Let me start out by saying that I was not expecting a chance to drive the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat during the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience put on by our friends at the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. I was totally expecting a long waiting list of people or, if the chance came up, a very short drive. What happened instead was a very nice drive along with one of the SRT manufacturer reps riding shotgun.
The venue for this year’s event was nothing short of spectacular! We drove from Denver up to Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, Colorado. This is just north of the Winter Park area. The event had several routes mapped out to drive the vehicles on the street and on off-road course for those who were inclined to get the trucks and SUVs dirty. Aside from a nice trip in a BF Goodrich-shod Jeep Wrangler, I spent the entire two days on the road, driving as many vehicles as I could get my hands on.
Now for the Hellcat! This is the first time I had a chance to drive anything from Dodge with over 400 horsepower. Two years ago I got skunked on the chance to drive, or even ride along in the Viper. This year I wanted to get behind the wheel of the Hellcat. Luckily I was able to. Needless to say, 707 horsepower moves down the road at a rather brisk pace when the accelerator pedal is pushed in a downward motion! The car makes a very nice roar while gaining speed at an amazing rate. The best part about having a factory rep with you when driving a car like this is learning all the neat tricks to making the car do what you want it to. We made full use of the Hellcat’s launch control system to get some quick starts in the book. If you drive around the Tabernash area, you will see several sets of parallel rubber tracks on the roads. Each of these was done using launch control. The set pictured below was done with the launch set at 3,000 RPM. According to the SRT engineers, road conditions were not optimal for a grippy start. As you can see in the picture below, we left about 45 feet of rubber without the system stopping the wheel spin. After tries at 2,500, 2,000, and 1,750 RPM, we concluded that the power was too much for the roads. Although, I am not complaining about the rubbery imprints we left on the mountain town!
The car is amazingly deceptive. Even when you stand on the gas, it takes the power and puts down with a very stable and smooth acceleration. I have driven several 600+ horsepower cars, and this behaves nicely, even with the horsepower. More impressive yet, the front and rear Brembo brakes made the stopping distances on the 4500 pound car seem really short. I was expecting to get the car stopped after crossing a couple of county lines. In addition to going fast and stopping quickly, the car was able to make all the turns at the speeds I was hoping for. The Pirelli P Zero tires did a great job of sticking, yet not squeaking, around the corners and through the curves. The interior is very nice as well. It wasn’t luxurious, but it was better than I expected for a car designed to simply go fast. The $70,000 price tag puts the value for money pretty high. That is the going rate for a new 460hp 2016 Corvette Stingray.
My personal take on the car is that it would be fun to drive after removing everything that says Hellcat. Remove all the badges and find some unsuspecting Porsches, Corvettes, Mustangs, or other fast cars and steal their money. I am really looking forward to a chance at driving this car at a track sometime in the near future!