To make up for my previous ramblings about the new 70 or 90hp Smart car, I thought I’d try to level the averages again by talking about the 707hp Challenger Hellcat SRT. So before I get into the nitty gritty, let’s have a look at what SRT do…
SRT (Street and Racing Technology) is a company that was set up by an elite group of engineers from Chrysler, who in the 1950s set out to extract more power from existing production engines. The main way in which this was achieved was by the creation of new intake manifolds, which featured long tube runners to help the engines ingest more air. More air, more bang (of course with the right mix of fuel). The intake system was given the name Ramcharger, which was then opted to be the team name for that elite group of engineers. The Ramchargers went on to form a NHRA-sanctioned Hot Rod Club, and revelled from huge success in the 60s and 70s.
From fairly humble beginnings we are now looking at a brand with a globally renowned reputation for building not only very powerful engines, but developing regular street cars into better handling, faster braking sports cars. Being part of the Fiat Chrysler Group means that Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep have all received some form of SRT treatment, which is quite a range of brands to spread over.
Value for Money
For the purposes of this article, and to satisfy my own need to spend all day looking at the car, I’m focusing on the Challenger Hellcat SRT. Is this the best value car on the market in terms of bang for your buck? It certainly sits at the top of my list, with a starting price of only $59,995 (around £40,000) you get yourself a 6.2 litre supercharged Hemi V8 producing 707hp. 707hp?! For the same money in the UK you’d be looking at one of the baby AMGs like a CLA45 (381hp from a 2 litre turbocharged inline 4). Don’t get me wrong those ‘baby’ AMGs are very good, but they’re not 6.2 litres of supercharged V8 are they? Double the cylinders, double the fun.
The Hellcat appears to be all about new ventures for SRT. It is the first time in the firm’s history they’ve used a supercharger, and it’s strapped to their most powerful in-house designed production Hemi V8. Not only will it rip your face off with a boot full of throttle (using Chrysler Group’s biggest ever throttle body at 92mm), it will also do the same in the other direction when you plant your foot on the brake. They are one of the biggest set of Brembos money can buy, which is handy when you’ve got a car that’ll do 0-60mph in the low 3 seconds and a quarter mile in 10.8.
Starting with a 392 Hemi, SRT have upgraded 90% of the components to squeeze out that ridiculous amount of power. You’ll have noticed the nice retro headlight arrangement at the front, but you may not have noticed from the pictures that the inside lights are hollow in the middle, to allow for the ram air system. This type of system is very good at flooding the engine with decent quality air, which is essential when you’re trying to fill 6.2 litres of cylinder. It’s very cool stuff if you ask me. And whilst we’re on the subject of air, thankfully SRT haven’t just planted a big engine in the front and buggered off. They’ve spent 35% of their time in the wind tunnel with this car due to its top speed and making sure it can stay in a straight line when you’ve got the bottle to test it.
Red key or Black Key?
Before I say anything else; Red key. Obviously. When you buy a Challenger Hellcat SRT you get given 2 keys, one black and one red. This isn’t because they ran out of the red ones so had to give you one of each. The keys determine whether you’re driving a de-tuned wimp’s car of only 500hp (black), or whether you get the full on man’s version at 707hp (red). If you’re buying this car for the power, which let’s face it you are, I’m not sure of the necessity for the black key. I think if I ever had the chance to own or drive one, the black key would be gathering dust on the shelf along with my common sense and books on economical driving.
As you’d expect with a car of this performance, you get a load of standard spec when it comes to the interface in the centre console. You can tailor the car’s performance characteristics to your specific dietary requirements, for example programming the RPM at which it will launch, and deciding when the shift lights are going to show up. If you did want to limit the horsepower without being stuck with the black key all day, you can change it by choosing one of the five different driving modes. And then you get onto the SRT Performance Pages which loads the car with even more toys. Here is a list of the available screens:
Timers (Lap timers)
Gauges 1 (Oil temp, oil pressure, coolant temp, battery voltage, transmission temp)
Gauges 2 (Boost pressure, air fuel ratio, I/C temp, intake air temp)
Engine (Horsepower, Torque, Gear selection, boost pressure)
Now for most that may seem like a lot of information to have at your disposal, but this car is all about excess and overload of the senses. I like the fact you can see how much G you’re pulling when you throw it into a corner or plant your foot on the go pedal.
So what’s the point?
Well for me, it’s all about over indulgence in something you love. This car is far more than most people need or even want. In fact, according to the President and CEO of the Dodge brand, the car is “more than 95% of enthusiasts will ever need, but there’s that 5% who want more power, more braking and more aggressive styling” and I love that they’ve created a car for just 5% of Dodge enthusiasts. This car is the ultimate expression of passion in the search of speed, excitement and adrenaline. And you’re not paying through the teeth for it either. To get the same power from anything else you’d need to be looking at the likes of Lamborghini, but the trouble with that is you’ll be paying as near £300,000. And the other trouble with the Lamborghini is everyone knows it’s a Lamborghini. This Hellcat is somewhat understated which is a quality I quite enjoy in a car. Understated in its looks, but hiding a monster under the bonnet which is capable of leaving anything slack-jawed in its wake.
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