Dodge’s parent company Stellantis made one thing pretty clear recently: the Hellcat’s days are numbered. With increasingly strict emission regulations, big and ultra-powerful V8 engines that burn fuel like there’s no tomorrow have no future.
For now, however, Dodge is making the most of its fire-breathing, supercharged 6.2-litre V8, the sound of which is unlike anything else. You can find this wicked powerplant with over 700 horsepower in all current Dodge models including the Charger, Durango and Challenger.
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In Redeye trim, output is cranked up to a whopping 797 horsepower. Unfortunately, it can’t be had with the six-speed Tremec manual gearbox, only the eight-speed automatic. On the bright side, customers can choose between the regular body style and the muscular Widebody configuration.
I spent a week behind the wheel of a 2021 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye equipped with the Convenience Package, premium sound system, Pirelli P Zero (275/40R20) tires and the most advanced infotainment system available. The price? A staggering $108,535, destination and delivery included. Kind of hard to swallow considering where Dodge’s muscle car came from.
From SXT to Hellcat
The Hellcat V8 puts on a show even before you fire it up. Pop the hood and you’ll see large belts connecting the engine to the supercharger and an enormous air filter mounted directly below the hood scoop.
Opening the heavy driver’s door reveals a less impressive sight, mind you. While designers added a few sporty touches all around, the interior is really not that different from a base Challenger SXT. You don’t expect to find hard or cheap plastics and other ordinary materials in a car that costs almost $110,000.
Dodge certainly deserves praise for the Challenger’s good ergonomics, intuitive infotainment system and front seats that provide comfort and support in equal doses. The rear seats are best left to kids or for short trips since legroom is fairly limited, especially when tall folks sit in front. The 459-litre trunk has a large enough opening and can fit a decent pile of cargo. Just be careful not to damage the paint on the rear bumper when loading bulky items into the car.
Smooth and Violent
The first time you get a taste of Hellcat, it’s easy to be amazed by how smooth and obedient the vehicle is. If you just feather the throttle, the most powerful Challenger will play nice. Oh sure, the ride is firm in true sports car fashion, but there’s no reason to complain in daily driving. It’s only when you find yourself on super-rough pavement that the stiff dampers become almost impossible to live with. Then again, the Challenger Hellcat Redeye is no worse than similarly hardcore German rivals.
The 6.2-litre beast has no trouble moving the big coupe. Even with the gas pedal depressed a mere 10 percent, acceleration from a standstill or on the fly is swift enough to merge with traffic without breaking a sweat.
Everything takes a dramatic turn when you floor the pedal. The low growl transforms into a high-pitched wail as the eight furious cylinders are partly eclipsed by the supercharger whine. Glued to your seat, the surrounding environment becomes a blur and the rear tires suffer terribly.
Equally tortured is the old (dare I say ancient?) chassis, which makes the Challenger squirm as it absorbs all the sudden and overwhelming rush. Even on dry pavement with the various electronic assist features turned on, the tires will skid beyond 100 km/h at full throttle. Depending on how experienced you are behind the wheel, this will either prove intimidating or exhilarating. Personally, I had a big grin on my face the entire week.
While handling is tricky given the 797 ponies stomping the ground, the Challenger’s steering does a decent job overall and the brakes display wonderful strength and endurance, retaining proper stopping power even after repeated hard braking manoeuvres. That’s quite a feat considering the weight of the car.
The 2021 Dodge Challenger Hellcat—Redeye or not—stands alone in the sports car segment. Unlike many of today’s vehicles that feel artificial to drive, the almighty muscle car delivers a visceral experience both good and bad.
A proud descendant of the glorious 1960s era, it cares little about fuel economy, as evidenced by my tester averaging more than 14 L/100 km. Enthusiastic drivers should expect to achieve 20 L/100 km on the highway and 25 L/100 km around town. That’s the price to pay for a time machine in 2021.