The SRT Hellcat family represents some of the best of what Fiat-Chrysler has to offer nowadays.
In today’s world of consumerism and excess, there are many outlets that people can turn to in order to get their “fix”. Things like the latest Apple iDevices have people lining up for hours to pick up the latest styish, connected-culture device. When it comes to cars, numbers are what separates the men from the boys, and when it comes to spec-sheet racing, there’s really nothing better than the Hellcat family, from the engineers at SRT. As part of a media conference at the famed Monticello racetrack in New York State, I hopped into a Phantom Black Pearl 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for some road and track impressions.
First thing’s first: the big number that everybody loves to talk about is the 707hp figure. It is sheer lunacy that one of the “big three” manufacturers can offer such power in a street car, and manage to back it up with the same warranty that the rest of the lineup enjoys. It is easily the headline feature that gives this car the character that it has.
From the outside, it looks more or less like the regular Charger, but a few details allow it to stand out. The latest refresh gives the Charger its best look yet – the LED daytime running lights look properly sinister on a black car. The “racetrack” LED taillights and brake lights look great – you’ll be seeing them a lot if you’re chasing a Hellcat. The front fascia is crammed full of cooling ducts for the massive brakes, and various radiators removing heat from the coolant, engine oil, and transmission. Even the rear differential features an intricate heatsink assembly to remove heat from the limited-slip differential. Cooling is a recurring theme on the SRT Hellcat – so much so that fog lights were deleted to allow for more airflow. Anything that produces 707hp will produce a lot of heat – managing thermals is the key to keeping everything reliable.
Getting into nitty-gritty: the huge 707hp figure is produced by a supercharged 6.2L version of the HEMI engine. The 650lb-ft of torque is mated to a TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission, and pushes power to the rear wheels. Surprisingly, the rear differential features a relatively tall 2.62 final drive ratio. The big torque allows the Hellcat to power through the eight gear ratios, for a supercar-quick 0-100km/h time of under 4 seconds, an 11-second quarter mile, yet still pull all the way to a top speed of 328km/h. These are figures that simply haven’t been seen before in a relatively mainstream sedan that one can drive every day, without having to deal with the stereotypical temperament exhibited by some exotic supercars.
Inside, the SRT Charger Hellcat is supremely livable, thanks to the full-size exterior proportions. There’s head, shoulder, and legroom to spare, and the large heated-and-cooled performance SRT leather bucket seats fit a variety of body sizes. This is the kind of car that you can gobble up hundreds of kilometres in, without breaking a sweat or getting sore, since there’s so much space to safely stretch out. A lot of supercars that possess such performance credentials can’t even come close to offering the number of creature comforts the Charger Hellcat can manage, let alone carry five in comfort.
Like the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, the Charger Hellcat offers up several “track apps” in the 8.4-inch Uconnect system that allows the driver to select between the default, Sport, Track, and Custom settings, all with their own configurations for the steering, transmission, and throttle response. I toggled between the Sport and Track presets. To better reflect how important thermal management is, the instrument cluster can be configured to display a multitude of temperature readings for all the important hardware under the hood.
Practical considerations aside, what the Hellcat is really about is how the 707hp makes you feel in the driver’s seat. I’ve driven cars like the Tesla Model S P85D with its “Insane” mode, but that car delivers its explosive speed in a much different way from what most people are used to. The relative silence and whirring from its electric motors stands in stark contrast to the Charger Hellcat, which delivers its big power in a much more explosive way – no pun intended. The familiar Hemi V8 sound is present, but the big differentiator is the massive supercharger, which force-feeds air directly into the intake system. The supercharger whine produced is probably one of the loudest I’ve heard on a production car in a long time, and is immensely addicting. The lag-free nature of superchargers ensures that boost is available right from a low-rpm, and you can induce the wail of the blower close to idle.
On the road, the Hellcat really is a “do-it-all” type of vehicle. In Auto mode, the dampers soften, the steering loosens up a little bit, and the powertrain isn’t as manic. However, all that torque is still available just under your right foot, and it’s very easy to overdo it and roast the rear tires (if you’ve got the traction control off). The electronic interventions are smartly configured – the computers help you, and don’t get in the way, so it’s often better to leave them on (unless you like to live dangerously).
On the track, the immense power is great, and the Charger Hellcat does an amazing job of getting up to high speed, and scrubbing all of it off with huge 15.4-inch brake rotors with six-piston Brembo brakes. Even in terms of taking corners, the Charger Hellcat does a decent job with its sticky Pirelli PZero tires (with a square 275-section fitment at all four corners) and hydraulic steering assist, but it lets you know that it isn’t the dedicated track beast that some may think it is. The Charger Hellcat is simply a very large, and very heavy car – and while it can defy physics in some aspects, it’s hard to overcome all that weight when you want to change directions quickly.
The SRT Charger Hellcat is the type of car that is much more comfortable on the open road than it is in the confines of a tight autocross course. This doesn’t mean the latter isn’t something it would be good at, but I feel it needs to be in the right environment to be enjoyed most. It’s also not what people would consider fuel efficient. The supercharger that feeds the engine with air needs to have the appropriate amount of fuel mixed in to match. In this case, it’s a lot of fuel. Fiat-Chrysler Canada rates the SRT Charger Hellcat at 17.6L/100km in the city, and 10.7L/100km on the highway (thanks to its eight-speed automatic transmission). If you lean heavily into the boost, you can expect to see the fuel needle move towards the E mark at an almost equivalent pace. Hellcat owners are very likely aware of what they’re getting into, and fuel consumption won’t be at the top of their priority lists.
The SRT Charger Hellcat stickers for $75,445 and comes pretty well-equipped as it is, being at the top of the Charger model line. The only option available is your choice of all-season or summer tires. The latter is the obvious choice – you’ll need as much traction as you can get, in order to be able to put down all that power to the ground. If you think about it, the Hellcat family delivers astonishing value to those who are looking for brute force power – and you don’t have to give up a lot of amenities to get it.
Like I said earlier, I love the fact that cars like these exist. With the ever-increasing influence from safety and consumer demands for increased fuel efficiency, something with 707hp really shouldn’t exist. However, that’s the brainy rational voice in me talking – the heart would suggest otherwise. The SRT Hellcat family represents some of the best of what Fiat-Chrysler has to offer nowadays. Engineers had their work cut out for them, with the task of producing something so ridiculous, and somehow make everything work, with a warranty card included. Between the SRT Charger and Challenger Hellcat models, I think I like the Charger Hellcat more – the four doors give it a much more rounded demeanor, and dramatically ups the “sleeper” effect. This is a car everybody needs to spend some time with, full stop.
2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Gallery