I always think fall is a great time of year for new car buyers. The last of the current-year models are still available, but the next year’s models are rolling in or available for order. I had this dual-car scenario occur while testing a current year Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody and then an early 2019 Challenger R/T Scat Pack Plus.

The current generation Challenger borrows more than a few exterior cues from the classic, and highly collectible, first generation 1971 Dodge Challenger. For this year, the biggest change is the available Widebody fender flares (part of $6,000 Widebody performance package option) that add 3.5 inches to an SRT Hellcat’s or Scat Pak Challenger’s overall width.

The additional room was added to permit the addition of 20 x 11-inch “Devil’s Rim” split-five spoke aluminum wheels, wrapped with 305/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero tires.

Underneath the classic pony car lines, Challenger Hellcats receive the second most powerful, volume production V8 ever bolted into a factory vehicle. My test Hellcat came with a killer supercharged, 6.2-liter V8 churning out 650 lb.-ft. torque and a TorqueFlite paddle-shifted, eight-speed automatic transmission. You can opt for stiff-clutch 6-speed manual.

For the racer crowd, the Hellcat HEMI V8 comes with additional cooling measures, including a trick low-temperature circuit with two air/coolant heat exchangers integrated into the supercharger housing. Dodge indicates that this setup is engineered to keep air temperatures below 140 degrees Fahrenheit, under extreme ambient conditions, while enabling airflow of up to 30,000 liters per minute.

Dodge indicates that engine power will not be de-rated due to cooling demands after 20 minutes of hard driving on a road course at an ambient temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Translation: cooler, better breathing engine makes the highest power longer.

Upgrades to the exhilarating driving experience include a new electric power steering (EPS) system for SRT Hellcat Widebody models replacing the hydraulic setup on the regular model, and Drive Modes for selectable steering tuning. The optional 305/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero tires provide track-capable, 3-season grip.

On the road, I was challenged by kids driving their Dad’s BMWs or other luxury make and a few guys driving some shade of Shelby or off-brand “tuner-edition” Mustangs. 

Acceleration can be scary when you feel the crazy, instant power. How about sub-four second 0-60 mph and a quarter mile time of 11.8 seconds at approximately 125 mph?

The new dialed-in steering and wide tires make this a much better car to whip around town or throw on a track. Pavement irregularities and anything but smooth, dry pavement make Hellcat squirrely.

The R/T, SRT and Hellcat Challengers feature SRT Performance Pages, accessible from an 8.4-inch center dash touchscreen. Performance Pages are your command center for the engine, transmission, steering, and traction-control adjustments.

Don’t forget the Scat Pack

Sure, the Demon and Hellcat and SRT Challengers get all the attention, but don’t forget the 2019 Challenger R/T 392 Scat Pack. This cat offers the widebody kit, too, and for performance rubber, it has 485 horses under the hood and choice of a manual or paddle-shifted 8-speed automatic. Like all Challengers, the Scat Pack takes its interior design inspiration from the 1971 first-gen model.

All Challengers will seat up to five passengers in very comfy seats. Also, outward visibility is better and rear seating is not claustrophobic, like Camaros and Mustangs. The trunk can hold up to 16.2 cubic feet, but I transported four 10-foot aluminum downspouts (trunk closed) by folding down rear seatbacks.

Challengers may be heavy, retro-style performance throwbacks, but you can stuff them with technology. From the Performance Pages to the Navi system, high-powered audio and Uconnect features and safety keep the Challenger line up to date on tech.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication