2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

By now, everybody and their grandma knows what the Hellcat name means for Dodge. It’s synonymous with 707 horsepower of supercharged V-8 goodness that makes both the Challenger and the Charger extraordinarily ferocious machines of American might. There are countless write-ups with hard numbers of 0-to-60 times, quarter-mile runs, and so forth. This isn’t one of those reviews. No, I wanted to know what it was like to live with and drive the most powerful production sedan on the planet throughout the week.

Obviously the four-door Charger should be much easier to live with than the 2+2 Challenger – that’s a given – and it proves true. Despite the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat’s insane amount of horsepower and torque, it’s still a Charger underneath. Show up to the rental counter at your local airport, and you can drive the Charger minus the powertrain, fancy (and functional) hood scoops, and performance rubber.

That fact actually helps the Charger Hellcat. Sure it’s a powerful sedan, but it also foregoes the usual compromises associated with a performance-focused machine. So let’s get down and dirty in the daily grind of owning a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Exterior

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

The Charger Hellcat can certainly be considered a mild sleeper. Drive it to church or the grocery story and the vast majority of people would never be the wiser. It’s only when the average Joe does a double take do they notice the blacked-out 20-inch wheels and the additional scoops.

I had more than one people say, “Oh, that looks sporty!” after pulling into a parking space, but never a “Wow, that looks fast.”

I had more than one person say, “Oh, that looks sporty!” after pulling into a parking space, but never a “Wow, that looks fast.” To me, that only adds to the Hellcat’s personality. I like that it almost blends in.

Of course, the second a gearhead walks by, it’s all stares and drools. “That’s the first one I’ve seen!” said a Mustang GT-driving friend. “I’d trade my car for that right now if I could.” So the reactions vary.

Thankfully the Charger’s hellacious transformation from V-6 family car to supercharged super-sedan doesn’t rob the platform of everyday usability. Its front clip is moderately high off the ground, giving it enough approach angle to clear driveway entrances and speed bumps. The 275-series Pirelli tires have enough sidewall to thwart any attempts by potholes to cause a flat, and the outward visibility is impressive.

Interior

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

The Charger underwent a very welcomed transformation for 2011 and those changes are still evident, especially in the interior. The design is still fresh and the overall feel of the cabin is one to be admired. Updates have still found their way inside the cabin, including the electronic shifter that is required by the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, and newer versions of the well-liked Chrysler Uconnect system.

Ordering the Hellcat doesn’t take any of those attributes away, but rather adds to the package. The multifunction steering wheel comes with leather wrapping with French stitching and aluminum-like accents, the gauge cluster receives red dial faces, and the Uconnect system features a bevy of performance monitoring pages that keep tabs on underhood parameters like oil pressure, oil temperature, air intake temperature, and even the air-to-fuel mixture.

The standard seats come wrapped in Alcantara suede with Nappa leather trim. Full leather is optional, but the Alcantara works well at holding passengers in place. Bolstering is present, but isn’t as tall or bulky as you might imagine. While that might be a problem on the track, the lack of tall bolsters is welcomed in daily living.

Ergonomics throughout the cabin are spot-on. Buttons are right where you’d suspect them to be and well within reach. The controls on the center stack are intuitive. The HVAC system offers dual zone control and the radio gets both a physical volume tuning knob. (Thank you, Chrysler!) As I mentioned earlier, the Uconnect system offers plenty of information about the car, but does it in such a way that makes perfect sense. Someone who is computer illiterate could navigate through its menus with ease.

The design is still fresh and the overall feel of the cabin is one to be admired.

The driver’s seat offers a commanding view of the dashboard and the road. Memory functions on the driver’s seat means multiple drivers can always achieve their favorite position quickly. A tilting and telescoping steering wheel aids in that goal.

Speaking of comfort, rear-seat passengers are treated to generous amounts of leg, hip, and headroom. A folding center armrest makes long trips even better. Both outboard rear seats are heated while the front seats are heated and ventilated.

Truck space is good enough for the average mobster, though it doesn’t compete with the old-school Crown Victoria for volume. Truck-lid hinges are covered so cargo isn’t smashed and two cargo cleats keep groceries from spilling during turns. My tester also came with a removable cargo net.

All told, the Charger’s interior is a spectacular place to spend time. It offers plenty of room for four adults on a long trip, or five in a pinch. Ergonomics are great and I have no complaints about fit, finish, or material choices.

Powertrain

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

I can’t write a review on the Charger Hellcat without talking about what’s under the hood. Chrysler engineers have worked some sort of witchcraft to achieve what they have – a reliable, emissions-legal, pump-gas-drinking, and streetable supercharged V-8 that cranks out 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. I have no doubt the engine would start after spending the night in frigid temperatures or would last the entire life of the car if properly maintained and not abused. (Ahem.)

To achieve this, engineers started with the 6.4-liter Hemi and replaced nearly 90 percent of its internal components with stronger parts. First up, the cast-iron block was kept for its heavy-duty design. The engine was then destroked thanks to a beefier forged-steel crankshaft held in place by induction-hardened bearing surfaces on each of the main bearings. The connecting rods are also unique to the Hellcat in order to deal with pressures rising to 1,600 psi on power strokes.

Chrysler engineers have worked some sort of witchcraft to achieve what they have – a reliable, emissions-legal, pump-gas-drinking, and streetable supercharged V-8 that cranks out 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.

Stuffing the V-8 full of compressed air is the Lysholm-style supercharger that’s said to be more efficient than the typical Roots-style blower, both in providing air flow and reducing parasitic losses. The supercharger’s internals swim in synthetic oil and are coated in PTFE, or Polytetrafluoroethylene, to make them extra slick. All this comes together to allow the 2.38-liter blower to spin toward its 14,600-rpm redline.

Now all this is well and good for the engineering types, but for the average person, this simply translates into a well-oiled machine that’s built to last.

Everyday usability, therefore, is unhampered by the V-8’s credentials. Select Normal or even Eco modes for the powertrain via the Uconnect system, and the car minds its manners. Shifts from the heavy-duty ZF eight-speed automatic are smooth and predicable, keeping the revs down low. Blower noise is non-existent in the lower rpm band, so NVH is on par with a standard Charger. Heck, even fuel mileage is downright impressive when driven peacefully. The EPA rates the Charger Hellcat at 13 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined. I averaged right at 17 mpg during my week of widely mixed driving.

Of course, driving the Hellcat like a Lincoln Town Car isn’t why folks buy such a car. Select Street mode with the red key fob in your pocket, and the car changes demeanor like Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. The throttle becomes more sensitive to inputs, the transmission’s mapping changes and shifts become harder, and the traction control allows a bit more slip. Breaking the back tires loose and laying rubber is effortless.

There’s one thing for sure about the Hellcat powertrain: it will forever live in the hallowed halls of horsepower fame as one of the most ridiculous V-8s ever produced.

Driving Impressions

The Charger SRT Hellcat is more than just a big engine in a four-door sedan – it’s the summation of all its parts. And it’s how they all work together that makes the car work so well. The Charger behaves like a big sedan, but still acts light on its feet. While that can mostly be attributed to its power output, its Active Dampening suspension plays a huge part in its ability to dance. Body roll is nearly nonexistent, as are brake dive and acceleration squats.

The visceral feelings that come from the car are nearly unmatched. Only the [2015 Jaguar F-Type R’s exhaust is louder – though distinctly more European – and the V-8’s idle is almost lumpy.

The Charger’s steering is nicely weighted while on the move and provides good on-center feel. However, when maneuvering in a parking lot, the steering becomes artificially heavy. What’s more, full-lock turns result in a worrisome whine emanating from the steering box. With only 4,000 miles on my tester, I’m sure it’s not a defective part, but I’d hope it’s an isolated issue.

Beyond the steering, the Charger handles well. Sweeping curves are taken with ease and straight-line highway travel is a pleasure. Bumps are well managed by the variable suspension when in Eco or Tour modes. Sport and Track settings make things much more firm, giving the car a different demeanor.

The visceral feelings that come from the car are nearly unmatched. Only the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R’s exhaust is louder – though distinctly more European – and the V-8’s idle is almost lumpy. Peg the throttle while in park and the car leans with torque. Acceleration is effortless regardless of what mode the computer is set in. Sport and Track modes make the Transmission shift like an old-school three-speed auto from the muscle-car era as each gear comes as quickly as you can pull the paddle shifters.

Pricing

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

All this added muscle and testosterone comes at a cost. The price for a V-8 powered Charger starts at $33,595. That gets you the 5.7-liter Hemi putting out 370 horsepower. Opt for the 6.4-liter, SRT 392 version, and the price starts at $47,995. Even still, the big V-8 “only” pumps out 485 horsepower. So for $16,000 more, the horsepower jumps to 707 in the Hellcat. It’d be impossible to buy 222 extra horsepower for the SRT 392 and keep the factory warranty.

With that said, the Hellcat’s base price stickers for $63,995. My tester came with several options, including the Ivory Tri-Coat Pearl paint ($500), the Harman Kardon stereo ($1,995), the navigation upgrade within the 8.4-inch Uconnect system ($696), and the Pirelli performance tire upgrade ($195).

Add to that the $1,700 gas guzzler tax and the $995 destination cost, and my tester rings out at $68,375. Not bad for the most powerful production sedan on the planet.

Competition

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

Though the fifth-generation Camaro isn’t long for this world, a replacement for the supercharged ZL1 version isn’t on the radar for the first few years of the sixth-generation’s production. What’s more, the ZL1 in still in production for 2015, so the fight is fair. The Camaro is a two-door coupe that’s more comparable to the 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat. Nevertheless, the Camaro’s supercharged 6.2-liter LSA V-8 kicks out 580 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of torque, making it the second most powerful Chevy currently produced.

In terms of livability, complaints about the Camaro includes its low-budget interior and its rear seats are only suitable for small kids. Trunk space is decent, though its small opening hinders its load capacity.

Prices for the Camaro ZL1 start at $55,505 – well under the Charger Hellcat.

BMW M5

BMW M5

In the opposing corner sits the BMW M5 – the highly respected German that’s been fighting off contenders since its introduction decades ago. Unlike the Camaro, the M5 offers real seating for four, or five in a pinch. Its trunk space is also large enough for most grocery runs. Its subtle looks help it maintain a veil of civility in line with the Charger and far apart from the Camaro.

That veil comes loose once its 560-horsepower 4.4-liter TwinPower Turbo V-8 opens up. A seven-speed dual clutch transmission shifts in milliseconds, helping the big sedan hit 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. That’s a bit slower than the Hellcat’s fastest time of 3.7 seconds, but the BMW is likely mush easier to launch on an unprepped surface.

When it comes to price, however, things change. The M5 currently lists for $93,600 and grows well into the six-figure range with added options. Ouch. Then again, some folks simply want the prestige that comes with owning a luxury brand.

Conclusion

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

By this point, you should have come to the conclusion the Charger Hellcat is easy to live with on a daily basis. Its Jekyll and Hyde attitude means both a civilized sedan and a roaring monster roll on the same four tires. In the same respect that your mom could drive it to the store without knowing what lay under her right foot, the car will do 204 mph and run sub-11-second quarter-mile times in the right conditions.

During its week-long stay in my driveway, the car proved its versatility to not just be a outright muscle car, and that’s what impressed me the lost. Most purpose-built vehicles sacrifice something to be so… purposeful. Somehow the Charger Hellcat avoids this, giving its all on both ends of the spectrum. Well, done FCA.

LOVE IT

  • Outstanding amounts of power
  • Looks the part without being overbearing
  • Interior quality is outstanding
  • A useable sedan despite its abilities

LEAVE IT

  • Steering is heavy at slow speeds
  • Could use wider tires
  • Uconnect Performance Pages can be slow to boot up

Gallery Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – Driven

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