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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Review by Bob Plunkett

2015 Dodge Challeger SRT Hellcat
Road Test Review

By Bob Plunkett

On a lengthy strip of asphalt at Portland International Raceway, a Challenger SRT Hellcat edition of Dodge's racy sports coupe -- packing a big-block HEMI V8 engine pushing massive supercharged torque to the rear pair of Pirelli P Zeros -- blasts down the track in a blur of bright paint and smoking tires.

With that supercharged HEMI engine pumping more than 700 horsepower, the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat ranks officially as the most powerful mass-produced American muscle car ever.

Holy Hellcat:  This thing's unbeatable in the muscle car race to maximize horsepower and it delivers downright frightening linear speed on pavement.

The story of this modern muscle car began when Dodge resurrected the nameplate of its iconic 1970s pony car and applied it to the 2009 Challenger riding on a rigid platform also used for Dodge Charger. It had a long wheelbase with the engine mounted up front and all torque sent to the tires in back to forge a classic rear-wheel-drive arrangement.

Then some gearhead gurus at Chrysler's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) division began to beef up the 2009 Challenger with a retinue of kick-butt car tricks. The result of this gearhead tinkering became the 2009 Challenger SRT8 with a bold and racy exterior package, world-class ride and handling traits and over-the-top performance.

Challenger SRT8 of 2012 marked Generation 2.0 of the top-dog Dodge muscle car. It gained a larger and more powerful engine (a 392-ci or 6.4-liter HEMI V8), an adaptive damping suspension system with selectable suspension tuning and a steering wheel with paddle shifters for hands-on-the-wheel shifting.

The 2015 Challenger SRT enhances the 2012 SRT8 by adding two engine options (the 392 HEMI V8 or new Hellcat supercharged 6.2-liter V8), an upgraded Tremec 6-speed manual transmission or new ZF TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic, new 20-inch forged aluminum wheels, and -- with the Hellcat engine -- the largest front-brake package ever installed on a Chrysler Group passenger vehicle.

Challenger SRT 392 stocks the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 which kicks out 485 hp plus 475 lb-ft of torque.

Torque is channeled to the rear wheels through the six forward gears of a heavy-duty Tremec TR6060 manual transmission with ZF-SACHS 240-mm twin-disc clutch, or an optional Torqueflite ZF 8HP70 8-speed electronic automatic.

Premium 91-octane fuel is recommended for the SRT 392 Challenger and the fuel economy figures rise to 14 mpg for city driving and 23 mpg on the highway with the manual shifter, or 15/23 mpg (city/highway) with the automatic.

The Hellcat engine is a supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI V8 featuring a forged-steel crankshaft with induction-hardened bearing surfaces, high-strength forged-alloy pistons and heat-treated aluminum-alloy cylinder heads, plus a screw-type supercharger with dual water-to-air intercoolers. The latest estimate of the Hellcat's output tallies to 707 hp.

This awesomely powerful engine links to either a Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission with ZF-SACHS 258-mm twin-disc clutch, or Torqueflite ZF 8HP90 8-speed automatic.

The SRT adaptive damping suspension has three driver-select modes: Street (a sporty yet compliant ride quality), Sport (firm ride for sharper handling), Track (firmest ride to maximize handling).

To rein so many Hellcat horses, the 20-inch wheels on Challenger SRT Hellcat carry huge disc brakes. Up front, the 15.4-inch aluminum vented and slotted rotors are gripped by Brembo 6-piston aluminum mono-block calipers painted red. Rear ones with 13.8-inch rotors use Brembo 4-piston calipers. All four discs are linked and controlled through an anti-lock brake system (ABS) plus anti-skid controls via an electronic stability control (ESC) device and traction control system (TCS).

Layout of the Challenger SRT cabin consists of two big sport buckets in front and a back bench split 60/40 that's broad enough for three but with indented sections for two.

A new 7-inch Driver Information Display (DID) with vivid graphics enabled by thin-film transistor (TFT) technology includes Performance Pages to provide a range of performance statistics, such as the vehicle's dynamic handling, braking, horsepower, torque and acceleration.

The Performance Pages also support a new timer system for recording lap times, top speed, 0-60 mph acceleration, 0-100 mph acceleration, elapsed time for quarter-mile distance, and more.

What a way to go.