We drive the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to haul people around. Maybe it’s your wife and kids, or maybe it’s your aging parents, but the end result is the same: You need to get a new 4-door sedan. Maybe you could get a crew cab truck or an SUV, but do you want to give up decent handling and epic performance forever? Not likely. So for all of us who refuse to compromise, Dodge has delivered the goods.

It started last summer with the Challenger SRT Hellcat. That was 707 hp and 650 lb.-ft. of supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 performance in a sexy 2-door package. Now Dodge has followed up with the same engine in an all-new 4-door 2015 Charger SRT Hellcat. Mark your calendars, because today the family wagon is even better than the 2-door sports car.

Charger by the Numbers: 707-650-204-11

The new Charger Hellcat is powered by the same supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V-8 engine as the Challenger version. This is no detuned compromise for the frumpy sedan. You get the same 707 hp and 650 lb.-ft. of torque, making the Charger the quickest, fastest and most powerful production sedan in the world.

The NHRA has certified that the stock Charger Hellcat will cover the quarter mile in 11.0 seconds, go from 0–100–0 mph in under 13 sec. and achieve a top speed of 204 mph. Think about that for a minute. You can take the Charger Hellcat off the showroom floor, drive it straight to Bonneville and get your 200 Club hat while the new car smell is still in your nose. Plus you’ll drive off the salt with the factory warranty still as good as new.

All that engine power is mated to Dodge’s TorqueFlite 8HP90 8-speed automatic transmission. This is the one area where purists might dislike the Charger—unlike the Challenger Hellcat—there’s no way to get a manual transmission in this model. But the 8-speed automatic is a virtuous gearbox, and you’re not likely to feel like you’re missing out on any performance.

New High-Tech Rear Axle

Dodge gave the new Charger a rear axle built to handle the increased torque output from the Hellcat engine. The 230-mm unit features welded ring gears, hardened shims and a 4-pinion asymmetric limited-slip differential with unique bias-ratio tuning. That mouthful of words means the Charger is equipped to handle any on- and off-throttle behavior from the Hellcat engine. The high-tech rear end enhances grip, stability and steering response, and enables smooth power delivery for hard acceleration on corner exits. If you go in for trail-braking, the differential automatically tightens to stabilize the car and prevent oversteer.

Factory Aftermarket Big Brakes

It will be interesting to see what the aftermarket comes up with for the Hellcat series, because just about everything you might buy to enhance the Charger has already been installed at the factory.

Both the normally aspirated Charger SRT and the Charger SRT Hellcat are outfitted with the largest front-brake package ever offered in a Chrysler vehicle. In front, you get 15.4-in. Brembo 2-piece rotors with 6-piston fixed calipers for outstanding performance and longevity. At the rear, you get Brembo 4-pot fixed calipers around 13.8-in. vented and slotted rotors.

In addition to those brakes, you also get a specially tuned suspension that changes personality with the Charger’s various driving modes.

Programmable Performance

The 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat offers several programmable drive modes. These drive modes customize the car’s performance characteristics by limiting horsepower, changing transmission shift points, and by fiddling with the traction control and suspension settings. The standard drive modes are pre-configured for Default, Sport, Track and Eco settings, while the Custom setting allows you to specify your own drive experience by manipulating the car’s settings.

Obviously, Default is a good all-around setting for driving your Charger anytime. Sport tightens things up a little and gives the traction and stability control nanny a little more latitude to let you drive. The Track setting gives you everything the Charger Hellcat can offer, and enough liberty to get yourself well and truly scared by the power before it tries to save you from crashing. On the other hand, Eco mode sharply limits power output and uses other tricks like starting in 2nd gear to maximize fuel economy.

This is all in addition to the now-famous red key/black key system. If you don’t trust your buddy or child with the full 707 hp, you can hand them the black key and the Hellcat limits them to just 500 ponies. Which is still plenty good—15 more than the Charger SRT—but the last 207 hp makes a big difference. And there’s a custom code-activated valet mode for the people you really don’t trust.

All-New Exterior, Upgraded Interior

The 2015 Charger line definitely pays homage to the original Chargers of the 1960s, and the new bodywork looks sportier, more aggressive and just plain meaner than the outgoing model. The new bodywork is styled after the legendary 1969 Charger and looks different enough that no one will mistake the 2015 for any prior year. But don’t think for a moment that anything here is a paint-and-stickers package. Every design element serves a function.

The Charger SRT Hellcat receives the larger, power-bulge aluminum hood, which features a dedicated cold-air intake—a visual styling cue from the first Viper coupe in 1996—and dual air extractors to ensure effective removal of heat and reduced air turbulence in the engine compartment. You also get a functional spoiler and front splitter.

The Charger Hellcat rides on Slingshot split-7-spoke 20 x 9.5-in., lightweight forged-aluminum wheels in Matte Black or Brass/Dark Bronze finishes. Two new 275/40ZR20 Pirelli P Zero tire options provide good all-season performance. It’s not something you always think about, but you need tires with a Y-Plus rating to handle 200-plus mph speeds. And with the Charger, it’s not just vanity; you really do need those tires.

All 2015 Charger SRT models feature a new high-tech interior, centered around a new 7-in. customizable digital instrument gauge cluster and a new instrument panel center stack with an 8.4-in. Uconnect touchscreen media center.

If tunes are your thing, the Charger SRT Hellcat has an available premium 900-watt, 19-speaker Harman-Kardon audio system. However, we predict the uptake on those will be small. You don’t buy a Hellcat to play your tunes.

You also get redesigned seats with improved cushioning and more comfortable contours. For improved comfort and a touch of luxury, the Charger SRT Hellcat includes standard heated rear seats, and heated and ventilated front high-performance seats. That’s nice in any climate.

Putting it all Together

Car enthusiasts who have been around know that horsepower and torque figures on paper don’t translate evenly to a driving experience. Yes, the Charger Hellcat has 707 hp and 650 lb.-ft., but it’s also over 4500 lb., and you don’t get all that grunt right off of idle and all the way to redline.

We were introduced to the Hellcat at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. This is a delightful little road-racing course with one long downhill straightaway and a couple short chutes connected with a nice variety of corners and climbs. It was the perfect place to put the Charger through its paces and to see just how good a job the factory did with the performance balance.

The short answer is that the Charger works even better than the Challenger. This is mainly due to the 4-in.-longer wheelbase on the Charger, which makes it feel more stable and balanced. The power of the 6.2-liter blown V-8 is there when you ask for it, but you can also modulate the throttle for just the right amount of power when you need to be subtle.

Coming on to the front straight and catching another car, we were pleased to get a courtesy point-by to pass. Stabbing the throttle to the floor was perhaps not our most debonair track move, but the Charger understood what was needed. Remember the new limited-slip diff we mentioned earlier? Dropping the hammer and laying down the power while still finishing our corner made the rear end jink slightly to straighten the car and we took off like a rifle bullet—all with perfect electronically assisted composure. By rights, we should have been in the wall. Score one for modern technology and a goose egg for horsepower-induced overconfidence.

Put the Charger in Track mode and you can feel the suspension and tires working in hard cornering, but the Charger never comes unglued or unpredictable. We saw speeds up to 144 mph on the front straight at Summit Point, and the big brakes hauled the car down to 60-ish in the space of 500 feet, time after time. Of course, we were running short 3-lap sessions and then resting the cars for 10 minutes, so it’s not clear if you could hammer the brakes for hours at a time, but with a little care, these brakes lasted all day.

In any drive mode, the suspension is compliant, yet firm, and the chassis is admirably stiff and solid. The thing about the Charger is that it inspires confidence that belies the car’s size and weight. When you’re behind the wheel, the Charger feels like a much smaller and more nimble car than you expect, and the power is simply breathtaking.

The Rest of the Family

While we’re salivating over the Charger Hellcat, let’s take a look at the rest of the lineup, because under any other circumstances, even the most humble of the new 2015 Chargers would get a lot of attention.

The Charger SE comes with a basic 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine at 292 hp or 300 hp. It starts at $27,995. You can also get the SXT with the V-6 in rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive configuration for a few thousand more.

Moving up the powerband, you can get the Charger R/T with a 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 engine at 370 hp and 395 lb.-ft. of torque. This model really occupies the sweet spot in the lineup, with great driving power at an eye-popping $32,995 price tag. You still get a good selection of features, including the great 8-speed transmission that lets every one of those 370 horses work for you all the time.

If you choose the R/T Scat Pack, you move up to the 6.4-liter HEMI engine, delivering 485 hp and 475 lb.-ft. of torque. You get Brembo fixed caliper brakes, 20-in. aluminum wheels at a price tag of $39,995. For $47,385, you can have the normally aspirated Charger SRT, with the same 485-hp engine and even better 6-pot Brembo brakes and suspension.

Of course, at the top of the line, you can have the Hellcat Charger for $63,995. To put that price in perspective, it’s easy to spend the same amount on a pickup truck. Did we mention the 204-mph top speed?

The point is that no matter what budget you’re working with, Dodge has a Charger you’re going to like. Even the V-6 is an enjoyable drive—you won’t feel like you’re in the gutless penalty box because you bought the base model.  For our money, the best value in terms of grins-per-dollar is the 5.7-liter HEMI R/T, but if you’re shopping at that level, don’t even test-drive the Hellcat. It will only make you envious.

The Bottom Line

If this all sounds like we’re gushing about the 2015 Dodge Charger, it’s because we are. Dodge has really done this car right, with a perform­ance option at every price point, a laundry list of great features and styling you just can’t miss. If you do decide to dig deep and spring for the Hellcat, you get a truly nice car with crazy great performance at a sensible price. The bottom line is that if your head says you need to haul the family but your heart says you need to haul ass, the 2015 Dodge Charger is your car.


SPECS

2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Curb weight: 4575 lb.
Weight distribution f/r: 56/44
Wheelbase: 120.4 in.
Track, f/r: 64.0 in./63.7 in.
Overall length: 200.8 in.|
Overall width: 75.0 in.
Overall height: 58.26 in.
Ground clearance: 4.57 in.
Drag coefficient: 0.335
Engine: 90-degree V-type, liquid-cooled
Displacement: 370 cu. in. (6166 cu. cm)
Bore x stroke: 4.09 x 3.58 (103.9 x 90.9)
Valvetrain: Pushrod-operated overhead valves, two valves per cylinder with sodium-filled exhaust valves and hollow stem intake valves, 16 conventional hydraulic lifters, all with roller tips
Fuel injection: Sequential, multiport, electronic, returnless
Block construction: Deep-skirt cast-iron block with cross-bolted main bearing caps, unique aluminum alloy heads with hemispherical combustion chambers
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Power (SAE J2723): 707 hp at 6000 rpm
Torque (SAE J2723): 650 lb.-ft. at 4800 rpm
Max. engine speed: 6200 rpm
Fuel requirement: premium 91-octane
Exhaust type: Dual 2.75-in. straight-through exhaust system using twin electronic exhaust valves (EEV)
Transmission: 8HP90 TorqueFlite 8-Speed Automatic
Features: Adaptive electronic control with full manual control via gear selector or paddle shifters, with three SRT-unique selectable modes: Street, Sport and Track (features performance shifting and gear holding feature)
Final drive ratio: 2.62, asymmetric-limited slip, performance-tuned
Front suspension: Independent with high upper A-arm, lateral and diagonal lower links with dual balljoint knuckles and sway bar, coil spring over gas-charged monotube shock absorbers, SRT-tuned 3-mode adaptive damping system with ADS Bilstein shock absorbers
Rear suspension: Five-link independent with coil springs, gas-charged monotube shock absorbers, stabilizer bar and isolated suspension cradle