2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Review

The new king of the muscle cars
Imthishan Giado

Dodge Challenger Launch

You’ll have to bear with me here.
No, I mean it. I promise to tell you all about the awesome new 707bhp, 650lb ft Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, but you need to bear with me while I run through the rest of the improvements to the range, recipients of a remarkably thorough refresh.

Let’s get stuck in. Quickly, because you lot have no patience. I drove various 2015 Challengers on the wonderful winding roads around Portland and then onto the grandly-named Portland International Raceway, actually a tight twisting track that’s more commonly used by Miatas.

Dodge Challenger Launch

Going Back To The Future

The 2008-2014 Challenger closely followed the original 1970 model; hence, everything’s now been updated to 1971-style design cues, and there’s been tons of little things cleaned up along the way.

Straightaway, you’ll notice the new split-grille while the brow has been ‘chopped’ to add a more menacing look. Halo LED lamps replace the old projector unizts. Graphics packages have exploded in number, with more than seven different ones to choose from across the various lines. Split tail lamps are marked by newly continuous LED, while the rear valance sheds visual weight and gives the big Chally a more planted stance.

Free Nerd Fact: the windshield washer nozzles now live under the trailing edge of the bonnet, keeping the lines sleek and bump-free.

Dodge Challenger R/T Interior

One Great leap for Challenger interiors

OK, you may think the exterior is not hugely different from the previous car, and that’s fair. But it’s hard not to be wowed by the quantum leap in interior quality.

Gone is the boxy old Vanishing Point-style dash and in its place, a svelte driver-focused instrument panel ringed by an aluminium stamped bezel. As always, the gauges are analog but now flank a 7-inch customizable cluster screen, while the main stack houses the now-ubiquitous 8.4” Uconnect screen.

The best way to describe the new cabin would be to call it the best gentleman’s club in the world; it feels like a wonderful place to spend many miles, a true GT car interior. The T-shaped handle of the eight-speed ZF-designed TorqueFlite transmission is a nice place to rest your palm; unlike the Grand Cherokee it offers true detents for each gear, a nice touch even though it’s fully electronic, with optional paddle shifters available. For the purist – ie, me – every Challenger with the exception of the Pentastar V6 still gets a six-speed Tremec TR6060 manual, though it’s been beefed up with a heftier clutch for the Hellcat – as does the eight-speed auto.

Free Nerd Fact: Dodge’s engineers took note of the fact that you would smack your elbow into the centre console when shifting the manual, and accordingly canted the whole centre tunnel at an angle so that’s no longer possible. Oh, and the Hurst shifter is gone but that’s OK because the Viper-style ball shifter is much more pleasant to use in the real world.

Dodge Challenger Launch

Driving the Pentastar V6

I will get to the Hellcat, I really will! OK, let’s take a quick look at the car that most people will actually buy in the real world, and subsequently pretend is a Hellcat when their less-knowledgeable friends ask.

Not that the V6 is in any way a consolation prize. Packing 305bhp and 268lb ft of torque, it’s got plenty of punch off the line and maintains linear power right up to the 6350rpm cutoff. On the twisty roads around Portland, it feels a lot more nimble than its big brothers thanks to less weight in the nose, and if you opt for the Super Track Pack, you get 1-inch lower suspension and 20×8-inch wheels. So you get 85% of the style for about a third of the price.

Dodge Challenger Launch

Being hand on heart honest, the V6-equipped SXT and SXT Plus, well equipped and versatile though they are, they’re for the urban cruiser, not me. I crave V8 power.

Free Nerd Fact: The Pentastar, like the R/T, gets electric power steering.

Dodge Challenger Launch

Did someone say something about V8s?

Now we’re talking. Not quite Hellcat, the 375bhp/410lb ft 5.7-litre R/T HEMI is sort of the ‘base’ V8 motor, a taster of the eight-cylinder life. In the real world, it’s a good compromise between the fuel sipping V6 and the blood-and-guts V8s – you still get fuel-sipping cylinder deactivation if you opt for the eight-speed auto with a pleasing burble around town.

The new auto is typically excellent, typically ZF. On part throttle, it slurs through the gear changes, on full throttle, it bangs through the cogs with little hesitation and doesn’t get caught out, even with this many gears.

For me, it has to be the Tremec six-speed; of all the Challengers the R/T sports the lightest clutch and the sweetest change and the amount of torque is just right, forgiving enough to not cause massive drivetrain whiplash around town but potent enough to pin you back in your seat on the freeway entrance ramps. It’s faster than the V6, but not so fast that it’ll outpace your ability to control it.

Dodge Challenger Launch

Probably the nicest car I drove all day, next to the Hellcat.

Free Nerd Fact: You can order a completely functional ‘shaker’ hood painted in satin black. And yes, it actually shakes.

Dodge Challenger Launch

392 HEMI

For those who don’t want ‘nice’, there’s this brute. 6.4-litres, 485bhp (slightly up from the 470bhp earlier SRT) and 475lb ft (up from 470) SRT 392Scat Pack/392 monster HEMI.

This is the car we’re most familiar with in the Middle East and thus the one you’re most likely to overlook. It’s still flippin’ quick – get on the throttle and unlike the more refined 5.7 R/T, the 6.4 kicks you in the back hard with an unmistakably more potent shove. Where the others are heritage specials, the SRT 392 is a prowler, combing the city for backstreets to do burnouts and over-eager four-cylinder compacts to destroy.

Dodge Challenger Launch

For such a big car, it’s always ready to go sideways – even with the traction control on. Of all the current muscle cars, it’s always been the one people fall in love with, the car truest to the ideal of the genre; a tyre-smoking rudebody that puts two fingers up to the idea of laptimes and ‘handling’. No surprise that Shahzad loves it.

But is it my favourite? I wouldn’t say no to one and the sheer torque delivery has to be experienced at least once in your life, but it’s almost a little too torquey. The R/T is slightly more balanced as a driver’s car, but I highly doubt anyone’s going to be disappointed with the 392.

Basically, there’s nothing wrong with the SRT 392. It ’s just that Satan himself sits above it now, and the fact that he exists changes everything.

Free Nerd Fact: Like the Hellcat, the SRT 392 gets a lighter rear axle. It also shares split-seven spoke 20×9.5inch rims with the Hellcat.

Dodge Challenger Launch

Finally! Will you tell us about the Hellcat now?

Gladly. What an amazing machine, what an audacious creation in a world where computers, emissions and MPG are slowly taking over. This is as old school as cars get, mad as a hatter and unbelievably lovable.

First things first: know that this car is dominated, completely by that engine. At idle, it grumbles, coughes and splutters like it’s about to take off into the stratosphere. Blip the throttle and the noise is joined by an high-pitched, spine tingling supercharger whine while the entire car twists in protest from the mountain of torque.

Dodge Challenger Launch

It would be too easy to drown in nerdy details in this car (see Nerd facts below) so let me tell you what’s it like to drive. If you’re not a card-wielding psychopath, surprisingly easy, actually. The clutch is heavy but lighter than the Viper’s, the gearbox has a chunky, meaty feel with notchy but positive throws, sightlines are the best in the muscle car class and if treated with respect, the monster motor won’t overwhelm for the daily commute –  you really could use this car every day, even with a manual, while the eight speed is predictably painless.

But just like nobody buys a pack of condoms for their aesthetic value, you won’t buy a Hellcat to get great fuel economy. Lay into the throttle and the car squats, bears the merest hint of supercharger lag and then launches you into orbit. The sensation of speed is unparalleled, and more than a little bit NASCAR. If you’re not pointing absolutely straight when you mat the throttle, the hips will wiggle, the computers desperately trying to rein the stallions in.

Dodge Challenger Launch

While the Germans and Italians have done a remarkable job of making 600bhp+ cars seem manageable, the Hellcat does no such thing. 707bhp is way, way too much for a public road and you’ll learn to behave yourself or suffer the consequences. But taking it onto a track, and well it’s too much for that either, the straights becoming a Street Hawk-style blur.

For those who think the Hellcat is too fat and heavy to possibly work on a track – you’re sort of right but mostly wrong. It demolishes the straight with an old testament bellow as you would expect, but the corners aren’t too bad either. Steering is nice and meaty (still hydraulic, purists) and the Pirellis grip quite nicely, so it’s really a case of biding your time until you can fire it down the next straight. Not clever, but hugely fun

Free Nerd Fact: This car is nothing but Free Nerd Facts. A sampler. You know all the obvious stuff like the headlight mounted intake and the fact that it features the largest fuel injectors in any Mopar product, Viper included. But did you know that it develops 411lb fts of torque at just 1200rpm – nearly as much as the SRT 392 pumps out at its maximum? Or that twin intercoolers for the supercharger require 11 gallons  of coolant per minute? Or that it uses the Viper manual gearbox – but it had to be upgraded to deal with the Hellcat’s almost-impossible torque outputs?

Everything about this car is awesome. Frankly, we may never see its like again.

Dodge Challenger Launch

Verdict

The regular Challengers are so improved it’s hard to believe they’re the same cars underneath. Of the range, I liked the R/T best – it’s the nicest blend of power and agility, but both the V6 and the SRT 392 have their virtues. No losers in the range and you can even get manual gearboxes with just about all of them (excepting the V6, obviously).

But if you can afford a Hellcat – well good Lord, what are you waiting for?

5 responses to “2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Review”

  1. Turbo Al says:

    So when is it coming to the UAE, and is there any idea of price yet? I’d love to believe it’ll cost the same as it does in the US, but something tells me that won’t be the case….

    • admin says:

      [Imthishan] It’ll be coming to the UAE in March/April, prices are expected to be around AED320k for the Challenger Hellcat.

  2. Harris says:

    But what about manual on the R/T middle east model? The Dodge Middle East site says that manual is only for the SRT vehicles….Can anyone verigfy if manual is on the R/T?

    • admin says:

      Challenger and Charger R/T are offered in the UAE with the 8-speed automatic TORQUEFLITE transmission. Challenger R/T can be requested as a special order with the 6-speed manual TREMEC transmission.

  3. fahruroji says:

    review about dodge demon…is it true that the best muscle car from Dodge…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *