2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Review By Larry Nutson
Raising hell with the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat!
But only sometimes
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Can the world’s only four-door muscle car be a family car? Yes, I’m talking about the 707HP Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat being the family daily-driver. A car with the most powerful production motor ever offered for sale by an American automaker at your disposal everyday.
You might ask who needs all that power to take the kids to school or simply to commute to the train station or drive all the way to your office. And with a trunk load of groceries isn’t there a risk of breaking some eggs if you step on the throttle too hard?
I had a week of fun driving a Charger Hellcat around Chicago. I haven’t previously Hellcat-ed on the street, but I have on the track. A bit on that later. I’ve street-driven a few Chargers, its sister the Dodge Challenger and it’s cousin the Chrysler 300 with various engine combinations.
To begin with the Charger SRT Hellcat’s price tag is far from the $34,000 average paid for a new car today. The 2016 Hellcat I drove had a base of $65,945 and the sticker topped out at $72,225, including the $1,700 Gas Guzzler Tax. That’s’ a bit over $102 per horsepower.
Notwithstanding the Charger’s 4-door sedan body style it does turn heads. Granted the Hellcat’s Hemi gets a little growly when you step deep into the throttle and the electronic exhaust valves open up the dual straight-through exhaust pipes. But more often then not, the young folk, pre-teens and teens—who some say have more interest in smart phones than cars, stopped and turned and smiled and pointed and gave me the thumbs-up. Of course I obliged with a nod and a blip of the throttle.
The Hellcat is very tractable in every day driving. Steering effort is noticeably heavy, but not too. The suspension tuning isn’t bone jarring, even on Chicago’s potholed and patched streets. The 40-series P Zero summer tires grip like glue. (Think about winter tires if it snows where you live.) With moderate throttle, there’s plenty of quiet. I don’t do hypermiling but got somewhere around 17 mpg in a 50-50 mix of city-highway driving. Not bad at all, I would say, considering I was in the throttle quite often.
The EPA test-cycle ratings are 13 and 22 mpg, city/highway. On a long cruise that 22 mpg or better should be achievable. The tank holds 18.5 gal. and that should get you a good long run before a biological break is needed. And, there’s an Economy mode that reduces engine output to a mere 500HP, which helps around town.
The eight-speed Torqueflite automatic keeps the engine at an efficient RPM. There’s adaptive electronic control, optional Sport mode or paddle-shifted driver interactive manual control. And the throttle blips automatically at downshifts.
SRT Drive Modes allow the driver to tailor their driving experience by controlling horsepower, transmission shift speeds, steering, paddle shifters, traction and suspension. Drive Modes are pre-configured for Sport, Track and Default settings, while Custom mode lets the driver select their favorites.
So, with moderate throttle, perhaps like driving with an egg under your right foot, the Hellcat can become a pussycat.
But, unlike most other family sedans the Charger Hellcat is perfectly at home on the track. On weekends it’ll be perfectly OK to hit your nearest race circuit--for fun, for stress relief, to hone your driving skills, or just because you can. I’ve been privileged through the support and help from Dodge to drive the Charger (and Challenger) Hellcat (and also the 485HP 392) at three different tracks. One being the famed 4.2 mile Road America which lets you get into the 140 mph range on a couple of long straights but eats brakes for breakfast. I’ve also tracked these Dodges at Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, IL and GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, MI.
The Charger SRT Hellcat has been certified by NHRA to cover the quarter mile in 11 seconds flat on street tires. With drag radials it will drop into the high-10s. Zero to 60 mph is covered in the high-3 second range. And it’ll run a 204 mph top speed.
The Charger is heavy, pushing 4500 lbs. But its Brembo ultra-high performance brake package with 15.4-inch rotors and six-piston calipers up front and four-piston in the rear makes it stop. And the competition SRT-tuned Bilstein three-mode adaptive damping system makes the Hellcat handle. Zero to 100mph and back to zero is in under 13 seconds.
On an acceleration run the supercharger’s whine lets you know things are happening. At full throttle, the supercharged Hemi Hellcat engine can suck the air out of a 10-by-13-by-8-foot room -- about 1,040 cubic feet of air -- in 1 minute.
The supercharger drive power is about 80 bhp @ 6000 rpm engine speed. And to make sure the engine is put together right, every Hellcat engine gets a 42-minute dynamometer shakedown before it is shipped for assembly in the vehicle.
Personally I think the 707HP is a bit much for a short track—the 485HP 392 works just as well, but the high horsepower certainly pays off at Road America with its long straights. Handling and braking are outstanding. The car is very balanced, providing a strong feeling of confidence and being in control. However, the Charger SRT Hellcat can be intimidating. Get into throttle too soon on track-out and the rear end will want to move around. Patience is a virtue here.
In reality, this 5-passenger car, the Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world just might fit into your family.
For 2017 there’s been a few updates to the Charger SRT program. A new 20 x 9.5-inch five-spoke “Lightweight 5Deep Aluminum” wheel design finished in Low Gloss Black is now standard. This wheel provides 16 pounds of unsprung weight savings for improved dynamics. New SRT Hellcat exterior and interior badging and a new SRT logo steering wheel featuring LED illumination in red (SRT Hellcat) or white (SRT 392) for an even more exclusive appearance at night.
On the everyday driving safety front, the IIHS has given the Charger a top rating and you can get parking sensors and a backup camera with blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Now that you are saying “why not?” check out what Dodge has to offer on the Charger right here at www.dodge.com.
The Charger Hellcat comes with two keys; the red one gives you everything and the black one that limits horsepower and also has valet mode. Carry both at all times.
© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy.
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