ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: It’s hard to not have had the 707-hp rating of the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat pounded into your head. It’s been advertised everywhere. It’s an alarming amount of power in a street car. It is well above the 640 ponies that the V10 in the Viper churns out, which is a terrifying car if you don’t respect it. Then again, we’re talking about the large and hefty Challenger. The Hellcat with a manual transmission weighs 4,449 pounds. Maybe it does need over 700 ponies to get moving really quick…
Unlike the Viper, which is really close to being a street-legal race car, the Challenger is definitely well suited to cruise the streets in comfort and be low key -- unless it’s painted Sublime green pearl like our test car. In silver, white, black or gray it doesn’t look too different from an SRT8 392. If you can resist mashing the gas pedal to the floor from every stop, the Hellcat behaves like a docile pet. Roll gingerly onto the throttle and the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 isn’t obnoxiously loud and won’t draw attention. The clutch isn’t overly heavy and it’s easy to operate smoothly. The six-speed shifter has longish throws, but slots into gears slick enough. Steering has a satisfying amount of weight tuned into it. And the brakes are massively strong and get this hunk of metal slowed in a hurry (more on those later).
Being such a big car, the back seat can actually accommodate two adults in decent comfort, and the trunk is gigantic.
The refreshed interior looks much more inviting with central controls that are angled towards the driver. Materials are better with accent stitching, and the knurled trim pieces look nice. Seats feature large side bolsters and can easily hold larger-framed folks.
Overall exterior appearance is still more or less the same as it’s always been, and remains old-school cool, in my opinion. The new rear light treatments do look good, though.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I see the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat has two key fobs. The red one opens the gates of, um, hell; the black one kills the horsepower, while Valet mode locks out first gear, ...
Eventually, you’ll give in to temptation and pin the gas pedal (when you find a nice, straight patch of pavement, that is). It’s a grin-inducing experience. The Hellcat leaps forward with the wheels spinning wildly through the first few gears (not shockingly, it will do a wicked burnout, too). As I experienced with the Viper, launch control doesn’t seem to yield the best launches, allowing way too much tire spin and smoke. I had my best luck getting out and away away modulating the throttle myself. I’m definitely no John Force, but I think I got out of the box respectably.
Our office drag-racing expert was able to cover the quarter-mile in 12.1 seconds at 125.4 mph, which as always are uncorrected, really-did-happen results. He hit 60 mph with our manual test car in 4.2 seconds. Those results are OK, I suppose.
What were really shocking were our braking results from 60 mph. According to our Vbox test unit, the Hellcat stopped from 60 in 102.3 feet. Another run returned 105.2 feet.
Through the slalom, the Hellcat felt like a battleship. It really just looked comical--it was so out of its element there. Around the skidpad, it wasn’t so great, either.
I’m normally a road-course guy, and I appreciate cars that handle well, but I respect the heck out of Dodge and SRT for building the Hellcat. It’s insane, but very cool that they stuffed over 700 ponies under the hood. You can’t help but have a lot of fun with something like this. And the fact that it’s really comfortable and offers a fair amount of practicality from a cargo and people carrying ability standpoint scores it some points.
Just be ready to pony up for gas (the best fuel reading I got on a tank was 14.1 mpg) and rear tires ($497 each from Tire Rack).
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: This thing is hilarious. You can short shift into second gear around a corner, and then just stomp the gas pedal to send up plumes of smoke to whoever is behind you. It’s laugh-out-loud fun, even on a Monday morning.
Unfortunately, it rained half the weekend I had it, so I couldn’t enjoy this car as much as I really wanted to. Like the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, the rear will just step out, at any rpm, on wet roads. I’d actually be a little nervous if I had to floor it on the expressway in the rain.
As for complaints, all I have is a few little ones. The armrest doesn’t reach far enough to hold your elbow when you’re in the odd gears; it just rests on the cupholder hole. The trunk and spoiler feel a little flimsy, and it does drone on the expressway at 80 mph, which could get annoying after a few hours, or years.
Otherwise, for $60K, you can’t have any more fun than this. It’s more drivable on the street than the Mustang GT500, but probably not as drivable as the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Still, it would demolish that Camaro in drag a race. If you want a drivable, high-output ponycar, and don’t have a non-Mopar brand preference, this is probably the one.
Power comes on like a waterfall, and doesn’t give up until the driver runs out of heart, or balls. Do you need 700-plus horsepower? Of course not. Is it freakin’ awesome? Hell yes.
I still think the Challenger is the best-looking of the three ponycars, but I just never loved it because it was so portly. This Hellcat takes the visual aggressiveness up a notch. The big front splitter is cool, the hood looks insane and the black wheels and big brakes make it look like a straight drag racer. I would black out the windows on this one. Ah, imagine black on black on black, that’s how I would spec this car out.
The Hellcat doesn’t feel super heavy like its lower-powered stable mates. I’m sure that’s a function of the stiffer suspension and 225 or so extra horsepower. It does feel heavy sometimes, though, like when the aforementioned tail is swinging out, yanking the front along with it. Direction-change feel is well beyond the SRT and basic models.
If the choice was between this, the ZL1 and GT500 for a daily driver….I’d have to take this. Lots of space in both the front and back seats, and I tossed a set of golf clubs in the trunk from 10 feet away. You have to cut your clubs in half to fit them in the Camaro. Of course, if I was looking for track work, it would be the GT500, power, weight and all that.
I’d love for each of the Big Three to drop a new, uber-ponycar model at the same time, and then let the sales numbers do the talking.
You can't help but have fun in a car like the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.PHOTO BY JONATHAN WONG
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: We’ve been over the Hellcat before. It’s an impressive, unnecessary, impressively unnecessary beast. You’ll get the nod from those in the know wherever you drive. It’s the sort of car that transcends brand loyalties (at least until other automakers release competitors).
Up to this point, I've not been trusted me with anything other than the eight-speed automatic-equipped versions. That transmission is very good, and not really philosophically unacceptable given this car’s drag racing intent. But if you’re contemplating a Hellcat, you owe it to yourself to drive both the auto and manual versions -- the six-speed here substantially alters the driving experience.
I won’t say that the manual is better or worse (though it’s certainly not as comfortable in stop-and-go as the eight-speed), but it does make the already-intense car feel even more visceral, somehow. The supercharger whine seemed louder. The shifts, harder (all right, that was probably my fault). The stakes, higher. You do have to put more thought into driving this one than the auto version. Downshift into second before taking a 90-degree corner? Sure -- if you like excessive wheelspin.
Beyond that, you’ll enjoy the Hellcat’s ride refinement and improved interior quality -- both superior to what’s found in a regular Challenger, as a night in an R/T Shaker demonstrated. This car wallows far less, and you can actually push it into a corner if you dare. The interior looks and feels nicer.
We could easily say this about any exotic car we get in the fleet, but you really owe it to yourself to take a spin in a Hellcat if you have the chance. It’s intoxicating, stress-relieving, hair-raising, ludicrously overpowered and shockingly drivable, all at once.
The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is equipped with a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 cranking out 707 hp with 650 lb-ft of torque.PHOTO BY JOSH SCOTT
ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: The last vehicle America bestowed with the name “Hellcat” was the Grumman F6F Hellcat, the rugged Navy fighter that dominated the Pacific theater and destroyed more Mitsubishi products than the Eclipse’s thrust bearings. There was also a tank destroyer, and before both was Mary Todd Lincoln, so the Dodge Challenger Hellcat finds itself in thoroughly admirable company.
That’s good. Because there are two narratives with the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, and we only hear one: it is a handful, it has more power than God, it is a Motley Crue concert on wheels, and if you mess up it will destroy your life. Why else would it be called “Hellcat”? I mean, what would you expect from 707 hp? What would you expect from a car company that once made a product called the “Demon”? Only, the Hellcat narrative that I experienced flies in the face of the other narrative -- my time suggests that the Hellcat is a perfectly tractable car, André the Giant clutching a newborn kitten. The Hellcat is possibly the most polarizing car on sale today, and it certainly deserves it.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: Hats off to whoever designed the traction control system on this 2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 coupe. You’re an American hero. In the absolutely drenched roads I ...
Don’t let anyone tell you the Hellcat isn’t an adept canyon carver -- pitch it too fast into a corner, stab the throttle, and feel the rear end slide perfectly through the hairpin, and away you go. It feels like steering a BMW M4 from the roof. Keep the revs down and the throttle light, and the Hellcat is as easy to drive as anything built in this century. First gear is so tall that you could conceivably drive across the country at any posted speed limit, spinning at the same rpm as a Mazda MX-5 Miata in sixth. Oops, something smells funny, better shift to second -- it revs so fast that the entire gauge cluster blinks red, as if saying, “YOU’RE GONNA DIE! DON’T DIE! ” “I want to live,” you shout, and you grab a fistful of shifter -- rubbery and light, not springy at all, surprisingly unlike the proverbial bolt-action rifle, more like a tuned trigger on an AR-15. We hear the eight-speed is excellent, but the long-armed manual shifter invites an eight-ball knob. The clutch is heavy, but grabs evenly. Whoever engineered the brakes deserves a Nobel Prize in Physics.
And then, press its throttle all the way down, go on, you know you want to, and the Hellcat becomes a rampaging beast that it is, its full 707 hp on tap…it invites overblown hyperbole. Turning the traction control off probably puts you on an NSA watchlist. “Launch Control” should really be renamed “Burnout Control.” This car is your buddy who keeps yelling at you, “DON’T BE A WUSS!”
Yes, you can be a gentle giant in the Hellcat. You can go a lifetime without ever taking it above 4,000 rpm and you can go a full 10, 20 seconds without being warned by a Klaxon to shift. It’s just more fun -- easy, simpleminded, etc -- to be seduced by the first narrative and embrace the idea that you have to trounce the throttle at every stoplight, the idea that you’ll go too fast into a corner with the traction control off and nearly sideswipe a guardrail, then go to happy hour at Chili’s with your buddies and telling them how “I drove a Hellcat and I survived!” The Hellcat, by its very name, invites all of this. Otherwise, they would’ve called this the Challenger GT, or something equally uninspiring.
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