You can’t just drive the Hellcat. You have to negotiate. You have to compromise.

Fortunately, the Hellcat has a diplomatic power management system. When it’s pouring rain and you’re driving the kids to the swimming pool, the Charger Hellcat offers a series of ‘switches’ on its touchscreen interface that allow you to calm it down, limiting it to ‘just’ 500 hp. Fuel trickles out slowly as throttle is applied, traction and stability control mean you can drive with little stress, and it behaves pretty much like an ordinary family sedan.

But it is not. An ordinary family sedan, that is. Despite the relaxed power delivery and comfortable ride, with plenty of legroom, headroom and ample space for three across in the back seat, ordinary is the last thing you want to call it. It might just bite. At the very least you’ll have some claw marks to show for that disrespect.

Perhaps it’s a sunny summer day, a wide empty country road, not a soul in sight and those switches called up by the SRT button on the dash console switched to Sport (not even Track, that won’t be necessary here…). Sport mode, with the Red Key recognized, unlocks all 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, turfs the wheel-spin-defeating traction control, and allows a little more leeway when traction of those poor, afflicted, likely-to-be-short-lived rear tires (they never stood a chance) is exceeded. That will happen almost from the merest whisper of your foot on the throttle. Subtle this thing ain’t.

Without power-stuttering traction control, the rear tires (even these upgraded Pirelli P Zero P275/40ZR20 performance tires) break free of their mortal bonds, spinning off an immaculate aria, the nose of the car lifting, the back end sashaying in an easy rhythm, the steering wheel grasped lightly and some gentle countersteer teasing it back online.

Then the 9.5-inch-wide tires bite, and your whole torso compress into the wide, comfy seats like being enveloped in memory foam while your brain feels like a stress ball in the grasp of an overworked, budget-crunching office drone. Lines and trees blur momentarily, and you shut it down after a brief couple seconds of ecstasy, at which point maniacal laughter interspersed with girly giggling spring forth with giddy abandon as you scan for lurking cruisers. Anything longer than a two-second burst of acceleration and you better be on a highway ramp, and even then you have maybe three or four seconds of maximum acceleration at most before anyone with a conscience and/or self-preservation instinct will back off.

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Now, some of you may say, “Well, I’d rather drive a slow car fast, blah blah blah blah…” Sometimes I feel that way, too. But not on weeks when the Father of Sin, er, blesses me with a Hellcat. Damn me if it’s not a thrill to light up the rear tires for those few seconds and feel that burst of acceleration. Every stoplight becomes a complex algorithm of risk assessment vs the reward of visceral, antisocial, anarchic and almost sexual pleasure from the noises this car makes. And oh, the noises it makes.

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