Complete Overkill

By Derek Price

I can’t imagine any other nation where this conversation would take place:
“You know what we should do to that 707-horsepower car? Give it 90 more.”
That’s apparently what someone at Dodge said when imagining the Redeye version of the Challenger, which adds 90 horses to make it even more ridiculous than its “ordinary” Hellcat sibling.
It’s the very embodiment of American excess.
I spent more than a week driving the most powerful factory-built muscle car for sale today, and the experience was equal parts awe-inspiring, bewildering, and downright terrifying.
What’s it like to drive a car with 797 horsepower — more than some race cars — on public streets?
First, it’s disorienting. All your expectations for what a vehicle can do have to be recalibrated, seeing how a slight blip of the throttle can make the world move by at warp speed. It can feel empowering when you want to pass someone in the blink of an eye, but also frightening when you realize how fast you’re approaching the blunt end of an 18-wheeler.

With a top speed of 203 miles per hour, the Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye is the definition of American excess. Its supercharged V8 engine makes 797 horsepower.

Second, it’s delicate. Unlike most cars, where my bad habit of mashing the gas pedal to the floor as if it’s a toggle switch when I want to go faster isn’t much of a problem, the Hellcat Redeye requires a deft touch. You have to feather the throttle slowly, gently and carefully.
Only once the car is settled and pointed in a perfectly straight line can you finally — and still cautiously — push the gas pedal to the floorboard. On public streets, you can only do that for a couple of seconds before reaching send-me-to-jail speeds.
Worse, if you’re sloppy with the throttle, it’s all too easy for the back end to swing violently around. Physics being what they are, a heavy engine up front and unimaginable power going to the back wheels means the tires can lose traction before your reflexes even realize it.
Third, it’s exhilarating.
Once you get used to the wildly excessive power, it’s an absolute hoot to drive. It moves so much air and makes so much rumbling noise that it feels like you’re piloting an entire weather system, not just driving a car.
My favorite thing about it, though, isn’t the Greek-god exhaust sounds or the neck-snapping acceleration. It’s the breadth of capability you can change by using digital sliders on its Uconnect touchscreen.
It may seem counterintuitive, using an LCD screen to control a car that feels so raw and mechanical, but it works beautifully and intuitively. You can set the car in pre-defined Street, Sport or Track modes, or you can do what I did most of the week and customize the feel however you like. You can change the car’s personality from docile to homicidal depending on your mood and your driving route.

Performance and sensations can all be tweaked through the Challenger Hellcat’s digital touchscreen.

Using the custom settings, it’s possible to dial back the power of the engine, make the suspension feel dramatically softer or harder, make the transmission shift smoothly or violently, and set the traction control system anywhere from conservative to free and wild.
That means it can be a remarkably comfortable highway cruiser in the morning, then a ferocious track-day monster in the afternoon.
What does all that cost? The 707-horsepower Hellcat starts around $59,000, and the Redeye Widebody adds another $17,000 on top of that.
Yes, that’s a lot of money. But if you want more horsepower than this from a warrantied, factory-built car, you’ll have to spend in the millions to do it.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody ($59,245). Options: Hellcat Redeye Widebody package ($17,000), Plus package ($1,695), technology group ($1,295), driver convenience group ($1,095), Laguna leather package ($1,795), summer tires ($695), Connect 4C NAV with 8.4-inch display ($795), brass monkey wheels ($995), gas guzzler tax ($1,700). Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $87,805
Wheelbase: 116.2 in.
Length: 197.5 in.
Width: 85.4 in.
Height: 57.5 in.
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8 (797 hp, 707 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 13 city, 22 highway

Style: 7
Performance: 10
Price: 10
Handling: 5
Ride: 8
Comfort: 7
Quality: 7
Overall: 10

Why buy it? 
It’s an over-the-top American muscle car. It stands out not just for its insane power but also its extraordinary ability to customize the feel and response for street or track use.

Posted in Dodge