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Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat 2015 Review

EXPERT RATING
9
Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat in the US.

The Dukes of Hazzard would never have been caught if they had one of these.

Meet the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, a two-door muscle car styled to resemble the iconic Charger from the 1970s that became a star of the small screen thanks to two moonshine runners with a tendency to launch their car into the air during countless getaways.

The term "Hellcat" may seem like overkill or that the marketing managers got a little carried away.

This is as blokey as a car gets

But to be frank it's not anywhere near crazy enough to describe what's under the bonnet of this monstrosity which, for now, is only coming to Australia via private importers and converters.

Even if you're not a rev head you need to understand the phenomenal power that Dodge has managed to extract from this vehicle, if only for the fact it may come in handy on a pub trivia night.

It has 707 horsepower in the old money, or 527kW in the modern parlance – and a thumping 881Nm of torque – from its 6.2-litre supercharged V8, the first supercharged "Hemi" in the company's history.

Talk about making an entrance. That's more power than a V8 Supercar on the grid at Bathurst. Yet this car has licence plates.

The Dodge also comfortably surpasses the previous champion of horsepower for a US muscle car, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 (662hp or 493kW).

And, as much as it pains me to report this, the Hellcat gives Australia's fastest and most powerful car of all time, the HSV GTS (576hp or 430kW) a blood nose – and then kicks it in the groin for good measure.

Yes, this is as blokey as a car gets. It rumbles as you start the engine, providing you get the right key.

The sound from the engine and the exhaust is breathtaking

The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is so powerful it has two keys: one that "limits" power to 500hp (so only 372kW for you then), and then there is the one you want which unleashes all 707 horses.

Beyond that, the display in the centre screen has personalised driver modes that enable you to adjust the redline (or gear-change points) for each of the six manual gears, the response of the throttle and the softness of the suspension.

DRIVING

It feels surreal behind the wheel as you're presented with a modern dash design and layout, even though the exterior is a step back in time.

Fittingly, the driving experience is a mix of new and old. It feels like someone has done an excellent job of fitting modern mechanicals and brakes (the largest ever fitted to a Dodge or Chrysler product) to an old 1970s Charger.

But first you have to adjust your senses to the power. It is next to impossible to get a clean getaway if you deploy the slightest hint of urgency, at least until the super-sticky Pirelli tyres warm up.

The Hellcat seems to skim over the top of the concrete pavement during our test drive around Los Angeles, rather than connect with it.

The six-speed manual gearshift has a heavy action, as does the clutch. But at least the gap between gear changes gives you a moment to collect your thoughts and provide a flash of peace in what is more accurately described as mayhem rather than acceleration.

The Dodge Hellcat is almost too fast for your senses to comprehend, once you've found grip in the tyres and the traction system limits any slip.

The cornering grip is surprisingly impressive. It's fair to say Dodge (and American muscle cars in general) aren't known for their excellent handling, but the engineers who managed to tame the Hellcat and get it to brake, grip and steer with some level of accuracy deserve a medal.

The suspension is too firm in "race" mode but in the normal setting it's more than liveable.

Dodge has invented a time machine

The sound from the engine and the exhaust is breathtaking (think V8 Supercar but with a road legal decibel reading) and makes you want to slow down just so you can return to the speed limit with all the noise pollution you can muster.

Dislikes? It's hard to see out of the damn thing. But to be honest, you won't be looking in the rear vision mirror much in one of these. Or parking it very often. It's too much fun to drive.

The overall driving experience is agricultural by European car standards. But I suspect this is exactly what muscle car buyers want in the US. Besides, what else do you expect for $60,000 (a pile of money in the US but a bargain in Australia considering a HSV GTS is $95,000).

The biggest tragedy, though, is that there are currently no plans to make one of these in right-hand-drive from the factory gate.

Note to Dodge: Ford and Holden are vacating the V8 performance sedan market within a few years and I reckon there would be a queue of buyers for one of these. Australian performance car buyers wouldn't know what hit them.

EXPERT RATING
9
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