As you can see from the photos here, the stage was set for a full-throttle day. Charger Hellcat. Texas Motor Speedway private access. Racing helmets fitted; GoPro and Nikon batteries bursting with energy.
Also bursting with energy? The 6.2-liter supercharged V8 under the hood of the dramatically enhanced 2015 Charger. A lumpy cam on idle as the car warms up is joined by one of the deepest baritone exhaust notes ever put in a sedan. Eight-speed automatic and extremely comfy, quiet and refined cabin suddenly gurgling with anticipation of big throttle.
The Hellcat V8 engine makes 707 horsepower, which is a frankly astounding output. The fact that SRT engineers pushed this engine through corporate red tape is astonishing. The best part? Despite packing more than 70 horsepower than the Viper, and 200 more than the previous SRT Charger -- this new Charger Hellcat even skates past the EPA Gas Guzzler tax. That new ZF transmission is a wonder for more than just snap-fast paddle-shifts and smooth, syrupy gear-changes on light throttle.
There is so much power at your disposal when the car gets rolling, you might be completely ruined after owning one. Every other car and its simple grip on full throttle suddenly feels extremely dull.
In the pouring rain this day in Dallas, the clouds ruined much of our playtime potential. A street drive on this rare ultra-wet day beckoned. It was sunny the day before, and the day after this. But testing a Hellcat Charger in the rain has its own insights to give.
Leaving the infield tunnel of this giant oval racetrack, the tiny space is a great echo chamber for the Hellcat engine. A dab into the throttle causes twitching deep in the groin. BaaahhhrrRooooaaaarrrr!
One second. Car is rocketing ahead, driver suddenly alarmed by how little grip there is in the tunnel, and how close those walls are. The tail squirms as the rear tires break loose, but stability control is near-instantaneous in taking action. It is not a sharp cut-off, just a friendly helper to keep the Charger's paint off the tunnel's concrete walls.
The SRT Performance Pages of the Uconnect touchpanel offer numerous settings to try out, with multiple layers of help staying in control for that TCS and ESP, along with suspension firmness, laptimers, and much more. We could be gentle and lower the horsepower by tapping the 500-horsepower option in Uconnect -- but let's stick with the full Red-Key enchilada. You'd do the same.
On the road, the SRT Charger is like suddenly having my chubby body inside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Light shoulder punches to buddies in my normal body will now equal throwing an anvil right at best pal's cheek.
Must be aware of your own strength, and wield it gently. As we set off, the Hellcat Charger is instantly more my style than the Challenger. The Charger's longer wheelbase and superior aerodynamics mean it has a 5-mph top-speed advantage over the coupe, but that is not the real story.
The Charger simply feels longer and lower than the Challenger, with a softer rear suspension. This different tune makes the Charger Hellcat feel less springy in back, and allows a more secure launch feel than the coupe as well.
We are actually able to put down a surprising amount of power above about 10-mph. The beast is a smoothie, with firm seats and heavy steering feeling more masculine than an NFL two-a-day practice session in August.
How are we sweating on our brow right now - it is chilly out. Oh, that is fear and excitement and a semi in my chinos? Must be all this new POWEERRRRR!
We dip into the throttle a bit more as speeds crest 40-mph, but it is still pouring rain out here. We rocket forward, with the ESP managing massive axle forces and only allowing a slight sideways burp of the car as throttle passes 50-percent down. Even unable to give the SRT Charger the real beans, the speed rises in a near-surreal way. Unique whirr from the supercharger is pleasant and interesting, complementing the giant induction growl and boom from the squared pipes in back.
We hooned around for another half-our outside the empty speedway, thinking that this SRT Hellcat might be the best Dodge we've ever driven. A car we never even imagined might be this good, this fast and this incredible.
The SRT Charger Hellcat is so intense, driving one should require a special city permit, federal security clearance and a note from your doctor. Gorgeous, powerful, refined inside, stellar comfort in all five seats. The 2015 Charger Hellcat might just be the best four-door-supercar we've ever driven.
Side effects may include inflated sense of strength, deep laughs and smiles on throttle, and extreme jealousy from your buddies.
Luckily, you can smack that scowl right off their face the first time you lay into the throttle for a 3.7-second, 204-mph blast up the road.