We picked up the key to the Hellcat late on a Friday afternoon. As we got behind the wheel, we paused for a few moments to check everything out and get a feel for the car. Then we pushed the start button and felt the Hellcat awaken. It actually sounds a little like a vintage Challenger firing up. The exhaust tone, with its low and throaty growl, and the whine of the supercharger are like a muscle car symphony. As we put the car in gear and head off to the HM Garage, we begin to wonder how the Hellcat will behave in rush hour, bumper-to-bumper Atlanta traffic for almost an hour. Well, we were quite surprised. The Hellcat wasn’t jerky and didn’t lurch with every touch of the gas. The accelerator has a sufficient amount of pedal travel that will allow you to drive normally. However, once that threshold is crossed, look out!
The Hellcat comes with two keys fobs. The black key, or valet key, restricts output to 500 horsepower, locks out first gear on the TorqueFlite, and restricts the engine to 4,000 rpm. It also renders the paddle shifters useless and kills launch control. The red key is like forbidden fruit. It unleashes the full fury of the Hellcat’s 707 horsepower and grants access to all the capabilities this coupe has to offer.
What makes the Hellcat so ferocious? For starters, the supercharged 6.2 liter V8 comes straight from the factory with 707 horsepower and 650 foot lb-ft of torque. The 2.75-inch dual exhaust with double-walled exhaust manifolds and electronically controlled exhaust valves give the Hellcat that bowels of hell exhaust reverberation. That howling noise up front is courtesy of the supercharger which puts out 11.6 psi of boost pressure. The Hellcat is also the only Challenger to come with hydraulic power steering. It feels lighter than the Mustang or Camaro yet it’s tight and gives you a feeling of control. All this firepower is useless if you can’t bring it to a halt. The 15.4-inch Brembo two-piece rotors with 6-piston calipers do the job quite well.
The Hellcat comes with either an 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic or a Tremec TR-6060 6-speed manual transmission. At first, we were a little bummed our car came with the TorqueFlite. However, after driving the car for a while and seeing how responsive it is with the automatic, we changed our minds. Also, the automatic is slightly faster than the manual and, if you really miss shifting gears, just move the gear selector to manual mode and use the paddle shifters. You get the best of both worlds.
The Hellcat purrs like a kitten driving down the road. However, step on the accelerator and it bites back. And it bites back hard! The transmission downshifts and the exhaust’s electronic valves bypass the mufflers letting out a raucous growl so loud you can barely hear yourself think. It’s like watching the Enterprise go into warp speed and you’re Captain Kirk. Everything’s a blur, time stands still, and you’re propelled into another dimension. Dodge claims the Hellcat’s top speed is 199 mph. We didn’t go there but did get up to 100 mph rather quickly cruising down the interstate.
The Hellcat packs quite an arsenal of performance goodies. For starters, the Hellcat comes with the Drive Mode system which controls key features such as horsepower, transmission, paddle shifters, traction, and suspension. Driving mode allows the driver to choose amongst Default, Custom, Sport, and Track settings. There’s also Performance Pages which allows you to monitor several performance aspects including peak G-force and horsepower. Engine stats such as oil pressure and coolant temperature can also be monitored with this system. These can be referenced at the touch of a button on the Uconnect touchscreen.
One thing we didn’t like about the Challenger in previous years was the interior. It felt cheap and looked like the inside of a rental car you’d pick up at the airport. Dodge greatly improved the interior with a new dashboard layout, console design, and steering wheel. The dashboard controls are driver-centric and angled toward the driver. Even the console and gear shifter are angled in such a way to enhance the driving experience. The Hellcat also features a heated flat-bottom steering with controls for the driver-configurable TFT display, Uconnect, and phone. In our opinion, the Challenger’s interior is not as great as the 2015 Mustang but it’s better than the current Camaro.
The Hellcat can run from 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds and sprint the quarter mile in 11.3 seconds. With runs like this, it’s easy to see the Hellcat gives the Camaro ZL1 and Mustang GT500 the middle finger on the street and track.
For fun, we took the Hellcat to a local car show to see what kind of attention it would gather. To say it was the star of the show that day is an understatement. No sooner than we pull into the parking lot, heads started turning and folks started snapping pictures as we parked the green monster. Several admirers came over to ask if this was really a Hellcat. Even the Mustang crowd came over to get a closer look. Man, did we really get some kudos when we fired it up for everyone to hear!
The Hellcat’s base price is $58,295. The TorqueFlite automatic, satin black aluminum hood, 8.4-inch Uconnect screen, summer tires, and gas-guzzler tax bring the total tally to $65,070. Good luck finding one at that price. We’ve seen dealer markup on the Hellcat as high as $20,000.
We were really bummed to have to give up the keys to the Hellcat on Monday morning. We truly had a great time seeing what this brute could do. It got us thinking. The horsepower wars between the Big 3 have been going on for decades. Today, little has changed. Dodge was last to join the pony car supercar wars, beaten by the Mustang Shelby GT500 and the Camaro ZL1. Maybe they were saving the best for last?