By Derek Price
Apparently 707 horsepower wasn’t enough.
Dodge is pushing the limits of performance, and perhaps sanity, with its newest, high-speed version of the four-door Charger family car.
The Hellcat, priced at roughly $70,000, adds an additional 10 horses this year to reach 717 horsepower.
But the bigger news is that Dodge is offering a high-output version of its 6.2-liter, supercharged V8 in the Hellcat Redeye, priced closer to $80,000. It makes 797 horsepower, enough to make it the “fastest mass-produced sedan in the world,” according to Dodge honcho Tim Kuniskis.
It’s not bluster. The Hellcat Redeye feels like a force of nature from the driver’s seat, where its ability to easily smoke tires and make thunderous noises serves as an ever-present temptation to punch the throttle.
This car raises some legitimate questions about whether it’s responsible to drive one, both from a safety and environmental standpoint. Turning over the keys to a 797-horsepower car to anyone with $80,000 to spend — the sticker price of a nice pickup truck these days — seems to taunt death.
“Come get me, Grim Reaper” is what this car says at full throttle.
Its 12-mpg city fuel-economy rating — and corresponding $2,100 gas-guzzler tax — make it a car that wouldn’t be viewed kindly by the Biden administration.
That’s part of its appeal, too. The Charger Hellcat is an outlier, intentionally swimming against the flow of today’s eco-friendly, electric-powered, self-driving river.
Of course, the Hellcat doesn’t exist solely to sell Hellcats. It’s also a way to draw attention to the less powerful, more affordable versions of the Charger, something that shows in this car’s impressive sales numbers. Most four-door sedans have been dropping dramatically in sales, but the Charger has bucked that trend in recent years — a reminder that it can pay to be a contrarian.
The base charger starts under $30,000 with a 292-horsepower V6 engine and 30-mpg highway rating, a combination that makes it the most popular large sedan in America.
You can get it with a 370-horsepower, 5.7-liter HEMI V8 for $36,995 in the R/T, or a bigger, 485-horsepower V8 in the Scat Pack for $41,095. That makes the Scat Pack the best new-sedan bargain on the planet if you think in terms of horsepower per dollar.
It’s the Hellcat Redeye, though, at the top of the heap.
This is a terrifying car to drive, especially on slick roads, when its electronic traction control system works up a sweat trying to keep the car pointed in the right direction. And when the pavement is dry, you almost have to gently feather the throttle to keep from reaching criminal speeds.
Both the cabin and body styling feel dated in 2021, but I can forgive it for one reason: it’s a retro-styled car to begin with. This drawback doesn’t feel as egregious as if the Charger was trying to look contemporary.
Its Uconnect infotainment system, though, is impressively modern. Dodge, Chrysler and Ram products, even those with aging bones, have done an exceptional job keeping the look, design and functionality of their digital interface up to date. I’ve driven a lot of pricey luxury cars that don’t execute the basics of speed and simplicity as well as the Uconnect system does.
As an excitement generator, the Charger Hellcat Redeye absolutely unmatched at this price.
It demands respect from the driver, and it rewards that respect by offering performance rarely encountered in a street-legal car — especially one with four doors and a trunk.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody ($69,995). Options: Customer preferred package 2BZ ($8,600), carbon/suede interior package ($1,595), navigational and travel group ($995), power sunroof ($1,995), three-season tires ($695), black brake calipers ($595), gas guzzler tax ($2,100). Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $88,065
Wheelbase: 120 in.
Length: 201 in.
Width: 82.7 in.
Height: 57.6 in.
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8 (797 horsepower, 707 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy: 12 city, 21 highway
Why buy it?
It’s a practical, four-door family car that happens to offer mind-bending speed in its high-performance Hellcat versions. At every price point in the lineup, it’s a muscular bargain.