The first time I drove the Dodge Challenger wasn’t back in the summer of ’71 (I wasn’t event born yet) and, no, it wasn’t an original coupe from the last days of the penultimate muscle car era. But it feels like just yesterday that I and the then-new 2009 Challenger SRT bonded on the high-performance test track during AJAC’s annual “TestFest” event.
In actuality, it was fall 2008, and the big, orange Dodge’s 425-horsepower 6.1-litre Hemi V8 could steer its big, fat rear end through the slalom portions of the track, and then fire it like a gunshot down the long straightaway with 420 lb-ft of wallop. The voluminous cockpit made me feel like an ant piloting a tank – one with a gargantuan shift knob and tiny windows.
Fast-forward to today and the Challenger SRT has changed quite a bit. It is more refined inside and out, and better in practically every respect. And although it has gained a new moniker, almost nowhere on this car will you find the word “Hellcat.” There is an SRT Hellcat badge on the cover of the all-new supercharged 6.2-litre Hemi V8, and the front quarter panels proudly display the fiery kitty. Here kitty kitty.
Developing a whopping 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, not only is this engine the most powerful V8 that Chrysler Group LLC has ever produced, it is also the first production V8 to be supercharged. A forged steel crankshaft, powder-forged connecting rods, high-load bushings, diamond-like carbon-coated piston pins and high-strength forged alloy pistons are just a few of the upgrades here, but SRT has gone through the whole car looking for ways to improve it.
It doesn’t happen magically. “You have to plan for all the stuff we did,” says Daryl Smith, SRT engineering. “We had to upgrade the trans, both transmissions, a new clutch, the driveline. We put a 230 mm brand new rear end on the car, the half shafts that go with it and all the way through.”
Each Hellcat comes with three key fobs: two red and one black. The latter caps performance at 500 horsepower, however, the red key unlocks all 707 horses and torque potential via improved pedal response and throttle mapping. There is also valet mode that dramatically cuts the power and works with either key (which do provide similar performance up to 500 horsepower) by simply punching a four-digit code into the computer.
Although a total redesign is still a year or two down the road, the entire 2015 Challenger lineup has been privy to some noticeable enhancements. All welcome.
Continue reading about my experience with the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, and look at more photos on the IGNITION LUXURY & PERFORMANCE website!
As a bonus, here is some raw footage of me driving the hell out of the Hellcat on the full road course at Portland International Raceway.