The "SRT" in Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat stands for Street and Racing Technology. This is a group of automotive alchemists charged with turning base metal into performance gold.
The base metal in this case is the base model: the Charger SXT. It is basically a sporty-looking, roomy family sedan with perfectly adequate motivation from its 292-horsepower V-6, good gas mileage, and an affordable starting tag of $28,495.
At this point, the SRT gang gets into the act and devises a series of hotter variations, featuring V-8 engines of varying ferocity, as well as performance-minded suspensions, brakes, and steering gear.
At the pinnacle of the SRT base-to-gold alchemy is the Hellcat.
The Hellcat model is named for the extraordinary engine employed in the highest-performing renditions of the Charger and its coupe stablemate, the Dodge Challenger.
The Hellcat engine is a 6.2-liter version of the 6.4-liter Hemi V-8, which is not exactly cutting edge. It is a pushrod, two-valve, port-injected engine whose basic bones are those found in your father's Oldsmobile.
But with the help of a blow-your-house-down supercharger, sophisticated electronics, and some clever engineering, the SRT alchemists massaged the venerable Hemi until the dynamometer said it was overachieving to the tune of 707 horsepower.
That's enough ponies in the corral to make this car the most powerful production sedan on the planet. It's also enough horseflesh to make this the world's quickest and fastest four-door.
So how fast is it? asked the man in the third row wearing the 911 Turbo T-shirt.
Well, 0 to 60 is accomplished in 3.7 seconds, which is rather remarkable for a roomy sedan weighing over two tons. Stay on the pedal, and you'll top out at 204 mph.
Predictably, Earth's only four-door muscle car ain't cheap. The tester's sticker read "Base price: $66,295." And yet, for what it can do in the speed and power department, that's a relative bargain. Look at it this way: The next-cheapest car with 700-plus horses is the 731-horsepower Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. But that's a rather pricey, spicy meatball at $319,995.
In fairness, the Charger Hellcat isn't going to handle as well as that exotic Italian sports car, but the rear-driver is going to exhibit good driving dynamics. It does, in fact, corner well, staying flat and composed in the twisties. It also steers accurately (while not conveying a lot of road feel) and shuts down in a hurry thanks to its huge, high-performance (six-piston) Brembo front brakes.
But the real kick is getting on the gas big time from a standing start. It is really exciting. That kind of high, I suspect, is what makes the cost worth it to this car's clientele. Those costs include the base price, the $1,700 gas-guzzler tax, and the related gasaholism. The thirst for premium fuel produces EPA mileage ratings of 13 city and 22 highway.
As spirited as it is, the Hellcat isn't high strung. I'm always surprised when cars this highly tuned turn out to be quite civil in the bumper-to-bumper world.
There are other Hellcat pleasures besides the acceleration and speed. Like the wonderful, electronically orchestrated exhaust note and the sporty exterior styling (which includes a new grille for 2018). The interior was also a treat. It proved handsome, with its rolled and pleated seat bolsters and door inserts, and quite comfortable.
The Hellcat's ride proved quite firm, even in the softest driving mode. I also thought the speedometer calibrations could have been easier to read.