2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye driving review

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2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye driving review

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore — I’ve always wondered how Dodge would evolve the Challenger. There was only one real generation, not counting the rebadged Mitsubishi. Past and present, it’s always looked the same. With the Hellcat, Demon, and now my personal favorite, the Hellcat Redeye Widebody, it makes total sense. There’s no need to redesign it every few years. Just tweak it and add cool features — like flared fenders and the 797-hp Hellcat engine. It’s all you need.

This thing makes a statement. The Redeye is the car your neighbors want a ride in. I parked in our office building’s basement, and co-workers heard me gunning the engine — two stories up. It’s a growl. It has bass. It’s angry. It gets a little metallic sometimes, depending on how and when you lay on the gas. I launched fairly hard at every traffic light. Sometimes I’d rev at idle. The Monroney that came with our test car lists the fuel economy as zero (it actually gets 13 city and a respectable 22 highway). But still. You get the point.

I’ve always liked how the Challenger drives. It’s big. It’s heavy. The hood looks like the deck of an aircraft carrier. It’s not trying to be a track rat. Go fast in a straight line. That’s what you do. Take a hard left and maybe you skid a little bit. Maybe that’s the idea. You don’t eat cheeseburgers because they’re good for you. You eat them because they taste good.

Hey, cheeseburgers have protein. And vitamins. Healthy isn’t the right description, but there are some benefits. The same reasoning applies to this Challenger. The interior is attractive, well-furnished and comfortable. The leather-trimmed seats are supportive. I love the saddle brown color. I used to say the coupe’s low roof and bulky A-pillars were a problem. Then I got over that. You’re driving nearly 800 hp, so sit up and be on your toes. The trunk is huge, too. I could have put a car seat in the back, had I needed to. You can live with the Challenger. And the Redeye is perhaps the best version yet. The starting price is about $60 grand. That’s a steal. The price of our tester is $92,290. That’s insane. The $6,000 widebody pack is the thing I’d recommend most out of all the options. Get the nice leather, too.

Associate Editor Joel Stocksdale — If you know me even a little bit, you know that I’m not big on cars with crazy power and performance. All too often, it’s performance that’s nigh unusable on public roads, and the car usually doesn’t benefit much in the areas of character and fun. As such, you would think I would hate the Hellcat Red Eye. But surprisingly, even to me, I had a blast with it.

Yes, 797 horsepower is so much you’ll probably never actually be able to use it all on the street. But there’s more to the monster under the hood than the raw numbers. First, there’s the sound. I already feel that the Hemis are the best-sounding American V8s right now. They have such a round, mellow rumble, and it’s particularly loud and hearty in the Red Eye. Then you add the urgent whine of the supercharger under the hood, and it becomes a harmony of raw power. And the sound isn’t reserved to redline or full throttle. Even bouncing between stoplights you’ll get a nice taste of it all. More revs and throttle just raise the volume.

The powertrain’s power delivery is also special. Engines with roots-style blowers are rapidly disappearing. The Big 3 and Jaguar are about the only companies using them, and it’s a shame, because they’re so fun to play with. They deliver a serious wallop of torque right off the line, but also near-instant throttle response and a level of smoothness that even the best turbo engines don’t quite match. It’s an effortless feeling that catches you off guard. So even when it’s only delivering a fraction of its total output, the Hellcat Red Eye’s engine makes for a special, fun experience.

There’s also the way this thing looks. I’m not sure any car quite has this much presence. It’s enormous, made more so by the massive fender flares and wide tires. It sits low over its wheels. And in dark metallic green, this test car is intimidating even from 100 feet away. The saddle tan leather interior is a lovely complement, too. I also enjoy that the only true giveaways that it’s a Red Eye are, well, the red eyes in the standard Hellcat badges.

Not everything’s great with the Red Eye. For some reason, you sit really high in the car, and for a tall person, you’ll find yourself getting friendly with the headliner. The handling is a bit sloppy compared with the athletic Mustang and Camaro. And, of course, the fuel economy is abominable. But still, this thing is full of personality and style, and I would never blame someone for picking it over its crosstown competitors.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder — After driving the Hellcat Redeye Widebody on the track and smooth paved roads of New England, I was eager to get some seat time on our horrible, no good, very bad roads here in Michigan. I was surprised at how comfortable the car was at the launch event, and wanted to see if it held up on our semi-paved moonscape. Turns out, it does. The roads were freshly drenched with rain, so I left the car in its lazier settings, as this thing will turn around and snap at you if you’re too eager on the throttle, especially in the wet. Just as the cracks and craters soaked up the water, the suspension soaks up the cracks and craters. It’s a comfortable, if overpowered, daily driver.

When I got home, I revved ‘er up, and my large son ran to the door to see the evil kitty purring in the driveway. It’s always fun to watch his little mind get blown away by some of the more impressive cars I bring home. The Hellcat Redeye didn’t disappoint, and he started touching the badges and asking me about some of the aerodynamic pieces on the car before hopping inside and crawling around the back seat.

Then, in the morning, after scaring off the deer from the garden with a blat of the exhaust, I headed out onto the still-wet road. As I pulled out of my neighborhood, I was greeted by an enthusiastic thumbs-up from a fellow driver … in a Prius. It appears the Hellcat has broad appeal.

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