The most fun you can have without strapping yourself to a Space X Rocket bound for Mars.
Buried in the mind of a demented FCA product planner must have been a terrible nightmare. In it, they sat in a candle-lit room staring into a mirror chanting, "Bloody Mary Bloody Mary Bloody Mary!” Only instead of bleeding dead queen appearing in the reflection, the shriek of a supercharger shattered the glass and ripped them awake so their possessed hands could get to work designing the newest member of hell’s army. With no more Viper in the lineup to channel an evil from within, that poor planner had to pay the price for selling their soul to the devil by augmenting Dodge’s only remaining Halo Car, the Challenger. Like an automotive Dr. Frankenstein, they must have realized how to finish turning mankind to the dark side when they saw the leftover engine components used to make each of the 3,300 Challenger Demons and a few Hellcats with empty engine bays nearby.
It is with heavy hearts that we must inform you that the CarBuzz offices were not spared from the evil rampage that ensued because the car that product guru built, the Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, turned up outside our doors like an Indigo Blue Trojan Horse and only left after it stole all the goodwill left in our hearts.
We didn’t stand a chance against the absolute corruption that absolute horsepower brings with it, and it’s obvious Dodge couldn’t either. You see, after giving the original Hellcat’s 6.2-liter V8 a larger supercharger and new internals so it could throw more savage tantrums under the Demon’s hood, it became obvious that 3,300 copies of that motor were not enough. Enter the Hellcat Redeye, a diabolical widow-maker that inherits the Demon’s 6.2-liter V8, its 2.7-liter supercharger, and all the hardened internals that made the Demon capable of churning out 808 horsepower on pump gas and 840 ponies with a kick of octane.
Without the Demon’s high-octane fuel system and sizable hood scoop, the Redeye is restricted to "only” 797 horsepower and 707 lb-ft of torque. Dodge claims that’s enough power to launch the Redeye from 0-60 mph in just 3.4 seconds, but we quickly learned that’s a number you need either launch control or lots of experience to approach.
The reason for that is the Redeye’s 8-speed automatic gearbox and RWD configuration. Dodge made the transmission strong enough to put up with the engine’s temper, which means the rear tires are the weakest link in this power delivery system. Put your foot down, even halfway, and you may even mistakenly think the Challenger is in neutral. The tachometer will shoot to its 6,500 rpm redline as if no gear has been engaged with the supercharger emitting an alarm-like whine, and you’ll start to wonder why you’re not moving until white tire smoke surrounds the cabin.
Yes, prudence is required if you want the tires to latch onto pavement, but even that can’t get the Hellcat Redeye to sip fuel at an acceptable rate. We averaged only 9.1 MPG during our week with the Redeye thanks in part to lots of aggressive driving and hours spent idling in city traffic, which made us want to forget about gas stations and look for a refinery.
One thing lovers of the Challenger’s retro aesthetic will enjoy is how the Hellcat Redeye looks just like the Hellcat, which itself looks like a regular Challenger with Michael Bay-approved design elements thrown in. These include a front air splitter, two air-catching inlets hiding in the center of round turn signals, a hood with two nostril-like air scoops (only one of which appears to be functional), red brake calipers that bite 15.4-inch front rotors, and a rear decklid spoiler.
The only way to distinguish between the Redeye and a standard Hellcat at a glance is to look at the Hellcat badges. Hellcat Redeye models feature a cat with red eyes, Hellcats have no red in their eyes. Among the options that bundle aesthetic and performance upgrades into one package is the Widebody kit. It adds 3.5-inches to the Challenger’s overall width, allowing for larger 305-mm tires to replace the standard 275-mm tires as a bandaid attempt at taming the utter chaos the engine can cause.
For a space that’ll see its occupants undergo many near-death experiences, the Challenger’s cabin is fairly comfortable. Much of that is due to the Laguna leather package that covers the door trim panels and seats with buttery soft hide. A nuisance we encountered is the fact that many functions, including drive mode selection, are exclusively controlled on the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen, which at least is easy to reach and more responsive than most. After adjusting Uconnect’s display themes and marveling at how the speedometer tops out at 220 mph, there isn’t much eye candy aside from easter eggs like the backlit SRT logo on the steering wheel.
Lack of distraction usually bodes well in a car that demands 110% of a driver’s attention, but there isn’t much to see outside either thanks to large C-pillars and tight window openings. Low exterior visibility would count as a demerit if it didn’t add such a cool war room vibe to the cabin, so we'll give the Challenger a pass this time.
The Hellcat Redeye seems a lot bigger when you look at it from the exterior. Our test car’s widebody kit brings total width to 79.2-inches, leaving height at 55.7-inches and length at 197.5-inches. In order to fit 16.2 cubic-feet of trunk space onto a chassis that holds the roomiest interior among Detroit muscle cars, the rear has to maintain its large overhang, which caps wheelbase at 116.2-inches. You feel that rear axle pushing the back seats forward, but the fact that rear bench can hold three people and give them 33.1-inches of legroom in the process is impressive enough to let the Dodge dodge complaints.
Better still are the 42-inches of legroom and 39.3-inches of headspace up the front. Unfortunately, all of the Hellcat Redeye’s bonuses-the massively powerful engine, fantastic retro looks, enough interior space to contemplate your life before the necessary acceptance of your mortality-all converge to make for one large downfall: a 4,448-pound curb weight.
They say weight is the enemy of performance, but if you think that means a big heavy object can’t go fast then you don’t understand the concept of American Muscle. Essentially, the SRT division has mastered the art of controlling chaos so it can be enjoyed as both a toy and a daily driver. The throttle maps in Eco (hah) and Street modes enable gradual starts and don’t really dip into the horsepower reserves until halfway through the pedal's travel. Customizable driving modes mean you can alter transmission timing, suspension stiffness, throttle responsiveness, steering weight, traction control intervention, and toggle between 500-797 horsepower with a few touchscreen presses.
That comes in handy when you find that lighter steering settings translate to low confidence on curvy roads or when the portly body leans too far into corners with the dampers set to comfort. But no matter how hard Dodge tried to give the Hellcat Redeye manners, all that training flies out the window when the throttle is shoved.
Put the Redeye in Sport mode and suddenly the traction control becomes too liberal for those who’ve never seen the inside of an insane asylum. Get on the gas and all eyes turn towards the Redeye as the engine roars and the supercharger screams its high-pitched wail, informing everything in front to get out of its way. The rush is absolutely intoxicating if you can contain yourself enough to let the tires get grip. That’s when the scenery starts to blur, and just when you’re expecting to be able to peel your head off the headrest, the transmission snaps another gear into place and the violent rush towards the horizon continues. And then, when you’re certain a jail cell is in your future, the Redeye hits you with another gear and slams your body back against leather seats as if it knows nothing in life except piling on more speed. The Redeye is absolutely relentless, but thankfully, so are its brakes.
If you find yourself getting to speeds outside your realm of comfort, a stomp on the brake pedal is all it takes to give yourself another concussion, this time as your brain hits the front of your skull, and save a beautiful car and its occupants from an early grave. Interestingly, the rush of speed isn’t even the best part about the Hellcat Redeye. That would be how controllable it is while the tires are spinning wildly and when staring in the direction of travel means turning your head to the side.
When chasing a Hellcat Redeye’s loose rear end with the steering wheel, you’ll quickly find that the engineering team made the chassis highly controllable. A wagging tail responds well to steering inputs and transitions in the direction of oversteer are advertised so the driver can prepare for counter steer. For such a maniacal machine, it’s easy to get in the Hellcat’s groove and build confidence when the physics of driving become more like those of piloting a boat.
A weeklong fling with the Hellcat Redeye is all it took for us to fall in love with it, and part of that affection comes from the fact that it worked perfectly throughout the entire week. Many luxury cars we drive find an opportunity for their electronics to glitch within that seven-day window, and it happens more often to vehicles that depend on touchscreens to control major systems. Not the Hellcat Redeye.
Everything on it, especially the heavily boosted engine, worked just as intended. There were some annoyances, like the low front splitter that can easily get scratched and a launch control system that still lets the rear slip out from under you if the throttle is still pinned after 40 mph (shocker, you need to drive the Hellcat Redeye like the performance car that it is), but if we have any legitimate complaints to wage they would center around the interior’s materials. Not that anything went wrong, but the materials feel rather cheap for a car that costs $89,405.
Let me repeat that sticker price: $89,405. Unfortunately, that’s not a typo. The Challenger, blue-collar hero that it is, becomes a car for the one percent when the Hellcat Redeye moniker is added to its name. Without a single option except for the Redeye designation, it’s possible to snag a Hellcat Redeye for $72,645 including the $1,700 gas guzzler tax and $1,395 destination charge. Our tester’s price shot up to almost $90k with the help of the $1,795 Laguna Leather Package, the $1,595 HK sound system, a $1,995 sunroof, $1,095 worth of driver aids, and a combined total of $3,580 for all-season tires, Uconnect, and appearance options like the $1,695 Plus Package.
The single most expensive option is the $6,000 Widebody Kit, which is worth it for the looks alone if signing large checks is no trouble for you. If that's the case, that check buys you a hell of a lot more than just a bundle of horsepower.
It buys you a fountain of youth and the spirit of American Muscle. This isn’t just a baseball steak served with fries in a diner full of Marlboro smoke, this is Eddie Van Halen’s fingers making magic with a fretboard. This is the tap that rips open dopamine reserves in every brain within hearing range. These are the great gods of horsepower angrily erupting out of rear tires, smoke oozing out of the black orbs like a pyroclastic flow.
For those of us who get our rocks off with the scent of smoldering tires, the Hellcat Redeye is the ticket to freedom and no matter how broke you go filling it up, no matter how many stern talks you get from the cops, you just Can’t. Get. Enough.