When It's This Dodge, Too Much Feels Just Right
The Challenger Hellcat Redeye is gloriously stupid fast fun.
Even its name is ridiculous: Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye. It is more than 16 feet long, as wide as Kobe Bryant is tall, and weighs 2.5 tons—yet only has space for two with the rear-seat delete option. With a nice assortment of extra-charge goodies, this one costs more than $81,000. In the city, it burns through a gallon of premium fuel every 13 miles. And then there's this: Under its hood lies a 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V-8 cranking out just a mouse whisker less than 800 horsepower. Which is to say, the new-for-2019 Redeye makes about as much sense as opening a box of thumbtacks in zero gravity.
Let's hear a round of applause for the nonsensical crew at Dodge!
Look up the words "stupid fast" in the dictionary, and you'll see a photo of the Redeye. The first time I stood on the car's loud pedal, the rear end started twerking like 2013 Miley Cyrus after a triple-shot Frappuccino, the traction-control system wrestling like a bear to rein in the Hemi's 707 lb-ft of torque—despite the generous contact patches afforded by tires the size of oil drums on 11-inch-wide wheels (included with the optional $6,000 Widebody package, which adds 3.5 inches to the Redeye's broad shoulders). Switch off the traction control, and the Redeye goes full space shuttle, practically standing on its tail as it launches amid great billowing clouds of tire smoke. I'm not kidding. Dodge claims a zero-to-60 time of just 3.4 seconds, the quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds at a trap speed of 131 mph, and a top end of 203 mph. You could road trip the Redeye to Daytona, drive straight onto the high banks, and put in a decent qualifying time for the 500—all while basking in conditioned air and cranking out Garth Brooks tunes on the six-speaker stereo.
Gawd, it's glorious fun. On the highway, the Redeye is so hair-trigger hot, almost all you have to do is think, "I'd like to be up there" and—boom!—you are. The only transmission is a beefed-up eight-speed automatic, but there are paddle shifters behind the wheel so you can stir the cogs yourself. I drove the car mostly in manual mode, but be forewarned: The Redeye accelerates so hard in its first few gears that your fingertips will struggle to upshift fast enough. Downshifts, alas, are a major letdown. The transmission seems to wonder why you're changing to a lower gear at all—"Hey, bub, this rig accelerates just fine in eighth!"—and when it finally does, there's no perceptible engine blip and none of the stirring "zing" you experience with better automatics and almost all dual-clutch units. There. That's the extent of my complaints.
It's true: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. There's an embarrassingly delicious sense of smugness that envelops you when you know you're driving the burliest machine on the block. Brand-new Mustang Shelby GT350R just pulled up alongside? Puh-leeze. Got glowered at by a guy in a Camaro ZL1? Have pity: He's down 147 horses on you—and he always will be. Some parvenu in a Lamborghini Aventador S wants to show you his V-12? Be nice when you say, "Not bad. But mine makes almost 60 horsepower more with four fewer cylinders. And only 9 mpg in the city? Way to kill the environment, dude."
In a week of driving the Redeye, I was thoroughly debauched. Press the SRT button on the dash, and a menu appears on the touchscreen, allowing you to configure all manner of vehicle dynamics—including steering, suspension, and transmission response. There's also a tab marked "Power" that drops engine output from its fully rated 797 hp to "only" 500. I pressed it. Suddenly, with almost 300 horses cut loose from my stable, to my power-addled self the Redeye felt like a rhino stuck in quicksand. "How the hell is a man supposed to live like this?" I stammered out loud as I agonized along with a piddling 500 hp on tap. I continued for, oh, another three blocks. Then I switched back to monster mode. I never touched the soul-sapping "Power" tab again.
Wherever it goes, the Redeye stirs everyone nearby, too—mostly because they're all scurrying for cover from the 8.0 earthquake. This thing is louder than Elton John's favorite Hawaiian shirt. And that's just when it's idling. Mash down on the gas, and the supercharger screams like the maniac in a horror movie while the twin exhausts ravage the surrounding air as violently as a departing 747. I swear I passed a bird on a tree branch shaking its head as if to say, "Nah. I ain't flyin' in that."
I knew it couldn't last. When I handed back my Redeye test car, I felt like I'd been voted out of office.