We recently talked about how the base Dodge Challenger Hellcat somehow became the base car in Dodge’s supercharged lineup. While this fact is crazy in itself, the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, with its 707 horsepower (717 horsepower as of 2018), laid the foundation for a whole host of epic, high-performance MOPARs. But there are certain traits that defined a car as a true American Muscle car, and while each of the Hellcat derivatives is worthy of the title, we think the original 2015 Challenger Hellcat embodies the Muscle car philosophy best, and this is why.
Being fast in a straight line is still the most important
While modern Muscle cars are far more capable than their ancestors in cornering capabilities, the Challenger Hellcat is not what you would call athletic. Yes, its 6.2-litre, supercharged, Hemi V-8 has over 700 horsepower and 881 Nm, but on a technical track, something like a Porsche 911 GT3 would go full circle.
Any Muscle Cars enthusiast will point out that cornering was never what Muscle Cars were for. As the Challenger and by extension the Charger went on, more capable versions emerged. The widebody package added 3.5in (89mm) width on each side and allowed for much sturdier 305/35 R20 tires to be fitted. While this significantly improved the Hellcat’s cornering ability and made it a better car technically, it was like trying to turn a fat man into an athlete.
That said, the base Challenger Hellcat came with a less radical set of 275/40 R20 tires all around, which in most cases were able to handle the big power of the V-8. Plus, if you remember the classic Muscle cars of the late 1960s and early 1970s, none of them had big factory tires. The top-of-the-line Dodge Challenger in 1969 was the 426 Hemi and came with 7×15-inch wheels. Plus, Muscle cars should be able to easily kick out the back and do burnouts, and of all the modern Challengers, the basic Hellcat is the best at it.
A more “understated” look
I’m not suggesting for a second that Dodge’s Muscle car lineup is anything but brash, flamboyant and loud. You just have to look at the color options (and their names) such as Go Mango, Green Go, Octane Red, Blood Orange and Destroyer Grey, just to name a few. Pair them with the signature wine of the 2.4-litre, IHI, twin-scroll, supercharger, and you’ll understand why no one can paint the Hellcat as a subtle car.
That said, the original Challenger Hellcat lacks the widebody, giving it a cleaner look. While its absence also deprives it of stickier tires, don’t forget that the Muscle car’s original concept was to give people affordable performance. Unless you take a closer look, the standard Hellcat looks almost as average as any other Challenger, which is why it’s a better tribute to the powerful MOPARs of yesteryear. In addition, the Challenger SRT Hellcat actually looks like a classic Muscle car thanks to its retro-futuristic design, which cannot be said of the four-door Charger, despite the fact that it contains some classic design elements, such as the iconic sideline.
Underrated like his ancestors
If you like classic American Muscle cars, you would know that Dodge, as well as many of its competitors, were known for underestimating their engine power. This was done to ensure the racing versions could dominate in motorsport, and while the Challenger Hellcat hasn’t seen professional racing, a dyno test showed the 707 horsepower figure isn’t exactly accurate.
In 2015, when the Dodge Challenger Hellcat came out, the supercharged MOPAR was put on the test bench, delivering 669 horsepower (492 kilowatts) and 606 pound-feet (821 Nm) to the rear wheels. After adjusting for powertrain loss, the actual power is close to 790 hp and about 922 Nm from the crankshaft. So does that make the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye irrelevant?
To put things in context, the 426 Hemi, placed in the 1969 Dodge Challenger (and other MOPARS) was rated at 425 horsepower, when in reality it made 470. The situation was no different for the 440 Magnum, which was rated at 375 to 390 horsepower, depending on whether it had the “Six-pack” option. Actual numbers were 415 and 430 horsepower. While the same may be true for other Hellcat variants and their derivatives, we haven’t seen any dyno blades suggesting this yet.
You could still get it with a manual
Every Muscle car should have the option of a stick shift. While nothing bad can be said about the Torqueflite (ZF), eight-speed automatic transmission, Dodge decided to stop offering the six-speed manual transmission for the Hellcat models. Although this happened in 2021, it’s worth noting that the base Challenger Hellcat gave you the ability to use that third pedal and hold yourself.
The most affordable and useful Challenger Hellcat
Suggested MSRP for the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is $68,320. This makes the supercharged MOPAR the most affordable way to get a high-power, supercharged Muscle car that you can drive every day. To put things in perspective, the Hellcat Redeye will set you back nearly $76,925 and the Jail Break $84,225. The drag-focused SRT Demon starts at $86,090.
The original Challenger Hellcat is not only the most affordable in the range, but also the most comfortable of them all, with a full, full-featured interior. In case you’re wondering, the Widebody package costs $2,495 and can be fitted to previous Hellcat models. It’s also probably the most tempting option for the Hellcat. Even without the widebody, the base Hellcat is not a small car. In addition, it lacks the more aggressive suspension and chassis tuning of the more powerful versions and has a full interior, making it the most useful of all Challenger Hellcat models.