(Photos by Dave Nutting) – If I had never considered speed or horsepower drugs before getting four days with a 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat, I sure as hell do now. It is everything I have in me not to sit rocking in the corner, begging anyone who will listen for the keys back. In a world of limp noodle, CVT equipped, shapeless junk that old ladies call “sporty” the 2015 Challenger Hellcat is a device that has no comparison. It begs you to jump headlong into the ocean of power that has made it so famous in so short an amount of time. Every time you do dip into that well it comes right back and asks why you stopped. If there was a world you could drive around at 202 mph, the Hellcat would do it all day and get frustrated when you stopped for gas. Believe the hype, BangShifters. This car is straight off the deep end of awesome. The only problem now is that from here on out every car I am able to drive won’t be a Hellcat but that’s their problem, not mine.
Since you have undoubtedly read a whole bunch of traditional reviews of the car, I am going to do this one notebook style and drop some bullet points and info on you. Driving this thing around was a full immersion experience. People know the car. They know those badges, they all want to hear the noise for themselves or goad you into doing something illegal. With my hand on a bible I would tell you that owning this car in a metropolitan area is not something I could do AND keep my license. I spent four days chasing that high of the first time I stomped on the gas and shifted it at redline. God it was great.
Well that was a fine surprise! – I was contacted while on my way home from an event in Denver that the car was available if I wanted it for the weekend and I of course agreed on the spot. My kids were at school so they had no idea it was coming. Since Tom and Jack are both freaks for this stuff they were speechless when they got off the bus and saw this mighty green monster sitting there. My wife said Tom teared up and couldn’t talk!
The 707hp car on the 4.5hp errand – The first place of note I took the car was the auto parts store so I could get a new spark plug for my 4.5hp push mower. It went about like you would expect. One guy complimented the chin spoiler and said it made the car look good. Someone else asked if it had a V8 and then the kid getting the spark plug saw it and yelled out, “Holy F$%K! Someone has a Hellcat in the parking lot!” His glee was further advanced when I mentioned I had brought it in. He snapped photos and generally danced around the thing like his feet were on fire for minutes. We left and gave him the show he was looking for.
I sure do have lots of friends – I have a great group of car guy friends around my little town and area. If I have something cool in the driveway I may get a text from them asking if I like it or what my thoughts are on the car. With the Hellcat people were just showing up at my house unannounced and begging for rides. One guy left his job an hour early to make sure I would be home just so we could go for a 10 minute spin around the block. This is a car that gets people cranked up harder than Corvettes, harder than exotics, it has DNA that is rooted deeply in the psyche of every red-blooded American gearhead out there. The thing struck a deeper chord with more people than anything I have ever had previously.
Wait…it isn’t an automatic?! There seems to be a public perception out there that Hellcats can only be had with an automatic transmission. Such is not the case as this one was a six speed manual and that transmission was one of the central points that I loved about the car. The clutch predal has good feel and requires little pressure to operate, it picks up in a nice low spot, and if you are just cruising, the engine makes so much freaking torque that 1,3,5 shifts were the order of the day. Hell, you could beat most of the other stuff at the drag strip shifting that car 1,3,5. Crazy.
The Hellcat is a dangerous car – Don’t grimace Chrysler executives! A Camry can be a dangerous car if treated the wrong way but the difference here is that the Hellcat brings you to the trouble SO FAST that the less skilled, or over-balled/under-talented among us will be past their limits in literally no time. The car drives, handles, and corners fantastically. It has multiple driving modes to protect you from yourself but there is also the fun to turning all that junk off and enjoying this beastly car for the purposes it was intended. We spent most of the time driving the car in “track” mode or with all of the nanny systems off. Even in dry pavement you can get this thing sideways at low speeds without ever intending to. We all remember that one of the first ever Hellcats sold was wrecked hours after the new driver took delivery and we can understand it. The stick is probably more controllable than the automatic. At least you know that if you romp on it in fourth at highway speed you aren’t going to bust the tires loose but if you stand on it and it kicks down to whatever gear…good luck.
A rolling horsepower factory – “Does this really have 707hp?” was the most frequently asked question among people who were looking at the Hellcat in various scenarios. Everyone wanted to hear it, see it, sit in it, and learn about it. Fewer wanted to see the engine but the ones who did enjoyed the experience. People were impressed to see the hemi orange block and valve covers and equally impressed with the supercharger setup on the car. A weird number of people did not know that the Hellcat’s hemi was supercharged. They knew it made all the power and that type of stuff but the reality is that it is likely more a sign of todays world. People just know the high points, damn the details.
You didn’t shoot video?! – I did and it will run next week.
Scares aunts and cousins in a single bound – One of the joyrides I was happy to give included my aunt Trish and her two daughters. Being that it was Mother’s Day and it would have been poor form to wipe out 75% of a family, I kept it relatively sane. I did give the car a pretty good rip through the middle and top of second gear a time or two and while my older cousin was literally sitting in the passenger seat with a silent scream emanating from her mouth, her younger sister (who had gone skydiving the day before) was laughing like a maniac. My aunt? She made a couple of noises that I had never heard a human make and then managed to gasp the words OK…OK in a sort of hyperventilating panic. Mission accomplished.
But it is soooo heavy – While the Challenger weight jokes make for fun internet memes and fodder for basement dwelling trolls, when you have the car on the road it does not feel like it weighs two tons. I felt as though the Challenger (it was my first experience in one) fell squarely between the Camaro and the Mustang in the girth department. The Camaro felt bigger to me than this car. The huge power obviously adds to this because when you have 707hp it makes the machine feel as light as a feather. This engine could make a freaking Kenworth feel nimble.
The price is right – No, the dealer will probably rake you over the coals and beef the thing $10-20k above window but for a sticker price of $62,175 this is a WHOLE LOTTA CAR. Most full sized SUVs have sticker prices higher than this. Most Corvettes have sticker prices higher than this and you can swallow them whole on the drag strip. I usually hum and haw about the prices of the cars we show you here but this one? I’m saying that it is shockingly low. Who didn’t expect to hear that these would be $90,000 cars when word first leaked about them? We did and we were dead wrong. The first time you stand on the gas you’ll forget about every penny you spent. It is that good.
No economy job – Obviously our driving habits were not exactly tuned to “economy mode” but we had to laugh when at one point the fuel gauge was at the 1/2 tank mark and it said we had about 90 miles to go before empty. After some highway driving it rose way up but the listed 13/21 economy is if you are being nice with the car. We were not nice with the car.
A Hellcat in the high school auto shop – On the last day I had the car, I was invited to sit in on the SAE accreditation visit to a local high school auto shop. I did not tell the instructor or anyone I had the car. After about two hours in meetings we were on a short break when I mentioned to the instruction (who is a racer) about the car. His eyes lit up and he told me to pull it in. Let’s just say that those kids will be talking about that day for the rest of their lives. It was my favorite thing I did with the car. They asked great questions, sat in it, checked out the motor, and proceeded to tell me about their stuff. One kid is a stock car racer, a couple others have been to the test and tune nights at New England Dragway. Several had projects and all of them genuinely loved cars. I am going to tell you more about this experience in a coming story but it was great to sneak the car into that shop!