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- Highs Comfy and crazy, filled with standard features, where else can you get 797 horsepower this cheap?
- Lows Sloppy handling compared with rivals, replacing roasted rubber adds up, aging appearance.
- Verdict As the pony-car wars approach DEFCON 1, the Challenger is the most powerful weapon.
These high-powered Challengers come in two flavors of badass: the notorious SRT Hellcat possesses a 717-hp supercharged Hemi V-8 while the pumped-up Redeye version has 797 ponies. Both have substantial brakes and adaptive suspensions; a standard six-speed manual transmission or a proficient eight-speed automatic funnels power to the rear wheels. The Widebody package adds a distinct appearance thanks to flared fenders and wider wheels and tires. These power-crazy Challengers still provide exceptional comfort with a spacious cabin and plentiful standard features. While the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 are more talented on a racetrack, the diabolical Dodges generate nostalgia and release our inner delinquency—which includes the effortless roasting of rear tires. Badasses indeed.
What's New for 2019?
Dodge makes the 2019 SRT Hellcat lineup even more powerful—exactly what it needed, right? The run-of-the-mill Hellcat now makes 717 horsepower (up from 707). The new Hellcat Redeye model summons 797 horses by inheriting engine parts from the diabolical 840-hp SRT Demon. While the SRT 392 version has been discontinued, much of its equipment such as adaptive dampers and SRT drive modes is now available on the Challenger R/T Scat Pack. Both Hellcat models have a new twin-snorkel hood, an optional satin-black spoiler, more interior trim options, and redesigned 20-inch Brass Monkey wheels. Likewise, all Hellcats have an improved launch control for improved acceleration, a new system called "Launch Assist" that optimizes traction at take-off, and a new line-lock feature that allows smoky burnouts to heat up and clean the rear tires for maximum acceleration runs.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
While we love manual transmissions, the Hellcat's standard six-speed manual is disappointing in this application. Instead, we'd take home the regular Hellcat with the optional eight-speed automatic that shifts quicker and optimizes acceleration. Of the many available options, we'd snag the high-performance summer tires and Driver Convenience Group (blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, high-intensity-discharge headlights, and power-folding exterior mirrors). The Widebody package certainly looks sweet and has useful handling upgrades, but its mild performance improvement isn't worth the $6000 price tag. Besides, heavy-footed buyers will need to save that money for replacing tires if they roast the rubber too often.
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Likes: Huge horsepower for cheap, automatic has lightning-quick shifts.
Dislikes: Stick-shift transmission has long throws, indifferent steering feedback.
The mad scientists at Dodge's SRT laboratory pulled a Samuel L. Jackson and went all Old Testament with the almighty Hellcat engine. The standard setup makes "only" 717 horsepower, and the version in the Redeye pumps out 797 horses. Paired with the optional eight-speed automatic and Widebody package, our test car roared to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 11.8 seconds at 125 mph. We've driven several Hellcats and—as expected—never had trouble tapping into the endless power supply. However, launching the unruly beast straight and true is an exercise in extreme car control. Every model had an insidious growl at startup that builds to a hellish howl under heavy throttle. The Hellcat's distinct supercharger whine will send shivers down your spine, from either fear or excitement—and most likely both.
These high-performance Challengers might lack an incredible track attack, but they're quick as hell in a straight line and handle well enough to hustle down twisty back roads—provided your heavy right foot knows when to let up. Although the Widebody package adds wider wheels and tires for more grip, it didn't convince us that it's ready to corner with the Shelby GT350 or the Camaro ZL1. The widebody Dodge is composed at the limit, but its electrically assisted power steering (the regular Hellcat has a hydraulic system) is still slow to react and doesn't provide the ethereal feedback of its track-focused rivals. Instead, switching between the three steering settings feels more like choosing among varying numbness levels. Still, the Hellcats make amazing speed between corners, so their powerful Brembo brakes will get a big workout.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Relax. The Challenger Hellcat doesn't power-slam gas like a competitive drinker—at least, not more than its competition. It has a double-digit EPA city rating, and the last version we tested wasn't far off its 22-mpg EPA highway fuel-economy figure in our real-world testing.
Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo
Likes: Comfortable cabin, excellent infotainment system, huge trunk.
Dislikes: Some cheap interior materials, limited cubby storage inside.
The Challenger interior was redesigned for the 2015 model year with a driver-centric layout, straightforward switchgear, and better materials. The SRT twins have standard leather finery, unique badging and gauge colors, and heated and ventilated front seats. Despite its roomy cabin, the plastics still look cheap, and visibility to the rear is poor.
Both models boast a Uconnect infotainment system that is simple to use and filled with features. These include navigation, a bumpin' stereo, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The standard 8.4-inch touchscreen is usefully large and features icons that can be easily selected with a finger. There are volume and tuning knobs for quick audio-system adjustments. While the navigation responds quickly to inputs with a large onscreen keyboard, the map graphics look dated and cartoony.
Although it has the same trunk volume as the BMW M4, the Dodge held two more carry-ons in its trunk (six) and an impressive 15 with the rear seat stowed—three more than the GT350. None of the cars we tested were particularly adept at storing small items, but the Challenger at least has a big center-console bin, and there's a useful slot to stick a smartphone.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
While neither Hellcat has been fully crash-tested and it underperformed in the test it did complete, the big-bodied coupe is available with a host of driver-assistance technologies. Both models have standard rear parking sensors, but most other safety equipment costs extra and not all of it is available on the Redeye. Key safety features include:
- Available blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Available forward-collision warning
- Available adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The Challenger's coverage aligns with domestic rivals. Compared with BMW and Porsche, it has less limited protection but a better powertrain plan.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance