2017 Dodge Challenger Hellcat
With 707hp and 650lb-ft f torque, I personally would not want to test out the full potential of the Challenger Hellcat on public roads. Why? Because I don’t want to lose my license.
Is it livable as an everyday car?
Other than in snow, Yes. Just sitting in a hellcat, it’s easy to forget it has all that power because it looks like a regular challenger. There are race cars that have less power. Race cars with cages, no windows, no cabin air, not to mention running issues and when I think of anything with more than 550hp that’s what springs to mind. Not a comfy big car with heated and ventilated seats like the Hellcat!
Looking at the exterior, it doesn’t even look like a race car. It looks like a regular Challenger, other than the Hellcat badge on the front fenders and the headlamp that is replaced by an air intake. The looks are subtle and nothing is over the top. Even the back tires, that I’d expect to be at least 10″ are only 9.5 (which is the same size as the 485hp Challenger SRT). It is a big car though. Long and fairly wide, just like a muscle car should be. I’m only 5’3″ so the hood may as well be the size of China, but that’s what muscle is about. Big. Just like big feet means big socks, a big coupe means… big doors.
The interior is modern and ergonomic. Most common functions are easy to find. The steering wheel is aggressive looking and the buttons on the left and right are intuitive. The center console has the Uconnect 8.4″ touch screen navigation as standard. This is very easy to use with icons along the bottom for radio, media, controls, apps, climate, navigation and phone. The only thing that bugs me with this is that you have to wait for the screen to load up before you can access the climate. The heated/ventilated seats are available to select before it loads. There is, of course, the ability to use the remote start function in the automatic version.
During my passenger lap on the track at High Plains Raceway in CO. I threw my finger at the screen in the hope of bringing up the g-force display as we hurtled around the track. A short lap was completed before the performances pages had loaded. The seats are bolstered and quite a bit bigger than the bucket seats you’d expect to find a Japanese sports car. This makes them a little more people friendly for all shapes and sizes.
Enough power to make you nervous
There were several high-end sports cars available that day at the track for me to test but none that managed to give me anxiety shakes before driving as much as the Hellcat. Although I have a few years experience with high powered cars above 500hp, I had never had the opportunity to drive anything over 700hp on the track. Let alone a muscle car. Needless to say, I was very excited but also very nervous. 707hp is a number to be regarded with respect. Especially in a muscle car that’s meant for straight line speed, I was very curious as to how it would handle the corners.
On the track
It did better than I expected. I am more used to stiffer suspension set ups, but the Hellcat as it were, does go round corners. It floats around them. You can absolutely feel all that power at the back wheels pushing you around the corner. The power curve is definitely not linear, about 1/3 way down on the accelerator the g-force can violently throw you into the back of the seat. We had the automatic transmission to test so I opted to use the ‘flappy paddles’. The car will limit when you can change down a gear, so don’t bank on engine braking, you might be going too fast.
I felt like I could not drive the car to its full potential. I decided for the better part of safety to let the instructor show me how it’s done. It’s a whole different driving style than I’m used to but as he showed me, it’s one that can be mastered. Watch the instructor lap on the second half of the video.
Just listen to that supercharger
Luckily for Hellcat owners, there is a free driving school day with the Bob Bondurant Performance Driving School in AZ. If you’re not used to fast muscle cars on corners, I would encourage this for owners to get the most out of your car. Drag racing with this machine, on the other hand, would be a hoot. 0-60 in 3.6 seconds (automatic) will make for a fun 1/4 mile, in comfort!