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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Test Drive

Ford unveiled an all-new Mustang for 2015. And Chevy recently released the supremely awesome Camaro Z/28. Do you think Dodge has been just sitting on their hands? Hell no! In fact, they just left the pony car wars in a cloud of tire smoke with the mighty 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

Let’s start with the numbers because that is what everyone is talking about. The Hellcat’s supercharged 6.2 liter Hemi V8 pumps out 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. Crazy, right? That makes the Hellcat the most powerful muscle car ever built, period. Price? Dodge has always been about bang for the buck, and they managed to squeak the Hellcat in under $60,000. So how does it drive? Two words: tractable beast. But let me warn you–the sound (and thrust) of that supercharger is highly addictive. I’m sure some people are going to get into trouble in this car. And fast.

We need to take a quick step back because Dodge has made substantial changes to the entire 2015 Dodge Challenger lineup. Dodge found themselves in a fairly unique position with the Challenger. Usually a model’s sales numbers decline year-over-year until the model is refreshed or redesigned. But the Challenger’s sales have increased steadily over the years, despite the fact that it was largely unchanged since its introduction back in 2008. So Dodge wanted to be very careful about how they went about the redesign.

Inspiration came from the 1971 Challenger. Which means a new vertical split-grille up front (except for the Hellcat–more on that in a bit). Dodge knew the rear view of the 2008+ Challenger was… well, a bit awkward. So they went about fixing it with a split tail-lamp design, again inspired by the 1971 model year. That, combined with a new rear fascia, greatly improves the rear view of this muscle car.

But the real story is inside, as the interior is vastly improved, both in terms of design and materials. While at the press event in Portland, we got the grand tour from designer Dan Zimmerman (who happens to own a 1973 Challenger, which he is restoring himself). Dan is especially proud of the new center console, which now houses many of the audio and climate controls. The updated dash houses a very impressive and intuitive 7-inch LCD screen which is packed with features. The interior is now highly customizable, with more than 14 interior colors and trim options. General feel and quality is greatly improved. Basically, this is a nice place to spend time for up to five people (yes, three adults can sit in back, unlike the Mustang or Camaro).

Let’s get back to performance, because ultimately that is what this car is about. While all Challenger engines received modest bumps in power, the Hellcat gets the real monster, an all-new supercharged 6.2 liter Hemi, which is 91-percent new compared to the motor in the 392 cars. You have a choice of a 6-speed manual or a sophisticated 8-speed automatic–both substantially beefed up to handle all that power. We drove both and honestly came away thinking we’d probably go with the automatic in this car. It’s that good.

There are a lot of subtle yet unique features exclusive to the Hellcat. For example, the inner-headlights sport air inlets that feed the twin-screw supercharger. Recessed hood vents pull heat from the engine compartment while a fully functional Trans-Am style hood scoop aids with air induction. The added duck-bill fascia splitter greatly improves the aerodynamics of the big car.

Need to stop? The Hellcat sports HUGE brakes: 15.4-inch Brembo 2-piece rotors with 6-piston Brembo calipers up front and 4-piston rear. The Hellcat comes with 20 x 9.5-inch forged aluminum wheels with 275/40R20 Pirelli P Zero tires at all four corners. And the adjustable Bilstein suspension helps keeps the 4,400 pound car in control of any situation.

So does it have too much power? And what if you want to loan it to a friend, a spouse or maybe even your teenage offspring? Each Hellcat comes with two keys–a red key and a black key. The red key gives you everything but the black key limits the driver to a measly 500 horsepower. Better yet, there is also a “valet mode” that you can set when you go to your favorite restaurant. This cuts power, limits the engine to 4,000 rpm, locks out first gear, disables the paddle shifters, sets stability control and disables launch control. Not a bad idea, especially if you don’t want to see YOUR Hellcat spinning smoky donuts on YouTube.

Gas mileage? This is not something you usually talk about with muscle cars. Still, the 392 car is rated at 14 city and 23 highway for the manual and 15 city and 23 highway for the automatic. The Hellcat? We haven’t seen numbers yet, but it is estimated that you can get 20 mpg on the highway if you go easy on the throttle. Good luck with that.

It’s truly astounding that you can now go to your local Dodge dealership and for less than $60,000 order a car with more horsepower than most supercars. This meanace runs 10-second quarter miles bone stock, yet it has a usable back seat and a large trunk. This is no pony car. You can call it a true GT car or a refined muscle car. But it’s probably best to just call it the Hellcat.

Be sure to check out AutoNation’s video review below!

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