What is it?
Welcome, everyone, to the 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat (Widebody) Or, to put it in plain terms, the Dodge Challenger you want. Over the years, the Challenger range has swelled considerably, meaning there are now six to choose from in the UAE. There are two V6-engined ones in the SXT and SXT Plus. Move up a rung on the ladder, and you’ll get the 5.7-litre HEMI V8-powered R/T and R/T Plus. And another trim level up sits the car we have here – the Challenger SRT Hellcat (Widebody), which has a monstrous 6.2-litre HEMI V8 under the bonnet.
At the very top of the range sit the SRT Hellcat which develops 707 bhp courtesy of a supercharged 6.2-litre V8, and the Dodge Demon, the fastest accelerating car in the world. And those two cars are mightily desirable for die-hard fans of American muscle.
Anyway, the design is heavily reminiscent of the original, 1970s Challenger – those angry-looking headlights, that square jaw and forehead, the sheer size of the thing. What’s more, Dodge hasn’t changed the exterior design of the Challenger since reintroducing it to the world in 2008. And it still looks sharp. The design is meant to evoke the old school, with all the baggage that comes with that. And in comparison, a new Camaro or Mustang looks a little limp.
How does it drive?
You get 707 bhp and an astonishing 880 Nm of torque, which is good enough to propel the Challenger from 0-100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, and onto a top speed of a quite respectable 320 km/h.
But the numbers only tell half the story. This engine is full of character and wonder. Press the red starter button on the centre console, and it’ll emit a rich, tuneful roar before settling down to a deep, bassy warble. And on the move, the tiniest blip of the throttle will have the car lurching forward as the exhaust grumbles. It’s hilarious. But not quite as fun as when you find a piece of open road and really put your foot down. Here, the bonnet rears up like a prancing horse as the engine’s deafening, thunderous roar reverberates across every square inch of the otherwise sensible cabin. Decibels climb in tandem with the rev counter, and before you know it, you’re being swept up in a typhoon of power, noise and adrenaline. It’s something you’d never tire of.
Special mention has to be given to the fabulous, 8-speed automatic gearbox, too. You can, if you so wish, with a 6-speed manual, but the auto’ is a peach, kicking down as soon as you put the pedal to the metal and climbing through the gears with the relentlessness of a charging rhino. If you want, you can set the ‘box to manual mode, and shift through the gears yourself, but it’s so unnecessary – that engine offers the sort of thrill that strapping yourself to a rocket ship might provide. As you’re clinging on for dear life, you’re hardly worried about that manual-shifting engagement factor.
Now, you could accuse lesser Challengers of having pretty basic engineering set-ups, but the SRT Hellcat is reasonably sophisticated for an all-out muscle car. You get the same, three-way adaptive suspension components, which are aggressively tuned to make for a more comfortable ride. Still, you can set the car up for sporty handling by fiddling with the suspension settings through the Uconnect infotainment system. The SRT Hellcat’s enormous, six-piston Brembo brakes, though it does without its bigger brother’s hydraulic steering set-up, and is instead fitted with an electronic steering system.
As a result, this thing will handle way better than you’d expect it to, for sure. Let’s not forget that it’s an enormous, heavy car with massive power being driven through the rear wheels. The fact that it handles at all is a revelation. There are adjustable traction control settings, but even with everything set to ‘Street’, the power is a bit of a handful. Put your foot down at a set of lights, and the rears will happily spin up, and you’ll pull little drifts as you exit slow corners if you’re too over-zealous with your right foot.
What this means is that, when you’re really gunning for it, you tend to avoid taking fast corners. The sheer weight of the thing means that, best-case, you’ll understeer away from the corner. Now, you can fix this with a dollop of throttle, but with so much power and so little feel through the steering, entering into a drift is a risky little game. The Challenger just doesn’t give you the confidence to pull those sorts of moves.
Still, straight-line stability is fabulous, no matter how fast you’re going, and the Challenger is really rather good at taking long, sweeping bends. There’s a fair amount of body roll, but the car grips nicely – even at high speed. Those Brembo brakes are superb, too, with good feel and a whole lot of punch when you need to slow down quickly.
And the best thing is that, if you’re just cruising along at motorway speeds, everything settles down. By virtue of that big V8 being so lazy and low-revving, you’re at less than 1,000 rpm when you’re doing 115 km/h on the highway, meaning you can barely notice the warble. There isn’t much wind noise – a masterstroke, given the Challenger’s aerodynamic properties – and the ride is firm but not harsh. You could easily enjoy a relaxing drive to another emirate in this thing.
Let’s face it, though; you won’t be taking any relaxing drives. Because that engine is so entertaining, highway drives turn into an endless game of searching for overtaking opportunities. Upon finding one, you simply put your foot down and lay waste to other road users. It’s childish, but awfully good fun.
Interior quality and tech
In 2015, Dodge comprehensively updated the Challenger, fitting it with reworked engines and, joy of joys, a much-improved interior. This 2019 model, then, comes with a comfortable, spacious cockpit much less reliant on hard, cheap plastics. The seats are still a little hard, but otherwise most of the surfaces you come into contact with have more of a decent feel to them. The paddle gear shifters on this model feel particularly special – they’re metallic and are moulded to fit the shape of your fingers. Don’t expect German levels of quality elsewhere, but the whole package isn’t bad for an American brute.
There’s plenty of tech onboard, too. Rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps come as standard on the SRT Hellcat. And the aforementioned Uconnect system is accessed through an 8.4-inch touch display at the centre of the dash. American car firms tend to do in-car tech better than European ones, and we’d go as far as to say that the Uconnect system is the best of the bunch. The layout is functional and intuitive, and the touch screen is brilliantly responsive. The 18-speaker, 900 W sound system is a nice addition, too.
Elsewhere, the Challenger features an enormous boot, but it isn’t built with the school run in mind. The size of its on-the-road footprint beggars belief – it’s longer than a full-fat Range Rover and only a smidge less wide. With a low driving position and plenty of blind spots, this makes the Challenger extremely, um, challenging to manoeuvre about car parks. And most of that length is dedicated to the long ‘Seventies-style bonnet at one end, and the capacious trunk at the other. In between, you get a cockpit that’s spacious enough for a driver and passenger, certainly, but with back seats only really suitable for pre-teen children.
SRT Hellcat is quick as hell in a straight line and handle well enough to hustle down twisty back roads—provided your heavy right foot knows when to let up. And you’ll probably have guessed that the big V8 is pretty thirsty well relax. The Challenger Hellcat doesn’t power-slam gas like a competitive drinker—at least, not more than its competition. You may get about 600 km from a tank. As for insurance, you’ll struggle to find a good fully comprehensive policy. In general, UAE insurers aren’t all that keen on muscle cars because they’re cheap and fast – and therefore risky to insure. Find an insurer that will give you fully comprehensive cover, and you’re looking at about AED 5,600.
The Challenger SRT Hellcat’s engine just gives it so much character, turning it into the kind of muscle car that dreams are made of. It’s as mad and as wonderful as owning a pet elephant.