Saturday Road Test – Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

 

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Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

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By Ron Amadon

SUMMIT POINT, WV. – The Gods simply do not want me behind the wheel of high performance cars!

When I had a chance to get drive the new Corvette Stingray for the first time, the greater Washington D.C. area was hit by what only could be called a monsoon. The drive took place anyway but with a nervous Chevy rep. riding shotgun I don’t believe I ever got the ‘Vette out of third gear.

The other day, Fiat Chrysler called offering a chance to drive some of their new offerings. So it was off to the woods of West Virginia – in the rain of course.

Why did it rain? Because part of the afternoon was spent behind the wheel of what its maker calls the most powerful sedan in the world. That would be the 6.2-liter, supercharged V8, 707 horsepower, 650 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 in less than three seconds, Challenger Hellcat.

2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

There it sat in TorRed – temptation on four 20-inch forged evil looking aluminum wheels housing 274/40/R20 summer performance tires.

“That’s the one with the stick shift,” said the Dodge rep as my brain screamed, OMG! I slipped inside the “Premium Laguna Leather SRT Seats” prepping for a heavenly ride in a Hellcat. Life is full of contradictions isn’t it?

2016 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine

The fun starts when you fire up the big V8 that is shoehorned in beneath the scooped hood. It emits a throaty roar that back home would alert all the neighbors that you did not come home in a Prius. It was deep and satisfying, slightly rough, like the big V8 really wanted to clear its throat.

What does it sound like? See:

Off we go. The clutch is bit heavy and grabs at the top of the travel, but the gear box is pure pleasure with easy, short throws. Each of the six gears is right where you would expect them.

Driving in the pouring rain back through town I am sure that someone must alerted the local gendarmes that some outrageous behavior was going on in their town. I saw the big white Baptist Church but no officers.

On the wet roads it was easy to get the rear end to slide when the proper amount of right foot pressure was applied, and before the traction control did its thing.

Nail it on a straight stretch and your back instantly becomes best friends with the seat back, your mouth, without thinking, utters the words “Holy S…”, your blood pressure rises to a level where I am surprised the phone gadget didn’t call my doc, and you come away with the impression that 707 horsepower is one of the greatest inventions – even better than a trip to Mars.

Oh come on, strand me in a Hellcat!

Any comments on handling will have to wait until the rain is over or the ark is complete, but the ride was a nice blend of the proper helpings of stiffness and comfort.

Most testers have come away with a 0-60 of about 3.9 seconds, 0-100 in under 13 seconds and an advertised top speed of a “go directly to jail” 204 mph.

The geek in the back row there, who just wants to know about the gas mileage – SIT DOWN!

Here’s what’s more important – 707 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm with 650 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm. A 6.2-liter supercharged V8, 15.4 inch Brembo brakes in front, (thankfully,) more power than a Viper and a few horses better than the 691 offered in the Lamborghini Aventador. And that puppy costs a whole lot more.

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Sepia Laguna leather

Recently, Dodge upgraded the interior the Hellcat with Nappa leather and Alcantara and a choice of four trim and color combinations. There were lots soft touch materials. A 7-inch digital instrument gauge cluster faces the driver, and a center stack houses an 8.4 inch touchscreen media center.

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to listen to anything but the symphony under the hood, but if you desire, a 900 watt, 18 speaker Harmon Kardon audio system is enclosed. Okay, maybe “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Oh, and Dodge provides owners with two key fobs – One black and one red. The red fob unlocks all 707 hp and was missing from the test car.

Interesting factoids:

“Plum Crazy” is an available color for 2016.

There are selectable driving modes, as if they really matter with all that torque just waiting to be called on. But if you are curious they are Sport, Track, Custom and Eco (really!) A Valet Mode will effectively kill any parker’s dreams of becoming the next Richard Petty.

Southern, oh so politically correct, California is the top market in the U.S. for the Hellcat, making one wonder what they are putting on their salads out there these days.

The big V8 is Dodge’s first application of V-8 supercharger technology. It features a forged-steel crankshaft with induction hardened bearing surface that can withstand firing pressure of 110 bar or 1,591 psi. That is the equivalent of five family sedans standing on each piston every two revolutions. And what a revolution it was.

It is appropriate that “Yelp” is now available.

Also that “Do Not Disturb” is a selectable reply to incoming callers, unless you’re about to head to jail.

I came to the end of the “preferred route” and decided that life is short and I should go ‘round again. In the rain.

My mind roars along with the Hemi.

“My God how far west could I get in this thing … to somewhere where the sun is shining and the roads are dry… before the Dodge Boys knew I went AWOL?”

No! It is time to act sensibly for the first time today even as my mind hits me with the sound of waves rolling shore in Santa Barbara.

It is time to sum this wonderful feat of engineering up.

Can you commute in this beast? Can you take it to the grocery store? Can it run mundane errands?

Yes, but that would be like asking Donald Trump to shave off all his hair.

Look, there is nothing rational in this world about the Hellcat, but anyone who has grown up loving automobiles will drool a bit when thinking about driving one. Well maybe drool a lot.

In short, the world is a better place thanks to the engineers who said the hell with it, let’s build it.

-0-

Please note: due to the weather it was impossible to get decent pictures so they were provided by Dodge. That explains the optional eight speed automatic shown among the interior pictures when the test car was a stick shift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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