Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis Talks 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat

Dodge has been struggling with ways to evolve the Challenger. Because you can only do so many 1970s-throwback design cues, some enthusiasts argue that the Challenger should be completely reimagined as a smaller, lighter sports car. Dodge listened to all of those arguments, considered them, and came up with a different answer: add power. Sounds good to us. And so the 600-plus-hp 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat launches this summer. We spoke with Dodge chief executive Tim Kuniskis about his wicked new muscle car.

AM: Let’s start out with the Hellcat name. How did you arrive at that?

TK: Internally, we always come up with a code name for everything that we do. This actually came out of a group session with our SRT engineers.

AM: This engine is seriously powerful. Huge output—from what I understand, it approaches the [640-hp] Viper. Could the 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat ever be more powerful than a Viper?

TK: I love the way you’re asking this. It’s nice. It’s clever. The only thing we’ve said is it’s over 600 [hp]. I don’t know if it’s 601, 602—but it’s over 600. We’ll know when the final calibration is done. [The final result is 707 hp -- enough for an 11.2-second quarter-mile.] Our goal is not to give you a dyno number that you’ll never be able to repeat. Back to your Viper question. If you’ve driven both cars, you’d never make that comparison. The Viper weighs 1000 pounds less [than the Challenger]. It’s a completely different car.

AM: Tell me about the key fobs.

TK: There are actually two key fobs. If you’re going to valet your car or you’re letting someone borrow it, you can give them the black key fob, and it retunes the rpm. It doesn’t allow the car to go into launch mode. You can’t turn off ESC [electronic stability control], and it restricts output to around 500 [hp].

AM: Interesting...

TK: Which is crazy to think about: the safe mode is 500 [hp].

AM: Tell me about the air inlet.

TK: There’s a bunch of really cool, technological Easter eggs on the 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat. The driver’s-side inboard headlight is not actually there. It looks like a headlight. You still have the DRL [daytime running light] halo, but there is no center section. That center is open, and it’s a ram-air intake.

AM: Where did you get this engine from? Is there a Fiat connection? Is this a Ferrari engine in disguise?

TK: Our 6.4-liter that’s in the SRT cars, this is a variation of that. It’s a very heavily modified variation. More than 90 percent of the parts are unique. I mean all the way down to the block. It’s a very, very radically modified version.

How the 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat stacks up to its supercharged V-8 competition

CarDisplacementHorsepowerTorque
2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat6.4 liters707 hp650 lb-ft
2014 Chevrolet Camaro ZL16.2 liters580 hp556 lb-ft
2014 Ford Shelby GT5005.8 liters662 hp631 lb-ft
William Wayne
Correction: the Hellcat engine has a 6.2L displacement

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