By on October 29, 2014

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not long ago, we were told that gas was going to $6 a gallon, maybe even higher. CAFE, crash safety regulations and government interference would force us all into autonomous, emissions-free transportation pods.

How lucky am I to be filling up a 707-horsepower rear-drive sedan with 93 Octane? More shocking than an auto journalist paying for his own gas is the fact that 13 gallons of the good stuff cost me about $45.

A sudden plummet in the price of crude oil was a lucky break for enthusiasts. The origin of the Dodge Charger Hellcat isn’t quite as serendipitous. For the Hellcat program to exist, there had to be multiple nameplates to help amortize the cost of development. After the Challenger, the Charger was the next logical step. Don’t be surprised to see this engine wind up in another FCA vehicle, even if it’s not the Viper.

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There are few visual differences between the SRT 392 (aka the former SRT8 Charger) and the Hellcat – the most obvious one being the subtle, stylized feline “Hellcat” badge on the front fender. The same wheel and tire package, red Brembo brakes and rear wing can be had on both cars. Inside, the supple leather, UConnect 8.4 infotainment system and sport seats are present as well. With the programmable SRT Performance Pages (read, adjustments for the suspension, traction control, gear changes and access to the full 707 horsepower) set to “Street”, this car is as sedate and docile as the rental-spec V6 Charger SXT we drove earlier that day. On the highway, the blown V8 spins at just a tick over 1200 rpm. At 70 mph, we saw an indicated 22.4 mpg, while the plush, heated seats, XM Radio and solidly soundproofed cabin made the Hellcat an effortless cruiser.

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If you desire a bit of the old ultraviolence, simply go back to the Performance Pages and change everything to “Track” (you did keep it at full power, rather than limiting it to just 500 horsepower, right?). In the same way that the right combination of settings transform the Jaguar F-Type  from Jamie Oliver on wheels into Harry Brown, inputting the proper cheat codes unlocks the full potential of the Hellcat.

Without having driven the Challenger version, it’s tough to draw comparisons between the two Hellcats. Nevertheless, the straight-line performance of the Charger Hellcat is literally violent. Nothing more needs to be said, and even the most floral Dan Neil prose cannot do it justice. At 1200 rpm, the supercharger 6.2L engine makes as much torque as the old 6.4L SRT V8, which led to a rythmic ritual on the damp backroads of West Virginia: gently press the throttle, wait for the rear tires to lose grip, wait for TCS to kick in, rinse and repeat until you are breaching triple digit velocities. In a Nissan GT-R, you have an army of driver aides and all-wheel drive to help keep you on the pavement. On a Suzuki Hayabusa, you have a motorcycle jacket and a pair of Levis (hopefully more than that) to keep the pebbles and broken glass from tattooing themselves into your posterior. In terms of sheer acceleration and wet weather traction, the Hellcat sits between the two.

The ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox is the gold standard for longitudinal automatic gearboxes, but the reworked edition for the Hellcat manages to make even greater improvements. In track mode, gear changes are executed are faster than a Parisian pickpocket, taking just 120 milliseconds. Only the briefest of pauses in the Hellcat’s .50 BMG exhaust note lets you know that an upshift has occurred. In Street and Sport modes, they help keep the car humming along. It has all the best qualities of a dual-clutch, with none of the drawbacks, and I think that it might be the most significant advancements in modern performance cars.

Lacking an ample supply of sunshine, dry roads and extra-absorbent adult diapers, I was unable to properly put the Hellcat to the test on the track or the street, but its dynamic characteristics will be familiar to anyone who has driven prior LX-chassis SRT cars. Steering is heavy but not exactly the last word in communicative. The big Brembos bring the car to a halt with a consistent pedal feel. The ride is firm without being overly punishing. There is room for five adults and all of their stuff. In Jazz Blue with the saddle leather interior and the dark wheels, it looks less like a photo-enlarged Dart, and more like something that will cross the Barrett-Jackson auction block for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $1 million at some future date.

In the grand scheme of things, the Charger Hellcat is an irrelevant, low-volume marketing exercise. Most of them will sit in climate-controlled garages, snapped up by dealer principals, waiting for that financially fruitful day under the big tent in Scottsdale. A few will be wrapped around telephone poles mere weeks after they were presented as 16th birthday presents to select members of America’s overindulged youth.

What I love about it can’t be quantified by sales volume, P&L statements or performance data. I love it because no matter how many times we are told by malcontent motoring writers that cars are lack “soul”, or that profligate performance cars are a dying species, we seem to get yet another crop of American muscle car that is exponentially more belligerent and incrementally more efficient. Underneath it all is a statement, a crass, puerile one at that, for which the Charger Hellcat happens to be a vessel. And that vessel is a very good, very grown up car.

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79 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat...”


  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Nice ride, Gort.

    Ya gonna get “KLAATU” plates?

  • avatar

    Superb review and justification to hoon.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    You can get saddle leather with blue paint? Now I am impressed.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    Why?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Before I tell you to get off my lawn, I don’t care what you say, but $45 for a fill-up of ethyl isn’t cheap by any standard, and the only “707” I care about is an old Boeing jet airliner!

    Removing my fedora doesn’t really change my lack of desire to own or even drive this or any other ultra high horsepower car, as I am of the crowd who would’ve been very happy with a 250 Powerglide 1967 Camaro!

    In any event, I am impressed by the sheer might of cars like this regardless of OEM, but if I had something like this, I’d be extremely dangerous whether years ago or now – ESPECIALLY now with my lack of good vision and slow reflexes as a result!

    Truth be told, my 3.6L Impala is by far the fastest, most powerful car I have ever owned, and I am so tempted to put my foot in it – I do on occasion – it scares me how fast it gets to 100 mph. Down, boy…

    That’s more than good enough for me, but to see one of these Hellcats do its thing would still be a thrill – as long as someone else did the driving!

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      250 Camaro? Okay, fine. 250 Powerglide Camaro? BLASPHEMY!

      I say the same thing to a comparable Mustang.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Yes, 250 as in 250 cu. in. 6 cylinder. Believe it or not, that powertrain propelled my dad’s 1966 Impala sports sedan quite well, even though it was a base version, i.e. no A/C, but very fancy just the same.

        I know – in a Camaro it is somewhat blasphemous, but just my speed! After all, I’m all about style… and some substance.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’m with you Zackman. I just don’t see the point. Having a car like this in America would be like being married to a supermodel you can’t have sex with.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        The sex is the given, the fact that you landed your white whale and convinced that supermodel to knock your junk around, is why you marry the super model. You plant your flag and you pound your chest and all the other men nod their and respect the fact that you did something that no one else could.

  • avatar
    Carzzi

    Harry Brown. Now there’s a character that I was most recently reminded of when I read about the Canadian Parliament’s Sergeant at Arms and his decisive action.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I will have one of these. I’m very satisfied with my 2015 Challenger thus far, but I’d be even happier with double the horsepower.

  • avatar
    redav

    Thinking of the detuned settings on these types of cars (e.g., valet mode), I wonder if they could simply install a bypass valve on the supercharger. When it’s closed, the supercharger works normally. But when it’s open, it vents the pressure to back in front of the supercharger (no compression, both volumes at atmospheric pressure), thus letting it freely spin. Essentially, it turns off the supercharger without any other mods. It would also be a method to get good EPA numbers if needed.

    I also wonder how the ZF 8-speed compares to the new GM 8-speed in the Corvette. I’ve heard nothing but good things about both, but I’m not sure what about them is similar/different.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      It does have a bypass that essentially accomplishes this. It uses the throttle body from a 2.4L Tigershark engine as the valve.

    • 0 avatar
      mikeg216

      I don’t know, but Bentley and rolls Royce the hellcat and the ram 2500 6.4 all use the same transmission. If that’s not a seal of approval, this will go down as the best transmission possibly ever. The only car company that I know of not using it is ford and chevy, because they are Co developing their heavy duty 8 speed and light duty 10 speed in house.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    “(you did keep it at full power, rather than limiting it to just 500 horsepower, right?”

    Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start

  • avatar
    VoGo

    This looks perfect for picking up little Jimmy from soccer practice. Comfortable seats, it comes in white, room in the back for carseats and plenty of trunk space for strollers or a trip to Nordstroms.

    And thankfully, those European product planners made it impossible to get a manual transmission! Lexus RX sales are about to tank.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Reflexive Response/Answer to Prospective Customer Questions and/or Concerns Number 1 through 174 (see attached sheet) for all Sales Representatives:

    “Because Hellcat.”

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I did see one of these on display at the Petit LeMans. The first thing I thought was that it looked pretty much like any other Challenger, save for those fender badges. The second was that it didn’t look like it would be much fun to work on the engine, things were packed pretty tight in there. The last thing was that those fender badges didn’t look like they belonged on a $60,000 car, a nice Ferrari-esqe set of cloisonne badges would be more appropriate, or maybe billet aluminum or stainless, or even carbon fiber.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    The Hellcat is one of the most brilliant halo-car marketing moves ever. Most of us will never drive one or even ride in one, but it’s got everybody talking about the Challenger and Charger again. I even hear non-car people at work saying things like, “Did you see that 700 horsepower Challenger they’re coming out with? Crazy, right?”

    The Hellcat is going to sell thousands of Chargers/Challengers to people who came in to see it, realized they can’t afford it, but then test drove an SRT8 or R/T. Hell, even the base car is worth considering now that it has 300+ hp and the 8-sp auto trans.

    Hard to believe it’s the same basic car you could get with the gutless, self-destructing 2.7 just a few years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      Agreed! This has changed Dodge from the maker of airport rental cars you would take only when there was no alternative available, to the maker of the fastest, most powerful, regular production sedan in the world. Suddenly all the big dollar German Uber-Sedans seem irrelevant – I wonder how long before someone comes out with an even more absurdly over powered car…

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        >> to the maker of the fastest, most powerful, regular production sedan in the world.

        Not really true, although I suppose it depends on how you define regular production sedan. The P85D is faster, but double the price. But hey, for just $60k, you can have the second fastest sedan.

        • 0 avatar
          johnny_5.0

          The P85D, while a beast in its own right, is only quicker to 60, and that only happens due to an all wheel drive launch advantage. There are actually several sedans quicker to 60 for the same reason including the AMG E class offerings. From a roll, there probably isn’t another sedan that will keep up in stock form.

  • avatar

    I prefer the new ultraviolence over the old: leave traction control and suspension in Street, jack everything else up to death metal! The fun will be doubled!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Oh, dear, do I want one of these…

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    “Never has one model been so hyped to so many for the benefit of so few.” or something like that.

    That pile of satanic cat scat really has no appeal to me. None. Whatsoever. However, I respect that one can now obtain a life-time supply of horsepower in one car and still blend in with society. It’s not my cup of ethyl.

    I truly believe that we are in the Golden Age of the Automobile. This car is proof. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      FCA announced today its 24th edition of the 2015 Challenger, entitled “Satanic Cat Scat”, which is essentially a Challenger R/T with the engine of the SRT 392, the brakes from the Scat Pack and the suspension of the SXT Road and Track.

      As always, the transmission in automatic.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Where is the RAM Hellcat? I mean they put the Viper engine in one some years ago and their truck does have something of a performance history.

    • 0 avatar
      Ian Anderson

      There’s a rumor floating around Mopar Land that a Ram with this wonderful motor is in the works… I hope it’s true so I have something else to drool at while driving my 180HP 3.9L V6 Dakota.

  • avatar
    Timtoolman

    Seems to me that there’s an opportunity to have a super-limited edition Hellcat, depending on if you’re willing to roll the dice with $60,000. Same with the Scat Pack. If Chrysler loses either lawsuit, they lose the right to all packaging and emblems and logos to those two names. I don’t know what kind of badging and the like these cars come with, but I do know that part of the suit calls for turning over all items relating to the disputed name.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    So the takeaway I get from Derek’s review for people who drive on public roads is that this thing drives just like a SRT 392 except that you’re more likely to break the rear tires loose unintentionally. I’ll save the $15k premium, thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Eiriksmal

      You’re growing soft in your old age, Banana Jr! The Hellcat Charger is the only non-European car that could conceivably replace your current titan. 4 doors, stupid power? Check.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Eh, the 392 already has stupid power, for much less money. 485 hp is high on the overkill scale. 707 hp is just higher.

        The only problem with buying a 392 (well, aside from the curb weight and its effect on handling) would be that everyone would ask me if it was the Hellcat and be disappointed with the answer.

        • 0 avatar
          Eiriksmal

          Have you driven an SRT Charger? Is it noticeably worse in the handling department than the GXP? My personal biases would say that The General can do handling in monstrous sedans whereas Chrysler sucks at all things, but I have no way of comparing the two.

          Also: I have all five volumes of the Bloom County Library. What’s the sad part about that, you ask? I’m 25! I was only alive for the last few months of the comic’s epic reign, but have fond memories of reading my dad’s BC anthologies.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            I’ve never driven a SRT. I’ve driven base and R/T Chargers, and they are way, way, way worse in the suspension and steering department than the GXP or even a base G8. They’re floatier and the steering is vaguer and looser on-center. Subjectively they give a sense of not really wanting to change direction. That experience, combined with every review thus far saying the SS is more satisfying than the SRT in turns and the SS’s 400-pound weight advantage versus the SRT, gives me a good idea of what the SRT might feel like.

            I have every Bloom County and Outland book ever made. The Banana Jr. was my hero growing up. I’m 38 and a chronic nerd, so that’s probably not too much of a surprise.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Eh, the 392 is already more than sufficiently stupid, for less money. 485 hp is enough overkill that no one would question its overkill-ness if it weren’t for the Hellcat.

        Bonus points for recognizing my alter ego…

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Realistically the Pentastar V6 is more engine than 90% of Americans should have under the hood. Not that it matters since the average driver can’t find full throttle with a GPS.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I saw a Hellcat Challenger on the streets of DC last week. Very good looking car. I have my suspicions that it was the vehicle pictured, if they were doing some of their testing in Virginia.

  • avatar

    I see the Hellcat as the modern equivalent of the ’87 Buick Grand National GNX. There is no rational reason either car should exist; no need for the gaudy burnouts and propensity to speed.

    But damn, I’m glad they exist! Props to Dodge for going over the top because they could or because they wanted to.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    Yay… four door hoonage!

    Navigating this car is the ONLY time I would ever volunteer to be the designated driver.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    It would make a nice Christmas present, big red bow and all. A December to dismember.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    While I respect this car and appreciate the accomplishment, it wouldn’t be in my taste to own one. For performance cars, I still prefer to trade some power in return for awesome handling and braking.

    It would be awesome to drive just once though, gunning that engine, hearing the roar and feeling the rush.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Exactly. I’d love to drive someone else’s Hellcat on a track, or better yet, on an empty runway. For my daily driver, I’d rather have lighter weight (on the one hand) or more luxury (on the other) rather than the extra power. The 415 hp my current car has is more than enough.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    I will probably never own one of these or the Challenger equivalent, but I am glad they exist. This is why it’s so good to be a Mopar enthusiast in 2014…

  • avatar
    theupperonepercent

    All of the SRT vehicles are well-balanced, considering they are big cars designed to seat 5 adults comfortably (or at least 4), but you aren’t doing any major slaloms or tracks in them because they are too big and too heavy for tracks. Their raison d’eter is facing down Maximas, Altimas, and all the other econobox GARBAGE on the streets – effectively bullying your way through traffic.

    The HELLCAT’S raison d’eter is to take care of the random Nissan GT-R that challenges you at a light.

    There’s no “track” you are reaching 205 (or higher since there’s no limiter).

    These cars are for those late night, early morning hours on poorly policed interstates.

    • 0 avatar
      energetik9

      Not sure how Hellcat will “take care of” a GT-R. The Nissan GT-R matches the 0-60 and quarter mile times of the Hellcat so let’s just call that even. I just don’t see how a Hellcat will keep up with a GT-R on the track.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    22 MPG out of a 700 HP 2 and a half ton brick is indeed impressive. My 10 year old car can only muster 4 more MPG with 40% less horsepower, 3/4 the frontal area and probably a Cd half as high as the Charger’s.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Somebody resto mod a 70 Roadrunner with the air grabber with this driveline, chassis, suspension and infotainment etc. STAT! Then put it in a Velocity show so I can watch it. Lord knows I can’t buy one, or it would already be in my … No, I’d be driving it instead of posting this.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Pretty sure a 392, let alone a Hellcat, would do a nice job of twisting a Roadrunner into a pretzel. You’d pretty much need to turn it into a tube-frame race car.

  • avatar
    Calico Jack

    Geeze, why even make a car like this stupid, much less buy one?

    Oh, yeah…insecurity about other, er, “shortcomings”. Well, have fun waxing your phallic symbols, folks, I’ll be over here getting four times the miles per gallon in a car that can be used every day.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    What happened to BTSR?

    • 0 avatar
      ItsMeMartin

      So it seems I’m not the only one wondering. But seriously, where is he? I though that if there was anything that would lure him out of wherever he’s hiding, it would be the Hellcat.

    • 0 avatar
      jonsey

      I think he changed his username to theupperonepercent. theupperonepercent’s post above is classic BTSR: disdain of Japanese “econoboxes,” obsession with street racing GTRs, putting hellcat in caps

  • avatar
    shaker

    Chris Christie would love this car.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I appreciate this car for what it is, but it seems to me a pointless exercise in simply pushing horsepower. Great that it’s “violent” in a straight line, but what’s the fun in that after a couple times? I question the capability to really move this car in deliberate fashion beyond just straight. In simple terms, I don’t get the point. It just seems a muscle car carryover for men in their 50’s and 60’s to reflect on. I can’t wait for the comments questioning my masculinity because quite simply that is the best response they have, but I’ll pass. I can think of many more (less HP) cars that would be more capable and more fun.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Apparently some people not seeing the point of this car can’t grasp that not everyone enjoys cars the same way they do. Not everyone wants a car that excels on the track. There is room in the automotive world for vehicles other than light weight cars with high-revving engines optimized for canyon carving, autocross, and competitive track work.


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