Nobody needs 707 horsepower in a passenger car, but it was time for this muscle car to get the pull needed to match its powerful stance.
To get there, Dodge engineers wedged a supercharged, 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 between the strut towers and dialed in 707-hp at 6,000 rpm with 650 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm. Some say the horsepower is actually higher. The engine is a throw-down to Ford and GM for what had been their higher-horsepower muscle cars, the Mustang GT500 and Camaro Z28.
The Challenger is a big a car — five seats versus four in the Mustang and Camaro and it’s heavy, up to 4,449 pounds for the Hellcat, today’s tester. But the trunk is huge (16.2 cubic feet) and the back seat folds, so you can load up like a wagon. (Tell your spouse, “See, honey, the back seat folds so it’s a good family car.”)
There are six-speed manual and eight-speed paddle-shift automatic transmissions. The eight-speed gets the better fuel economy and weighs 10 pounds less than the manual. It is quick with no disappointment to the driving experience.
The Hellcat is now the most powerful V-8 engine ever produced by Chrysler Group, which, Dodge claims, makes the Challenger Hellcat the most powerful muscle car ever. And, it also claims it is the quickest with a 10.8-second, NHRA-certified quarter-mile ET at 126 mph on street-legal drag radials. On production tires, it hit 10.8 seconds at 125 mph. And the engine choice is now available on the Charger sedan
The rear-wheel-drive Challenger coupe is sold in range of models to make it affordable. Pick your pleasure, from the 305-horsepower Pentastar V-6 to the 372-horsepower 5.7-liter V8 to a 485-horsepower 6.4-liter Hemi. And now the blown Hellcat sweeps in like a rock star.
Challenger starting prices range from about $27,000 for the entry SXT to $61,000 for the Hellcat. The tester was $64,075, including the $1,700 gas-guzzler tax. Options included the eight-speed automatic transmission ($1,995), Uconnect with navigation ($695) and summer performance tires $395. The satin black aluminum hood with functional vents is $995.
It’s almost unfortunate that this car is such an enjoyable daily driver. The power is felt on every level, from the rumble on start-up to the rolling thunder of exhaust and then the whine of the supercharger when the right foot goes down. Fuel economy is hopeful at 15 mpg city, 25 highway with an achievable 18 mpg combined, on the recommended premium. The manual is rated 14/23/17 mpg.
It’s almost possible to watch the fuel-gauge needle drop when the driver is out having fun, but there will be no regrets. (There’s an 18.5-gallon tank.) At 65 mph in standard driving model, the engine is turning at a thrifty 1,500 rpm, as six sodium-filled exhaust valves, hollow stem intake valves and 16 hydraulic lifters do their thing.
For those who think they’d like such a car, just order one. The Hellcat can be driven cross-country without discomfort. It rolls smoothly and yet snaps to attention with a shove of the throttle. There are four modes for performance and traction controls — Street, Sport, Track, Off. The Hellcat engine comes with two key fobs – red and black. The red key is the only key that can unlock the full power. The black fob limits the driver (or parking-lot attendant) to 500-horsepower.
Much of the time, I drove in Street mode because it’s so enjoyable to hear this big bomber light up and fly. And in Sport the shifts are held a little longer, raising the revs while lowering fuel mileage.
When you’re packing 650 foot-pounds of torque, you can sit back, point and shoot to merge traffic with no fear. There is little concern stopping with 15.4-inch front disc brakes with four-piston Brembo calipers. It is under-tired with the optional summer performance 275/40 ZR 20-inch Pirelli PZeroes, but they are a cheap option for four at $395, which is about the cost to replace one tire after you’ve had some smoking-good fun.
Nobody needs 707-horsepower, but it sure is freakin’ fun.
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage