2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat first drive review

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Muscle cars, like those of the 2015 Dodge Challenger lineup—and yes, that includes the 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat—have long been emblematic of all that’s American.

They’ve always been about cramming a V-8—a very large, lusty sounding V-8, preferably—under the hood of a car that typically isn’t all that large. Because we prefer super-sizes; and gas is cheap...or, well, it still is compared to much of the rest of the world.

Acceleration and quarter-mile times are all-important for bragging rights and those Friday night (drag-strip) lights. Top speed counts, but not so much. ‘Cause we can’t drive 55 but have speed traps everywhere, ya hear?

You gotta have enough practicality, too—in a back seat, a trunk, and a ride that’s good enough for the commute to the shop or the Friday night cruise to the drive-in.

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Burnouts, check. Plus stellar stopwatch times...and awesome drivability

And the ability to churn out way more wheel torque than the tires can handle? Yeah, that’s a must—glorious smoky burnouts and all. The length of time that you can extend a single burnout in the Hellcat is pretty much as long as your two rear tires will last. When a dragstrip launch demo degenerated into zaniness, we saw a single long run of billowing tire smoke result in tire tread well past the wear marks.

One by one, the 2015 Dodge Challenger lineup delivers on those muscle-car must-haves; and as we found out in a first drive of much of the revised Challenger lineup this past week in Portland, Oregon, it delivers performance that even those who typically like getting their driving kicks in more nuanced ways won’t help but be awestruck by.

The Hellcat—the most powerful muscle car ever—will run a quarter mile in 11.2 seconds, at 125 mph. That’s on the Pirelli P Zero Y-rated performance tires, which have loads of grip; or when fitted with full-on drag radials, the Hellcat will do a 10.8-second run at 126 mph. Power gets delivered through a six-speed manual gearbox; although as much as we love manuals, we think the heavy-duty eight-speed automatic might be a more stable companion when you have more than 700 horses in the stable.

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Nothing like the Viper

But numbers aside—and name aside—the Hellcat has to be more than hellaciously quick. In today’s market (unlike some muscle cars of the past) it has to be drivable—everyday drivable. And surprisingly, the Hellcat doesn’t feel like it’s a hair trigger away from disaster. You can drive it gently; you can drive it smoothly; you can resist that temptation. The Hellcat just putters along confidently, with shockingly great drivability. It’s absolutely nothing like the relentlessly brutal Viper.

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