ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: It's hard to not have had the 707-hp rating of the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat pounded into your head. It's been advertised everywhere. It's an alarming amount of power in a street car. It is well above the 640 ponies that the V10 in the Viper churns out, which is a terrifying car if you don't respect it. Then again, we're talking about the large and hefty Challenger. The Hellcat with a manual transmission weighs 4,449 pounds. Maybe it does need over 700 ponies to get moving really quick?
Unlike the Viper, which is really close to being a street-legal race car, the Challenger is definitely well suited to cruise the streets in comfort and be low key -- unless it's painted Sublime green pearl like our test car. In silver, white, black or gray it doesn't look too different from an SRT8 392. If you can resist mashing the gas pedal to the floor from every stop, the Hellcat behaves like a docile pet. Roll gingerly onto the throttle and the 6.2-liter supercharged V8 isn't obnoxiously loud and won't draw attention. The clutch isn't overly heavy and it's easy to operate smoothly. The six-speed shifter has longish throws, but slots into gears slick enough. Steering has a satisfying amount of weight tuned into it. And the brakes are massively strong and get this hunk of metal slowed in a hurry (more on those later).
Being such a big car, the back seat can actually accommodate two adults in decent comfort, and the trunk is gigantic.
The refreshed interior looks much more inviting with central controls that are angled towards the driver. Materials are better with accent stitching, and the knurled trim pieces look nice. Seats feature large side bolsters and can easily hold larger-framed folks.
Overall exterior appearance is still more or less the same as it's always been, and remains old-school cool, in my opinion. The new rear light treatments do look good, though.
Eventually, you'll give in to temptation and pin the gas pedal (when you find a nice, straight patch of pavement, that is). It's a grin-inducing experience. The Hellcat leaps forward with the wheels spinning wildly through the first few gears (not shockingly, it will do a wicked burnout, too). As I experienced with the Viper, launch control doesn't seem to yield the best launches, allowing way too much tire spin and smoke. I had my best luck getting out and away away modulating the throttle myself. I'm definitely no John Force, but I think I got out of the box respectably.
Our office drag-racing expert was able to cover the quarter-mile in 12.1 seconds at 125.4 mph, which as always are uncorrected, really-did-happen results. He hit 60 mph with our manual test car in 4.2 seconds. Those results are OK, I suppose.
What were really shocking were our braking results from 60 mph. According to our Vbox test unit, the Hellcat stopped from 60 in 102.3 feet. Another run returned 105.2 feet.
Through the slalom, the Hellcat felt like a battleship. It really just looked comical--it was so out of its element there. Around the skidpad, it wasn't so great, either.
I'm normally a road-course guy, and I appreciate cars that handle well, but I respect the heck out of Dodge and SRT for building the Hellcat. It's insane, but very cool that they stuffed over 700 ponies under the hood. You can't help but have a lot of fun with something like this. And the fact that it's really comfortable and offers a fair amount of practicality from a cargo and people carrying ability standpoint scores it some points.
Just be ready to pony up for gas (the best fuel reading I got on a tank was 14.1 mpg) and rear tires ($497 each from Tire Rack).
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