First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat first drives dodge
First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat first drives dodge
First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat first drives dodge
First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat first drives dodge
2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

Holy freaking crap!

Sorry, sorry, that’s not very professional. Get a hold of yourself, Brendan. Ahem.

For 2015, the Dodge Challenger has a new supercharged version called the Hellcat. It is available with either an eight-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. It is 5,018 mm long and 1,923 mm wide. It comes in a variety of colours. It has seating for four. It has SEVEN HUNDRED AND SEVEN HORSEPOWER. WAAAAARGHGHGBL!

At this point, it doesn’t really matter if Dodge forgot to put wheels on the thing. Seven hundred plus horsepower is enough steam to turn almost anything into a hilariously effective device for putting a big dumb grin on your face. Allow me to demonstrate: beige four-speed-automatic Corolla? Boring. Beige four-speed-automatic Corolla with 707 hp? Yippee!

What the Hellcat’s mighty output allows it to do is something that the Viper once did, and strangely no longer seems to be doing. It allows Dodge to be the company that builds pretty much the baddest-ass production car on the road. There are faster cars, and there are more powerful cars (not many though), but few have such an aura of legitimate menace. The Hellcat casts a spreading umbrella of cool-factor over the entire Dodge range, allowing even the Journey to pick up a frisson of the horns-and-hooves supercharged street-cred.

It also, somewhat belatedly, gives the Challenger line the range-topper it always deserved. For years, the pony car wars have been all Mustang versus Camaro, with the Challenger an interesting alternative, but not really in the race. Of the three, it was probably closest to the ideals of musclecardom, but it never moved in volume. The Hellcat is so dang cool it’s going to help sell a few more basic V6 automatics.

Sitting on massive, 9.5-inch x 20-inch alloys, the Hellcat looks like the car you always wished Dodge would build. The subtle tweaks of the 2015 model changes help reduce the visual mass of the car, although it is still flippin’ enormous. A lower front splitter drops the nose, the car hunkers down on its alloy paws, and its hood flares and furrows in anger. That top hood scoop is lifted right off the ’96 Viper.

And then there’s the gee-whiz feature that you can proudly show off your neighbour before taking him for a ride – and put a garbage bag on the passenger’s seat because Ned Flanders is definitely going to pee himself. Up front, the Hellcat has the much talked-about cold-air-intake that actually opens out through one of the car’s headlights. Did the engineers have to do this? Of course not. Is it the sort of detail guys will obsess over at the local cars n’ coffee meet? Absolutely.

First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat first drives dodge First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat first drives dodge
2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat navigation & performance app. Click image to enlarge

On the inside, the Hellcat again benefits from the updates for 2015 Challengers, with a nicely laid out dashboard with most of the buttons moved to an 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen. For instance, if you wish to use the ventilated seats to cool the apprehensive sweating you’ve just broken out in, it’s a click on the climate screen, and then a click on the icon. Even your humble author, who has a tendency to view this sort of thing as witchcraft and hit it with a wooden shoe, found it easy to use. It cleans up the dash area to no end, and you still have a lower panel with quickly available buttons for turning down the stereo volume or adjusting the temperature.

The seats are bolstered well, but are fairly wide and comfortable, not as grippy as the Recaros in a Boss 302, for instance. Other less-than-stellar elements include the paddle-shifters, which function more like buttons than conventional paddles, and the latch for the glovebox, which is a bit cheap-looking. Yes, I just mentioned the glovebox latch in a 707-hp car – totally irrelevant. Sorry.

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