Dodge’s 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat is hell on wheels

The Challenger Hellcat looks stealthy at dusk with its Halogen headlamps and black hood

Dodge’s 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat is hell on wheels. With 707-hp (at 6,000 rpm) and 650 lb/ft of torque (at 4,000 rpm) emanating from a supercharged and intercooled 6.2L HEMI V8, acceleration is devastating. It’s the most powerful Dodge ever made.

Just turning the ignition key and hearing the rumble from the three-inch diameter Ovid tailpipes gives goose bumps. Stab the accelerator once and you’re treated to some backpressure pop, pop, pops and garble, garble garble sounds along with a delicious supercharger whine that increases the heart rate.

From a standing stop, flooring the pedal creates a burst of head snapping, push-you-back-in-the-seat power. The blast of engine and exhaust sound makes beautiful music, while the Pirelli 20-inch street tires shed tiny bits of rubber. At that point it’s fighting the robust steering wheel to keep the back end from coming around (even with stability control on) and hoping there’s no cops around to hear this rocket lift off. Aside from goose bumps, the hairs on the arms stand straight up from the concert underway.

Want an extra thrill. The Hellcat comes with Launch Control. Select the Performance Pages on the large 8.4-inch display screen and you can get information like 0-60 times, zero to 100, lap times, reaction times, real-time horsepower, eight and quarter mile times, staging rpm level and more can be selected. At that point, hold the brake hard, press the accelerator to the floor then release the brake and bang! You’ve literally launched.

Shift points on the 8-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission (a 6-speed manual is also offered, but why unless you plan on drag racing it?) are bullet fast. From first to second only the sound changes with a scrumptious sounding “bam” denoting the shift was made and the back end still wants to come around. Even third to fourth gear changes are excitingly quick and mildly violent.

Hellcat has been 0-60 track tested at 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 165 mph and 11.4 seconds in the ? mile.

Gas mileage? Who cares? This is a performance muscle car. But if you must know, it’s EPA rated at 13 city, 22-highway mpg.

Boost for this insane engine comes courtesy of a low-profile IHI supercharger with dual intercoolers. And while speaking of cooling, the hood has real scoops, vents and a hole inside the left headlight to feed cold air to the HEMI.

Interestingly, Hellcat comes with two keyfobs. A Black one is considered a valet fob and reduces power to 500-hp, caps revs at 4,000 rpm, locks out first gear within the auto trans, disables the paddle shifters and sets ESC “on” so it can’t be turned off. The Red fob is for all systems go and the excitement begins. The car also stops short with much needed Brembo brakes.

Ok, so it goes like hell, what else is does it do? Well it’s actually an everyday car. Aside from its striking looks (my test car was painted Sublime green Pearl coat), the front bucket seats are comfy and supportive over the long haul. The back seats are mainly for small children, and then not if the front seats are racked well rearward.

Trunk space is decent and can hold one large roll-along or two golf bags provided the 60/40 seatbacks are folded.

Challenger handles like any other sports coupe with good road holding manners and a somewhat firm ride. It takes sharp curves surprisingly well for a speedster, and the suspension does a decent job of soaking up minor road imperfections.

Now all this performance doesn’t come cheap. The Hellcat started at $58,295 exceptionally and technically equipped. But after adding the 8-speed auto trans ($1,995), Satin black aluminum hood with vents ($995), Uconnect infotainment system with GPS nav, satellite radio ($695), Pirelli summer performance tires ($395), gas guzzler tax ($1,700) and delivery ($995), the bottom line accelerated to $65,070. But I ask you. What other comparably powered performance car can you buy for this amount?

Hellcat also comes with Fiat-Chrysler’s generous 5-year, 100K powertrain warranty, 3/36K basic warranty and 5/100K roadside assistance allowance.

The Hellcat is destined to eventually become a collectible unless FCA comes out with something even more insane. Well actually they have. FCA announced the addition of a Drag Pak version that is geared for drag racing. Among a whole list of necessities, it’s available with a 354 HEMI or 426 Race HEMI, a race prepped automatic transmission, extra heavy duty front and rear suspension, full roll cage, lightweight racing seats, Hoosier 9-inch wide drag radials and front and rear trailer tie-downs for trailering, to mention a few. Oh yes. The 426 naturally aspirated 426 version will list for $109,354 and the 354 supercharged car fetches $109,354.

On a side note, FCA just announced that because of the tremendous demand for the Hellcat, production of them would double for 2016. And for the 900 or so folks who placed orders for them, you’re out of luck as they’re being cancelled by the factory. Instead, FCA says they will issue vouchers that will allow customers who placed deposits to buy the more expensive 2016 model at 2015 prices. The factory will begin making 2016 Hellcats in September so dealers can start taking orders for them the week of August 10.

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