5 reasons I want a Challenger Hellcat & two why I don’t + video review

We spent a few days surviving and thriving in a 707bhp Dodge Challenger Hellcat on the roads of the UAE

By Shahzad Sheikh

Challenger Hellcat

This is not your conventional review. But then this is not your conventional car. However if you want a regular review on the Dodge Challenger, or the Hellcat, just hit any of these links: 2015 Dodge Challenger, Charger & Hellcat at Yas Marina; 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat launch drive; 2015 Dodge Challenger walkaround. Or even better, just click below to play my video review of the Challenger Hellcat.

So now that I’ve spent a few days with and properly driven the car, here are 5 reasons I want a Challenger Hellcat (desperately want I should add really) and almost unbelievably (I mean unbelievable to me myself) two reasons why I wouldn’t have one.

Challenger Hellcat

1. The Power

Seriously? Does this even need an explanation? Officially 707bhp, unofficially somewhere rather further north of the 700bhp mark.

In terms of production cars you’re looking at the likes of a Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, Ferrari La Ferrari, McLaren P1 or a W Motors Lykan HyperSport to get that sort of power output. And all of those cars will set you back at least a million dirhams – makes the Challenger Hellcat’s UAE price of AED329,000 look like an absolute bargain!

And what’s more, we’re not talking 700 horses straining at the leash, subdued, tempered or kept under control with over-eager electronic nannies. No. When SRT promises power, you get the full-force, unfettered, frankly unhinged lot of it, without dilution or caution.

Challenger Hellcat

2. The way it drives

From behind the wheel (with the red key that unlocks the all the go-juice – instead of the valet-parking black key restricted to 500bhp) the experience is brutal, shock and awe, on-the-edge, gob-smacking, jaw-dropping, eye-popping, terrifying, nerve-jangling, and hanging it all out on the wrong side of the limits of tyre-to-tarmac friction – and that’s with everything set on ‘Street’ in the SRT mode selector!

Only the brave wonder into the ‘Sport’ territory, and the foolish find that the last mistake they’ll ever make is switching this into ‘Track’ mode or switching off the traction control altogether.

Traction Control on a Hellcat? Well that’s a joke all by itself. ‘What’s that ya say?’ asks the Hellcat. ‘Traction Control? Oh yeah we got some of that stuff lying around here somewhere.’ In fact if you do find the system buried deep within the expansive presence of the Hellcat, it’ll probably be cowering away in some corner, traumatised and whimpering something about having lost all sense of purpose.

Challenger Hellcat

To illustrate, know this: even with all the systems in pussy-mode you get wheelspin in first (obviously) but you also get it in second, and if you got balls enough to still foot-to-the-floor-it by the second upshift you’ll notice even more wheelspin (probably the last thing you’ll recognise before you meet your maker, as you’ll already be doing silly speeds by then).

Talking of testicles – this car has apparently run the Green Hell – the fabled and catastrophically deadly Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7:30:32 (faster than a Ferrari 458 Italia) but that’s not the story. The real headline should be: ‘Driver of Hellcat reveals Ginormous Balls on the Ring’.

In town you never use full throttle in a Hellcat. You’ll wake up the next Emirate and catapult massive chunks of tarmac into orbit. Car alarms will go off, apartment block windows will shatter, and 50 police cars will appear out of nowhere – all of that is if you’re still intact and haven’t wiped yourself out on the nearest lamppost.

Challenger Hellcat

Even out of town you have to be oh-so-tentative. This car will oversteer just standing still, if you even speak sharply to the throttle pedal the rear tyres will break traction. The only way to live to relate the legend of the Hellcat, is to ease in the throttle, squeeze cautiously on the gas and feed the power in gently.

So how then do you drive the treacherous and mighty Nurburgring in such a wild and ferocious monster? Well you stick steroids in your lower vegetables, get a surgeon to remove logic, fear and common sense from your conscious mind, and ensure you either have no next-of-kin or none that will miss you.

This is not a sports car – don’t take it to the twistiest road you can find – its talents would be wasted there. I have driven the Hellcat on track, and it does handle, there is grip there when the speeds rise, but you have to trust it enough to go exploring that far (which is probably too far on a public road). And Hellcat never heard of no ‘safe understeer’.

Challenger Hellcat

The traditional Hydraulic steering in the Hellcat – as opposed to the electric power steering in its siblings – it heavier and meatier with low assistance even at parking speeds. Believe me though, this is a good thing as the heft serves to remind you what you’re dealing with.

Yes you can absolutely cruise around in this, drinking in the menacing burble, guttural rumble and occasional staccato roar with backing crazed whine from the supercharger, but you have to be focused at all times. In traffic you simply lift off the brake and hardly ever touch the accelerator. It doesn’t like the stop-and-go, but it’ll do it, and nor will the temp needle throw any tantrum either as some have questioned.

It’s like the big-muscled mate that’s such a cuddly bear one minute and The Hulk the next should it get annoyed. It. Is. Awesome.

Challenger Hellcat

3. It’s epically cool

You may find this hard to believe, but the Dodge Challenger, in its present guise, has been around for eight years! There was even talk of killing it off a couple of years ago. But here it is at the tail end of 2015, and it remains just about the coolest muscle car you can buy.

Not only that, but by some amazing feat, Dodge has pumped new life into it. It’s virtually the car of the moment, despite its main rivals going for a major overhaul of their models. If you have an ounce of octane in your blood, you cannot NOT like this car.

The retro-styling the magnificent presence, the overt aggression, all wrapped in a cohesive contemporary skin has that inexplicable quality that most modern cars completely fail to comprehend, never mind offer – it’s got Star Quality by the spades and oozes that indefinable X-factor.

Challenger Hellcat

Don’t take my word for it. When a just-out-of-long-stretch Al Pacino encounters a Dodge Challenger SRT in the 2013 movie ‘Stand Up Guys’ he exclaims: ‘What kind of a big, beautiful, beast of a car is this?’ Would you argue with him? I didn’t think so.

Yes the Hellcat is available in Charger guise too – an equally majestic car in every way. However there is just something fittingly appropriate about the Challenger being endowed with Hellcat malevolence. It just seems to fit the two-door coupe better – it is the muscle car to end all muscle cars.

And sadly the truth is, it probably will be just that.

Challenger Hellcat

4. Practicality

Sure it’s a little less practical than the four-door Charger, but don’t forget it’s built on the same platform albeit fractionally shorter and lower but slightly wider. So as with any Challenger, there is plenty of room up front, and even enough to carry two adults in the back, plus a generous boot to… well boot.

It also benefits from the excellent interior upgrade afforded all 2015 Challenger models which is just so much more stylish and appealing than the previous iteration. Apart from the overflowing machismo to contend with, and perhaps the perception that it’s such a big thing (it’s only 24cm longer and virtually the same width as a new Ford Mustang), it can be used as a real-world car.

But there’s a whole other aspect of practicality when it comes to the Hellcat. You can’t just leave your LaFerrari, Lykan or P1 anywhere on the street, and even with the F12 you’d be nervous about where and how you park it.

The Hellcat on the other hand doesn’t feel out of place whether you leave it in a grotty side street or in front of the poshest hotel. There is one issue though, and here’s an important tip – DO NOT ever give this car to a valet parker (even with the black key) – it’s like asking your babysitter to look after the pet lion!

Challenger Hellcat

5. It’s an Investment

The situation for the moment, and quite possibly for the foreseeable future, is that you can’t just walk into a dealer and pick up a Hellcat. Demand for both versions is crazy, and they aren’t able to build the bespoke supercharged engines fast enough. Supply and demand is keeping prices high, and values strong in the short term.

In the longer term, I’m going put my neck out and suggest that these will be worth a lot of money in years to come, simply because there won’t be any more cars like these. It’s looking like HEMIs will be killed off in a couple of years due to legislation and litigation, which will put a stop to wild unruly metal like this. The new Mustang is more modern sportscar than musclecar and I suspect the new Camaro will be too, which in the greater scheme of things is probably the right way to go.

So if you are lucky enough to get one of these, once you’re done having a laugh with it, wrap it up in some cling film and put it away. Your grand children will never believe that such crazed machines ever existed, never mind were actually sold to unsuspecting Humans 1.0. ‘And besides, why would you not just use the teleporter?!’

Challenger Hellcat

But wait!

Having said all of that, here are two reasons I wouldn’t get a Hellcat – and would probably settle for a regular 485bhp SRT version instead (over AED100k cheaper and less than one second slower to 100kph from rest).

1. Running Costs

You’re lucky if you see 16L/100km fuel consumption – I kept getting into the high 19s. If you owned one, you’d just fit it with one of those VIP cash-less pay systems and ensure that your bank account was fat-enough to keep feeding the beast.

Then there’s the tyres. 275-40 ZR20 Pirelli P Zero Nero – we’re talking about AED2000 each! And frankly speaking those rear boots won’t last very long on this car at all, no matter how hard you try to moderate your exuberance.

And I don’t even want to think about what it will cost to insure! Frankly this would not be a cheap car to run on a regular basis by any stretch of the imagination.

Although… if you were in the market for a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and bought this instead – well it would give you a far bigger laugh then the highly strung prancing horse ever could – you’d have saved yourself a villa’s worth of money, and you could put the money towards the running costs!

Challenger Hellcat

2. It’ll get you into trouble!

Even just starting this up, you look over your shoulder to see if there are any cops watching, ready to pounce and slap you with fines ranging from illegal exhaust noise to unruly behaviour – despite you pleading that the car is completely stock!

Then there’s the speed. Accelerate with a little enthusiasm (and you can’t help yourself because the torque and momentum is intoxicating) and you’ll be doing licence-losing speeds before you can say ‘I’m in prison for driving a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat’.

Plus of course its slidey-widey, loud ‘n screechy tendencies on the road, at some point will cause you to get done for reckless driving. And don’t look for the electronics to keep you on the straight and narrow. The Hellcat firmly puts the onus on you.

And therein lies the biggest problem: it’s as stressful and frustrating to drive safely and sensibly as it is exhilarating and liberating to pound on a fast road or drag strip. You have to concentrate and focus hard to drive this around town, and you also need Zen-like calm and self-control. That 700bhp plus is all on you. If you’re used to modern cars that compensate for your lazy lack of ability, this will be hard work.

Challenger Hellcat

In conclusion

Okay it’s still 5 to 2 in favour, so I would have one regardless (if I could afford it). Already I miss not having it parked outside, it’s the car I’ve been asked about the most, it put the biggest grin on my face, it scared me more than anything has in a while and it left a lasting impression burned into my brain (although moreso into my heart). Quite frankly when you have that red key in your pocket, nothing else matters. You’re smug, you’re the man, and all arguments are irrelevant!

Dodge Challenger Hellcat – The Specs

Price: AED329,000 (US$89.6k)
Engine: 6.2-litre V8, 707bhp @ 6000rpm, 650lb ft @ 4000rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 3.6secs, 320kph, 16L/100km
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Weight: 2018kg

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