On a hot summer day in July, 1980, I came screaming into this world at a chubby 9 lbs. and 8 ounces.
Engine: 6.2 L supercharged V8, 707 hp, 650 lb-ft.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Pricing US – Charger SRT Hellcat begins at $63,290 after destination chargers, $65,285 as tested.
Pricing CDN – Charger SRT Hellcat begins at $71,390 after destination charges, $72,890 as tested.
EPA Fuel Economy – 13 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
CDN Fuel Economy – 18.0 L/100 km city, 10.7 L/100 km highway, 20.8 L/100 km observed average.
I know, hard to believe if you look at me now, but I was a big newborn. After a short stay at the hospital, it was time to go home. This would be my first ever experience in life with what would later become my passion – automobiles. My parents loaded me into their chunk of metal, glass and rubber they called a car, which at that time happened to be a 1973 Mercury Montego Coupe.
Although it may be retro-chic now, the Montego wasn’t anything special in its day, especially in base form with its sub-100 hp, 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine. For everything amazing and special my parents have given me in my life, my first experience in an automobile was not one of them.
Baby’s First Ride Done Right
Fast forward to 2015. When my wife was around six months pregnant, my thoughts turned towards what any gearhead’s would – what was going to be my son’s first ever ride in a car? I needed something with a big enough rear seat to accommodate a rear-facing child seat and a large enough trunk to haul the endless array of baby accessories. It also had to be comfortable enough to transport a nine-month pregnant mother-to-be in the midst of labour. But most important of all, it needed to be badass.
A car powered by a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 making 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque may not sound like the perfect way to transport a delicate newborn home, but bear with me for a moment. Although it’s true that this insane Hemi powerplant can rip a hole in the space-time continuum, it’s also incredibly docile for such a gasoline-powered missile. Driven in default mode with a light throttle, the SRT Hellcat doesn’t drive any differently than a Charger R/T.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Review
At any moment though, a mountain of sound and torque are available courtesy of the supercharger and beefy V8 engine. But keep the rpms low and the two-stage exhaust system stays closed, keeping the car relatively quiet. Or, if your baby is like mine and sleep through anything, let that supercharger sing! Just be sure to keep infants and toddlers away from the back of the Hellcat upon start up, as the exhaust system explodes to life for the first 30 seconds or so while the angry kitty warms up.
Spacious, Supple and Safe
Being more than 200 inches in length, the Charger offers a lot of interior space. With 40.1 inches of rear legroom, a rear-facing baby seat can be installed easily, as I could actually climb into the footwell of the car and yank on the safety straps to my heart’s content. Once in place, a front seat passenger still has ample room, even with the large, thick SRT front seats. And, the icing on the cake: The huge trunk can swallow all the baby’s paraphernalia thanks to 16.5 cubic feet of space.
The SRT line of Chargers come equipped with three-stage adjustable dampers that help firm up the suspension when it’s to have some fun and soften it for relaxed driving. On the softest setting, the Charger SRT delivers an acceptably comfortable ride. It doesn’t rival the Toyota Avalon’s creamy ride, as the Hellcat’s heavy duty suspension and low-profile tires ensure a bit of harshness creeps into the cabin, but it’s not sports-car stiff either.
To ensure your bundle of joy remains safe, the SRT Hellcat comes equipped with massive 15.4-inch two-piece front rotors to stop the demonic Dodge in a hurry. And if the worst case scenario happens and the Hellcat gets into a mishap on the road, rest assured that the Charger achieves a good rating in every IIHS crash test it has been subjected to.
When Baby’s Away, the Parents Will Play
When the baby is fast asleep at home and mom or dad wants to go have some fun on their own, the SRT Hellcat is ready and waiting. Slap it into Track mode and the Charger brute comes alive. The sound, fury and response of this full-size car can be alarming at times. Not ready to go toe-to-toe with a Porsche 911 GT3, the SRT Hellcat handles its 4,575-lb weight surprisingly well. And steering feel isn’t half bad, as the Hellcat is the only Charger model to receive hydraulic-assist power steering; even the regular SRT model has to make do with electric assist.
But as I’ve stated before, be careful because the Hellcat needs more tire. Wearing 275-mm wide tires at all four corners, the car’s power and weight can overwhelm the big Dodge at any moment. Having a set of staggered tires, say a 305 or 325 mm in the rear and 285 mm in the front would help this car immensely. Then again, that might require additional body work by Dodge to fit those steamrollers in the wheel wells and that would raise the price above the as-tested mark of $65,285 after destination charges.
Oh, and while we discuss drawbacks to the SRT Hellcat, there’s fuel economy. My enthusiastically driven 11.3 mpg observed average is eye-watering. That’s going to lead to a lot of stops for premium fuel. But hey, babies need a lot of pit-stops for feedings and diaper changes as well, so it all works, right?
The Verdict: 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is Baby’s First Ride
At 1:15 am on July 4, 2015, my son Matthew came into this world. A Canadian born on the most American of holidays, it only made perfect sense that he come home from the hospital in an all-American muscle sedan built in Canada.
Getting to share something as special as bringing my son home in such a ridiculously powerful car, and being able to share it with my family, is something I’ll always cherish. No matter what else happens in Matthew’s life, his first car ride will forever have been in a 707-hp Dodge Charger Hellcat. That’s pretty damn cool, just like the Hellcat.
No matter what else happens in Matthew's life, his first car ride ever will always be a 707 HP Dodge Charger Hellcat pic.twitter.com/VvWs9645Yk
— Michael Schlee (@Mikeschlee) July 5, 2015