We’d rate the SRT Hellcat’s drivability above either the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. It’s more at ease with itself on the power, near the limits or not, than the GT500, and it’s more comfortable than the ZL1—because while the ZL1 might have it beat for suspension sophistication, the ZL1 feels claustrophobic and crude next to the Hellcat’s superb interior, quiet cabin, and sprawl-out comfort. (Yes, taller folks, you have plenty of room for a helmet in the Hellcat.)
Those Pirelli four-season tires that come with the Hellcat—what the automaker left on for the track—felt great in high-performance driving, while remaining surprisingly quiet for cruising. They’re a little stickier when starting out than typical performance tires, and in hot laps of Portland International Raceway (PIR), they became noticeably more progressive with harder driving.
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Lots of 'exploration' to do with the Hellcat—at the track of course
Of course, the SRT Hellcat’s boundaries are far and deep. And with Performance Pages readouts on things like lateral Gs, lap timers, and extended gauges—along with Drive Modes that allow Custom, Sport, Track, and Default (Normal) settings, as well as Street, Sport, and Track modes for the transmission—you can seriously dial in as much power (and aggression) as you want for the situation, with the adaptive damping system changing its game for each.
Use the black key fob and you max out at 500 hp (there’s a valet mode, too, by the way); but use the red one, with the settings allowing it, and you tap into all 707 hp.
The Hellcat’s 707 hp beats all but a most exclusive group of Italian exotics. But with the SRT Hellcat weighing nearly 4,450 pounds, you won’t find the sort of eye-blurring thrust that you do on some of those supercars. It’s dramatic, for sure, with the crackling active exhaust and the battle for traction at the rear wheels, but this isn’t so much a car of absolute g-forces as it is—so we think—the most badass muscle car ever.
Looks and sounds exactly as it should, inside and out
In true muscle-car tradition, the 2015 Challenger lineup balances out the conservative, blocky silhouette with some finely drawn front and rear styling details as well as some outrageously bright colors like B5 Blue and SubLime.
And to top off the Hellcat, there’s a cat-back active exhaust that’s *almost* free-flowing. What you get is an engine that starts and idles with about the same (smooth, rumbly) character as the 6.4-liter, only it gains a truly hellacious cackle as you blip it up the rev range, and just a little bit of supercharger whine when you really press it in the low-to-mid revs.
R/T Scat Pack's the one to get
We actually spent the most time driving what we’d consider to be the most beast for the buck: That’s the Challenger R/T Scat Pack, a new package this year that brings a lot of the features of last year's SRT model, with the 6.4-liter 'Apache' Hemi engine now making 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration numbers to 60 mph roll in at the low four-second range; and it starts at $39,490—that’s about $3,000 less than last year’s SRT and more than $20k less than the Hellcat.
Although the supercharging and heavy breathing of the Hellcat, and all of its additional go-fast engineering, are things you can feel when we cracked the throttle wide open, the R/T Scat Pack felt pretty much just as strong in nearly any kind of on-the-road driving, where zaniness needed to be reeled in, in the interest of saving our license and keeping others safe.