Although this 2016 Dodge Challenger Hellcat lacks any large badging or space age looking aero packages to indicate its pedigree, the second you open the door it’s clear that it’s something special. The beautiful leather seats tightly grip your body while the car’s heated steering wheel ensures your hands won’t be too cold to handle its 707 horsepower. As your eyes and hands come into contact with the cars plethora of soft touch surfaces, leather, and beautiful stitching, it becomes hard to believe you’re sitting in an American made car. Despite all of the interior’s highlights though, any car enthusiast’s eye quickly locks focus on the start-stop button.
With the tap of a finger, the Challenger roars to life at a volume sure to upset your neighbors. As the car idles down, shifting the Tremec 6 speed manual transmission into first is done in a short crisp motion. Overall the whole drivetrain of the car provides great driving feel, but one unexpected issue with the Hellcat was its clutch. Although the weight and feel of the clutch is very good, while operating it my size 13 shoe got caught between the bottom of the dash kick panel and the floor of the car. I had to very carefully position my foot in order to smoothly operate the clutch. This has never happened to me in any Mustang, Camaro, or any other standard car I’ve driven before. This quirk doesn’t take away from the car, but it is something to consider for a potential buyer.
With gentle throttle input and low RPM gear changes, the Hellcat drives the same as any other Challenger. Other than its unearthly powerful brakes, it doesn’t feel much different than a 300C or a base model Charger. If you listen carefully though, you can hear the distinct but faint whine of a supercharger, and the low V8 growl of an engine that is daring you to unleash its power. It isn’t until you accept this dare that the Hellcat proves its name. Any hard launch from first and the car forces you to choose your throttle input carefully. The car doesn’t understand the concepts of “floor it” or “wide open throttle.” Instead, it forces you to work with the gas pedal and reason with it in order to keep the tires gripping the road. The Hellcat is not a car that you drive, it is a car that allows you to drive it under its own terms and conditions. Some of this feeling is exacerbated by the car’s thin 275mm rear tires. For reference, the 650 horsepower ZL1 Camaro and Z06 Corvette are both running tires over 300mm in width. From this comparison, I can’t help but wonder why Dodge didn’t make room for a larger tire on the car.
Overall though, the Hellcat is a car that will put a smile on your face that is difficult to remove. It is a unique driving experience that makes you appreciate just how far automotive engineering has progressed. It is exactly what I expected a ferociously fast, unapologetically heavy, and loud car that defines the word “muscle” in muscle car. All in all, driving a Hellcat is an experience you won’t easily forget. Apex would like to thank Carbone Dodge for letting us review this iconic American muscle car.
Words by Jacob Cetnar and photos by Chris Penree