By Eric Peters
What’s wrong with 707 horsepower? Nothing that 797 horsepower can’t cure!
That’s a two-sentence summary of the Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye — the most aptly named consumer product since Jolt Cola.
What It Is
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Start with a Charger — the last full-size, rear-drive American sedan you can still buy new — and for just $30,570 to start.
Nix the 3.6-liter V6 that’s standard in the Charger SXT; say “not enough!” to the 6.2- and 6.4-liter V8s that are available in the R/T and Scat Pack’d Chargers. Look bored when presented with the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that’s standard in the Hellcat. We need more boost! More power.
That is the $79,170 Hellcat Redeye. The air-conditioned Nextel Cup car you can drive to work.
Better buckle up.
Because more is never enough, Dodge added the Redeye to the Charger lineup. It’s what Sheriff Buford T. Justice called an attention-getter.
This 200 MPH car can also be a family car. It has a huge trunk, four doors and comfortable rear seats.
The blower. Not just the power it makes. The sound it makes.
The message it sends. America isn’t dead yet.
What’s Not So Good
There’s no option for twin 50-gallon drums of gazzuline mounted in the trunk.
Though there’s literally nothing else that delivers this level of power — and performance — for this amount of money, it is still a lot of money for most people.
Under The Hood
First of all, there’s an engine under there. Not an ugly black plastic cover. When you raise the Hellcat Redeye’s hood, which stands proudly on its own, there’s no need for a flimsy-cheesy prop rod to keep it up. You are greeted by the sight of a cast aluminum plenum box that hugs the blower — the supercharger — nestled in between the 6.2-liter Hemi’s “v.” The blower’s snout protrudes unabashedly forward, a big belt hugging the pulley that drives it, creating that keening, hair-raising wail.
The block of the V8 is painted the same Hemi Orange as 426 Hemi blocks were painted back in the glory days of the late ’60s and early ’70s.
But the glorious double four-barreled 426 Hemi of those days only made 426 horsepower. This Hemi makes 797, nearly double the output. It is also nearly as much output as produced by a current Nextel Cup stock car V8 (around 820 hp), and that is why a stone stock Redeye could not only pace the race, it could keep up with the race cars, all the way up to 200-plus MPH.
And then you could drive it home, the Redeye being 100% street legal, which a Nextel Cup stock car is not.
On The Road
Modern tire technology and the safety net of electronica such as traction/stability control have made extremely powerful cars such as this Dodge controllable cars, which they once weren’t.
Hellcat Redeye ancestors such as the 426 Hemi Chargers and its kin of the late ’60s and early ’70s were cars that you had to learn how to handle — or else they would teach you a lesson.
They didn’t have the power this latest iteration of the muscle car ethos has, but they also didn’t have the tires — or the electronica. If you gave them too much throttle, too soon — if you didn’t develop an intuitive feel for how much grip the preposterous 15-inch Wide Oval tires had left and modulated the throttle in time — the back end would break loose as if you were driving on black ice.
This is a muscle car that’s both easy to drive as well as safer to drive. But with great power comes great responsibility. This is a Nextel Cup car in terms of what it can do, even if it can be driven like any other family car.
At The Curb
Size does matter. Also, doors.
Dodge sells a Redeye version of the Challenger, which is also big relative to performance car rivals such as the Camaro and Mustang and also (like them) rear-drive are so much more fun to drive than AWD high-performance cars — if you like a little scary with your speed. But these cars lack the extra pair of doors that make the Charger Redeye a viable family car that runs like a stock car.
It has more room in back (40.1 inches of legroom) than many cars have up front, and unlike the swoop-roofed coupes, the headroom is not abbreviated, and the driver doesn’t have to get out to let the backseat passengers get in.
There is also an enormous 16.5-cubic foot trunk that can accommodate at least one body rolled up in carpet. The Challenger has a similarly roomy trunk but it’s missing the extra pair of doors and that makes it a fun car that isn’t a viable family car.
The Charger is.
It’s not just the performance that’s happily, fearsomely startling. Nor the civility of this level of ferocity, previously available in race cars only. There is one more thing that will drop your jaw. It is how little gas this thing burns — given what it can do.
Have a look at the sticker. It reads: 12 city, 21 highway. There are trucks and SUVs on the market that don’t deliver much higher figures, and they do not have the ability to peg a 220 MPH speed, which this Dodge almost can.
The Bottom Line
What else is there to say? God bless Dodge for making this car.
My hands are still shaking.
To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com. Eric’s latest book, “Doomed!” will be available soon.
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