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 Hellcat leaves little to the imagination, and at first glance, it looks like an over-exaggerated child's toy car that's been blown up to real-car proportions or some sort of transformer machine. The standard Charger's body has been sculpted into an ultra-muscular behemoth that looks almost as intimidating as the 1970 R/T with its covered headlights, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell that the modern Charger is related to the old one. The front of the car is dominated by a slew of massive intakes, while the back is kept together by taillights that span the entirety of the rear end complete with a body-colored rear spoiler. The headlights get HID lamps with LED daytime running beams, and buyers can opt for a panoramic sunroof. The whole thing rolls on a set of 20-inch alloys wrapped in massive 275/40ZR20 all-season performance tires, but if you really want to put the power down, you'll have to opt for the P Zero summer tires.
The Charger Hellcat is a proper midsize family sedan and mirrors the numbers of its contemporaries. The Charger measures 200.8 inches in length, it's 58.2 inches tall and 75 inches wide. Where the Charger SRT Hellcat stands apart from the crowd is in the wheelbase department; measuring 120.4 inches between the axles, whereas its sibling the Challenger SRT Hellcat only gets 116.2, and the Tesla Model S P100D measures 116.5 inches. The Charger Hellcat sits 4.6 inches off the ground and weighs a rather hefty 4,575 lbs, which feels like 2,000 when you put your foot down. In comparison, the two-door Challenger Hellcat weighs only 127 pounds less, and the all-electric Tesla Model S is a whole 366 pounds more thanks to all those batteries.
Back in '69, you could have your Charger in over 20 colors. This list included at least five shades of brown as well as wild and wonderful descriptions such as Bahama Yellow and Go Mango. For 2019 the color choices are somewhat more limited, down to 14 options, but they're as striking as ever, and we're glad to announce that Go Mango has made a comeback. No-cost options include 12 hues, including everything from subtle Destroyer Gray Clearcoat and White Knuckle Clearcoat to the outrageous Go Mango, GI Joe-inspired F8 Green, and luminous Sublime Metallic Clearcoat. Optional colors are affordable, too, with B5 Blue Pearlcoat and Plum Crazy Pearlcoat costing just $69 and $70 respectively. Everyone who knows a little bit about muscle cars will instantly recognize color descriptions such as Go Mango and Plum Crazy, colors that made otherwise basic family cars look like exotic beasts. The new Charger looks excellent in most of its pajamas but is uber menacing in a darker shade of grey.
Let's be honest, the person buying a Charger SRT Hellcat won't be phased by fuel consumption figures or trunk space. It's all about how fast it can go, and boy is it fast. There is nothing this side of a Tesla that can truly prepare your body for the violent acceleration and brute G-forces generated when you launch the Hellcat from a dig, no matter how many numbers or video reviews you've looked at. The massive V8 lurking under the hood feels like it's barely strapped down, and at full tilt will haul the Charger from 0-60 mph in a mere 3.6 seconds, a quarter-mile time of 11.8 seconds at 124.3 mph and an insane 204 mph top speed. All in a car that will happily sit in bumper to bumper traffic hauling groceries, kids, dogs, and freedom all day long. It's all thanks to the behemoth of a V8 measuring 6.2-liters, bolted to a great big supercharger to develop 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, sent entirely rearwards through an eight-speed automatic.
Arguably the most crucial piece of the Hellcat puzzle is its engine: a 6.2-liter, supercharged V8 that develops an earth-shattering 707 hp and 650 lb-ft. To get to that level of power reliably, Dodge had to make sure that the motor was backed up by some serious gear. The cast-iron block engine has a displacement of 376 cubic inches with a forged steel crank, with forged connecting rods and pistons. The aluminum Hemi heads flow enough air to make your leaf blower look like a kid's toy, and as if that wasn't enough, Dodge had to go and slap a 2,400-cc twin-screw supercharger on top of it all. Another interesting fact; the 92-mm throttle body used on the Hellcat is the largest ever used in a Chrysler Group vehicle. All that power is sent through an eight-speed automatic transmission that impresses with its quick shifts and responsive steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Despite the beefy tires and traction control systems, you still need to feather the throttle to some extent to get the best out of the Hellcat. Pin the throttle, and all you'll see is an expensive cloud of tire smoke.
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.
Possibly the least important part of Hellcat ownership would be the fuel consumption figures and expecting the worst usually cushions the blow of reality. According to the EPA, the 2019 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat will achieve 13/22/16 mpg city/highway/combined if you drive like a pensioner but expect those numbers to drop significantly in the real world, especially in the first few months of ownership. To put things into perspective, a Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 Sedan, powered by a twin-turbocharged V8 that produces 100 hp less, will only achieve two miles more per gallon. The Charger Hellcat is fitted with an 18.5-gallon fuel tank, giving it an estimated range of 324 miles.
The interior of the Hellcat is a comfy and practical place to be thanks to a generous amount of interior space and easy to use features, which sells the idea that the Dodge Charger Hellcat can be used as an everyday cruiser. The Hellcat is packed with small elements that make daily living more comfortable, such as 12-volt power outlets, 4G LTE WiFi, dual climate control with front and rear control outlets, and interior LED lamps. The driver gets a heated steering wheel and a speedometer that goes all the way up to 200 mph. In terms of fit and finish, the Dodge does an excellent job of buttoning everything up, but despite the use of thick acoustic glass and sound deadening, the Hellcat can't compare with the German luxury sedans. Visibility in the Charger is compromised by thick front pillars and a small, sloping rear window that makes backing up a task best left to the rearview camera.
The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat will seat five adults in comfort. Wide opening front doors make getting in and out of the front a simple task, but low mounted seats can cause difficulty for some. The smaller doors and sloping roofline in the rear makes it somewhat more difficult for backseat passengers to get in. The seats are mounted low in the front which can also hamper access. The seats in the Charger Hellcat are not shaped like those found in German sport sedans, which tend to feature motorsport style bucket seats. Instead, you get big and comfy, couch-like seats that still offer good side bolstering, but are clearly designed for long-haul comfort over G-force limiting support. The driving position is good, and there is more than enough adjustability in the steering column and seat to get comfortable, no matter your size. The front legroom in the Hellcat is 41.8 inches, and the headroom is a respectable 38.6. The 59.5-inch shoulder room shows off the Charger's interior space. Rear seat legroom is a generous 40.1 inches, but headroom takes a knock thanks to the sloping roofline and measures 36.6 inches.
At the lower end of the Charger lineup, the interiors might look spartan, but the Charger SRT Hellcat spoils its occupants with generous helpings of leather and aluminum. The steering wheel and shift knob are covered in leather. Exclusive to the Hellcat range are the Laguna leather-wrapped seats which can be selected in black with silver stitching, sepia with silver stitching, or Demonic Red. Combination Alcantara/leather seats in black with silver stitching are an option with the Alcantara package. SRT Hellcat logos are embossed into the front seats, and you'll notice the logo on the premium Hellcat floormats. The interior also gets race-inspired aluminum inserts. Some of the soft-touch plastics are carried over from the lower spec models and feels a tad rubbery, but fit and finish is of acceptable quality, although not at good as that of its German rivals. Red seatbelts are also available at a $195 premium.
Trunk space on the Charger Hellcat measures a healthy 16.1 cubic feet, a respectable size for a midsize sedan. The other American four-door powerhouse, the Cadillac CTS-V, manages only 13.7 cubic feet. With that amount of space, you should be able to easily fit five or six cases of Bud Light and still have room to spare. 60/40 split-folding rear seats increase storage when needed, with minimal compromise in terms of seating practicality.
There's ample personal storage space in the Charger Hellcat, including a full-length center console with a large storage container integrating a 12-volt power supply. A generously sized glovebox and door pockets add to the Charger's daily practicality.
The Hellcat represents the ultimate Dodge Charger on sale at the moment, so it makes sense that you get a ton of standard features as part of the package. On the outside, the Hellcat comes with automatic HID headlamps and is available with optional LED fog lamps. You also get rain-sensing windshield wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Inside you get a seven-inch digital instrument cluster which can be customized to show you important performance or engine information. You start the Hellcat via a push-button, and the flat bottomed steering wheel is leather-wrapped, heated, and comes with mounted audio controls and paddle shifters. The seats in the SRT Hellcat are heated, front and rear, and front seats are adjustable in eight ways with four-way lumbar support. Ventilation is available optionally. Adaptive cruise control makes living with the big cat even more relaxed, and the selectable driving modes allow you to turn your muscle car into a tame city cruiser or frothing beast at the touch of a display button. Smaller inclusions such as twin USB ports and a universal garage door opener wrap things up.
Dodge hit the nail on the head when it designed the Uconnect infotainment system fitted to the Hellcat. The system consists of an 8.4-inch display screen and a six-speaker Alpine sound system which can (and should) be upgraded to a banging 19-speaker GreenEdge Harman Kardon system. This class-leading system comes with voice command, SiriusXM radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The 8.4-inch infotainment system has Bluetooth and CD/DVD/MP3 connectivity as well as an auxiliary input and two USB ports. Upgrading to the Uconnect 4C system will get you navigation. This system feels seamless, and first-time users will find that it only requires a short learning curve to master most of the controls.
The Dodge Charger Hellcat has had its fair share of recalls since its launch in 2015, ranging from fire hazards to defective trim pieces. The first recall affected approximately 2,211 2015 Challenger and Charger Hellcats and was due to a fault in the fuel delivery system that could cause a fire hazard. In 2017 Dodge recalled over a thousand Hellcats for a defective rubber oil cooling hose that could leak, causing a fire. 2018 saw three recalls; the first was for a transmission issue that prohibited the shifter from going into park, the second was for a loose front driveshaft that could become unattached, and the third was for a malfunctioning cruise control setting that wouldn't allow the driver to cancel cruise control. There have been no recalls for the 2019 Dodge Charger Hellcat. Dodge backs the Hellcat with a basic four years/50,000-mile warranty, a four-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty, a three-year/36,000-mile maintenance warranty, and four years of roadside assistance.
The 2019 Dodge Charger has been tested by both the IIHS and the NHTSA in its base format, but not in SRT or Hellcat form, although the ratings should remain applicable. On the IIHS rating system, it performed moderately well and achieved the best possible Good scores for most tests The NHTSA scored the Charger a perfect five-out-of-five score.
The SRT Hellcat comes jam-packed with safety features. An airbag count of eight includes dual front, front-seat-mounted, and side curtain airbags, while exclusive to the Hellcat is a multi-stage front airbag system. Active safety tech includes blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection as well as a rearview camera. The electronic stability control system includes brake assist, rain brake support and hill-start assistance. While you're on the road, the Charger will keep you relaxed with its adaptive cruise control and active lane-keep assistance.
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.
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.
The 2019 Charger Hellcat is a standalone model at the top of the Charger pile, so you only get the one available trim, but Dodge has given new owners a vast list of options and freedom to customize the car in a number of ways, so you could see two Hellcats with two very different looks and feels at the same car meet. Dodge fans can, however, look forward to the Redeye version coming in 2020 that will add even more performance to this insane package. Standard features on the SRT Hellcat include 20-inch dark gloss alloy wheels, SiriusXM Radio, a Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch display, a rear-view camera with park assist, heated and power-adjustable sport seats, and more.
6.2-liter Supercharged V8 Gas
Rear Wheel Drive
Despite being an all-encompassing range-topper, there is still a range of options to customize your Charger SRT Hellcat aside from the range of exterior color options. Starting with the exterior, a black satin hood will cost you $1,995. There's a wide range of stripe and decal packages with the most expensive being the $3,495 Black Satin Graphics Package. Wheel options range from a set of $995 low-gloss black forged units to the $1,195 dark bronze forged aluminum wheels. Whichever wheel style you go for, you can wrap them in $695 P Zero performance summer tires. The optional sunroof costs $1,995, and you can even get red seat belts for $195. There are three main options packages available for the Hellcat: a $695 Alcantara seat package, a $995 navigation package than adds SiriusXM Traffic Plus with a five-year subscription, and a $1,795 Harman Kardon Audio System which includes 19 surround sound speakers and an amplifier.
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.