Dodge Chal­lenger SRT Hell­cat Red­eye

Mus­cle car

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - MIKE DUFF

Here’s an an­swer for those who think that the ex­ist­ing Chal­lenger SRT Hell­cat and its 697bhp 6.2-litre su­per­charged V8 are a lit­tle tame. This Red­eye edi­tion uses most of the same me­chan­i­cal pack­age fit­ted to the lim­ited-run SRT De­mon that was of­fered in the US last year for am­a­teur drag rac­ers, and which proved ca­pa­ble of turn­ing in sub-10-sec­ond quar­ter miles.

The Red­eye has slightly less power – 786bhp against the De­mon’s 829bhp. Both use the same up­graded su­per­charger and have en­gines with strength­ened con­nect­ing rods, stronger pis­tons and an up­graded lu­bri­ca­tion sys­tem. It is def­i­nitely not a lithe sports car, with both sides of the Red­eye’s power-to-weight ra­tio be­ing al­most equally well stacked. By Dodge’s of­fi­cial num­bers it weighs 2050kg, yet is still claimed to be ca­pa­ble of both a 3.4sec 0-60mph time and a top speed of 203mph.

It’s as ridicu­lous as you would hope and ex­pect it to be. At ev­ery­day speeds, the Red­eye is pretty civilised for some­thing with such out­landish sta­tis­tics. The ride is pli­ant at low speeds, if a lit­tle un­der-damped, and the light steer­ing is ac­cu­rate and free of slop. Cabin ma­te­ri­als feel (and smell) cheap, but it seems well screwed to­gether and, although old­fash­ioned, the sim­ple de­sign suits the car’s com­plete lack of pre­ten­sion.

From the driver’s seat, it is of­ten hard to re­mem­ber just how much car­toon ag­gres­sion the steroidal styling is pro­ject­ing, es­pe­cially in the Wide­body ver­sion, which has chunky arch ex­ten­sions to cover fat­ter tyres.

The glove might not be silk, but there’s def­i­nitely an iron fist in­side it. Push be­yond the top inch or so of the throt­tle pedal’s long travel and the Red­eye’s char­ac­ter changes, ex­haust note har­den­ing and thrust turn­ing im­me­di­ately se­ri­ous. Push harder and it just gets pro­gres­sively an­grier, es­pe­cially once the su­per­charger starts to add its wail above 3000rpm. Well be­fore the pedal reaches the floor, your brain will be telling you the Chal­lenger is giv­ing its all, but there is more to come; fully un­leashed, the car can spin its speedome­ter in a way that’s rem­i­nis­cent of a sports bike, with some truly star­tling fig­ures ar­riv­ing amaz­ingly quickly.

It’s very im­por­tant not to be dis­tracted by the num­bers, nor the way the scenery is blur­ring in the side win­dows. Try to slow, or turn, the Red­eye and you’re left in no doubt of the very con­sid­er­able forces at play here; it’s alarm­ingly easy to find your­self ap­proach­ing a cor­ner car­ry­ing way too much speed. Be­cause, while the Red­eye copes with bends rea­son­ably well, they aren’t its forte. Es­pe­cially as send­ing any sig­nif­i­cant amount of torque to the rear axle in a slow turn re­sults in the sta­bil­ity con­trol ef­fec­tively ab­ro­gat­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity. Even with ev­ery­thing fully switched on, the Red­eye slith­ers to rak­ish an­gles un­der power on dry Tar­mac.

The Red­eye also has a launch con­trol sys­tem de­signed to max­imise drag strip per­for­mance, but it is also pos­si­ble to fully dis­able the trac­tion sen­tinels – in the same way you could choose to wres­tle a bear. Fully un­shack­led, the Red­eye va­por­ises its rear tyres off the line, although eas­ing the throt­tle slightly does per­suade it to hook up. It’s not the most ef­fec­tive way to de­ploy its huge per­for­mance, but it’s cer­tainly fun.

In the US, it makes a strong bang­per-buck case for it­self, but Dodge has given up on the UK and there is close to zero chance that the Red­eye will come here of­fi­cially. The Chal­lenger is get­ting old and lesser vari­ants are fall­ing into ob­so­les­cence, but the SRT ver­sions still pro­vide plenty of mar­ket­ing siz­zle, and it’s hard not to see the ap­peal of this most mus­cu­lar of mus­cle cars.

It’s easy to for­give the cheap in­te­rior when as-stan­dard line lock en­ables you to smoke the tyres

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