“The Charger has an aggressive stance but this is also a car that can blend into the crowd, it doesn’t need to scream at the top of its voice that is left for the engine to do…”
The U.S. capital is an exciting place to be, what with all those presidential comings and goings, crowds gathering near the gates of the White House in the hope of catching a glimpse of the leader of the free world.
But on a recent day, all the exciting action was happening at Summit Point Raceway, about an hour and half away in neighbouring Virginia, where a smaller crowd of journalists got more than a glimpse of the new 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat.
The first leg of the launch event was held at Ronald Reagan airport, in a hangar cleared to display the entire Charger lineup. They looked like colorful jellybeans scattered in different trim levels ranging from the base V6 model to the R/T models featuring a 5.7L V8, then to the SRT high performance 392 model, and the all-new, for 2015, Hellcat with 707hp.
The 2015 Charger gets an all-new exterior, the only holdover pieces are the roof and rear doors, and the rest is new, more aggressive, sleeker and muscular. The nose now has a less blunt look, with a slimmer headlight design that is meant to look like a bandit, wearing a mask. Each trim has different grille openings and in the case of the high horsepower Hellcat, all the air intakes, scoops and vents not only make the car look more menacing, they all serve a function. The Charger has an aggressive stance but this is also a car that can blend into the crowd, it doesn’t need to scream at the top of its voice that is left for the engine to do.
When the last version of the Charger was refreshed, the focus was on updating the dash to improve the feel of the materials and the overall finish. The 2015 model takes things up a notch, with even more technology and improved style. The dash is covered with an aluminum fascia, which has not migrated to the shifter surround. The shifter too has been updated to a T-style that reminds older drivers of the Charger’s sold in the original muscle car era. The steering wheel is new and has updated switches to control two new screens in the dash. They include a base 5-inch screen in the console or optional 8.4-inch version, plus a standard programmable screen in the instrument cluster for a quick glance when driving. The high performance SRT models get a steering wheel with a flat bottom and heavily bolstered seats for track-ready driving. The real story is that this isn’t a track car, rather a solid family 4-door with room for all passengers.
On the way to the racetrack, I drove the ($39,495) R/T, Hemi equipped Charger over highways and some backcountry roads. This new model has a much more grownup feel and is a fantastic long road trip machine. Passing is a snap but the Charger was happiest at about 130km/h maybe thanks to an all-new 8-speed automatic on all trim levels. Greeting us at the track were 5.7L Hemi cars, the 6.4L V8 Scat Pack model and the new Hellcat with a 6.2L V8 and with a big supercharger bolted on.
This engine has 90 per cent of the parts upgraded from the regular engines and each one is put on a forty-minute dyno test before being shipped to the customer. When the supercharger is up to full capacity, this engine will gulp 13,000 litres of air in one minute. I had a chance to drive all the models starting with the least powerful 5.7L with 370hp, then the 485HP 6.4L and continuing the rest of the day with the 707hp Hellcat. Each is very capable on the track but the Hellcat is so much more car, capable of a run to 100km/h in less than four seconds and it can stop with just as much viciousness.
The impressive thing is just how easy this monster is to drive. It needs to be treated with respect but getting on the power or the brakes is very smooth and effortless. The sound from the screaming engine, the Pirelli P-Zero tires squealing under acceleration or diving into each corner was a sensory overload. After dozens of laps around the track with a top speed of 230km/h down the straight, this car is nothing short of amazing. Everything else just feels slow.
The average buyer will still opt for the ($32,495) V6 equipped cars sold with a solid 300hp going to the rear wheels or all wheels, the V8 equipped cars are not offered with AWD any longer. The most amazing, but unspectacular part of the trip was driving the Hellcat back to Washington DC through heavy traffic on the highway and downtown core.
As we pulled up the W Hotel, just a block from the Whitehouse, the 707hp Hellcat returned 9.9L/100km. Nothing short of amazing considering the cars output, but it might come down to the 411 lb.-ft. the engine puts out at just 1200 rpm, allowing it to loaf along effortlessly. This and the $64,495 price tag will get a lot of car fans sitting up and paying attention; the world fastest four-door family car is an amazing engineering marvel and the price is as jaw dropping as the car itself.
Power: 707hp from a supercharged 6.2L V8
Sticker price: $32,496-$64,495