, Autopacific

Fuel prices in the US have been tumbling for the last several weeks, with the average price of a gallon of gas at $3.120 as of October 20, according to the US Energy Information Administration. That price reflects a serious recent drop from $3.299 on October 6. Reports have even suggested that those low numbers might not change for a little while, perhaps as long as years. While drivers certainly love paying less at the pump, the change may be hurting the market for more fuel-efficient models, including the Toyota Prius.

According to a report from National Public Radio, sales of hybrids, plug-ins and EVs are down around 5 percent for the year, but trucks and SUVs have seen a 17 and 20 percent improvement, respectively. Autoblog Green’s By the Numbers reports indicate similar figures of around a 5.4 percent drop so far in 2014. In fact, as of September, green-car sales have endured their fourth straight month of declines. That segment of the market fell 11 percent year-over-year in August and 9.6 percent in September.

“As Prius represents by far the biggest chunk of the hybrid marketplace, where Prius goes, the segment goes,” Ed Kim, Vice President of Industry Analysis at AutoPacific tells Autoblog. That paints a bleak picture for hybrids, because at the moment, the Prius is doing pretty poorly. For the year through September, its sales are down 11.39 percent, off by 10.15 percent for just that month.

Of course, the Prius also has things twice has hard. Not only does it have to deal with the falling fuel prices like the rest of its segment-mates, it’s about to be replaced. Rumors suggest that some versions of the next generation could get as much as 60 miles per gallon. “I do think that the next Prius will reignite interest in the segment, especially if it offers the 10-percent fuel economy improvement that Toyota has been claiming,” said Kim.

That improvement still might make things tough, though. According to Autotrader senior analyst Michelle Krebs speaking to Autoblog via email, “The next-generation Prius – and other hybrids and electrics – have a big challenge against traditional gas vehicles, which keep improving with every version in terms of fuel economy.”

Meanwhile, the overall US auto market is booming. As of August, the Seasonally Adjusted Sales Rate showed the best figures since 2006, at about 17.5 million units. “Right now, gas prices are dropping, sales of fuel-sippers are also falling (or at least not growing) and sales of pickup trucks and SUVs, including big ones, are way up,” said Krebs. Scroll down to listen to the full report from NPR.

Continue reading Aging Prius, dropping gas prices putting hurt on hybrid, EV sales

Aging Prius, dropping gas prices putting hurt on hybrid, EV sales originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:32:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink | Email this | Comments

Aging Prius, dropping gas prices putting hurt on hybrid, EV sales

Share/Save/Bookmark

Ex-PR chief Vines accuses Ford of bugging cars, phones

Filed under: ,

Ford Motor Co. Defends Explorer''s Safety

Jason Vines, former head of communications at Ford among other automakers, is accusing the Blue Oval of bugging his company phone and his car during the Firestone tire recall for the Explorer in 2001. The allegations have come to light in Vines’ upcoming book What Did Jesus Drive? Crisis PR in Cars, Computers and Christianity.

According to The Detroit News, which has an advance copy of the book, Vines (pictured above) claims that after leaving the company, someone with security within Ford advised him that he had been bugged around the time of the recall. The allegations don’t stop there, though. Vines further contends that he might not have been the only one to get this treatment, noting that then-general counsel John Rintamaki also believed he was being listened to.

According to The Detroit News, even if it had been a company phone, recording Vines without his knowledge still would have been a felony under Michigan law.

Autoblog reached out to Ford for comment on the allegations, and spokesperson Susan Krusel responded, saying “We are not aware of anything of this nature happening” – the same exact statement given to The Detroit News.

To add a further to the story, Vines also accuses Bill Ford Jr. of leaking some advance information to The New York Times during the recall. The company reportedly investigated the journalist working on the piece and traced the info back to the Ford heir.

Krusel also sent the following statement to Autoblog:

“The accounts detailed in the book about the Firestone tire crises happened more than a decade ago under a very different leadership team at Ford. As with any retelling of history, memories and accuracy differ from person to person, and this account is no different. During the events, our sole focus was on doing what was right for the safety of our customers. We are grateful for Jason’s tireless leadership during the time he served at Ford. We will let the book speak for itself, as we remain focused on creating the next chapter in Ford’s history.”

Following his time at Ford, Vines became Vice President of Communications at Chrysler Group from 2003 to late 2007. He later took a position leading communications for the Christian publishing division of HarperCollins.

Ex-PR chief Vines accuses Ford of bugging cars, phones originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink | Email this | Comments

Read more:
Ex-PR chief Vines accuses Ford of bugging cars, phones

Share/Save/Bookmark

Porsche rules out Macan, 911 hybrids

Filed under: , ,

Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid

Believe it or not, between the 918 Spyder, the Cayenne and the Panamera, Porsche offers more plug-in hybrid models than any other brand. Yes, Porsche. But don’t expect that trend to continue. At least, not in the immediate future.

According to Top Gear, the E-Hybrid powertrain in the Cayenne and Panamera is too big to fit into the smaller Macan. A future hybrid system could be small enough to fit, but with the current technology still fresh, that’d still be some ways down the twisting road.

It stands to reason, then, that if the system wouldn’t fit in the Macan, it wouldn’t fit in the Boxster or Cayman, either. But what of the 911? Surely Porsche would like to stick it to BMW and its new i8, and proved it could do a hybrid 911 when it rolled the GT3 R Hybrid (pictured) out onto the race track over four years ago. But Zuffenhausen is reportedly in no rush to put that idea into production – not for the current 911 and not for the next one, either.

Porsche has indeed proven its performance hybrid chops with the 918 Spyder and the 919 Hybrid LMP1 racer. But for now, it looks like the current trio of Porsche PHEVs will have to carry on by themselves.

Porsche rules out Macan, 911 hybrids originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:16:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink | Email this | Comments

Read more here:
Porsche rules out Macan, 911 hybrids

Share/Save/Bookmark

Mazda2 production fires up in Mexico

Filed under: , , ,

Mazda2

Mazda has officially kicked off production of the next-generation Mazda2 at the company’s new factory in Salamanca, Mexico. Alongside the auto assembly plant, operations have also commenced at the facility’s engine machining factory.

“With the start of production of the all-new Mazda2, operations underway at the engine machining plant, and an increase in our annual production capacity, we now have an even stronger production framework capable of supplying global markets with Skyactiv products of the same high quality level as those made in Japan,” Mazda de Mexico Vehicle Operation’s President Keishi Egawa said in a statement. “At the same time, we are pleased to be able to make a contribution to Mexico’s further economic growth.”

MMVO joins Mazda’s Hofu Plant in Japan and the Auto Alliance factory in Thailand, which commenced Mazda2 production in July and September, respectively.

Scroll down for the full press release from Mazda.

Continue reading Mazda2 production fires up in Mexico

Mazda2 production fires up in Mexico originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink | Email this | Comments

More here:
Mazda2 production fires up in Mexico

Share/Save/Bookmark