First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

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We came out of Turn 9 into a long arc that seemed more like a straight-away at the Portland International Raceway and hit 105 mph before braking to enter Turn 10. We were driving the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat; well, we were actually riding with a professional driver to get a feel for what this Dodge Challenger could do in expert hands.

One thing was clear: this 1.9 mile, 12-turn asphalt and concrete road racing track really wasn’t configured for the likes of the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat. That is the official name for this muscle car, but look for it to be condensed to Hellcat which is a perfect fit for its personality. The car will go on sale in the third quarter.

The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat has a 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that makes 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. It can be mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a bulked-up eight-speed automatic transmission capable of funneling the massive torque that the engine makes to the rear wheels and onto the pavement.

At the track, we had the eight-speed automatic. The gear box didn’t matter, though; the performance of this car rivaled that of some supercars which cost 10 to 20 times more than its $60,990 base price. Some numbers have not been finalized, like the SRT Hellcat’s zero to 60 mph time, but that is expected to be in the low three seconds.

Top speed is 199 mph, the supercharger can pump 30,000 liters of air into the engine in one minute and, wide open, that engine will gulp 1.5 gallons of gasoline every 60 seconds, draining the 19.1 gallon fuel tank in 13 minutes. But driven normally, it’s been reported that the Hellcat could get 20 mpg on the highway, though official EPA numbers had not been released at the time of the test drive.

The Hellcat engine is not simply a bump-up of the last Challenger SRT powerplant. 91 percent of its parts are new. A deep-skirt, cast-iron block with cross-bolted main bearing caps, unique aluminum alloy heads with hemispherical combustion chambers and a screw-type IHI supercharger are at its core.

Dodge has managed to corral the Challenger Hellcat’s power when needed. First, the car will come with a pair of key FOBs – one red, the other black. The red one releases all of the car’s oomph, but the black one will hold output to 500 horsepower.

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