The Green Needle: Four Days With A 2015 Challenger Hellcat Has Us Addicted To 700hp Blown Hemi Fun


The Green Needle: Four Days With A 2015 Challenger Hellcat Has Us Addicted To 700hp Blown Hemi Fun

(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.

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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 friendsI 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 Chellenger Hellcat022Hellcat 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!

 

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On an early morning I met with Nutting and his ace photo assistant Bryan Dunderdale. I got out of the way and Dave did this thing.

 

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The lack of badging and crummy stickers gets five thumbs up. Outside of the small SRT call outs on the car, there are a pair of Hellcat heads (one on each fender) and that is IT.

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“Oh, move the car? Should I do so while smoking 1st, 2nd, or 3rd”?

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The Hellcat hood has the center scoop and a pair of recessed heat extractors to either side of it. The blacked out grill and the black wheels all just do a nice job of accentuating the color of the car which was Sublime green pearl. Under sunny skies the flake was very visible. Under clouds the green is more milky.

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Pirelli P-Zero tires on the corners did a fine job under all conditions. They can be literally melted off the rims at any moment but when we were not trying to kill them, the 275 wide meats were great.

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Yes, you are right, there is no center to that inner headlight on the front of the Hellcat. That’s the air intake. People loved that.

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My eyes! Ok, no one poked it out and it did not fall out. If you have a Hellcat you have this cool forward facing air scoop in the center of the interior light on the driver’s side.

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The flat black wheels were great to showcase the massive rotors and Brembo calipers.

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The exhaust has an awesome throaty rumble at low RPM and then a completely brutal roar when you get into the throttle. It goes from very basso to a glorious noise that is NOT at all subtle.

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Leather seats inside were really comfy and this is a car you could eat up highway miles with comfortably. No it would not get the best economy but you understand what we are saying. Suede inserts in seats really had you feeling locked in.

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That shifter is hooked to an ultra smooth shifting six speed manual transmission. Second gear starts around town were the norm because of all the torque that the engine makes. Smooth shifting and very easy to power shift when you wanted as well.

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Here’s a clear view of the driver’s area. Fat rimmed wheel is a joy to hang onto. Pedal layout is great for people with real sized feet, and gauges are cool as well.

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There was plenty of back seat room for my every growing kids. That was with the driver and passenger seats in a comfy position for my wife and I up front. Not a family cruiser but more room than the typical pony car in here.

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The fun maker! 707hp of supercharged 6.2L hemi. The greatest factory muscle car engine ever offered to the general public. Hairiest thing I have ever driven on the street.

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Again, minimal callouts on the car outside of this cool little badge plate a top the intake plenum.

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Ohhhh so that’s what this is.

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Battery, tire inflator, and booming bass speakers for the Harman/Kardon stereo are all hidden under the trunk floor. No spare tire in here.

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Hang on boys, I have a license to fly!

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The driving modes are pretty neat and they really do change the attitude of the car. The ride quality is awesome, even in track mode which is where we had the thing setup for most of the time we had it. Over New England’s notoriously choppy roads, it was nice.

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No matter where you go with this car, cameras are pointed at it. In this case it was Nutting’s but a dude almost creamed me the morning we were taking these photos trying to get one off from his cell phone. I laid into the car and was gone before he snapped it. Sorry pal!

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There is a feeling associated with this car that is tough to describe. It is one of those things that only car guys really get, but maybe people who carry around large caliber weapons get it too. It is fun knowing that in MOST situations you are the baddest mother effer in the place.

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Quiet country road, camera, and action! Doing burnouts in the car is something that happens accidentally when you have all the nannies off. When you want to do it on purpose? Just lean on the case and release the clutch with about 5% more quickness than usual.

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The car would do this until you told it to stop. Literally.

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The attitude, the power, the experience, the fun, and the quality of the car are all so memorable to me. Someday when I am 75 years old my kids are still going to be reminding me about the time we had the Hellcat and I’ll be remembering it like it was yesterday. This is an iconic car…buy one, borrow one, don’t steal one. Just find a way into the seat and you’ll agree.

 


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19 thoughts on “The Green Needle: Four Days With A 2015 Challenger Hellcat Has Us Addicted To 700hp Blown Hemi Fun

  1. john

    Talk about “Shrinking Weenie Syndrome” ! You’ve just caused every Challenger owner…hell, every modern muscle car owner to question their existence. WAY TO GO BL !!!

  2. ShawnD

    Any chance you were out in the Rt 122 Oakham/Barre, MA area on Sunday? I swear I saw the same car flying by me at full tilt. Sounded like a jet!!

  3. andy

    Careful Brian…..boost is a DRUG!!! And IMO, roots style is the MOST addictive for street fun!!! That HUGE torque hit down low is hard to forget!
    I’m thinking the bullet for Buford should get the compression lowered and a blower!

    1. Jim

      Be careful suggesting lots of HP for Buford, as I remember that was a CAST crank I think I saw being used. Strong air pumps always have a FORGED crank.

      1. Nick D.

        Not necessarily, seen plenty of guys make some steam on cast cranks. There’s that guy that runs 8s with a 455 Pontiac blown on nitro and runs a stock Pontiac cast-steel crank. The Crusher Camaro’s 492 big block Chevy was running a cast crank.

  4. ColoradoKid

    So tell me Lohnes !

    How you liking the Hellcat’s complete lack of cornering ability …. the cars utter inability to put that 700 hypothetical horsepower to the ground even in a straight line … the cars utter lack of quality from stem to stern .. the fact that other than hooning the car is completely undrivable and useless ..

    But better yet . Here in the 2010’s … and at that price … how in the **** do you excuse/justify it all ?

    Suggestion / Put the inner pre adolescent little boy aside for once … then get back in the pos and drive it . And then tell us how great you think it is .. as well as why it is so many Hellcats are coming back on the market [ as well as orders being canceled ] used because the owners after realizing the realities of the pos want to get rid of them

    The Dodge Asthmatic Kitty . Living proof there really is a sucker born every minute … and separating a fool from his/her money really isn’t all that difficult

      1. 75Duster

        That was a class act that you did Brian by taking the Hellcat to the high school auto shop.

    1. claymore

      We just want to return YOU and all your specious blather. But your mom refuses to take you back….wonder why?

  5. Nick D.

    Only thing that bugs me is the red calipers and red seatbelts on a green car, but that’s just me being OCD again and I’m sure they’d look fine on a red, black, silver or white car. I bet this would look great in that green color with the optional bronze wheels.

    Having driven a ZL-1 and been blown away by that, I’m sure these things must feel psychotic.

  6. jerry z

    My first car I bought with my own money was a ’70 Cuda back in ’82. Hopefully my last car will be a Hellcat!

    “A fool and his money are soon parted” is the old saying and yes that will be me buying a Hellcat and will enjoy every minute when that moment arrives!

  7. Nick D.

    Me and 2 other techs I worked with considered going in together on a lease. We figured we could afford the lease payments for the 2 motnhs it would take the 3 of us to all lose our licenses

  8. ksj2

    Bruab.Nice write up.Ive ridden in one and they are badass for sure.Only 2 things I didn’t like.The instrument layout in the dash sucks and the console,cupholder arrangement sucks.Now if I could put my dash,console,cupholder arrangement out of my 2012 Challenger it would be perfect.

  9. Belvedere65

    Brian, thanks! Don’t listen to that naysayer. That car wasn’t built to go around corners. NED is written all over it.

  10. Eric

    Awesome, I would love to drive one and it was even better that you got a manual trans version!

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