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A week in Hell: Hitting the Road (#3)

by Patrick Rall on

After spending a day with the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat tearing around my area backroads, testing the acceleration forces of the monster muscle car, my second day began with a long highway drive of around 50 miles. Traffic was light enough that we never had to slow down below 65 or so, but it was dense enough that I was rarely in open air – which meant no letting the Hellcat stretch its legs on the open road.

I spent most of the cruise between 75 and 85mph, and in the default drive mode. There is an Eco mode, but I wanted to see what the Hellcat Challenger would do in terms of fuel economy on a long drive if everything was set to factory specifications.

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Remarkably, not only did I meet the EPA highway number of 22mpg, but I destroyed it. I averaged 26.1 miles per gallon over the course of that 50 mile highway drive, without making any effort to get good fuel economy. I just cruised along at a slightly higher speed than the posted limit, yet the 707hp Challenger very comfortably exceeded the EPA highway fuel economy numbers. [Editor’s note: that puts the Hellcat’s freeway mileage above our results in a Dodge Dart automatic.]

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Even when I got onto a roadway with stop lights, more traffic, and more opportunities to put the pedal to the metal, the Hellcat Challenger’s combined fuel economy following the highway run hovered around the 20mpg mark.

Until I started really driving hard – dashing from stop lights and practicing launches – the fuel economy levels stayed well above the official combined figure of 16mpg. As the day went on, I found myself with more chances to use all 707 horsepower, and because of that, the fuel economy suffered, but I still averaged 15.9 mpg over a few hundred miles of driving – none of which was executed in a manner that would intentionally improve MPGs.

Fuel economy really doesn’t matter in a 707 horsepower muscle car, but for the people buying these beasts, being able to get better than 26 mpg on the highway is a perk to owning the world’s most powerful muscle car.

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When you are cruising on the highway at 80mph, the exhaust tone is there, but it isn’t loud enough to prevent you from talking to your passengers or listening to the booming Harmon sound system. If you drop down a gear or two and ask for more power, the exhaust wakes up a bit, but this car is surprisingly stealthy when you want it to be stealthy.

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Also, while the adjustable suspension in the Hellcat Challenger makes it the best handling modern Mopar muscle car I have driven when in track mode, switching over to the street suspension setting provides for a crystal clear ride. Having a passenger flip back and forth between the track and street suspension settings really displays how much of the road noise the suspension absorbs; and the Challenger still handles nicely while tuned to the softest damper setting.

When the suspension system is softened up, the Hellcat Challenger is no rougher than any other muscle car I’ve driven, and has better ride quality.

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Day 2 of my Hellcat Challenger test time brought about 90° weather, so I spent much of the day with the windows up and the climate control system cranked up. The cooled seats are good on a hot day and the A/C cools down in a hurry when first getting into the car.

While the SRT front bucket seats were designed to keep you in place during stints of spirited driving, they are wide, plush and comfortable on a long car ride, so folks who spend hours each morning in rush hour traffic, or who are looking to take their 707hp Mopar muscle car on a long car trip, will find that this Challenger is as comfortable as any muscle car you can buy today. The interior layout is luxury level in both quality and the amenities offered, so in addition to being crazy fast, it is also comfortable enough for any driving situation.

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Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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