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Staycation: The Hellcat Arrives

by Patrick Rall on

I woke up this morning knowing that the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat would be delivered to my house before noon, and while I have received a great many test cars, none were as exciting to me as the Hellcat Challenger.

Having grown up in a Mopar household and having learned to love muscle cars at a young age, I cannot think of a car sold in this country that I would enjoy testing more. Sure, any Mopar guy would love to have a Viper, but with a wife and kid, the Viper has clear limitations. On the other hand, the Hellcat Challenger has room for four and, most importantly, it has way more power.

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For a lifelong Mopar muscle lover, the Hellcat Challenger is the test car that I’ve always dreamed of – even before it existed. After all, if someone had told me five years ago about the Hellcat, I would have eagerly awaited testing this beast above all else.

I have driven both the Challenger and the Charger with the 707hp Hemi extensively at the media launches – both on the road and on the track – but having a car to test on your own turf is a whole different experience. This week-long test drive would allow me to really experience the most powerful American muscle car ever in a far more hands-on manner than a media drive event and I planned to make the most of every second.

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When the car arrived, I could hear the grumble of the supercharged Hemi as it crept up my driveway, at which point I rushed out to meet the fleet company like a kid catching Santa in his parents’ living room. Once the paperwork was signed and the driver had left, my time alone with the Hellcat had officially begun and I did what most Mopar lovers would do.

I posted a whole bunch of pictures to social media. Pictures of the red key, pictures of the engine, pictures of the dark grey exterior and pictures of the stunning sepia Laguna leather interior. It may have been a little excessive, but it seemed that my friends and followers on social media ate it up, commenting and liking the pictures as quickly as I could post them.

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After I had gotten my fill of posting cell phone pictures online, it was time to hit the road. Although I’ve put a great many miles on the Hellcat Challenger, mostly at high speed on a variety of test tracks, I took it easy at first – refreshing myself on the ins and outs of the mighty SRT Hellcat package. I spent some time driving around in default mode (with the 700+ horsepower setting) and when I was comfortable with the power on my local roads, I cranked things up into sport mode, which quickly led to track mode.

I’m not fond of the helper systems and the track mode allows you the most control of the car while also offering the stiffest and most nimble suspension setup and what I believe to be the most comfortable steering setting. Track mode also sharpens up the throttle response, while traction and stability systems are all but eliminated, so this mode has the most exhilarating driving experience.

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I drove all over my little town, keeping to the desolate backroads where I could occasionally put the hammer to the floor and exercise all 707 angry horses. As you can probably imagine, even with the 3-season performance tires, the Hellcat Challenger with the 8-speed automatic will willingly roast the tires in first gear.

Launching with the stock tires requires you to pretty much roll out through first gear and when you do go for wide open throttle, you need to hold on – as the rear tires spin just enough to make the back end shaky. Grabbing second gear with the paddle shifters, while pushing for wide open throttle, brings about more wheel spin, but it is far more controllable and it only lasts an instant before the tires bite.

From there, the Hellcat Hemi helps the 4400lb Challenger to climb effortlessly past any posted speed limit in the United States, almost as quickly as the fastest stock car on the road. When the air got a little cooler later in the day, my tests with the onboard timing system yielded regular 0-60 times in the high 3 second range while 0-100 times were in the high 7s. To be exact, on that first night, my best 0-60 was 3.9 seconds and my best 0-100 took just 7.8 seconds.

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That is a 4,400+ pound Dodge Challenger in factory stock form going from a dead stop to 100 miles per hour in 7.8 seconds on a totally unprepared surface (as opposed to a sticky drag strip). Those numbers alone clearly refute the anti-Mopar trash talk about how the Hellcat Challenger is nothing more than a dyno warrior, as it dashes to 60 and 100 almost as quickly as the all-wheel drive supercars.

This stunning acceleration force of the Hellcat Challenger is accompanied by a sound that is 100% unmistakable, with the whine of the supercharger combining with the roar of the exhaust to overwhelm the auditory nerves in a way that few cars in the world can. When cruising along at normal driving speeds, you cannot hear the supercharger at all and the exhaust is surprisingly subtle, but when you drop down a few gears and bury the accelerator pedal, this car sounds like a 707 horsepower American muscle car should sound.

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By the end of my drive time on the first day, I had racked up only around 100 miles, but I had done so in a way that led to awesome performance times.  loved every single second of the Hellcat Challenger on my first day testing the beast and I couldn’t wait for the next day – when I would take the 707hp SRT beast on a longer road test to see how well the most powerful American muscle car ever handles the rigors of every day driving.

Stay tuned…

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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