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.
But with a lot more kick.
What It Is
Start with a Charger – the last full-size, rear-drive American sedan you can still buy new – and for just $30,570 to start, which is tens of thousands less than what it costs to buy any of the other rear-drive, full-size sedans left on the market (the handful remaining all being luxury-branded models like the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class sedans and priced accordingly).
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. Ten-point-six seconds through the quarter mile at 124 MPH-plus and more than 200 MPH on top sounds about right. The ability to do a burnout at 30 MPH and chiropractically adjust your spine via your right foot at any speed.
That is the Hellcat Redeye. The air conditioned Nextel Cup car you can drive to work.
But this kind of speed does not come cheap. The asking price is $79,170 – a $9k bump over the merely 707 horsepower and 11 second Hellcat, which lists for $70,570.
On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing that even approximates the brass-knuckled brutality of this thing, even if you paid twice as much for it. The handful of ultra-sedans that can approach the Redeye’s performance are all smaller and less than half the fun, because almost all of them are all-wheel-drive, which prevents you from doing a rolling burnout at 30 MPH.
Better buckle up.
Because more is never enough, Dodge added the Redeye to the Charger lineup. Like the ho-hum Hellcat, it comes with the pontoon-flared Wide Body, to fit those 20 inch steamroller tires you’ll be smoking, heated rear seats, brakes that won’t catch fire when you’re decelerating from 200-plus MPH and crushed Alcantara suede trim to keep you cozy when you’re just moseying along at 70.
Plus, another 90 horsepower and fun stuff like a “chiller” that diverts the AC to cool the intake air – in order to increase its density and thus, the power.
It’s what Sheriff Buford T. Justice called an attention-getter.
It’s not just unbelievably fast – it’s also just as unbelievably civilized. This 10 second quarter-mile car can also be a family car. It has a huge trunk and comfortable rear seats. Heated rear seats.
The blower. Not just the power it makes. The sound it makes.
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.
You may “trigger” some sensitives beyond repair.
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, no need for a flimsy-cheesy prop rod to keep it up – you are greeted by a sight for sore eyes. A cast aluminum plenum box 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.
If you took out the plush crushed suede seats and the AC and the other amenities – which (along with a real steel body rather than ultra-light panels) make a Redeye about 1,000 pounds heavier than a Nextel Cup car – it could probably compete in the race.
And then you could drive it home, the Redeye being 100 percent street legal – which a Nextel Cup stock car is not.
The Redeye’s being heavier by nearly 1,000 pounds than a stock car doesn’t prevent it from being quicker through the quarter mile, on account of its gearing and the get-you-going of 707 ft.-lbs. of torque produced at a comparatively low 4,500 RPM – with much of it available well before you reach that RPM, mainly due to the torque-multiplying graces of the supercharger.
Superchargers are much less common in street cars than turbochargers, chiefly because a blower takes a lot of power to turn it and the tiny 2.0 liter engines under the hoods of most current cars just haven’t got the power to spare to drive the blower – which is driven by an accessory belt, like the alternator or the water pump. A turbo develops boost using exhaust gas pressure to drive its compressor wheel, which looks like a water wheel and works on the same general principle.
But a turbo can’t produce boost until there is enough exhaust pressure to spin the compressor wheel sufficiently, which is why there is a slight lag before you get acceleration. You push down on the gas, which feeds the engine gas (and air) and this creates gasses – which exit the engine’s exhaust ports and spin the turbo’s compressor, creating the boost that increases engine power. But it takes a moment, even when the turbo is snugged up right against the exhaust port, because no matter how close it’s snugged, one thing (the production of exhaust gasses in sufficient volume) necessarily precedes the other thing (boost and the creation of turbocharged power).
A blower creates boost immediately because it spins with the engine, being directly driven by the running engine. The result is immediate acceleration. So why aren’t blowers in more common use, given that advantage? It gets back to the disadvantage of requiring a fair amount of horsepower to spin the blower. Little engines often don’t make enough to offset the power made by the blower – hence the turbo.
But the Hellcat Redeye has a big engine that makes plenty of power, even before the blower makes boost. A supercharger is also simpler. No complicated exhaust routing is needed. Just bolt it to the engine and let it feed the engine. And there is an intangible something else: The sound it makes, which only a blower can make.
This car commands respect – and not just from other drivers.
Unlike anything else you can buy right now – at least, anything else that has four doors, that’s this size and has this level of power – the Redeye is rear-wheel-drive. This is serious bidness.
Hellcat Redeye ancestors like 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 – which in a way, you were.
But this was part of the fun because it made it challenging to master one of these mechanical Lippizaner stallions. If you kept it mostly straight through the quarter mile and clocked a good number, you felt like you’d accomplished something.
It is a very different thing than pushing a button and flooring the gas, which is something anyone can do. Like turning on a blender.
Dodge does include the electronica – and there is Launch Control. But there is also the option to do it all yourself, if you dare. Which makes for all kinds of fun. But be careful until you get a feel for what this thing can do and that is no joke. The power under your right foot is serious and it is all going to the rear wheels only. Even 20×11-inch wheels and 35 series state-of-the art Pirelli rubber can only do so much. Do not floor it all it once at anything less than 30 MPH – unless you want to be all over the road.
But once you develop kismet with the 797 horses and know just how much those 35 series meats behind you can deal with, it is beyond fun to squirrel-dance them a little while you’re already rolling. Watch the reaction of cars behind you as you light ’em up – at 30 MPH.
This car is the perfect tonic for the times.
It is also something else, which may surprise you almost as much as what it is capable of doing.
The thing is easy to drive.
A Nextel Cup car is not (I have driven them). This is of course partially due to the Nextel Cup having a manual transmission while the Redeye comes with an ultra-beefy eight speed automatic and the usual driver-selectable programming. But it is much more than that.
The blown Hemi can be as docile as it is capable of crushing its enemies and triggering the lamentations of the women. The exhaust note is of course suggestive – and the whine of the blower indicates there’s something more-than-usual under the hood. But if you’re just driving along – as in traffic, as to work – the Redeye is not much different to drive than a standard Charger.
Which is a very pleasant car to drive. A nice big American car, with the room that Americans once took for granted in their cars and the feeling of heft that American cars once had – and which for the most part you can only get in high-dollar foreign-brand luxury cars now – and only if you pay for it.
Size does matter. Also, doors.
Dodge sells a Redeye version of the Challenger, which is also big relative to rivals like the Camaro and Mustang and also (like them) rear-drive and so 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.
Luxurious, too. The Redeye is more than just a performance tsunami. In addition to the go-fast hardware (and the stop-fast hardware, including 15 inch rotors up front and 13 inchers in back, all of them squeezed by high-performance Brembo calipers) the ensemble includes crushed suede inserts for the door panels and steering wheel (which is heated), “french stitch” dash and real carbon fiber trim, not the cheesy fake-plastic stuff. A stupendous 19 speaker Harman Kardon ultra-premium audio rig is available, though you probably won’t listen to it much given the music made by the car.
There are also some Redeye uniquenesses, such as the red eye of the Hellcat image that greets you at start-up. And the “chiller” – which you can engage via the SRT Performance Pages app on the 8.2 inch UConnect touchscreen. This diverts the refrigeration of the AC system to cool the supercharger’s intake plenum, rather than the passenger compartment.
You can also keep track of how fast – and how quickly – you’ve gone via the same toggle-up displays, which display peak and real-time engine horsepower and torque and a plethora of other data.
The only gauge lacking is one to measure the size of the grin on your face.
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 speedo, which this Dodge almost can.
To fine-tune it a bit, this four-door furiouso is only about 10 MPG shy of what most family sedans manage – and they cannot manage even a third of the performance the Redeye delivers without breaking a sweat.
But it is not the cost of gas that will prevent all-too-many people who’d part with a testicle to own one of these things from buying one of these things. It is the price of this thing. Which is without question a deal, given what you get – and given what it costs to get anything else that approximates what it can do. Still, it’s almost $80k as it sits and my test car was over $90k – and that’s a lot of mozzarella for most Americans.
Then again, one can justify the spend for this thing a whole lot more plausibly than spending the $60k-plus on a funion like the Mustang Mach 1 I reviewed last week. That car being as useful as a family car as a trying to keep ice cream cold by blowing on the container.
You might be able to convince your wife that it makes sense to buy a Redeye.
The Bottom Line
What else is there to say? God bless Dodge for making this car.
My hands are still shaking.
. . .
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