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Understanding and Hooning the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

Kamil Kaluski September 10, 2014 Dodge Reviews, Featured, First Impressions 50 Comments

2014 dodge challanger hellcat srt

10.8 seconds. That’s how long it takes the new Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat to cover one quarter of a mile from a stand still on street-legal drag tires, according to the NHRA. Let’s put that into perspective:

  • Until 2008, all cars faster than 12 seconds needed a roll bar and a harness.
  • The super exotic Ferrari F40, when new, ran it in 11.7.
  • A 2007 Porsche Carrera Turbo ran it in 11.6 seconds.
  • Everyone’s beloved McLaren F1 ran the quarter in 11.5 seconds.
  • The new $320,000 Ferrari F12 Barlinetta does it in 11.0 seconds.
  • The fastest Lamborghini Gallardo managed about 10.9 seconds.

Yes, many modified cars run faster than that, but if you want a factory stock car with air conditioning and warranty, you’re looking to spend significantly more than a hundred grand. Yes, the Hellcat is a muscle car whereas the cars listed above are sports cars that can corner as hard as they accelerate. Yes, street slicks, a sticky track, and overall ideal conditions do make a difference, so repeating those numbers at the local drag strip won’t be easy.

Still, 10.8 seconds, 707 horsepower, sixty-ish grand. In case you are still not convinced that we are living in the greatest automotive era of all time, this should erase all doubts. But the cool folks at Dodge think that despite its muscle car heritage, the Hellcat and other Challengers can hold their own on the road course, too. Dodge’s SRT team was so confident in the handling of their models that they let loons such as me loose on Portland International Raceway with their newest Challengers. And in heavy rain, too!

dodge challanger hellcat engine

The current Dodge Challenger has been around since 2008. While in those years it has always been a cool looking car, it was not really desired by anyone who did not have a sentimental connection to the original first generation car. It did not exactly have a high performance halo model, a la the Mustang GT500, its performance was surpassed by its direct competition, and the interior was dull.

Many Dodge representatives have agreed, with the above and that is what the updated 2015 Challenger attempts to address. The Hellcat becomes the halo model with the muscle and attitude to seriously battle the ZL1 and the GT500. The 485hp SRT 392 and Scat Pack with Super Track Pak are directed at the Z/28 and the Boss 302. Lesser V8 and V6 models are now equally prepare to fight their counterparts. All those engines are matched to either 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmissions. Finally, all cars get much needed interior upgrades.

dodge challanger hellcat interior dash

Generally, muscle cars were not known to be great handling track cars. In recent years, however, perhaps to get the younger buyers out of German and Japanese cars, all three American car companies have focused on improving the handling of their cars with some very impressive results. Handling is where Dodge has focused a lot of its attention for 2015. While the body remains relatively unchanged, the SRT models now have a 3-way adaptive suspension, bigger wheels with wider tires, big Brembo brakes, and the aforementioned Super Track Pak is available on all but the base model.

Overshadowed by all this power is what some auto writers considered the biggest change to the Challengers – the interior. Gone are the hard plastic square dash and console. In their place a driver-focused curved dash with Chrysler’s 8.4-inch excellent Uconnect touch-screen. The seats are comfortable and supportive at the same time, even available with ventilation. All primary controls have modern upscale touch and feel, very familiar to other new Chrysler vehicles. The only issues I saw was a lack of storage for small items. The Challenger’s one advantage is that it is bigger car than the Mustang and the Camaro, with a three passenger rear bench and trunk that can accommodate more than a backpack.

2014 dodge challanger hellcat srt details

Remove all identifying marks from the Challenger Hellcat and no one casually driving it would know about the monster within. Show finesse and restraint in use of the gas pedal and the Hellcat becomes a docile 500hp cat on the street. There is really nothing, not even a heavy clutch pedal, standing in the way of this being a fun and comfortable daily driver.

Start the car using the red key and things change quickly. Suddenly, the kitty becomes a loud pissed off lion. No, not just loud but really fucking loud, as in still loud when it is almost quarter of a mile down the track loud. On the track it will spin its tires at triple digit velocities. Being used to a certain underpowered racecar I had to slow down and re-learn everything I knew about performance driving. Not only won’t the Hellcat mask your mistakes, it will expose them like few cars can – input an abrupt half throttle coming out of a turn before the front wheels are perfectly straight and the rear-end will come loose. One must seriously slow down in order to drive this car fast. The good thing is that, even in the rain, it won’t try to kill you with, at least with the Sport drive mode. I didn’t have the guts to take all the driving nannies completely off.

2014 dodge challanger hellcat srt portland race track

After a few laps in I finally got comfortable, both with the track and the car. Extra laps in the R/T Scat Pack and the SRT 392 allowed me to start building up some speed. The rain had stopped and the track started drying. I gave the Hellcat another go. It’s amazing what a difference 222 horsepower makes between the 6.4-liter cars and the Hellcat. Down the back straight the proper racing line is right along the wall, which further elevated the sense of power and speed. On my few final laps, after short shifting, I finally managed to floor the beast in fourth gear. Holy hell, what a scary thrill that was. The only car I ever drove that pulled that hard at speed was a Ferrari 599. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a ridiculously fast car.

Truth be told, someone with modest high performance driving experience, such as myself, may have been faster around PIR in one of the 392 cars. They were more forgiving, inspired more confidence, and were simply easier to drive fast. The Hellcat is awesome, but it is scary awesome, and only the most skilled of drivers can drive it at its limit.

The whole time I was driving the Hellcat I could not stop questioning its existence. In the end I concluded that it was built for bragging rights and to bring people into the showroom. When it goes on sale, dealers are sure to mark up it up to hell. Those people will then turn and buy the really good R/T Scat Pack or the SRT 392, Challengers. I think that deep inside, the Hellcat was designed to succeed where the Viper has mysteriously failed.

Awesome? Yes. Necessary? No.

2014 dodge challanger hellcat srt locomotive breath

Disclaimer: Chrysler invited Hooniverse to the Hellcat press launch in Portland, Oregon. They picked up the flights and the hotel costs, pretty much a standard thing. I apologize for not being able to have this up sooner.

Images copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Kamil Kaluski

  • Sjalabais

    I still can't fathom how this is available to the public at that price. Fantastic sign of strength for the US auto industry.

    • Alff

      You mean the Italo-American auto industry.

      • Sjalabais

        Honestly, I see very little Italy in this particular car. Part of the big surprise is that this makeover is done to a six year old design…

        • James

          I read "This makeover was given to a six year old TO design." It still made sense.

          • Sjalabais

            From the pictures, I concur, sir. Probably more impressive in the wild.

        • Alff

          You're right on both counts. I'm just a repeat customer having a little fun… By a strange twist of fate six of the last nine vehicles I've purchased originated in the forges of what is now Fiat Chrysler. Sadly none was a Viper, Ferrari or 8C.

  • My aggressive-driving wife on the Hellcat: "It would be socially irresponsible to let me behind the wheel of that car."

    • Alff

      Depends who she chooses to act aggressively towards. If she can be selective, she might be a crusader for justice. Slow-rolling Corolla "S" driver in the left lane … beware the Hellcat!

  • Night Traveller

    I think insurance might be a bit of an issue if you have more than 0 points on your record.

    • You know what should happen – for every two years of zero-point driving you should get a negative point. Four years of clean driving = freebee 2-point ticket.

      • BradleyBrownell

        Having been clean for 5 years only to get a 1-point ticket on Tuesday, I completely agree with this statement.

        I think I'm more pissed that it cost me $200 for driving 25 miles per hour in a 15 mile per hour zone…

        • CABEZAGRANDE

          Good lord, where do they still have 15 mph speed limits, and why? Your average car can stop from 25 in less than 30 feet. And several of my past cars literally had trouble going that slow. The old 5.0 LX Mustang I had would literally idle around at 700 rpm in first gear at 9 mph. Anything under 20 mph was a bit of a challenge.

          • pj134

            Usually school zones.

          • BradleyBrownell

            The best part is that it was a temporary 15mph zone that runs from 6AM to 4PM. I was driving past a completely silent elementary school while all of the kids were sitting in class.

            Absurd, for sure.

      • FЯeeMan

        Yes, but that would contradict the real purpose of the traffic law enforcement system – revenue generation. Both for the municipality and the insurance industry.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    "Heavy rain in Portland, OR"…

    So, what's called drizzle, elsewhere, eh?

    /exPortlandresident
    //onlykindakidding

    I've gotta have one of these when they start coming off-lease. They're going to be three years old and $33K.

    • Sjalabais

      20 years in, I'll be looking at the wheelbase of these and the stack of defunct Volvo 240 shells in my backyard.

      • Rover_1

        I prefer to think that they're closely related to my W124s.

        Which I appear to be stockpiling.

    • 30% will get bubble wrapped right off the showroom floor, only to reappear at one of those fancy rich people auctions in 2054.

      • Will look great beside the 50 mile 1978 Corvette Pace Car.

    • Scandinavian Flick ★

      I'm in California and what is rain?

      • It's the shit we desperately need, yet I'm happy we don't have.

      • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

        I'm in Texas, I'm similarly curious as to this phenomena.

        We're supposed to have 33-35 inches per year here in Fort Worth, but we've had about 14, to date. The whole state is a fire hazard.

  • 7FIAT's Later

    I love the Hellcat, it just gives the big F.U. to all the over-priced supercars and does it's thing. At this point my dream garage only needs two vehicles, the Hellcat and cause 'Merica and I need a truck, the Ford Raptor.

    • Miata?

      • Perhaps if they come out with a new one.

    • I'd want to add a first-year Viper for those occasional times I needed to change things up.

    • Totally agree on the Raptor… I love it, even though I shouldn't. In fact, I just got back from driving a Raptor off-road in Baja… more to come on that.

  • I gotta hand it to Chrysler, they turned a bloated kinda-muscle car into a car that most of the auto journalists that I know can't talk highly enough about, and as you mentioned it's not just the obscene amount of power that does it.

    • jeepjeff

      Yeah, when it was first introduced my reaction was "meh, the Mustang is the best of the three". The Challenger has been growing on me, and now I'm only sure that when I see a Camaro driving around, I know the owner picked wrong.

    • When I first started getting into cars in the late 1980s/early 1990s anything with more than 400 HP was reserved for the TOP Italian exotics, anything with more than 300 HP was REALLY FAST. The C4 Corvette ZR-1 aka King of the Hill had "only" 375 HP. I can remember in the early 2000s when some of the AMG models started hitting 500HP and people thought that was insane. Now the BASE Corvette has 455 HP. I can't wait for depreciation to hit these things.

  • JayP2112

    I can't wait to see what TG:UK does with it.

    • Hammond will have on-air orgasm and promptly pass out. May will go ragging on about it being pointless and physics equations. Clarkson will burn four sets of tires with a goofy grin on his face and then proclaim it's an amazing piece of American garbage.

      • BlackIce_GTS

        [effusive video with tire smoke]
        Hammond: So you liked it then?
        Clarkson: Well, about that; actually [totally imaginary issue].
        Hammond: Ah, well, I guess it's complete garbage then.
        Clarkson: Yes, it's basically worse than mega-Hitler.
        May: Moving on.

        I don't know which episode I just quoted, but I'm sure it's several.

    • IronBallsMcG

      I know I'm a pariah here for even uttering that I will watch Top Gear US, but I really want to see Tanner Foust in one.

      • Sjalabais

        Well, it helps to have iron balls, doesn't it?

        • IronBallsMcG

          BTW, that name comes from a minor character in "The Jerk," one of my all time favorite movies. I sometimes wish I had gone with "Navin Johnson" instead.

  • PotbellyJoe ©

    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Hellcats_F6F-3%2C_May_1943.jpg/1024px-Hellcats_F6F-3%2C_May_1943.jpg&quot; width="600/">
    Such a fitting name too. Growing up in Kalamazoo, the Air Zoo has all of the Grumman 'Cats not only on display, but also flies them for air shows. The Hellcat, which took IIRC 47 cranks to raise the wheels, was easily one of the louder of the prop 'Cats.

    Did a heckuva job at the Mariana Turkey Shoot as well.