With the Hellcat, Dodge set out to create the ultimate American muscle car. It succeeded.
By Ghaith Madadha
The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a gloriously unreconstructed brute, even among its prodigiously powerful peers, significantly ups the ante in the American muscle car horsepower stakes. With a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 engine conservatively rated to churn out 707 BHP, the Hellcat’s output and performance are worthy of a full bore supercar. It outmuscles its closest spiritual contemporary, the soon-to-be-defunct Australian Holden HSV GTS, American Chevrolet SS, and British Vauxhall VXR8 General Motors derivatives.
The Hellcat, a big, luxurious super saloon, is reminiscent of General Motor’s hell-raising 1990-92 Vauxhall Lotus Carlton (aka Opel Lotus Omega). Like the 377 BHP Lotus Carlton outperformed yuppie-mobile rivals, the Hellcat trumps contemporary prestige brand super saloons, and is comparable only to excruciatingly expensive, heavily-tuned, and limited production specialist aftermarket machines like the Brabus 800E V12. However, whereas the now fondly-remembered Lotus Carlton was censured by the British press, the Hellcat is instead being feted for its irrepressibly potent and uncompromising charms.
The Hellcat arrives as the range-topping halo version of a heavily modernized 2015 Charger model line, with heavily browed fascia, slim grille, and rounded LED headlights. It is more muscular and dramatic than already sculpted garden-variety Chargers, and sits lower, with huge lower intake, blacked bumper segment, sharper front apron, and boot lid spoiler.
A reworked and supercharged 6.2-liter version of Dodge’s faithful Hemi V8, the Hellcat’s engine uses 90 percent new parts for reduced friction, enhanced cooling, and robustness to withstand the stress, heat, and intensity of its output. It is the Chrysler group’s most powerful engine to date, developing 707 BHP at 6000 rpm and 650 lb/ft torque at 4800 rpm. The Hellcat is reputedly capable of 830 BHP without mechanical modification, but electronically de-tuned for emissions and drivability.
The mechanically supercharged Hellcat rockets off the line with brutal immediacy onto an 11 second standing quarter and 328 km/h top speed. Dispatching 0-100 km/h in under 3.5 seconds, its ever-exploitable torque tsunami provides muscular versatility throughout the rev spectrum.
More agile than its 2,075 kilogram might suggest, the Hellcat is more responsive and buttoned down than non-SRT Chargers. Riding on sports-tuned front double wishbone and rear multi-link suspension, and with a direct 2.52-turn hydraulic-assisted steering, it turns in tidily, while taut adaptive Bilstein dampers deliver poised body control through successive corners. It can hold selected gears to redline and be manually shifted via steering-mounted paddle shifters when driving its rear wheels through a slick shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox with three aggressively escalating shift modes.
Backed by stability controls, electronic brake force distribution for level braking, and limited-slip rear differential allocating power between rear wheels for road-holding and agility, the Hellcat however demands respect and shouldn’t lull one into over-confidence. It can unsettle its grippy 275/40R20 tires rear if prodded too hard or early when exiting tight corners, but smooth linear inputs yield good lateral grip and predictable handling.
The Hellcat rode firm yet smooth, with good vertical control at well over 200 km/h on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Formula One circuit. It is spacious and comfortable with driver-tilted console, user-friendly instrumentation, and supportive two-tone Alcantara seats. Well-equipped with standard and optional assistance, convenience, safety, and infotainment systems, it features a 7-inch instrument display screen and an intuitively versatile 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system from which to access driving modes.
Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, RWD, limited-slip differential
Power, HP (PS) [kW]: 707 (717)  @6000 rpm
Power-to-weight: 340.7 BHP/ton
0-100 km/h: under 3.5 seconds
Top speed: 328 km/h
Length: 5100 mm
Width: 1905 mm
Height: 1480 mm
Steering (Lock-to-lock): Hydraulic rack & pinion (2.52 turns)
Suspension F/R: Double wishbones / multi-link
Brakes, F/R: Ventilated perforated discs 390 mm / 350 mm