2019 Dodge Challenger 1320: Pros and Cons of the Budget Street-and-Strip Machine
Last week, I got to spend the week leading up to the Woodward Dream Cruise driving a 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320, along with enjoying the track-purposed machine on the day of the big event in Metro Detroit. I have previously tested the 1320 package on a drag strip, but this was my first chance to experience the package in a daily-driving scenario and in the long run, that seems to be the concern of many people considering one of these Challengers.
If you are not familiar with the Dodge Challenger 1320, it is based on the R/T Scat Pack, featuring a host of package-specific upgrades that make it the most drag strip-capable, naturally aspirated performance car on sale today. The package reduces weight where possible while adding drag-tuned suspension, a 3.09 rear gear set and a set of drag radial tires, leading to a car that will run well into the 11-second range in factory-stock form.
Those stock 11-second capabilities coupled with the MSRP starting right around $46,000 attracts a great many prospective buyers who want a turnkey street-and-strip car, but many of those possible 1320 buyers are more interested in the daily driving experience than the track numbers. After all, they know that with some seat time, the Challenger 1320 will run in the 11s in stock form, but can it really be daily driven, comfortably and enjoyable?
That was what I wanted to find out when I took delivery of the 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320, and I was pleasantly surprised with the results of my week-long test session.
Dodge Challenger 1320 Interior Comforts
While the interior of the 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 has been lightened up by removing some heavy (and costly) features, it is not a gutted, bare-bones cabin. Since the 1320 package includes and Drive Mode system with individual settings for the steering, suspension and transmission functions, the 8.4-inch UConnect touch screen in standard, so while the package comes with a very minimal sound system, it has the premium touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and the Performance Package suite, which includes gauges, performance timers and the dyno screen.
Next, while cloth front “performance” seats are standard in the Challenger 1320, the driver’s seat maintains power controls and both front seats are heated, as is the steering wheel. I spent the better part of 5 hours at the Woodward Dream Cruise in the driver’s seat and while I missed the cooled leather surfaces of my Hellcat Challenger, I was comfortable in the 1320 seats for the long days behind the wheel. Also, while making my way around the Dream Cruise, I turned to the easy-to-use navigation system on multiple occasions to get around an unexpected closed road.
Of course, like every other modern Dodge Challenger and unlike the competition, the 1320 has a ton of elbow, hip, leg and head room for both front passenger seats, but it should be noted that it comes without a rear seat. As you can see in the pictures, the package includes a cool rear seat delete panel with an integrated cargo net that is perfect for keeping your helmet in place, but this is a straight-up two-person car in standard form. That being said, if you don’t need the rear seat, the delete package looks great and removes somewhere in the area of 100 pounds.
Finally, while I mentioned the fact that the steering wheel is heated, I should point out that it is a nice, thick wheel wrapped in suede and lined with controls on the front and back. I love the suede wheel enough that I regularly think about buying one to swap in place of the leather wheel in my Hellcat Challenger, and like my Hellcat, the 1320 wheel has shift paddles, buttons to control the cruise control system, buttons to control the sound system and buttons to control the information displayed in the middle of the gauge cluster.
In the long run, when compared to my own daily driven Hellcat Challenger, the only things that I really missed when driving the 1320 were my Harman Kardon speaker system and the cooled leather seats. If you can live without those features and without a rear seat, the Challenger 1320 interior makes for a fantastic daily driver with no real compromise.
Challenger 1320 on the Road
The 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 is powered by a 392-cubic inch Hemi V8 that sends 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque towards the rear wheels by means of an 8-speed automatic transmission and a set of 3.09 rear gears. Compared to the standard 2.62 rear gears in my Hellcat Challenger, the 3.09s offer a noticeably quicker increase in engine speed compared to a stock Hellcat with the 2.62 gears. Mind you, I am not saying that the 1320 is quicker from a stop than a Hellcat, but when driving the 1320 and driving the Hellcat, the difference in rear end gearing is noticeable when you climb in and out of the throttle at low speeds, even with the big power advantage for the Hellcat.
That low-end acceleration is bolstered by a set of Nexen drag radials, which are one of the most popular topics of conversation among drag racers who are considering a Challenger 1320. Nexen is not a name that is well-known in the drag racing world and frankly, if a 1320 buyer expects these tires to perform like a Hoosier or Mickey Thompson drag radial, they are going to be disappointed. In fact, Im not sure if these tires grip as well as the relatively unloved Nitto drag radials from the Challenger Demon, but there is no question in my mind that the Nexen “drag spec” tires grip better than the standard tires on the Scat Pack or Hellcat Challenger.
On a hard launch during the daily drive, the Nexen tires still struggle a bit to get ahold of the ground, but they bite a whole lot quicker than do the standard Pirelli tires on my Hellcat. More importantly, I found that when you get the Nexen tires good and hot, they will absolutely grip the pavement – even on the unprepped surface of Woodward Avenue. After one big, smoky burnout, the 1320 tires were sticky enough that on a hard launch, the car felt like it wanted to pull the front rollers off of the ground rather than spin the rear tires. With the tires hot, the Challenger didn’t really want to spin them, but I found that on a closed circuit, I was able to reel off an 11.9 quarter mile based on the on-board timing system.
In other words, the Nexen tires aren’t the best drag radial in the world, but in terms of factory-issued tires that can serve double duty on a daily driven muscle car, they are considerably better than any of the other rubber offered in the Challenger lineup – including the Pirellis that come on the Hellcat cars.
Part of the Challenger 1320’s ability to launch so hard is the adaptive suspension system with the unique drag strip tuning package. With the push of a button on the center console, the active suspension goes into drag mode, which is designed to allow all of the weight to shift hard to the rear end, which generally leads to the rear tires gripping as the front end comes up. To those folks who aren’t familiar with modern suspension setups like the one in the Challenger, there is a concern that the drag-tuned dampers will lead to very poor handling, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even when driving around in Drag Mode, the Challenger 1320 handles curves nicely, but if the suspension setting is left in the normal mode, the big Dodge muscle car handles nearly as well as the non-drag-tuned Scat Pack cars. The slightly softer springs of the 1320 package lead to a touch more body roll under hard cornering, but in terms of daily driving – even when the car is being driven harder than the average commuter car – this Challenger is a ton of fun to drive. You probably wont want to go road racing with the 1320, but the suspension setup did a fine job of handling all of the curves in Metro Detroit with the help of the sticky Nexen tires and in the event that I got into a turn too hard, the Brembo brakes at all four corners quickly get the 1320 back under control.
Honestly, anyone who hasn’t driven a modern Dodge Challenger will likely enjoy the handling of the 1320 package during everyday driving and with the push of a button, the Drag Mode suspension offers front-to-rear weight transfer that is bound to put a smile on your face with every hard launch. Best of all, in either drive mode, the softer springs of the 1320 package lead to a surprisingly smooth ride on the open road.
My Only Complaints
Honestly, if you are looking for a daily-drivable muscle car that will run in the 11-second quarter mile range without any upgrades and with a price south of $50,000, there is no better alternative to the 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320. However, if I really have to go digging for “cons”, there are some things with this package that I did not love.
First and foremost, I was unhappy with the exhaust note of the Challenger 1320 that I tested. This car is powered by a 485-horsepower Hemi from FCA’s SRT division, yet it is only marginally louder than my Ram 1500. While I don’t expect the 1320 to be as loud as my lightly modified Hellcat Challenger, the 1320 test car that I took to the Woodward Dream Cruise was unbelievably quiet except at wide open throttle. When idling, cruising or revving the engine the engine at a stop light, the 1320 is just way, way too quiet and I suspect that is due to the tuning of the active exhaust valve system. All of the modern Hemi-powered Challengers come with an exhaust system with valves that open and closed based on drive mode and throttle position, and in the case of the 1320, they are tuned far too conservatively in my opinion. This is a factory-built muscle car capable of running 11s in stock form – it deserves to be heard at idle and when cruising, so were I to buy a 1320, some exhaust upgrades would be done right away.
Second, and this is another situation where I am really hunting for things to complain about, is the function of the tires on the open road. When cruising on the highway at 70-75 miles per hour, I found that the Challenger 1320 tended to “wander” in the lane a bit, and this is not something that I have experienced with other models. Keep in mind that in addition to my own Hellcat, I have logged thousands of miles on every other trim level, from the base V6 to the 797-horsepower Redeye.
None of the others felt this way on the highway and along similar lines, none of the other models had as much tire noise, so I suspect that the Nexen tires lead to the road noise and wandering on the highway. That being said, these “problems” are so slight that many people many not notice, especially if those people daily driver a truck or SUV that is noisy and which wanders more at speed. With that in mind, were I to buy a 1320, I would likely run a different tire on the road and save the Nexens for the track.
The Final Word
If you have been considering a new 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 based on the drag strip abilities but you are concerned about the package’s ability to serve as a great daily driver, you should go ahead and order your new 1320. In factory stock form, there are few compromises in terms of interior or on-road comforts and if you don’t want leather seats, cooled seats or a rear seat, there is no compromise at all in terms of the cabin.
On the open road, the Challenger 1320 drives every bit as nicely as the rest of the lineup with a loss of handling that is so slight that the average driver won’t notice it without driving something like a Hellcat Challenger back-to-back with the 1320. While I would love a much louder exhaust system, the 1320 offers the kind of punch that a drag racing muscle car owner wants coupled with an impressive list of premium features for a car that starts around $47,000.
The bottom line here is that if you want a stock 11-second car that you can love driving to and from work every day without spending $50,000, the 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 is the best option on the market today.
See you in my next story where I am discussing why Dodge Charger, Challenger Hemi V8 isn't going anywhere right away.