2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat | DRIVEN

Is the Hellcat the best pound-for-pound vehicle on the planet?

Photos: David Yates

Words: Evan ‘Evo’ Yates

The term ‘dream car’ is tossed around pretty loosely in the automotive world, as new mind-blowing, internet-crashing rides tend to come and go as the years pass. In 2010, I decided I would save up to purchase my dream car, a Dodge Challenger SRT8. It took a few years but I finally put myself in position to purchase a pre-owned First Edition with low miles. Funny thing is, for once in my life I vowed to keep the car completely stock as I was more than pleased with the factory performance, looks and feel. As it tends to happen, I ended up modifying my Challenger a bit (see the lowered, matte charcoal vehicle in the gallery) but I still owned my dream car and wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world – until I got a phone call saying I would be receiving a Hellcat for a week. This longwinded intro is relevant to the review because if the standard SRT8 was my dream car, imagine the pedestal I put the Hellcat upon. Does that make the review biased or will I be more strict than usual? You be the judge.

I was pleased to see that I was entrusted with the red key, which is important because it meant I had full access to all of the Hellcat’s 707 horsepower. Upon start-up, the Hellcat sounds like a full-on muscle car. Admittedly, its factory SRT exhaust sounds much better than the modified aftermarket exhaust on my personal Challenger and that was a pleasant surprise. Plenty of times I’ve seen factory-tuned vehicles with mundane exhaust systems and it has never made sense. The exhaust rumble is ferocious, yet tuned at idle and everyone within a three block radius experiences the thunderous, raspy roar when the Hellcat is first started. Once on your journey, it’s apparent there are a few extra ponies under the hood and if you dare to open it up – especially from a stop or slow roll – you better hold on tight. Acceleration in the Hellcat is a visceral experience as a myriad of sounds and emotions rush through you as the supercharger screams, the exhaust howls and you’re planted in your seat.

For a 4500-pound car, the Hellcat feels relatively light but I attribute that to the fact that you can easily sling it around like a rag doll. However, with the upgraded sway bars and other suspension components, Dodge did a great job at making the Hellcat agile.  Regardless, it does not feel like simply a big car with a big motor and even though it may not beat a Z28 Camaro around an autocross track, it definitely holds its own in the corners for a new-age muscle car. And even with its massive horsepower on tap, the Hellcat is actually a quite capable daily driver and on the highway it gets pretty decent gas mileage, too. The only negative side to the impressive power is that there are very few opportunities to fully tap the Hellcat’s potential on city streets without tacking on a couple reckless driving citations to your resume. The amount of power at your disposal is almost a tease and admittedly, if I had this car every day I would certainly be tempted to utilize it.

For the exterior, the Hellcat is almost a sleeper (minus the TorRed hue, of course) as its profile is virtually the same as every other Challenger on the road. Head on, the sleeper bit goes out the window as the viper-inspired hood certainly raises an eyebrow and the bold front fascia is a reminder that this vehicle comes from the depths of hell. The new grille and headlights are a nice touch and the factory ‘halo’ headlights are downright awesome. The updated taillights for 2015 are also a nice addition, which is a good thing because if you’re running head-to-head against a Hellcat you better get used to how those sexy LED tails look. Oh, and as sweet as the TorRed tone looks on the Hellcat, you may want to opt for a more subtle color as the bright red screams ‘PULL ME OVER’ on the highway which ultimately forced me to drive like an 80-year-old retired granny on the expressway. The 20-inch forged SRT wheels are perfect on the Hellcat even though I would have loved to see a 22-inch factory option. The 275/40/20 Pirelli rubber does its best to keep you planted on the pavement but get used to swapping the rears out quarterly as most of the tread ends up on your rear fender when driving a Hellcat. You just spent $70k on a modern muscle car – you can afford it.

The updated interior is a welcome addition as its much more attractive, ergonomically-correct and actually feels bigger than the previous models. The driver-focused dash with the 8.4” UCONNECT system is a much-needed upgrade for the Challenger platform and the plethora of performance options available on the system is awesome. The ‘Laguna’ toffee tan leather was a nice touch and a little unexpected as I thought the Hellcat may come with the standard red or black interior. Even though I would still opt for all-black guts, the tan certainly gives the impression you got what you paid for which could be important to some.

The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is hands-down the best bang for your buck in the automotive world. You simply can’t get the power-per-dollar benefit in addition to the creature comforts that make the Hellcat a worthy daily driver. The bad news? It seems that I have a new dream car.

 

Damage: $65,870

Power: 707 hp, 650 lb.-ft.

0-60: 3.5 sec

Gas Cash: 13 City, 22 Hwy

Miles Driven: 300