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2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Road Test and Review By Larry Nutson

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2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
Fun, and then some.

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

For the first few months of this year all the buzz from Dodge has been their long running teaser campaign on the 2018 Challenger SRT Demon.

Two years ago Dodge shocked the performance world when it launched the 707-HP Challenger SRT Hellcat and Charger SRT Hellcat, the most powerful and fastest muscle cars in the world.

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As spring blossomed, at the recent New York International Auto Show, Dodge unleashed the Demon and drove at full-throttle across a stage smoking the tires with its 840-HP.

I’ve had the privilege of driving both Hellcats on the road as well as on race tracks. Now, I was again looking forward to becoming reacquainted with the Challenger SRT Hellcat during a week-long loan from Dodge.

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The brut performance of the Challenger SRT Hellcat is a lot for the street. However, you still can safely have fun with it and enjoy its capability. Around my Chicago-area home there are a few highway on-ramps that allow for some serious acceleration. There’s also a few interchange cloverleafs that allow for some hard cornering.

Hellcats don’t come cheap. Think $100 per horsepower.

With its Yellow Jacket exterior the 2017 Challenger SRT Hellcat I drove had a base price of $62,495. Add on $2,995 for the 8-speed Torqueflite automatic, $1,995 for the satin black hood, $695 for 275/40ZR20 P zero summer tires, the Fed’s $1,700 gas guzzler tax and the proverbial $1,095 destination charge and, bingo, you are up to $70,975.

At cold-engine start-up, the active exhausts are open. My wife, along with me to run some weekend errands, commented, “This car is embarrassing” as the loud exhaust note reverberated off the canyon of tall buildings.

After rounding a few intersection corners we soon merged onto a highway where she exclaimed “This car is way too noticeable.” The yellow paint job and the loud exhaust note were doing their job.

A great way I found to have continuous fun with the see-me yellow Hellcat was to drive in manual-shift mode. One-two-three upshift from a stop sign. Then, down-shift back to second gear. The rev-matching does its job with a burble and pop from the exhaust.

Manual shifting of the Torqueflite was also just as fun on the highway, actually making stop-and-go driving a bit more interesting.

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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.

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About a month after my street-driving time with this Yellow Jacket Challenger Hellcat I would be heading to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Each spring the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA) holds its Spring Rally at this storied 4.2-mile race track.

As luck would have it the folks from Dodge brought the very same yellow Challenger Hellcat to this event. I was again able to experience the wonderful and very balanced track capability of this car. Now I could drive at triple-digit speed legally.

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Not satisfied with the 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat, Dodge created the Demon to have numbers unmatched by any production muscle car, past or present.

To the surprise of me and all my colleagues at the MAMA Spring Rally Dodge favored us with the appearance of the 840-horsepower 2018 Challenger SRT Demon. It was the first time the fastest muscle car ever has appeared outside of an auto show. Dodge also just announced its pricing, starting at $84,995, and said deliveries are expected to begin this fall.

Also note, up to now the Demon has only been seen in Red. Here it is in B5 Blue.

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Tim Kuniskis, head of Passenger Cars -- Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and Fiat, FCA North America, said in an earlier statement, "We worked very hard to build as much value into the Challenger SRT Demon as possible -- features, performance and exclusivity that simply can't be duplicated with a goal of maintaining, and possibly even growing, as much future value as possible."

More information about the Challenger SRT Hellcat can be found at Dodge starts building them this fall.

In case you missed the first series of pre-reveal teaser videos giving fans and followers insight into the Challenger Demon’s engineering prowess, go to:

The Demon is a wheel-stander! It’s the first-ever production car to pull the front wheels as certified by Guinness World Records.

The Demon is the world’s fastest quarter-mile production car with an elapsed time (ET) of 9.65 seconds and 140 miles per hour (mph) as certified by National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).

By the way, the Demon is the first-ever, factory-production car to come with only a driver’s seat. You can get a front passenger seat, available for $1 as an option. Crazy!

© 2017 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy