2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat first drive
The mighty Mopar rides again
Photo: Justin Couture
Portland, Ore. – It has been less than five minutes since I got behind the wheel of the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat for the very first time and I’m already doing 200 km/h down the back straight of Portland International Raceway. It’s been a startling introduction – and a very visceral one, too. Helmet on, seatbelt on, foot to the floor, and we’re off, body pinned to the heavily bolstered seats, internal organs less than gently rearranged.
But what sort of introduction were you expecting from a car like this? A gentle handshake and a friendly hello?
Welcome to the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, the most powerful factory-produced muscle car in history. It’s a big claim, but one that’s easily verified. Run down the long list of names from the legendary golden era of muscle cars – the big-block Camaros, Corvettes, Mustangs, GTOs, and Hemi-powered Dodges and Plymouths – and you’ll find they all sit in the shadow of the mighty new Dodge.
The two numbers you’ll want to remember are 707 and 650. That’s the amount of horsepower and torque, respectively, this bad-ass machine makes. It is considerably more powerful than its nearest challenger (lower case), the Ford Shelby GT 500 – a paltry 662 horsepower. Under most circumstances, you’d never call the supercharged Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 a “small fry” but with only 550 horsepower, it may as well be in the little leagues. With 707 horsepower – two-thirds of the Bugatti Veyron for heaven’s sake – it verges on irresponsible. This is the performance bargain of the decade, costing $63,995, and contrary to reports, it won’t be a limited production vehicle.
Shelby GT 500 vs. Camaro ZL1 comparison test
Photo: Justin Couture
This is an angry-looking car, angrier than the already sinister Challenger, and no, it isn’t just you. All Challengers have been updated for 2015 with styling details inspired by the 1971 version, but the Hellcat has its own unique touches. The leading edge of its hood has been dragged down like a heavily furrowed brow; headlamp pods, painted matte black, dip down into the front bumper like the black under a football linebacker’s eyes. The lower valance is square-jawed – literally widened to accommodate the additional vents for the oil coolers. All the hood vents are functional, but their tasks are not what you’d expect; the hood scoop brings cool air to the engine, with the big Viper-style gashes drawing hot air out. And what of the air intake? That’s the duty of the hollowed-out headlamp, which now pipes air direct to the hungry Hemi.
Said hungry Hemi is based on the 6.4-litre Hemi V8, but 90 per cent of the engine is new, and it loses roughly 200 ccs in size (now 6.2 L) to the non-supercharged SRT 392. All the key internals – pistons, con-rods, and crankshaft – are forged of steel and fortified to cope with the pressure generated by the IHI supercharger that crowns the orange-painted block. It’s still a good ‘ol pushrod with two very big valves per cylinder, though; direct injection, and an engine idle-stop system are conspicuously absent. The Hellcat is expected to return something around 12 L/100 km on the highway, but don’t expect anything close if you hear the supercharger’s whine, which kicks in loud and clear at 3,000 rpm and is a sign that all hell is about to break loose.
As a rule of thumb for superchargers, it takes power to make power. And while that Japanese blower requires 9/10ths of a Fiat 500’s horsepower to get it to turn, the payoff is buckets of torque. At 1,200 rpm it’s already putting out 411 lb.-ft. of torque – that’s as much as the regular Challenger R/T! It’s this sort of instantaneous twist that demonizes the rear tires, for which you should be feeling mighty sorry by now.
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