Dodge Charger Scat Pack vs El Mirage
$40,000 isn’t that much for a car, let alone one that's fast enough to get your heart racing. But we live in a brave new world, where normal, affordable, family-oriented four-doors will reach supercar levels of performance—and you don't even need a racing driver's physique to manage. Scarf down a burger and large fry, and the only problem you'll have is high cholesterol.
Dodge’s Charger Scat Pack is really one of those unsung heroes of the four-door performance lineup. Deciding that the Hellcat twins have had their time in the limelight, we took the Charger Scat Pack to El Mirage Dry Lakebed in Southern California, where there are no speed limits, no concrete barriers, nothing other the opportunity to see just how fast this family sedan is.
For decades, racers and speed freaks have been coming to the lakebed to see just how fast they can go. The lake is like the siren from myth and legend; it calls to you, urging you to push both your limits and the car’s. The lake’s landscape continues that otherworldly persona and resembles something out of a dystopian science fiction movie. Haze, mirages, and dust make up the background, with the only marker being a lone pole that looks to have once carried telegraph messages. The equation of being able to test your top speed at El Mirage is easy. Go when it hasn’t rained in weeks, and on a weekday when absolutely no one is there. You’ll also want to remember to fill up with gas, and check your tire pressure. Otherwise, just pay your $15 entrance fee and go like hell.
El Mirage’s lakebed however, isn’t tarmac. The texture isn’t even consistent throughout. It ranges from pristinely smooth, to mounds of dirt churned up by rain and wind. It can make attempting a run difficult and terrifying if you don’t catch the lake at the right time. However, for our run in the Charger Scat Pack, the weather, the lake, and the car were ready to see just how close we could get to the Charger’s theoretical top speed of 175 miles per hour. As we entered the lake, we scouted our projected path, and having been to El Mirage before, we knew that the best chance for a top speed run was to start at the lake’s most northwestern edge and build speed, while gradually turning onto the main straight. The Charger Scat Pack’s 485 horsepower V8, however, doesn’t make for a easy time in getting the car to hook up on the dirt. Even well past 120 miles per hour, the tires have a habit of slipping and sliding. RELATED: How Fast Can I Go? The Tale of a Land Speed Honda NC600
Our first run was well short of the Charger’s top speed, hitting just 159 miles per hour. With that, we were somewhat perplexed; there was virtually no wind, and the run went as smoothly as we could have hoped. Back to the starting point then. We had a small conversation about what had gone wrong. The first thing we noticed was that the car wasn't in Sport, and that the tire pressure was a little high too high. We quickly addressed the issues, and removed any unnecessary weight — like water bottles, phones and hats — and lined up for another pass.
169 miles per hour. Faster, but not enough. At this point, we couldn't give up. We’d get closer to the Charger Scat Pack’s top speed or die trying (literally). Four more runs and the best we could manage was 170 miles per hour. We just couldn’t get it closer. We tried slow starts, fast starts, and cutting a wider arc to build up more speed. Finally, we just decided to go for broke—foot planted to the floor from start to finish, butt cheeks clenched all the while. RELATED: Read Our Review of the Charger Hellcat Here
The needle sped furiously past 120 miles per hour, the world slowed, and everything began to line up. 130. 145. Faster. 160. Come on. 170. 172. Almost there. GET READY TO TAKE THE PICTURE. 173 miles per hour—and a missed picture. 173 miles per hour was the best we could get out of the Charger Scat Pack that day. An admirable run by the big American muscle sedan. But again, consider this: for $40,000, you can get a 173 mph sedan. The Charger Scat Pack is a hell of a bargain. It's pretty amazing that we live in an era where a Dodge Charger is as fast as a new Porsche 911, or Aston Martin V8 Vantage S. Woof.
Photo Credit: Jonathon Klein for BoldRide