by Gabe Beita Kiser
The year is 1969. Man has landed on the moon using the equivalent of half of a Nokia 3310's computational capacity. The man sitting in front of the TV with his family watching Armstrong bound across the moon's surface has a 440 Magnum Dodge Charger parked in the driveway. Fast forward to 2019. That man's grandson now holds the combined knowledge of humanity in his front-left jean pocket. He also drives a Dodge Charger, but this one's a little bit quicker. The 2019 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was first introduced in 2015 and blew everyone away with its ridiculous power figures of over 700 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. Here was a Dodge sedan that could do 204 mph and still take the kids to school after the fact. The SRT Hellcat offers supercar performance at family car prices and has already been cemented as a modern American classic. Is there anything that can keep up with the Hellcat in the mid-sized sedan class?
Since its release back in 2015, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat has seen minor updates. In 2018 a rear backup camera and rear park assist became standard fare, and for 2019 Dodge has made further changes to its beastly Hellcat with subtle exterior and interior styling updates, while revising trim level names and the features that go with them. The rest of the SRT Hellcat remains the same: tons of power, lots of attitude, and a personality that will fill up any garage no matter the size.
The 2019 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is priced from $68,990 (MSRP), but that price can quickly escalate when you dig into the options list, and there are a whole lot of them. The Challenger is cheaper at $59,245, but when you start to compare the Charger to its peers from over the pond, it becomes clear why the Hellcat is one of the performance bargains of the decade. The mighty BMW M5 starts off at $102,700, but you only get 600 hp and 553 lb-ft, and the Autobahn bruising Mercedez-Benz AMG E63 Sedan which retails for $106,350 gets a bit closer in terms of power, but can't match the Charger's sense of occasion.
See trim levels and configurations:
6.2L Supercharged V8 Gas
The Charger SRT Hellcat was never designed to lap the Nurburgring in record times, but as a daily driven sports sedan, it performs surprisingly well. The Hellcat will remain relatively flat when going through fast corners, but there is almost no feedback from the front of the car, and to make matters worse, the stiff rear end is easily thrown off by mid-corner bumps. That stiff rear end, accompanied by large 20-inch wheels can make the Charger feel crashy on bumpy roads. The throttle response on the Charger ranges from sluggish to all-out insanity within a minimal range of pedal movement, so it is best to be very careful with throttle inputs. That said, the Hellcat is surprisingly nimble around town and is an obvious freeway bomber. There are some redeeming factors to the way the Charger SRT Hellcat handles and rides, however; the steering at low speeds is nicely weighted, and all that low down torque means you can nip in between traffic without hesitation.
It's almost as if nothing has changed in the past 50 odd years. The great American muscle car might have seen a few low points in recent decades, but it's back and better than ever. The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat exemplifies the tremendous American automotive spirit of producing affordable and comfortable family cars that'll blow the doors clean off more exotic European offerings. The Hellcat not only undercuts its competitors on price but does so in almost every other category, including power, space, and tech. The Charger Hellcat is by no means a perfect car, all you need to do is take it to a track day, or count your fuel stops and you'll quickly notice some of its more obvious faults. As a package, there is very little else that can compare with it: who else builds a 707-hp family sedan that's actually comfortable and can do the school run just as comfortably as the quarter-mile sprint? The Hellcat is an American hero through and through.
While there's only one option, the reasons for buying it are numerous. From a price perspective, the Charger SRT Hellcat undercuts its competition by a massive margin but offers more performance than most of its competitors (the ones powered by gas at least). The Charger Hellcat is also a practical daily driver that can do all the things you'd expect from a Toyota Camry. It's got a generous interior and cargo space, and besides a severe drinking habit, it will happily do the daily commute. The Hellcat is also extremely customizable, just as a good hotrod ought to be. Adding the Navigation and Travel package for $995, and the Harman Kardon premium sound system for $1,795 rounds up the Charger Hellcat nicely, and bumps up the asking price to a total of $64,710 including destination charges.
The Camaro ZL1 might be a two-door coupe, but it definitely plays in the same schoolyard as the Charger Hellcat. Both cars make use of a 6.2-liter supercharged V8, but the Chevy loses out to the Charger in terms of outright power but matches the Charger for torque, developing 650 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque versus the Charger's 707 hp. Both send power to the rear wheels, but the Camaro has the option of a six-speed manual and can get to sixty in around 3.5 seconds. The Camaro offers more space in the front but is obviously more constrained in the rear, while the Charger also has the benefit of more usable cargo space. That's where things look up for the Hellcat - all the performance, but none of the compromises on practicality either. With more standard features and greater levels of luxury, the question isn't why you should buy the Charger, but rather why not?
The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon was a purpose-built drag car that somehow got street-legal status, and comparing it to the Charger Hellcat is a bit of a frivolous exercise, but we'll do it because people like comparing fast cars. The Demon is powered by the same 6.2-liter supercharged V8, but now produces 808 hp, over a hundred more horsepower than the Hellcat, and a massive 717 lb-ft. All of that power is sent to the back wheels via a strengthened eight-speed gearbox which enables the Demon to sprint to sixty in only 2.1 seconds, but this requires a prepped drag strip and sticky tires. Amazingly the Demon will match the Hellcat's fuel consumption figures with 13/22/16 mpg city/highway/combined, but real-world data should tell a different story. The Demon comes with a similar infotainment setup and safety equipment, but can be completely ruled out as a serious daily driven car. The Charger offers a better-balanced offering for daily use.