While some may say the best things in life are free, sometimes it is worth paying the price of admission to have a little fun outside of all things ordinary and vanilla when it comes to cars.
Far from the level of ordinary and nearly on par with the fabled unicorn is the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, which I had a chance to experience in its full furious 707-supercharged-horsepower form for several days.
I won’t bore you with all that you already know about the Charger SRT Hellcat packing a potent 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI V-8 engine with 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Charger SRT Hellcat is in a league of its own, which can be a good thing or a bad thing — mostly dependent on the bravery and talent of the driver.
In saying that, I must explain that, in the hands of the wrong person, the Charger Hellcat can be a hellacious experience. Such an experience may require a few unwanted phone calls to local law enforcement and a monotone insurance agent wearing khaki pants. For the civilized and respectful driver, the Charger Hellcat is the perfect family vehicle that serves double duty as an American muscle champion and grocery-getter with rumbling flare.
When I first encountered the Dodge Challenger Hellcat more than a year ago, I knew I was in for a treat with its loosey-goosey American muscle feel and wallowing 4,200 pounds at the mercy of small-patched 275/40/20ZR Pirelli P-Zero tires on all four corners.
Getting into the slightly-larger Charger Hellcat sibling didn’t make matters any better in the handling department. The Charger Hellcat proved to be quite the slippery experience, lighting up the rear tires at every throttle input over the half-way mark, only to be stopped by a reactive traction and stability control system in the default Street traction mode. Driving the Charger Hellcat is like riding a killer whale — it’s big, fierce, and it will hurt you if you lose your sense of concentration just for one second.
Into my weeklong excursion with the Charger Hellcat, I aptly named the rear tires my paintbrushes, because the back roads leading up to my neighborhood were painted with solid black 11s at the expense of my test vehicle’s Pirelli rubber. Yes, you too can paint the town with your very own Charger Hellcat dual paintbrushes, fully equipped with nearly everything you want in a mainstream midsized sedan — only with more power than you’ll ever need on public roads. Just do it, because you can.
The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is quite the enjoyable vehicle as long as you respect its sheer power. Its dual purpose makes it even more delightful, permitting you to tote around your family and saving yourself those $100-per-person tickets to the nearest theme park to ride their roller-coasters. The only admission needed here is a nicely sized monthly payment, a full tank of premium fuel, and tires that aren’t showing the cords yet.
In the optimal conditions at the hands of a patient driver, the Charger Hellcat can make its way to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds and cover a quarter-mile in about 11 seconds.
Living with the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is a gratifying experience where onlookers are curious to know if you are driving a “real hellcat” as opposed to the 485-horsepower SRT 392 stablemate — with the unique hood and front quarter panel emblems being the only giveaways. Just about every aspect of the Charger Hellcat screams red, white and blue — the proud colors that don’t fade even as 707 ponies feed into the rear wheels, followed up with an intoxicating supercharger whine and a growling exhaust.
Holding onto the road isn’t as predictable as I thought it would be in throwing the Charger Hellcat around bends and turns. Things like to push a bit into limited understeer, but quickly counteracted with oversteer from the smallest throttle inputs. The adaptive dampers seem to be the only part of the Charger Hellcat’s makeup that you can feel fighting back to keep all of the 4,365 pounds from nestling into the nearest ditch.
Judicious use of the SRT button to bring up the drive settings for Custom, Sport or Track mode is always welcomed in an attempt to stiffen the suspension, permit quicker shifts, and limit how much stability and traction control steps in when you’re creating a masterpiece on pavement. Things are going to get a little messy and you may have some frustrations, but remember that you never know the exact moment that they might just snap into utter chaos with physical abuse. So, select your mode and proceed with caution, I say.
Your use of the black key (limiting the vehicle to 500 horsepower by default) or selecting the 500 horsepower setting really isn’t doing you many favors here. Five-hundred horsepower is still a lot and I found that the rear tires go up in plumes of smoke just as easily — but maybe not as fast — with the red key and all of its permitted 707 horsepower. Nevertheless, things can still get a little hairy.
The interior of the Dodge Charger Hellcat is much of what you get in a top-trimmed R/T and SRT model. The massively sized dashboard is enclosed in soft-touch material, as is most of the door trim. The use of aluminum accents on the dash and around the shifter — with the stand-out red gauges on the cluster — highlight the 200-mph speedometer signifying that this vehicle means business.
The thickly padded, well-bolstered and perforated heated and ventilated Alcantara seats with limited leather trim add to the overall comfort and muscle car appeal of the Charger Hellcat. Out back, the room is plentiful and surprisingly supportive in the sunk-in outboard heated seats.
Most of the Charger’s controls are within easy reach and their placement is optimal for quick access. The infotainment system fed through the 8.4-inch touchscreen is among the best in the business, featuring quick-action screens and a straightforward interface where every control just works to your liking. No wonder FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) is extravagant with the implementation of its latest Uconnect infotainment system across its four main brands.
It’s all true: The many comments about the Charger Hellcat from reputable outlets are verifiably on point for characterizing the most powerful midsized sedan you can find — all for a respectable price of just over $67,000.
Supposedly, the dealership markups will cease once the 2016 model year drops, which is said to double the production numbers.
That said, we could see the last year for the Hellcat. Get it while the getting is good!
For more on the 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat as well as automotive reviews and news, visit AutomotiveAddicts.com.