Track Analysis: Challenger V6 Track Pack, HEMI Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Getting decent conclusions from very limited data is the sort of thing of which Nobel Prizes are made. What you’re about to read won’t be Nobel-worthy; however, I believe it will help you understand how fast the Hellcat and how it compares to both the other Challengers and the external competition.



I got a total of six flying laps at PIR, a place to which I’d never been, in three different cars. I had traffic in my face for all but two of those laps, and I had no truly clear laps in the Hellcat. But let’s start with the basics. I drove these three cars in this order:

Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack 6MT: lap time of 1:38.9 with a top speed of 122mph on the back straight.


Challenger V6 Super Track Pack 8AT: lap time of 1:38.3 with a top speed of 112.5mph on the back straight.


Challenger SRT Hellcat 6MT: lap time of 1:33.7 with a top speed of 136mph on the back straight.

So let’s start by eliminating some of the variables. The only clean lap I got in the Scat Pack was my first-ever lap of PIR. There’s no way I was going to turn a brilliant lap time first time out. Analysis shows I was 6mph slower going into the turn before the long straight than I was in the average of the other cars. My line in the V6 which I drove afterwards was better. After looking at the data and assuming that the Scat Pack can turn about as well as the V6, I’ve guesstimated a 1:36 at 127mph for the Scat Pack.

How did other people do: This video shows SRT’s Vehicle Dynamics Engineer Marco Diniz de Oliveira running a 1:33.0 with the same spec car that I drove. Compared to my videotaped 1:33.7 lap you can see that he didn’t have to lift for a frightened journo like I did on the front straight, and he also didn’t goatfuck the chicane the way I did. (My excuse: I was so annoyed at being balked that I held throttle too long.) I’m reasonably confident that I got about as much out of the Hellcat as I was going to in two laps. Given ten more laps, I think a 1:31.5 was well within reach. Keeping pinned on the straight is worth half a second, doing the chicane right is worth a second and a half, and I could have shortened the braking zone in back.

Another journalist whom I won’t name was kind enough to let me “run data” with them in the V6 Challenger that I drove. He turned a 1:58.3 with a top speed of 105.5mph on the back straight. That two-minute-ish lap time is approximately representative of what most people were doing out there and it’s why I kept running into traffic.

So those are the caveats. Now let’s look at some stats.

First off, acceleration. The corner before the back straight shows the Hellcat with a low speed of 43.5mph against 41.7mph for the V6. That’s the extra tire you get with the Hellcat which is only partially canceled out by the weight of the engine. As we pass the access road on the back straight, the V6 has accelerated to 87mph and the ScatPack to a corrected 93mph. How fast is the Hellcat going? Survey says: 102mph. That is brutal acceleration. More impressively, the gap widens as speeds increase. Supercharged cars often feel breathless at the top of the rev range because they are optimized to push air at low speeds and unlike turbo-supercharged (to use the old phrase) cars there’s no compound effect as the exhaust gases push the turbo faster. As an example, when I drove the GT500 at VIR I found myself dueling a Porsche GT2 on the back straight. The Shelby had legs on the GT500 in the first half of VIR’s long stretch but the GT2 picked up as speeds increased and it wasn’t all due to frontal area.

Now for braking. A similar push of the brake pedal produced a .78g retarding force in the V6, a .86g one in the four-piston Brembo Scat Pack, and .98g in the Hellcat. These numbers have to be understood in context, not as absolutes, because of the way my phone was mounted in the car and the general issues with Android accelerometers. Only the V6 ever felt underbraked in these short lap situations; it doesn’t have enough thermal capacity as supplied for two hard laps. The others were fine, with the Hellcat having a considerable edge in feel and response. My experience with the Z/28 at Thermal Club for last month’s Road&Track showed me that it’s possible to put enough brake on a ponycar, but you have to be willing to spend a LOT of money on it. As expensive as the Brembo system on the Hellcat must be, it ain’t carbon ceramic and when you’re slowing two tons down from a considerable velocity it’s worth getting the right material for the job.

This is the V6 lap.

This is the Hellcat lap.

Cornering isn’t exactly an open and shut case, which is why the V6 might be a satisfying track car if you could upgrade the brakes a bit via pads and fluid. Data for all three cars shows that they are capable of about the same max cornering g and speed, with a slight edge going to the Hellcat in pretty much all the corners. What the data can’t show you is that the Hellcat feels like it’s from a different class with regards to body roll control and suspension dynamics. Given enough time on a racetrack, you’d feel comfortable pushing the Hellcat harder in quick transitions and in long high-g turns. There’s a superiority of feedback that is no doubt due to better tires and higher-quality suspension. With that said, however, this is primarily a laws-of-physics thing. Big heavy cars are never eager to change direction. Unsurprisingly, the V6 is best in transitions and the Scat Pack has the lowest cornering speeds.

As I stated earlier today, you really do get your money’s worth with the Hellcat’s engine and brake upgrades. It’s also a solid handler for its size and class. Let’s do some subjective rankings as far as track-fitness goes, based on things I’ve driven recently:

Viper ACR (previous gen)


Viper TA (current gen)


Mercedes AMG SLS Black Series


C7 Corvette Z51


C6 Corvette Z06


C6 Corvette Z51


Camaro Z/28


Boss 302-LS


Boss 302


Jack’s raggedy old 2004 Boxster S with 48,000 miles


GT500 (not counting the brakes)


Hellcat


The old SRT8 392


Camaro SS


Mustang 5.0 Track Pack


Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack


Mustang V6 Track Pack


Challenger V6 Track Pack


Challenger R/T 5.7 Track Pack

The higher you go up that list, the more comfortable the car feels on track, but at a cost.

I wish I’d had time to drive the standard SRT8, which has 485hp now and offers the big brakes as an option. I believe that car would feel most “balanced” since you wouldn’t be arriving at corners as quickly and therefore the brakes would hold up even better and it would be easier to select the absolutely perfect corner speed — but I’d choose to spend my own money on the Hellcat, plain and simple. There are no downsides. You can pretty much instantly turn it into an SRT8 6.4L just by laying off the throttle a bit on the long straights.

At this point I normally like to talk about what the cars do when they are “out of shape” on track. The truth is that with this little time on an unfamiliar course I didn’t spend too much effort getting the Challengers past their envelope of tire grip. I can say that the Hellcat and Scat Pack can be reliably turned on the throttle and that no Challenger has ever had bad habits on track with regards to overly quick responses in extreme handling situations. If you’re good to the Challenger, it will be good to you. If you’re bad to it, you will still have plenty of time to get things right.

Ponycars are about compromise. They’re about what you’re willing to give up in order to have the admittedly minimal but occasionally mandatory backseat. With the Hellcat, the answer is simple: you’re giving up Mustang-style direction changes but gaining more power at each trim and spec level than the not-so-small Ford can offer. It would be frankly absurd to buy a Hellcat if you primarily planned on using it at the track. But for the low percentage of owners who will try it there, their experience will be positive — even if their tire bills won’t.

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Johnny_5.0 Johnny_5.0 on Jul 22, 2014

    Jack, any thoughts on how well the 8HP acquitted itself for track duty vs the Tremec in such a heavy coupe?

  • 3Deuce27 3Deuce27 on Jul 23, 2014

    Welcome to PIR, Jack, my home track since 1974, though, I first raced the old West Delta/Vanport track in 69' in my Spitfire. The track you tested the Challengers on, is new since about 2008. It is unfortunate that you couldn't spend more time on the track. We used to have some hi-powered events there, Can-Am/Cart/Nascar/SCCA regionals, and the track hosts many club events. Some of the CART teams use to use the track for testing, and since I didn't live to far from the track, I could hear their engines sing down the straights. While I have several thousand laps on the ancient track, improved track, and new track, I have never ran the quarter mile there. There also used to be a half mile and 1/8th mile oval track on the other side of the freeway from PIR, so we would often get the mixed sounds of Roundy Round cars and car and motorcycle road racers, or formula cars, and Motocross bikes. We did run some Mini-Indy events in the F440's at the half-mile track. We quit doing that as we shared the crude and congested pit with the Outlaw cars whose drivers cared little about pit safety. Your encumbered time in the Hellcat, is above the average for our Spec Miata using the chicane, though, DP MX-5's run about 1.27-.28. My DP Starfire(Buick V-6 powered/Stock)ran a bit faster(1.25) on the old track(no chicane). My Sevensque runs 1.13-14's(chicane) on summer performance tires, about the same as my times in the F5000 on the old track. Our times in the F440/F500 were about 1.24(no chicane). 1.17's in the Cobra 'R', and a bit less in the 1LE(no chicane). Over the many years, I have had a lot of fun on that track in all its iterations.

    • See 1 previous
    • 3Deuce27 3Deuce27 on Jul 23, 2014

      @Jack Baruth Reg; "Take the chicane out and let the Hellcat run flat out front and back and I think you’d see something different." Jeez! How do I put this, oh, what the hell. The GP- MX-5 and Spec Miata would still be(are)faster with out the chicane. Good track times in a small-bore vehicle like the MX-5 rely on carrying speed. The chicane kills that. With the chicane removed from the situation, turn 4 becomes turn one and just about flat out for MX-5's and Spec E-30's. The heavy big-bore stuff is still slower around the track and their brakes go way much faster with the chicane removed. You would be surprised at the number of small-bore stuff finishing ahead of the big bore stuff at the end of a 30 lapper, chicane or no chicane. They just fade faster when the chicane is removed. Peter's old 'GP' Opel Manta with maybe 80Hp, turns 1.34's with the chicane. The ponderous Hellcat with damn near ten times the Hp would barely be faster in the hands of a PIR track veteran. They hold several Crap Car races at PIR, maybe you can catch some time with a team at one of those events, Jack. Always a good time. I was trying to put another team together, but my old pilots have begged off, so I'm off on other adventures for the next couple of years. I love cars and racing them, but sailing and nature are my deeply held passions.

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