Hellcat. Wide body. Supercharged. V8. 707-horsepower. This is more monstrous power than any human made of flesh and blood should ever be exposed to. And yet, anyone with a few extra dollars in the bank can walk in to a Dodge/Jeep dealership, sign on the line and eventually take delivery of their road-legal automotive weapon.
This year’s been good to me. Actually, life’s been good to me for the last few years, but I digress. In 2018, I got to drive what has turned out to be my favorite large-ish SUV under $100k, the Dodge Durango SRT, the should-not-be-sold-without-a-prescription Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and now, this Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat with the wide body option.
So much power
In a few words, the SRT Hellcat is too much. Plain and simple, too much power. For a long time, I lived with the idea that you can never have too much power. At the time, I rode around in a 100-horsepower MK2 Jetta and was test-driving 240-250-horsepower Nissan products.
I came to realize over time that having more power than you can actually use is a complete waste. Imagine having all the shrimp but getting full after eating a few dozen of them. What do you do with all the left-overs?
Picture the full tummy as the tires’ ability to grip. At one point, there’s an overload of power and the rubber breaks free of its grip on the tarmac. What do you do with the other 300-horsepower and 250-lb.-ft. of torque?
Grip vs. power
This is why I’m so in love with the Challenger 392 HEMI. With nearly equal amounts of mechanical grip as the Hellcat, I can put all of the 6.4-litre’s 485-horsepower to good use at all times. This is why cars like the Corvette Stingray/Grand Sport, Mazda Miata and Golf R are so treasured by driving enthusiasts. These cars can be pushed to their limits, or nearly.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat’s limits are deep, far more than most of us realize. With the $11,650 wide body and manual transmission option package, the ‘cat gets 20×11-inch Devil’s Rim wheels with 305/35ZR20 performance tires which combine with the included three-way adjustable Bilstein dampers to provide serious amounts of grip. Said dampers can also make traversing broken road surfaces nearly tolerable.
The issue lies with the human between the steering wheel and seat. With 707-horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque at the driver’s beck and call from the supercharged 6.2-litre V8, the temptation to smash the gas is great. As I’ve said, and demonstrated in my little video, it takes almost no throttle to put the car sideways. Even though max torque comes on at 4,800 rpm, there are still many hundreds of pounds of the stuff on tap at low engine speeds.
Manual or walk
While I seem to be complaining about the Challenger Hellcat, I’m completely head-over-heels with the beast. The main reason is the optional Tremec 6-speed manual transmission. Had this car been equipped with the standard 8-speed automatic slushbox, I’d have come away feeling very differently.
The clutch pedal necessitates a fair amount of effort to work, the shifter’s heavy and clunky and that my friends, defines what it is to really drive a car. The Challenger SRT Hellcat requires all of the driver’s attention at all times. I promise you that Hellcat drivers are probably some of the most attentive on the road today!
Tech and entertainment
Those that are not sufficiently entertained with the driving experience or the visceral constant skull-crushing noises (why the Hell would you get this car?), FCA throws in Uconnect 4 multimedia center with an 8.4-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, navigation, 4G Wi-Fi, SiriusXM Travel Link and more. There’s an 18-speaker Harman-Kardon system too.
The large sport seats are not the most supportive but the comfort level is good. Unfortunately, I could not find an ideal driving position at first. Despite the 10-way power adjustments, I sat too high, unable to feel snug behind the steering wheel, which still has spokes designed for Andre the Giant-hands.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger starts at just over $35,000 but this number climbs ferociously fast once power piles on. My favored 392 HEMI Scat Pack with Shaker hood begins at $56,000 while the Hellcat comes out of its cage from $82,000. With options such as the wide body kit, Tremec, sunroof (??), the total climbs to nearly $93,000.
Z06 vs. 707-horsepower
There is only one car that come close to delivering this amount of deadly power for this price and it’s the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. I won’t start a war and tell you which one is better because as similar as they may seem, they are almost completely different. Dat Wide Body though!