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Redeye First Drive: Demon power, Hellcat handling and comfort

by Patrick Rall on

Back in June, Dodge introduced the 2019 Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye. Available in standard form or with the Widebody treatment, this new package incorporates the handling attributes of the Hellcat, the engine of the Demon and an interior layout with varying levels of comfort to create the best all-around Mopar performance machine to date.

Last week, I flew to Maine with Dodge to test the new Redeye and as you might imagine, a car that handles like a Hellcat, comes with the interior of a Hellcat and packs similar power to the Demon is pretty freakin’ awesome – on both the road and the road course.

Redeye Details

The odds are good that if you are reading this here on Allpar, you are familiar with the fine details of the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, but just in case you are not, here is a quick rundown of the key features.

The heart of the Redeye is the 6.2-liter from the Demon, topped by the same 2.7-liter IHI supercharger that helps the Demon make 808 horsepower on pump gas and 840 horsepower on race gas. In the Hellcat Redeye, the engine runs strictly on pump gas and with the revisions to the air intake system, the Demon engine “only” makes 797 horsepower, but that figure still makes the Redeye the most powerful American production road car for the 2019 model year.

In addition to the Demon’s engine, the Hellcat Redeye also features the Demon’s transmission torque convertor in the standard 8-speed automatic transmission (no TransBrake in the Redeye), driveshaft, axles and some gadgets, including the intercooler chiller system and the Launch Assist system with Torque Reserve. In other words, the Redeye has almost as much power as the Demon and it has the components needed to put that power to the ground reliably. However, the rest of the key components of the Redeye come from the standard Hellcat, including the adaptive suspension, the massive Brembo brakes and the premium interior goodies.

Basically, Dodge created the Redeye to make use of the Demon’s engine and gadgets, but without the downsides of the drag strip focused items. The few complaints that people can come up with for the Demon, such as the soft suspension, the stripped-out cabin, the smaller brakes and the lack of luxury are all addressed, so those people who want Demon-like power without the compromises of the drag-race-ready package should love the Redeye.

To find out if that is the case, I spent the day driving a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye from Portland, Maine to Tamworth, New Hampshine, where I would follow up a few hours of road driving with some all-out track time fun.

Driving the Redeye

My time behind the wheel of the new Redeye began in a warehouse in Portland, Maine. After a short presentation, we were turned loose on a massive garage full of Redeyes and of course, the Go Mango car (similar to my own Hellcat) drew my attention. My test car was equipped with the optional suede-and-leather interior upgrade package and while the new standard cloth seats will save you a little money, everyone should order one of the leather interior packages. There is nothing wrong with the cloth and they reduce both weight and cost, but the Hellcat Redeye is an expensive car and cloth seats just don’t look right in a car like the Challenger.

My drive time in the Redeye began in downtown Portland, where I snaked through the tight streets with the supercharged Challenger, occasionally goosing the throttle to let the Demon engine clear its throat a bit. After a short time in the city, we got onto the highway, where I could really let the Redeye loose at higher speeds while also experiencing the ride quality of the newest Challenger and after the short stint on the highway, we turned onto the back roads that took us from Maine to the track in New Hampshire.

I have been fortunate enough to put some hard road miles on the new Demon and while it handled nicely, there is no question that the drag race-ready suspension and tires negatively impact handling a bit when compared to the Widebody Hellcat. With the Redeye, you get the Demon power with the Hellcat suspension bit, wheels, tires and brakes, so around town, on the highway and on the curvy country roads – this 797-horsepower Mopar muscle car feels very much like the 2018 Hellcat Widebody.

The ride quality is a bit harsher than the Demon due to the fact that the Redeye is riding on 305-35-20 tires while the Demon rides on 315-40-18 tires. The added sidewall height of the Demon tires helps to absorb bumps in the road, making the Demon a bit smoother than the Hellcat, but that smoothness comes with some sacrifice in handling. The Redeye doesn’t require that same sacrifice, so aside from pure acceleration or top end capabilities, the Redeye feels and handles like a Widebody Hellcat than a Demon. This advantage in handling goes a long way in making the Redeye feel more stable during hard cornering, especially when you get to cutting through a slalom where you are making a hard turn one way and then an equally hard turn in the other direction.

Where the Demon is a bit sloppy in its handling, the Redeye offers the same precise handling and steering feel as the other Hellcat cars, while also featuring stronger braking forces in every situation.

As for the key attraction of the Redeye – that supercharged Hemi – the extra power when compared to a “normal Hellcat” makes a big difference. With 90 more horsepower and 67 lb-ft more torque, there is no question that the Redeye pulls harder from a stop and through the mid-range than a Hellcat. I daily drive a Hellcat Challenger with 707 horsepower so I am familiar with the feel of those power levels on the street and whether I was hammering the throttle from a stop or climbing into the power for a big mid-range pull, the Redeye offers a predictably stronger feel than the non-Redeye Hellcat Challenger.

I would say that the Redeye pulls very much like the Demon so in a straight line, the Redeye performs similarly to the Demon, but when this new Challenger hits a corner or a hard braking exercise – the Redeye shines brighter than the Demon.

Hitting the Track

When testing the Demon, we spent the day at the drag strip and while the 797-horsepower Redeye is a factory 10-second car, Dodge wanted to show us that the newest Challenger was more than just a straight line machine. To do so, they had us drive to Club Motorsports in New Hampshire, where we used the 2.5-mile, 15-turn road course to experience the Hellcat Redeye at its best.

After testing the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year, I had high expectations for the Redeye Widebody and in no way did the 797-horsepower Challenger disappoint. While this car weighs nearly 5,000 pounds with two adult male passengers, the Widebody Redeye accurately shoots into turns and hugs the pavement as it powers through to the next straightaway. Club Motorsports has an elevation change of roughly 250 feet, leading to hills that would cause some cars to lose speed on the climb, but with so much power, the Redeye ate up the biggest hills on the track.

The most daunting aspect of testing the Redeye at Club Motorsports was the intricacy of the turns following the high speed straights. The end of the long front straightaway – where speeds in the Redeye climb well beyond 130 miles per hour – is followed by a sweeping right hand turn and another, sharped right that has a bit of a jump to the inside that will unsettle the suspension and get the car headed hard towards the outside wall. Fortunately, the Hellcat Challenger’s adaptive suspension system does a remarkable job of keeping the big car pinned to the ground, so through these sweeping turns and the tight turns alike, the Redeye is able to slip in and out with a surprising amount of confidence.

Later on in the lap of the road course, there is a portion where you build speed coming down a steep hill and then go through a series of sweeping left turns that allow you to carry a ton of speed up into the final big climb. This is an area where cars that don’t handle well will struggle to maintain speed while weaker cars will continue to struggle when they hit the hill, but the Redeye cruised through the high speed turns and up the hill without any issue.

One other aspect of the Hellcat that is put to the test on this road course is the brakes, as the 4,500+ pound car enters a few tight turns with a ton of speed, but the massive Brembo stoppers get the car down to a reasonable speed time after time. The toughest braking exercise comes as you enter the front straight at the end of the lap, where you weave your way down the steep hill with a ton of speed before cutting hard to the right to enter the big-speed stretch. Barreling down a hill at 100+ in a car of this size, knowing that you have to make a hard turn at the bottom of the hill is one of those situations where you will find yourself questioning the vehicle on the first few runs, but as the day goes on, I quickly learned that the Hellcat brakes and suspension setup had no issues handling the transition of big speed to hard stopping to a hard turn – to more big speed.

Realistically, the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye is not a car that is going to battle for world records at tracks like the Nurburgring or Virginia International Raceway, but for a car that is constantly slandered for being a “straight line only car”, the Hellcat never fails to impress. This car handles just as beautifully as the non-Redeye Widebody Hellcat while packing even more power – and creating an even greater all-around muscle car.

After we were all done testing the car, SRT engineer Jim Wilder did a quick burnout with the Redeye followed by giving members of the media in the Redeye and I am here to tell you that driving the car and riding with one of the men who helped to design the car really brings out the difference that comes with seat time. You can check out the video of Jim below.

The Final Word

The 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye was designed to couple the power of the Demon with the on-road driving characteristics, handling and premium cabin of the Hellcat – and the engineers came through with flying colors. While packing the extra power, this Challenger handles a road course as well as any Dodge muscle car ever built and with the extra ponies, the Redeye gets out of the turns and down the straightaways better than the Hellcat with “only” 707-717 horsepower.

We didn’t get to test the Redeye on the drag strip, but considering that it has 797 horsepower, 707 lb-ft of torque, Torque Reserve, a higher stall torque convertor and the Demon’s high strength drivetrain components, it is surely even more capable in the quarter mile as the standard Hellcat, but that isn’t the point of this car. The Redeye was designed to handle, drive and feel like a Hellcat, with all of the interior features and road-hugging capabilities that Hellcat owners demand while offering more stock power than any American road car on sale today.

If you didn’t love the drag strip focus of the Demon or you simply couldn’t find one at MSRP, but you want a Hellcat with Demon power – the 2019 Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye should be your ideal vehicle. This car couples everything that the Hellcat does well with the power of the Demon, so even though it might not cover the quarter mile as quickly as the Demon, it will still outrun just about anything on the street – even if that street has curves.

Those of you who have been holding off on placing an order for the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, you can go ahead and place that order, as the Redeye is literally everything that we had all imagined. For those of you who have already placed your order for a new Redeye, when these cars begin reaching owners within the next month or so, I am confident that very few owners will be disappointed with any aspect of the package.

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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