Dad! We launched the Hellcat!"
I had just driven my pal's 10-year-old son home from a swim meet in the 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. He burst through the door, jabbering away to his dad about how much fun he'd just had and lording it over his two brothers. If you want to get on the good side of a kid, just take them for a ride in a 707-horsepower muscle car.
The Charger Hellcat certainly is intimidating.
With the kid in the backseat and his mom up front, we pulled up to a stop light, a long straight freeway on ramp ahead of us. "OK," I said. "Green light....go!"
My foot slammed down on the accelerator and we were off like a rocket, with 650 pound-feet of torque spinning the rear tires for a quick second until they found purchase. We were close to 60 mph by the time we crossed the intersection, the exhaust roaring around us in a symphony of old-school attitude.
I hit the brakes at 80 mph because, well, the kid's mom is one of my best friends and I wanted to keep it that way. The Charger became as docile at that moment as it was aggressive just a few hundred feet before.
The 6.2-liter supercharged V8 Charger Hellcat burst onto the scene in 2015 and auto enthusiasts went nuts, and with good reason. This is a sedan to end all sedans. Testing done by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) reveals a quarter-mile elapsed time of 11.0 seconds on street tires and 0-60 mph in the high three-second range.
So what makes the already muscular Charger sedan a Hellcat? Aside from the stunning power numbers, the Hellcat also gets a badass looking vented hood, massive six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo brakes, Pirelli P-Zero tires over 20-inch forged aluminum wheels and, of course, the infamous Hellcat badges.
2016 DODGE CHARGER HELLCAT...MEOW! See full gallery
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My time in the Hellcat was spent on daily driving tasks with occasional high speed sprints just for fun. The Hellcat drives surprisingly easily on a daily basis. Three drive modes allow for a custom ride. Street provides a comfortable and composed feel on the highway and rough city roads. Sport mode is a bit too firm for my taste in such a large car, but the sharper throttle and quicker shifts are a joy. I was not able to get the car to a location where Track mode would be appropriate, but selecting it holds gears longer, drastically reduces the traction control and makes the throttle and suspension as tight as a drum.
Cruising down the highway, the eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and draws out the revs more than most, but if you really want to push the limit, you should shift using the paddle shifters. I found myself hitting the fuel cut off at 6,200 rpm a few times with the paddle shifters, so I opted to let the car do its thing.
The interior is a comfy place to shoot from 0-60 in three seconds and change.
Obviously Dodge is not so concerned with fuel economy with this car, as the Hellcat gets 13 mpg in the city, 22 mpg on the highway and 16 mpg combined. My days with it included a jaunt from Los Angeles to San Diego and all the driving around town I could do in a weekend. When I turned the car in I was pleased to see an average of 16.9 mpg, and I had even set off the 95 mph speed warning signal at one point.
The Charger Hellcat is happy to toddle along the highway at more sane speeds, but it smoothly accelerates to triple digits if you're not careful, so it's a good idea to watch for the highway patrol. With a top speed of 204 mph, this is a car that should be cited not for actual speed but for speed relative to its potential. I wasn't pulled over but I had a line ready to say, "Yes, Officer, I was doing 95 but that's nothing compared to how much I could have been going. I was actually showing restraint." That would work, right?
It turns too...sort of
While I didn't get the chance to put the Charger Hellcat on a track, the twisty bits I was able to tackle were a blast. The Charger still has good old-fashioned hydraulic power steering which gives more feedback than a poopy electric system. Yes, I said poopy. I'm a huge fan of hydraulic steering and I find it's demise in current auto applications