“Insanity. Sheer insanity.”
These are the first words that emerged from my friend’s gaping mouth as we raced from 0 to 60 in the amazing Dodge Charger Hellcat, the world’s most powerful family car.
New for 2015, the Charger Hellcat has to be seen and heard to truly understand the madness — and brilliance of this car. Here, then, are five reasons why you should visit your Dodge dealer today for a car-driving experience you’ll remember the rest of your life.
Reason #1: 707 Horsepower Engine
The big news is the engine. Through some combination of alchemy, engineering and a possible deal with the devil, the Hellcat’s 6.2-liter supercharged engine makes 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque.
That’s incredible, especially when you consider that 400+ hp engines were a marvel just a few years ago. That combination of power and torque allows the Charger Hellcat to reach a top speed of 204 miles per hour. It zooms from 0 to 60 in about 3.5 seconds and can cover a quarter-mile in 11 seconds. Seriously, 11 seconds.
The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts so rapidly and smoothly, you barely notice gear changes at all. But you certainly hear them. Of course, paddle shifters are available for drivers who demand even more control. And you can use the SRT app to customize the vehicle’s settings for “Track,” Sport,” “Custom” and “Default” modes. This allows you to control horsepower, transmission, traction and suspension controls simply by tapping buttons on the 8.4-inch color screen.
You can even tap a button to drop horsepower from 700+ to 500. And there’s even an Eco mode that tempers acceleration and should buy you an extra mpg or two. But, really, if you’re buying a Hellcat, you’ll want to use the Eco mode as often as a Prius driver wants to face off with you in an “off-the-line” showdown, which is basically never.
Speaking of fuel economy, the engine delivers way better average mileage than you probably expect. It returns 22 mpg on the highway. It’s proof we’re living in strange times indeed. I covered 220 miles during my test and averaged 13 mpg after pushing that engine at every possible moment. Yes, it’s ridiculously fun, not incredibly fuel-deficient, and, in all the best ways, completely unnerving.
Reason #2: Ridiculously Satisfying Engine Note
The sound of the supercharged engine is generally unlike anything else in the regular, domesticated driving world. When idling, the Charger Hellcat sounds like it has a boat engine on board. It’s a rumbling burble with a low, satisfying sound that seems to resonate for miles. Many of my friends heard me coming long before they saw the Charger.
Open it up and the sound is violently awesome. It’s simultaneously a grumble, a growl and an explosion. Best of all, the sound changes and grows in remarkable ways as you accelerate from 0 to 30 to 60 to 80 and beyond.
If you don’t like being the center of attention, don’t buy the Hellcat. People are simply unable to not gawk at the car roaring by them.
Reason #3: Seats Five Passengers
Here’s the crazy thing: the Charger Hellcat is also a regular family car that seats up to five passengers.
A good friend of mine owns a gorgeous Porsche 911 convertible. After I took him for a ride in the Charger he said, “You know what I love about this car? I could take my entire family for an amazing ride. I can’t do that in my Porsche and the fact the Charger can do that is so cool.”
Five people piled in the Charger multiple times and, outside of the full-size adult who sat in the less-comfortable middle rear seat, they all marveled at the fact the Charger was so surprisingly comfortable and spacious.
“It’s a regular family car,” I said with a sly smirk on my face. They inevitably shook their heads and said something along the lines of, “Sure it’s a family car…if your patriarch is Charles Manson.”
Put simply, it’s not like any family car I’ve imagined.
Cargo space is excellent, too. The trunk has 16.5 cubic feet of space, which lets you stow everything from suitcases and swimming gear to helmets and racing gear for a satisfying day at the beach or the track.
Reason #4: Makes Grown Men Giggle
What happens when you experience the Hellcat for the first time? If my experience is an accurate benchmark, this car makes grown men giggle and young kids scream.
I gave rides to more than 20 people during my time testing the car. These drivers ranged from owners of typical American vehicles to owners of European sports cars and exotics.
I provided the same experience to each passenger, which included a quick release from a dead stop and a quick launch onto a freeway on-ramp. Here’s what I heard after the laughter stopped.
“That felt like I was riding a roller coaster!”
“Are you kidding me? Are…you…kidding…me? That’s ridiculous!”
“My stomach dropped like I was on some crazy amusement park ride.”
“That’s the most violently fun experience I’ve ever had.”
“I just permanently embedded my hand-print into your armrest.”
“Arrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh! Ha-ha-ha! Arrrrrggggggghhhhhhh!”
My eight-year-old nephew screamed louder than I’ve ever heard a kid scream. My daughters experienced everything from fear to bewilderment to exhilaration to uncontrolled laughter — all within seconds of launch.
Test-drive the Charger Hellcat. Trust me, it’s worth the ride.
Reason #5: Charger Hellcat Starts at $62,000
Now that you know a bunch of details about the Hellcat, you’re naturally asking what this amazing machine costs. The answer is a lot less than you expect. If you can finance $61,700 over 7 years, you can park a Hellcat in your driveway for about $967 per month. Or you can lease that same vehicle for $795 per month for three years.
Sure, those are big monthly payments. But compared to what you would pay for the four-door Aston Martin Rapide S ($203,000), that price is a steal.
Of course, I’m not comparing the Hellcat to the Aston Martin in any way other than price and performance. But even after building a Charger Hellcat on Dodge’s site and adding options like the Harmon Kardon audio system, 20-inch Brass Monkey SRT forged wheels, a power sunroof and paying the $1,700 “gas guzzler’s tax,” a well-equipped Charger costs only $68,575. Put 10 percent down and that car is yours for a remarkably low price.
A Stealth Race Car
It’s easy love a car that provokes such passionate, visceral reactions in young and seasoned drivers. It’s easy to admire Dodge for producing the Charger and Challenger that reinvent and rethink the possibilities of supercar power for the regular driver. It’s enjoyable to identify the knowing looks of fellow drivers who watched me driving the Hellcat and smiling or giving me a thumbs-up sign of approval for driving a machine that most people assume is “just another Charger.”
Here’s my only concern, and it’s a real one: this car is so powerful, in the wrong hands it can be incredibly dangerous. Drop a 17-year-old boy with more ego than brains into a Charger Hellcat and carnage could ensue. One friend even suggested that the Division of Motor Vehicles require a special driving permit (similar to what commercial truck drivers earn) to own a Charger because it’s that different of a driving experience.
I won’t go that far, but I am glad Dodge provides a red key that unleashes full performance and a black key that limits horsepower to 500 vs. the 707 the red key unlocks. That’s the one I would give my kids if they took the Charger for a spin.
Here’s the other thing that makes the Charger unlike nearly any other car out there. Besides subtle SRT and Hellcat badging, plus a scooped hood, the Hellcat looks like most other Chargers. And it drives like most Chargers too, assuming you know how to feather the gas pedal so you don’t leap from every stop like a possessed toad. That means this car is perfectly reasonable as a daily driver. But you know that lurking beneath that hood and the subtly muscular sheetmetal, a race car is ready at a moment’s notice.
People, start your engines.
2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat photo copyright Waterdog Media, Inc.