I Hammered The Hellcat

The 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat is the world’s fastest, most powerful, and quickest accelerating sedan. Dodge recently invited me to play with it at a race track in rural West Virginia, where any mistakes with the throttle would lead to 707 hp's worth of consequences. The first thing I remember hearing? There's an instructor sitting next to me to make sure I don't kill myself or the car, and he's nearly shouting at me: "Easy on the throttle. EASY!"

I thrashed the Hellcat. This is what it's like.

The good people at SRT take a Dodge Hemi V8—already a potent engine in its own right—then rework nearly every component to make it tougher. Then, like a glorious but barren cake, they top it with a supercharger larger than the sovereign nation of Lichtenstein, one that can suck the air out of an average room in less than 10 minutes.

The 707 hp that results produces a ton of heat, so to ensure it doesn't literally melt itself, Dodge employed so much advanced engineering that the materials used actually have more in common with a Russian nuclear submarine than a 1960s Hemi. Really. So yeah, that's why my instructor was so emphatic about a cautious application of throttle.

Once you fire it up, though, it sounds like the Three Tenors being fed through the jet turbines of a F-15 Eagle, and the engineer-speak becomes merely academic.

Time to play.

The Dodge and SRT folks vehemently instructed me to not peel out as I left the pit lane. I honestly intended to obey, but when my time came to launch those 707 ponies, my intentions meant nothing. I thought I was gentle on the throttle. To my chagrin, the tires went into wild motion, taking untold mileage from their lifespan.

Somewhat humbled, I brought the car under control, and a minute later was doing 140 mph down the front straight. That's when I learned about the brakes. Thankfully, they're huge at all four corners, and they stood up to all the abuse I could muster.

I was surprised to find that, other than the atomic bomb lodged under the right pedal, the Charger Hellcat was a pleasure to drive.

A car whose weight is on the wrong side of 4,500 pounds shouldn't be good in the twisty bits, but somehow this one feels taught and precise. 

Even for a relatively unskilled driver like myself, the Hellcat is a blast. It absolutely delivers supercar performance, and is neither twitchy nor difficult to drive—something that can't be said of some much higher priced exotics. Of course, it gets sideways at the drop of the throttle, but it does so controllably and predictably.

The Hellcat has that raw and unhinged edge that any supercar should have, to let you know you are entering rarified territory. At the end of the day, no, the Charger Hellcat won’t be passing many Ferraris in the corners. But it will completely own all but an elite few supercars on the straights, and it does so for a fraction of the price.

Just go easy on the throttle, okay?

Peter Braun is a contributor to Supercompressor. Find more of his work here.