The Dodge Challenger Hellcat is the fastest, most-powerful muscle car in a half-century of muscle cars. Amazingly, for the first time in that lunk-headed, mine’s-better history, there’s not even a genuine barroom debate: This hellacious, range-topping version of the Dodge Challenger is faster than any production Mustang, Charger or Camaro, ever. It’s strong enough to make any ‘60s muscle car shrivel like a 98-pound weakling.
If we’re honest, that Made in Detroit brand of swinging-dickery cuts to the heart of the muscle car’s enduring appeal. Which is why women often roll their eyes at the honored tribal rituals of street racing, cruising, and cruising for a street race. Oh, but who cares? The ladies’ only role here is to drop the scarf, dive out of the way and let the cavemen spur their dinosaurs, fundamentalist-style.
Yet the Hellcat, despite its fossil-fuel-slurping, 707-horsepower supercharged Hemi V8, isn’t entirely a throwback reptile, a Jurassic Park-style DNA copy.
Dodge’s roughly $61,000 saber-toothed kitty is surprisingly evolved, and downright cuddly for driver and passengers: The ride proves compliant through old-school streets in Brooklyn and New Jersey, aided by a modern driver-adjustable Bilstein suspension. Racing-style Brembo brakes, along with adjustable settings for the engine, steering, eight-speed automatic transmission and stability systems, keep the Hellcat on its hyper-driven path. (A six-speed manual is available). That’s a nice change from the days when muscled oafs – cars and drivers alike – could be found wrapped around the nearest telephone pole. The beyond-clever Performance Pages displays turn the Dodge into a real-life video game, recording top scores for everything from 0-60 and 0-100 mph acceleration to quarter-mile sprints and g-force readouts. There’s even Chrysler’s slick UConnect touch screen and built-in WiFi hotspot, for chrissakes, which let me send laptop e-mails while I was parked in Manhattan – and let admirers knock on the Dodge’s windows, offering variations on a theme: “Oh. My. God. Is that what I think it is?”
You betcha, bubbie. And don’t worry: The Hellcat might double as a mobile office, but it hasn’t lost its jungly taste for raw meat. Watch to witness what 707 horses will do to a set of tires.