The range of cars that turned up for last weekend’s Woodward Dream Cruise was huge -- as per tradition, something like 30,000 vehicles came out of the woodwork. There was everything from an Ur-Quattro to a couple of Eliminator tribute cars. Some guy was rolling around in an old Escort covered in microchips, wearing a mask and rocking out to “Iron Man” on repeat. Loved that guy.
It takes lot to stand out in that crowd, especially in something newish. Arrive in a Superbird and you’ll draw appreciative cheers, at least until your car overheats. Make that a third-gen Challenger, and you’ll be lucky to be noticed at all.
That doesn’t hold if the Challenger in question is the 707-hp supercharged smoke machine that is the 2015 SRT Hellcat.
We somehow lucked into one -- eight-speed automatic (very good, by the way), subtle silver paint job, tobacco brown leather interior -- for the weekend, and for those few fleeting days, we enjoyed Woodward as royalty. We watched grown men fall beside themselves with excitement as we spun its wheels (fear not: we weren’t on public roads), honored to breathe in clouds of acrid, wonderful smoke. We bathed in the general attention and admiration of the masses.
Or rather, the car did. Park the Hellcat anywhere (we stopped by Pasteiner’s Auto Zone and dropped in at an LX Club meet unannounced on Cruise Saturday), pop the hood and watch a crowd materialize out of thin air. When you’re not behind the wheel, you’re practically invisible.
There were a few other manufacturer-plated cars on the prowl over the weekend; some were more obvious than ours in red or green with giant Hellcat decals on the side. We didn’t even get a small growling cat symbol -- the only badging that might have clued in onlookers was the subtle “SUPERCHARGED” badge on the front quarter panels. No matter. People asked if it was a Hellcat -- they asked every few yards as we crept down Woodward.
But whether 7 years old or middle-aged, people asked with a surety that told you that they knew exactly what they were looking at. With a little effort and a healthy amount of horsepower, Chrysler has created a nameplate that could well stand up there with ‘Cuda, Road Runner, Super Bee, etc. Time will tell. At the very least, “Hellcat” has a nice ring to it.
Then they asked us to rev the engine (not as viciously loud as you might expect), do a burnout (we somehow resisted until we found a nice, secluded skidpad, thankyouverymuch) -- they all did, no matter which of Detroit’s automakers they were personally affiliated with.
Even tuner guys love the thing. As we blazed down the expressway the evening before the cruise, a modified Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution caught up with us -- just so the driver could flash us a huge smile and a thumbs-up.
It’s heartwarming, really.
Park, pop the hood, watch the crowd appear.PHOTO BY GRAHAM KOZAK
It goes without saying that the Hellcat family wasn’t developed with the grueling gridlock of the Dream Cruise in mind. This car is very fast. There are faster cars, yes, but the Hellcat costs $61,000, and for that relative pittance you are getting sensations of thrust and speed that -- unless you are a Top Gun pilot or ex-Apollo astronaut, in which case, good for you, you’ve had an exciting life-- you simply have no business ignoring.
The hammer-down immediacy and vault-like feel of this 4,449-pound vehicle is addictive. It’s a wheeled bank safe with a JATO rocket strapped to it; good luck replicating that in a lighter, more nimble sports car. It’s doesn’t pitch and roll like you’d expect of something this heavy, but it’s no ballerina, either. The back end swings out like a sledge if you take a corner too fast -- you either fight its traction control systems or, if you turn ’em off, you square off against its mass. It would look absolutely hilarious on an autocross course. We’d love to watch, though.
Yeah, the Hellcat is about stupid, stupid straight-line speed. You know the numbers: 3.5 seconds to 60; 11-second quarter-miles off the lot. But strapping on a blower to get around bulk is kludge engineering. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It’s the automotive equivalent of Brock Samson (he drives a Charger, but still), proof positive that too much brawn is never a bad thing if you back up your threats with sufficient power.
It is the sort of thing that could have only come out of Detroit [Well, Canada -- ED.], which is why it was so well-received on Woodward. Incidentally, we think it’s perfectly daily-driveable. But that might just be us.
Dodge pulled the sheets off the newest king of the four-doors at metropolitan Detroit’s Vinsetta Garage Wednesday morning, just feet from Woodward Avenue. The 2015 Charger SRT Hellcat sedan will ...
This man, though not a Hellcat driver, may have a legitimate claim to the King of Woodward's throne. We didn't have a crown.
The Hellcat is a gimmick, and a fairly blatant one at that. Here’s the thing about gimmicks, though: When they are followed through to the bitter end, when they’re sold with unwavering, unblinking confidence, they can really work. The Hellcat line packs enough shameless, outlandish brawn to incinerate cynicism as quickly as this Challenger smokes tires. To Dodge’s credit, it hasn’t tried to rationalize or justify its creations. Whether or not the Hellcats are to your taste, you have to have respect for the audacity.
We’ll confess to suffering from Hellcat fatigue around here. The buildup to the reveal, then test drive, of the Challenger Hellcat -- followed by the completely expected unveiling of the four-door Charger variant -- has probably been a little wearying to anyone who closely follows the automotive world. Beating 707 dead horses, or something like that.
But getting the keys to this brute on the weekend of the Dream Cruise made us unexpectedly giddy. Stretching the car out on the open road quickly -- very quickly -- obliterated our cynicism. And showing it off in a sea of some of the coolest classic cars on the road and experiencing the overwhelming, genuine automotive enthusiasm that this car has managed to create, was intensely rewarding. It was enough to make us feel, for a few hours at least, like the king of Woodward.
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