In 2005 Ford started a muscle car revival. Retro styling breathed new life into the Mustang and the pony car market as a whole. In 2008 Dodge re-entered the modern muscle car arena with the Challenger and Chevrolet followed shortly after with the 2010 Camaro.
|Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8, 707 HP and 650 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: TBA
Since then Ford and Chevrolet have been locked in a battle of one-upmanship releasing special editions like the Mustang Boss 302, Camaro ZL1, track ready Camaro Z/28 and monstrous 662 HP Shelby GT500 Mustang.
While this battle raged on, the Challenger was relegated to the sidelines, quickly becoming the forgotten middle child of the pony car world. Well, enough is enough and for 2015 Dodge is out for blood. As an appetizer, the Scat Pack returns and sees the 6.4-liter V8 and other goodies added to the Challenger R/T. But the car stealing all the headlines is the 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat.
Blowing the lid off the horsepower wars, Dodge has shoved a ferocious 6.2-liter supercharged V8 under hood that makes an insane 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. That is more power than a Lamborghini Aventador and a lot more than Chrysler’s halo car: the Viper.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker Review
To achieve such ridiculous power, Dodge started with the SRT 392 6.4-liter V8 and gave it a complete overhaul that saw 91 percent of the engine’s components replaced. Along with the addition of a supercharger, twin intercoolers using a completely closed-loop cooling system were added. Even a special 0W-40 synthetic oil formula had to be created by Pennzoil to keep this monster well lubricated.
Six-Speeds or Eight-Speeds
The SRT Hellcat can be optioned with either a six-speed manual or an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission. The six speed manual is borrowed from the Viper and features an exterior cooler as well as an internal oil pump. To transfer power to the strengthened rear axles, the Challenger SRT Hellcat is outfitted with an upgraded clutch.
The eight-speed automatic is an all-new ZF unit that, even when paired to supercharged V8, should make the Challenger more fuel efficient that the old SRT 392 with the five-speed automatic. Although it may be a traditional automatic and not be a dual-clutch transmission, Dodge worked hard to make it perform well by adding features like rev-matching downshifts that will blip the throttle up to the appropriate rpm when a lower gear is selected by either the computer or by the driver via the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
707 HP + Rain… What Could Go Wrong?
But enough details! How does it drive? To showcase the Hellcat, Dodge held an event in Portland, Ore. where it proceeded to rain at monsoon like levels. The goal of the trip was to take the Challenger to Portland International Raceway and we weren’t about to let a little water spoil the 707 hp party.
During the wet street drive to the track, we can confidently assure everyone that the SRT Hellcat will effortlessly break the tires loose at 70 MPH. But, as long as you don’t drive like a ham-fisted idiot trying to be the first person ever to write-off a Hellcat, the car is wholly manageable in the wet. In fact, the first time I met the Ford Shelby GT500 Mustang, conditions were eerily similar and involved a track drive. Even with greater weight and power, the Challenger Hellcat is far more manageable in wet conditions. Whereas the Shelby is a handful, the Hellcat is fairly compliant.
To be fair though, afraid of mass-Hellcat destruction, Dodge only allowed us track time during the downpour with the car using the black key. For those that don’t know, the Challenger comes with two sets of keys; a black key and a red key. The red key gives the driver full access to the entire Challenger’s potential while the black key restricts things greatly. Power is limited to 500 HP and the engine will not rev beyond 4,000 RPM. The automatic transmission locks out access to first gear, the paddle shifters are disabled and upshifts occur earlier than normal. All programmable systems are set into their street settings like traction control, steering, suspension and electronic stability control, while the standard launch control is disabled.
SEE ALSO: 2012 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 Review
This may all sound like a downer, but in the wet, even 500 HP in a 4,449-lb car can be tricky to navigate around a racetrack. As the day went on, we began to tame the Hellcat in its neutered state and longed for a chance to test it at full capacity as it felt only marginally quicker than the SRT 392 or even the Challenger Scat Pack around the track.
And Then the Sun Came Out
With 20 minutes to go in our allotted track time, our prayers were answered. The rain had subsided for an hour and the racing line on the track had dried up. With red key in hand it was time to attack the track with all 707 HP at the ready. Straight line speed is surreal in this car. The initial power exploding from the first few gears was expected as this is a muscle car, but it never stops. In fifth gear the car is still pulling as hard as it does in first. To complement all this bite, the SRT Hellcat features a ferocious bark thanks to a 2.75-inch, straight-through, twin-exhaust that includes double-walled exhaust manifolds and electronically controlled exhaust valves to give the car maximum power and a glorious V8 snarl at open throttle. Better than that, the SRT Hellcat has an insane supercharged wail unlike anything else on the street.
After amassing ludicrous amounts of speed on the front straight, the heavyweight Challenger needs to be slowed down. Handling this task are 15.4-inch two-piece front brake rotors being clamped down by Brembo six piston calipers. Standard on both SRT models, there is so much more braking power from this package than found in the regular R/T or Scat Pack Challenger. The bite from the SRT brake package is instantaneous and brake fade was minimal after a few hot laps; something we found in abundance with the Scat Pack we also drove that day.
Not Just a Straight Line Rocket; Finally
To keep the Hellcat planted in corners, the car’s wheelbase and front and rear tracks have been increased slightly. Like all SRT models, the Hellcat comes equipped with 275/40R20 Pirelli P Zero tires wrapped around gorgeous matte black rims. The tires provide sufficient corning grip, but even in dry conditions a 275 mm tire is no match for an overly enthusiastic application of 707 HP. All SRT models come equipped with a three stage customizable suspension that can be put in street, sport or track modes. Of course, track mode provides the stiffest suspension setting to enhance road course handling.
SEE ALSO: 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8
Further differentiating the Hellcat from the SRT 392, the top dog Challenger receives hydraulic assist power steering instead of the electric assist system found in other Challengers. Having sampled every new edition of the 2015 Challenger, we find the customizable steering response and effort in the Scat Pack and SRT 392 cars much better than that found in 2014 vehicles. But, the SRT Hellcat takes it up another level. We’re not saying the Challenger has Porsche like steering, but it no longer feels like it was transported from the 1970s along with the car’s styling cues.
Looks Menacing Too
The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat features a unique front fascia that includes an exclusive splitter designed to optimize airflow to the cars various cooling systems. Other Hellcat-only exterior touches include “SUPERCHARGED” fender badges and a taller rear spoiler with the SRT logo attached.
If that’s not enough, there’s a seemingly endless list of customizable options for the SRT Hellcat like a matte black hood option as found on our test vehicle that makes the car look so old school and badass.
We’ve always liked the looks of the Challenger, but found it to be more of a grand tourer than a proper sports car. With the new Hellcat, that’s all changed. The car feels completely special compared to a regular Challenger, the same way a ZL1 or Z/28 feels compared to a Camaro SS. The entire car is well sorted out and buttoned down on the track. It’s not just a muscle car with incredible power; it’s an incredible muscle car.