Large Domestic V8 engines, high-horsepower muscle, brightly colored American machines running the streets and drag strips – this may sound like the 60’s but we are talking about the present. While the cars of the 1960’s may have began the “Muscle Car” era, it may be the new Millennium Muscle that will go about perfecting it. Some may call these comparisons sacrilegious but you have to admit that we are living in a golden age of powerful gasoline vehicles. The return of icons like the Pontiac GTO (though a rebadged Holden), redesigned Ford Mustang, and the Dodge Charger in the early 2000’s fired the starting pistol for something extraordinary. What would follow is the return of the famous HEMI engine to create modern legends like the Dodge Magnum, Dodge Charger, and Chrysler 300C. The pinnacle of the Millennium Muscle Car Era came in 2015 as Dodge debuted their most powerful motor ever in the form of a supercharged 6.2L HEMI producing and astounding 707 horsepower. We took the “red key” for a Hellcat Charger in classic Plum Crazy paint to experience the modern legend for ourselves.
Within the SRT settings on the large 7-inch TFT screen you can dial in the amount of power – either 500 or all 707hp. You can also change the transmission, traction control, and suspension to Street, Sport, or Track mode. For cruising on the highway you can also set the Hellcat into a laughable “Eco” mode to stay in higher gears and eek out around 22 miles per gallon. Driving around town we would keep the car in the custom setting with transmission in Sport and Suspension and Tractions settings in Street to maintain some comfort. The Charger Hellcat in Street settings is perfectly tame and feels like an R/T but you are always aware of what lurks beneath the hood. Puttering around town in the Hellcat can feel at times like strapping behind a Falcon rocket just to run an errand to Trader Joe’s. It can certainly play the role of a normal car and be used as a daily driver but the whole time the devil on shoulder is telling you to “find a clearing and put the hammer down you *$#&*^!.”
When you do eventually put the hammer down you will attract the attention of everyone within earshot. The Hellcat growls to life and you will hear a slight whine from the supercharger right before the transmissions cracks through the gears like a bolt-action rifle firing a round. Growl, whine, bang! Growl, whine, bang! The 8-speed ZF transmission setup is just the right amount of violent and mechanical in its speed and is unlike anything we have ever experienced on the road. The suspension in “Track” mode is fantastic but you never forget that you are piloting over 4,500 lbs of Detroit steel. With traction control off on a mountain road you find yourself playing the automotive version of Russian roulette. With each jab of the throttle in the corners you are waiting for the rear to break loose. When it does lose traction the car is actually fairly controlled but anyone who thinks they can mash an accelerator that controls 707HP without any consequences will certainly find a bullet in the chamber.
At just above $70,000 for our model, the Hellcat is a relative bargain when you have enough power to rotate the planet under the hood. The car is the pinnacle of what it means to be a Muscle Car as the performance gauges can track items like 0-60 MPH, 1/4 mile time, and much much more. Future generations will look back on the Hellcat and wonder who the hell allowed this car to be legalized as it simply begs you to go to prison or burn rubber as you drift into the embankment. Even the most powerful American Muscle of the original Muscle Car Era could pull up for a stoplight race on Woodward Avenue and this Hellcat would be in Pontiac, MI before the other car reached 8 Mile. The beauty of the Hellcat designation is that it is something new to show that it goes beyond what we have known in the past. It is not merely a marketing gimmick using old jargon to sell a warmed over version of what Baby Boomers think they raced in their teenage years. The Hellcat represents the passing of the torch from the beginnings of what a Muscle Car would be to the modern Millennium Muscle car era. Not only did the modern Dodge brand take the torch across the finish line — they scorched every piece of earth that stood in their way in the process.