The $1000 –per-month payment that I agreed to hand to FCA for my $70,000+ Dodge Charger Hellcat could have just as easily gone to any number of German-made luxury cars. Or, I could have even opted for a Tesla Model S where gasoline would have been a non-issue and range could be recharged for free at the nearby supercharger.
But, I choose to buy into the hype of Dodge’s seven-hundred-and-seven horsepower, 4-door sedan.
My insurance via Geico jumped from the $260-per-month I was spending on my 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT, to a new high of $315-per-month (even with my 5-yr Good Driver discount).
My 2006 Chrysler 300 SRT8 had a 6.1-Liter engine averaging 10.8 MPG.
My 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 had a 6.4-Liter engine average 10.1 MPG.
My Dodge Charger Hellcat’s 6.2-Liter Supercharged HEMI average less than 9.8 MPG.
That’s just 9.8 MPG of Super Premium Unleaded 93 Octane – which retails for around $2.56 per gallon here in NYC.
There’s nothing like driving around NYC in a Hellcat. Its reputation precedes itself thanks to a clever marketing strategy which buries its horsepower ratings in the minds of anyone who shows even the remote amount of interest. And then there are the endless Youtube videos showing street races where the Hellcat is literally kicking everyone else’s asses.
I don’t even need to talk about the 2-key solution: Red key = 700+ HP (you get 2 of those) Black = 500HP (You get 1). The computer can step down power if you get in with the red key, but can’t step up if you get in with the black. If you get in with both: the red key “wins” and the car steps up to 700+. There is a “valet mode” which will lock the car into 2nd gear and prevent joyriders tapping into your full potential. Oddly enough, the implementation of the “top speed key” is done better in this $70,000 car than it is in the multi-million-dollar Bugatti Veyrons. You need both keys to make the Veyron reach its 260MPH+ speeds and one of them must be inserted on a floor panel next to the driver. Walking around with a red key handing from your pocket is almost certain to get attention and questions from auto enthusiasts.
Here in NYC, the label “SRT” is unaffordable by most, but when you have it, people ogle your car and ask questions about it. Regularly, I am followed by other drivers in “lesser” performance cars – who will pull up to me and give me a thumbs up. Regularly, people will fight with others in traffic to get into a position where they can be side-by-side with me so they can roll their window down and ask me to “rev it”. And the police love me. When they see me pass by, they’ll often follow me – waiting for me to do something wrong – so they can pull me over. A Black guy in a ruby red car with three times the engine power of the majority of cars on the road must be up to no good – right? A short burnout resulted in me being swarmed by NYPD plain-clothes (White males) who were busy taking in the measurements of my tires and the details on my spoilers and heat extractors while I calmly kept my hands on the wheel waiting for commands to follow. “Is this thing like a Nascar?” asked one officer. “Yes sir” I replied: “seven-hundred-and-seven horses”. They all took a gasp with a “holy shit”…
As the average car on Main Street has had their powertrain neutered to 4-cylinders and v6 engines, the SRT vehicles have stood out due to their size and their monstrous power. Exterior looks are equally menacing. There’s nothing else on the market that seats 4 people and moves this fast for so little money. The rear-wheel-drive biased steering allows SRT vehicles to move decisively through traffic.
The supercharged HEMI produces not only a boisterous engine note, but whirs and whines that no other car can produce. Unlike the Cadillac CTS-V and Mustang Roush 428, the whine is more pronounced at lower speeds and the grunts and groans of downshifts make the car sound like the stomach of an unholy beast.
I am not a fan of driving on tracks. I feel that my car should be a daily driver and act civilized in traffic. It should be able to go from gentleman to bully at will. I’ve tracked SRT vehicles before and realized right away that their immense dimensions and weight make them horrible for tight turning radiuses and curves when all I want to do is drive faster in a straight line. These vehicles can handle regular highway banked curves with ease and can even handle tighter curves with more application of power to produce/correct understeer. The aging LX platform is perfect simply because you know exactly how it will react given specific conditions.
Dodge claims this is the fastest sedan ever built, but that’s only if you ignore the quicker-to-60 and quarter mile Tesla P90DL (now P100DL) – which use a combination of instant electric torque and all-wheel-drive to get off the line faster than anything shy of a $500,000 Lamborghini. I have driven the P90DL regularly. At $140,000+, it’s remarkably fast – producing a feeling as if I was being lifted out of my seat and being thrown out the back of the car. Unfortunately: it’s nowhere near as comfortable as the Charger and it’s roughly twice the price. You could get both Hellcat Charger and Challenger for the cost of a single P100DL.
0-60 takes less than 3.5 seconds.
0 – 100 takes less than 8 seconds ( about 4 seconds better than the 6.4-L Charger/ 300SRT)
0 – 200 takes about 38 seconds.
Thanks to the GIGANTIC Brembo Brakes (do the measurements really matter?), the Charger quickly decelerates from 60 to a dead stop in less than 180 feet. Just keep in mind that replacement of those pads will run more than $200 at your local Chrysler stealership.
And then there are things I don’t like about the Hellcat(s).
For such an expensive car (around $20,000 more than a Charger SRT) there’s a laundry list of features it should come with but doesn’t.
The biggest disappointment is the lack of Adaptive Cruise Control which I’d grown accustomed to on my Chrysler 300 SRT and my Jeep SRT. The latter vehicles have an “eyeball” camera which watches ahead and judges whether or not a collision is going to occur. It works in daytime as well as night – and has saved me from many-a-careless fender benders. Yes I’ve been distracted whilst driving. A loud chime sounds – followed by a flashing red light in the gauge cluster *BRAKE*, *BRAKE*, *BRAKE*. The Jeep SRT will even quickly pump the brakes while you’re still reacting to being screamed at. But, the Hellcats don’t get this feature. Apparently, FCA decided that the eyeball took up too much space which they needed to reserve for airflow cooling. The Hellcats – cars which can quickly and effortlessly sneak right up into slower people’s blindspots – desperately need this feature.
There’s no reason at all why the Hellcats don’t offer front bumper parking sensors. How can I protect my front end, if I can’t gauge my distance to the next guy? Rear ultrasonic sensors and a backup camera are standard, but without front sensors as well – the car feels cheaper than it should.
I was disappointed that these cars lacked moonroofs on most of the produced vehicles waiting for dealer purchase. Finding a Hellcat “fully loaded” is difficult at best unless you plop down cash to have one custom built. I end up at the front of every stoplight and I can’t see the stop lights without ducking down and forward. Coupled with the lack of forward sensors, this has actually made the Hellcat one of my least favorite SRT products to drive. My Jeep SRT offers everything that I’ve come to love about SRT products: big, fast and relatively inexpensive to maintain. I am desperately waiting to replace my current 6.4-L Jeep with the Trackhawk – which may end up becoming the fastest and most powerful production SUV ever made.
The interior is also a major letdown. The materials in use haven’t improved since the Charger’s refresh in 2011. The Laguna leather seats feel good, but they aren’t as nice as the seats found in the 1st generation SRT models – even though they offer ventilation and heating wherein the original seats only offered heating.
The interior of this $70,000 machine looks far too similar to the $36,000 SXT AWD and has a computer system you’ll find in the $20,000 Dodge Dart. The Hellcat even looks too similar to the standard SRT models which come with similar wheels, similar body cladding and the same paint colors. People with SRT models who want to pretend they have Hellcats need only change the car’s hood to get the negative-pressure vents/heat extractors. On first glance, upon comparing my Hellcat to a Charger SXT, the only thing that differentiated them was my car’s red seatbelts. I expected more than just a powerful engine and strengthened powertrain.
Uconnect Touch 8.4n continues to be the best infotainment system on the market. It’s easy to use when driving, it responds quickly and its basic features are more efficiently implemented than the basic features on the infotainment centers of far-more expensive cars. Thanks to the system redundancy offered by physical turn dials backing up the touchscreen, you can get things accomplished in menus far quicker than you could elsewhere.
The Hellcat Charger isn’t a luxury car, but it’s exactly what a luxury car should be. Powerful, practical and inaccessible to others who can’t afford the buy in price. A “luxury car” should have a list of features that nothing else on the market has”. The Hellcats offer more “power” than $200,000 Mercedes and BMW 7-series and reach speeds normally reserved for Italian supercars.
It’s only when I am on the highway doing extra-legal speeds that all my criticism shrink away and I become hypnotized by the engine whine that overwhelms the love-hate relationship we’ve developed.
Sure it’s wasteful, not equipped well enough and likely to cost you your license, but it’s gorgeous (on the outside) and prestigious.
Worth. Every. Penny.