The Dodge Challenger Hellcat is a Giggle-Inducing Sociopath: First Drive
The new Dodge Challenger Hellcat has definitely been the darling of the entire automotive community as of late. Its ridiculous power figures and the size and audacity of both the car and PR campaign has plastered it pretty much everywhere you look. However, it quickly became one of the most sought after cars for sweaty-palmed journalists, and possibly the most sought after one for the entire year. I bugged the Dodge reps incessantly for two weeks straight on Twitter. And finally, after being annoying enough, I got my chance behind the wheel. PHOTOS: See More of the 707HP Dodge Challenger Hellcat
On the day of, Chrysler pretty much brought out its entire lineup of cars, but three cars in particular drew the most attention, and of course, developed a long list of names to drive them on the track. Those being the new Viper TA, the Alfa Romeo 4C, and of course, the Hellcat.
When I finally got that red key in my hand — and of course I got the red key — I pushed the start button and the engine roared into life with all the fury and hellfire I believe Dodge could cram into the 6.2-liter supercharged V8. And so it begins. The hairs on the back of your neck begin to perk up. You can feel your pupils dilate slightly. Your adrenaline starts pumping faster and faster. Your mind is telling you, “holy crap I’m in something special,” and your body becomes ready for the ferocity that you are about to unleash.
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I sat there in the lot for a good minute attempting to remember some form of knowledge I could use with this car, some form of reference point I could go to. I failed. Nothing I could think of, nothing I’ve ever driven could prepare me for the animal I was about to drive.
I put the shifter into drive— sorry they didn’t have the stick version, and coasted to the track entrance. On the track, I was joined by a friend and fellow journalist who told me to put it into neutral and rev it “just because.” OH. MY. GOD. This car is possessed! It sounds like Satan is crashing through the many levels of hell, cursing his way through with a growl and whine that only befits the prince of darkness.
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We cruised out on track and floored it. Here’s what it felt like… TOOOOORRRRQQQUUUEEE!!!! This car has all the torque. I’ve driven fast cars, but nothing this insane. It just pulls and pulls and pulls. You are going entirely too fast before you even know it and then you're slamming on the brakes to make the first turn. Thankfully, the brakes are quite excellent, and honestly, they needed to be or otherwise I’d be in a tree. The amount of torque and power this car has is just astronomical. Before you drive it, ask yourself, “Will it really be that crazy?” Yes, yes it will be.
I make the first turn and the car pitches hard. It is definitely still a big Grand Tourer. While better in the turns than the Scat Pack Challenger I drove earlier that day, it’s still a battleship, and the seats don’t hug you enough for you to really hammer through the turns. I was left foot braking and every time I went for a hard power through turn my left leg kept flying towards the door. You don’t slide that much in your torso because of the really great lumbar bolster, but there isn’t any for your legs. It’s understandable though for this car, like I said, this is no track rat.
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Even though the car pitches and rolls, it’s all useable power. You would think that you’d be fighting the car every time you enter a corner, or level the accelerator, but the car is unbelievably compliant. That is to say, you can still get super squirrely if you are really after it. But the fat rubber both in the front and out back settle this car down considerably and allow you to have the confidence that traction will definitely be there in case you go a bit wider with the throttle.
Earlier that day, I ran the excellent Camaro Z28 around the track and it was astonishing. Running the Hellcat is a completely different animal. Emphasis on animal. When you mash your foot down on the loud pedal, all hell breaks loose and you are catapulted forward. It’s just a symphony of supercharger whine and the exhaust shouting at you, egging you on to go faster, keep your foot in it longer, and brake harder. I’m betting I didn’t set any sort of great lap time, but I was definitely having the most fun on the track.
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The Hellcat illustrates the new Chrysler perfectly. It’s a rebirth through the fire and the flames. The interiors went from utter trash, to quite handsome. The cars went from only being bought by rental companies, to enthusiasts’ wet dreams. And the people that run the company seem happier and more enthused about the product than ever before. The company needed a car like this. A car that just makes you smile, makes you laugh like an idiot as it slides all 707 horsepower through a turn. The Hellcat might not be the best track car, but as a car that makes you love cars all over again, it’s done its job in spades.
If you get a chance to drive one, do it, a smile will be plastered on your face for the next three weeks. I know mine will.
Engine: 6.2L Supercharged V8
MPG: 22 mpg highway (w/8-speed auto)
Supercharger whine is addicting
The seats are super plush and comfortable for long drives
Brakes are amazing at stopping this behemoth
Gulps fuel as soon as you put your foot into it
Tends to roll through turns and isn’t as composed as I’d like
Leg bolstering could be better at holding you in turns.
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