2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye Widebody Review +VIDEO - It's E15 Approved
By Rob Eckaus
San Francisco Bureau
THE AUTO CHANNEL
They should call it the Wide-eye because that’s what happens when the throttle is pinned to the floorboard. The 797 horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye is basically a “detuned” Dodge Demon engine with some carryover features in a Hellcat Widebody. The Redeye option has specific hood scoops and is the ultimate styling version of the Challenger lineup. It looks like an extra-large Trans-Am racer from the early 70s. Bulging fenders with 305 series tires front and rear gives it a sinister and powerful appearance in the Destroyer Grey color.
What matters most is under the hood. The remote start takes several seconds to go through the process and suddenly the car erupts in a surprisingly loud-for-stock, purposeful rumble. How it’s legal in the big nanny state is anyone's guess. But it’s glorious and gets the blood pumping and smiles broadening in anticipation.
Things go "red" when the other modes are selected and the exhaust gets louder. The headlining moment of this car is when you hit the gas. From a roll, whether at low speed or 55mph, all hell, and rear tires, break loose. The transmission’s near instant response combined with the engine output is a reality altering event in such a big vehicle. One of multiple passengers, a fan of the NHRA, hot rods and once my passenger at a media track day described it as “surreal” as well as some other choice words. And this tire spinning phenomenon can and did happen with multiple occupants. It’s loud, furious and amazingly powerful.
Another example is one time it was in the 500hp mode with four adults in the car. I punched it and I heard the “Whoa” as you’d expect from all three. But when the 797hp mode was activated, that’s when the resulting acceleration pull caused all our heads to lean back from the g-force generated and the “Whoa” changed to a much louder, “Wows!” with giggles. Or the little nephew yelling with joy, hands raised like on a roller coaster. It’s all exhaust roar and supercharger whine.
But that’s not to say it doesn’t have flaws. On a 150 mile road trip, the exhaust drone is noticeable for those acclimated to silent luxury, and unfortunately it won’t upshift into 8th, the top gear unless in Eco mode or manually selected. If in a performance mode, it drops out of 8th easily and won’t return automatically. A software update could fix that. The driver’s seat has some electrical adjustments but the lumbar support seemed a little too intrusive. The passenger seat only had manual adjustments. Some may not care, but with the practicality-implying multiple-passenger transport, expecting more content for $90,000 is a reasonable. Ever since 2006, various SRT, Scat Pak, R/T, Daytona, 392 and Hellcats didn’t have the lumbar bulge I could recall, but the thick seats do cut into the rear leg room a bit. A non-issue in the sedans, and in the coupe, even though four adults can fit, and better than the domestic Mustang and Camaro competitors, the seats should automatically power forward when the seatback is tilted forward.
Despite the seating shortcomings, this one has automatic high beams, rain sensitive wipers, blind spot and rear cross-path detection, remote start as mentioned, and the Uconnect infotainment interface with GPS and Sirius XM radio for 1 year, Traffic Plus and Sirius Travel Link for 5 years. Unfortunately it also has a $1,700 gas guzzler tax due to the 13 mpg city and 22 mpg highway ratings. Due to multiple exhibitions of acceleration for friends and neighbors, who absolutely loved the experience, 9mpg was indicated at one point.
Never mind these electrical luxury features, content and complaints of a nearly 800hp car on pump gas that has a factory warranty, California smog legal and costs under $100,000. Let’s get back to the basics. The width can be felt in the handling, which is secure and a firm, and handles bumps very well. The suspension tuning is great for its sheer size and mission intent. Interestingly the perception of width is apparent in that the body motions felt like they were from “the other side” versus right next to you. As if you sit far from its vertical axis. Never mind all that, the emersion in performance gets deeper still….
The Performance Pages is the where the data and telemetry lies. The home screen gauges show horsepower, boost pressure, g-force and a 0-60mph timer. The second page is the transmission temp, boost pressure, air-fuel ratio, intake charge coolant temp, and intake air temp on the third page. The performance timers include reaction time, 0-60mph, 0-100mph, 1/8th mile elapsed time, 1/8th mile mph, 1/4 mile elapsed time, 1/4 mile mph, and braking distance from the recorded mph. The gauge screen shows oil temperature, oil pressure, coolant temperature and battery voltage. There’s a g-force screen showing a levels achieved in all directions, an engine output summary and dyno summary of horsepower and torque.
For putting the rubber to the ground, it offers a line-lock for warming up the rear tires and an adjustable rev limiter for launch rpm selection. Speaking of which, there’s an interesting parallel with the Corvette. This is may be the pinnacle of straight line performance for the Challenger. As long as it is front engine and rear drive, it will have that fundamental traction problem with street tires on an unprepped track. And now the Corvette is moving to a rear mid-engine design for better rear tire traction, not to mention the braking and aerodynamics benefit. That won't happen with the Challenger though.
Other equipment for performance includes 41-spline, 230mm, heavy duty half-shafts in the rear to withstand the 707lbs ft torque from the engine being transferred to the wheels. To cool the incoming air to make maximum power, it offers the Power Chiller first seen on a production car from the Demon, which uses the air conditioner to further chill the supercharger coolant, which reduces the air temperature. The After-Run Chiller uses the cooling fan and a coolant pump to circulate the coolant to help cool the engine between runs at the dragstrip for optimal power.
in the price range of a base price of $58,995 for the 717hp Hellcat to the loaded, 797hp Redeye, they are an old-school throwback to straight line performance with well above-average handling despite its size and weight. It’s an amusement park ride for a family of four, driving it every time is an event, not a routine. As the Redeye sits alone in its combination of practicality, performance and price range, is it already a legend?