Ann M. Job
Want some attention and excitement in the new year? Try the newest Dodge Challenger — the one with a 707-horsepower, supercharged Hemi V-8 under the hood.
Popular Mechanics magazine calls the top-of-the-line, new-for 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat the "wildest muscle car Detroit (has) ever built" and named it "Best Muscle Car" for 2015.
With a 0-to-60-mph time of just 3.7 seconds and a quarter-mile time of only 11.2 seconds, the Challenger SRT Hellcat is among the fastest production cars in the world and easily outshines America's other muscle cars.
Auto enthusiast magazines confirm the 16.5-foot-long, two-door coupe can beat a 2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 and 2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium in 0-to-60 and quarter-mile times.
Both competitors have V-8s, but they are not supercharged.
The Challenger SRT Hellcat is the first Dodge with a supercharged Hemi V-8.But it's not going to be the last. Dodge is already taking orders for the Charger SRT Hellcat sedan, which will use the same 6.2-litre supercharged Hemi V-8 that's in the Challenger and be the fastest production sedan.
Pricing for the Challenger SRT Hellcat is not unreasonable, given the car's unique power.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge and federal government gas guzzler tax is $60,990 for a model with six-speed, Tremec, manual transmission. Dodge offers a new eight-speed automatic transmission called TorqueFlight for an additional $1,995.
Note that a base, 2015 Challenger SXT with 305-horsepower V-6 has a starting retail price, including destination charge, of $27,990, which is less than half the starting price of a 2015 Challenger with Hellcat engine.
In comparison, the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro coupe with 505-horsepower V-8 and other Z/28 performance parts can carry a retail price of around $70,000. The 2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium with 435-horsepower V-8 starts at $37,125, with an as-yet-unpriced Shelby GT350 Mustang due by late 2015.
To be sure, the 2015 Challenger in any trim level has retro looks. The long, wide body of the two-door coupe is reminiscent of the early 1970s when the Challenger, Camaro and Mustang were popular muscle cars.
But the rear-wheel drive Challenger SRT Hellcat goes beyond nostalgia. For the first time, it's a Challenger with a black and a red key fob.
The red one unlocks the full engine power all the way up to 707 horses, while the black one might be called the "safer-for-valet" fob. It limits engine power to 500 horses and keeps electronic stability control on all the time. On automatic transmission models, like the test car, the red fob also gets the car moving from second gear and avoids extreme burnouts.
The car's sounds, deeply throaty and loud, were impressive, promising a wild ride. On the other hand, the Challenger SRT Hellcat could be a docile traveller if it was driven like a normal car. Using the lengthy throttle travel, the driver can easily manage pedal pressure and the power appropriately for city streets, school zones and leisurely drives.
The Challenger tester didn't feel like it was lugging at all, just moving as requested. It was only the driver who felt as if the car was crawling at these residential-street speeds.
Activating the Sport or Track drive mode and pressing the accelerator pedal deeply, however, brought a different character to the car.
The quickness of response could be breathtaking as torque peaks at an amazing 650 foot-pound at 4,000 rpm.
But fuel mileage is the pits, with a government rating of just 13 miles per gallon in the city and 21 or 22 mpg, depending on the transmission, on highways.
Big and heavy at more than 4,300 pounds, the Challenger impressed with its strong body control. The overall ride in the test car was firm and road vibrations came through strongly to passengers. But the ride was not jolting on most roads and didn't feel punishing.
Brembo brakes front and rear, with six-piston calipers at the front, ensure strong stopping power and worked impressively on the test car.
Getting into the Challenger's back seat is difficult for all but youths. Legroom back there is 33.1 inches.
Trunk space is 16.2 cubic feet, much of it in length, not depth.
A 2015 Challenger with V-6 earned an overall five out of five stars in U.S. government crash tests.
Consumer Reports lists the Challenger as a "recommended buy," with average predicted reliability for the R/T with non-supercharged V-8.
Some 11,000 Challengers from the 2015 model were the subject of a safety recall as instrument gauges might not work at startup because of an undersized microprocessor circuit trace.