Test Drive: 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona Scat Pack 392

My neighbour strolled by as I was loading some musical equipment into the trunk of the screaming “Yellow Jacket” Dodge Charger Daytona Scat Pack and quipped, “So how small is it, anyway?” Interpret this as you will.

Yet this brazen hulk is more than just a dumb collection of brutish parts and loud paint. 

Yes, there will be those who think driving this throwback muscle car with the in-yer-face graphics is merely sad compensation for… er, something. But let ’em. They will not be having nearly as much fun a you. And confession time: I was not expecting to enjoy, let alone respect this brute of a sedan that carries a naturally aspirated 6.4L Hemi under its bulging hood and rides on a Mercedes-derived platform from the dark ages.

The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona is laughably over the top, yet unapologetically so. What you see is what you get. Fire it up and your neighbours will scowl. Hell, they’ll scowl just looking at it. With a hair-trigger 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque directed through the rear wheels, it’s all but impossible not to at least chirp the tires when heading out. And while many performance cars now offer complex dual-mode exhausts systems that lend some civility to the proceedings, the Dodge does without that frippery. It’s just loud. All the time. Lean on it and it howls like a stuck yak. Full-throttle upshifts are punctuated by the stuff of a proctologist’s nightmare.

Yet this brazen hulk is more than just a dumb collection of brutish parts and loud paint. It’s actually pretty sophisticated and surprisingly well sorted – in a beautifully dumb kinda way.

The leather/suede sport seats hug with authority yet don’t intrude on your comfort. The steering is well weighted, linear, and directs the big barrel snout with surprising alacrity. Yes, the ride is stiff, but it’s a refined firmness, devoid of unpleasant crashes or knocks. The standard six-piston Brembo brakes respond with linear precision and as though they could stop a Peterbilt. Its eight-speed ZF autobox is fantastic, easily cycling through the gears or cracking off shifts instantly with bids from the paddles.

Other go-fast bits include a limited-slip differential and 20-inch forged alloys wearing 275/40ZR20 Pirelli P Zero tires.

Get this yellow bird on a back road (not too narrow mind, or you’ll be landscaping the hedges) and it does that “shrink itself around you” thing, feeling considerably more intimate than you dare to imagine. There’s barely a millimetre of slack in the body control, and the whip-crack throttle response of that honkin’ Hemi means you can mete out the horses one pony at a time – or the whole damn corral if you’re feeling lucky.

With the supercharged 707 horsepower Charger Hellcat on the prowl ($80,670), armchair critics might dismiss this 485 horsepower Daytona as a lightweight. What times we live in. I’ve driven the Hellcat and that thing is a ticking H-bomb. The rear tires have about the same life expectancy as your licence. The Daytona 392, on the other hand, is merely pleasantly nuts.

As a daily driver it is perfectly serviceable, as long as you don’t mind getting appreciative stares only from teenage boys, while the rest of humanity looks on with a mix of bemusement, disapproval, and quite possibly pity.

Nonetheless, you are well taken care of within. Standard kit for the 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona Scat Pack 392 (base $57,195) includes a revised version of FCA’s excellent 8.4-inch Uconnect multi-media interface with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Certainly one of the best touchscreen systems out there, although navigation integration will add $700. The Daytona 392 also gets rearview camera, rear park assist, ventilated front seats with memory, heated back seats, heated steering wheel and special interior trim. I recommend the $995 10-speaker 572-watt Beats Audio – it’s very good.

This tester sported the $1,895 Technology Group that adds the radar-/camera-based adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, and so on. Further to this, the $995 Driver Convenience Group bestows puddle lamps, HID headlights, and rear cross-path detection.

Thus equipped, this fully booted Daytona does a pretty good job of impersonating a full-size luxury sedan. FCA has also redone its console shifter, one that plagued everything from Jeeps to Dodges to Maseratis with its imprecise hit-or-miss action.

Indeed, the 392 will suck back the fuel (regular grade, thank you) with wanton abandon if there is even a hint of an inner-greaseball lurking within. And believe me, this Dodge will mine the deepest corners of your being to find it. On the plus side, a relaxed highway cruise has the Hemi running on only four cylinders, bringing the fuel consumption down into the mid-nines.

Think of the 2017 Charger Daytona Scat Pack 392 as a bargain-priced AMG – one that never made it through finishing school, yet wins over with its rough charms. It’s an iron fist in a gaudy glove, and it’s about an honest a car as you could hope to find.

But I’d stay away from the Yellow Jacket paint if you don’t want your neighbours making rude assumptions about your anatomy.

Competitors:

Chrysler 300 Ford Taurus
2017 Dodge Charger Daytona Scat Pack 392
Engine Displacement: 6.4L
Engine Cylinders: V8
Peak Horsepower: 485 hp
Peak Torque: 475 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 15.6/9.6/12.9 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 467 L
articles_PricingType 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona Scat Pack 392
Base Price $57,195
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $64,370
Optional Equipment $5,280 – Beats Audio Group $995; Technology Group $1,895; Driver Convenience Group $995; 275/40ZR20 Pirelli P Zero summer tires $695; Uconnect with navigation $700
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.5
8 Styling
9 Powertrain
7 Quality
6 Comfort
8 Practicality
7 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value