The 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat unleashes a ludicrous 707 horsepower from its supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 to offer mad acceleration — the kind of white-knuckled blast of speed that's not for the timid. The Charger SRT Hellcat, along with its coupe stablemate the Challenger SRT Hellcat, is a straight-line beast that's very much at home on the drag strip, though it's not too shabby on a road course either. Plus, it doesn't fail to impress people you pass on the street.
Last year we tracked the then-new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat coupe down the quarter-mile to the tune of 11.41 seconds. While we came short of Dodge's quarter-mile claim of 11.2 seconds, there was no doubting the capability was there waiting to be unleashed.
The Charger is even faster in Hellcat form. Drag strip durability testing was also built into the rocket ship masquerading as a family sedan's development program. The automaker says the Charger Hellcat can run the quarter-mile in a ridiculously quick 11.0 seconds on factory tires. Few unmodified cars can make that kind of claim.
We set out to see how close we could get to 11.0 seconds with a factory-fresh 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and drag strip rental of Byron Dragway in Byron, Ill.
Like the Challenger, the biggest obstacle is the rear-wheel-drive Charger simply wants to obliterate the relatively skinny, hard-sidewall street tires when trying to lay 700-plus horsepower to the ground. Our Charger was equipped with optional $195 Pirelli P Zero 275/40R20 summer tires, though that is by no means a solution to harness the Hellcat's excessive horsepower and torque.
The quickest pass of the day came after 13 attempts of tweaking the launch, burnout, starting line preparation, electronic driving modes and tire pressure. After all that work we were rewarded with a blistering run of 11.03 seconds at 126.61 mph. It would be an understatement to say the car proved tricky to drive on its factory tires and a lie to say it was anything but a thrill to see those numbers pop up on the track's timing board.
Getting to 11.03 seconds was no easy feat despite the Charger only coming with an automatic transmission — often easier to drag race than a manual — and our near-perfect track and weather conditions. We were lucky to have mid-50-degree temperatures rushing cool air through the V-8's cooling systems and track conditions fit for cars much faster than the Hellcat. The drag strip's track surface was prepped in various ways to assist tire grip, a normal drag strip practice. Along with the 11.03-second pass, we also ran 11.09 seconds and a number of 11.1-second passes.
There wasn't a single lightbulb-over-the-head moment when clicking off the 11.03-second pass. It took a combination of tweaks, starting with the burnout. Our best run with the tires at factory pressure was 11.27 seconds before we dropped the tires to 25 pounds per square inch. Getting the right amount of heat in the tires proved to be imperative. The best burnout sequence included clicking the paddle shifters quickly to 3rd gear once the tires started roasting and waiting for tire smoke to show in the rearview mirror before riding out the burnout to just before the starting line to minimize tire temperatures loses. Anything higher or lower than a 160-degree tire temperature and we experienced falloff in bite.
The Hellcat's electronic gadgetry sequence that worked best for our runs included switching the electronic stability system from Off during the burnout to Sport before launching. Sport mode gave the best balance of traction management and forward momentum compared with the Street and Track modes. The suspension's softest Street mode provided the best weight transfer to the rear, and the transmission was left in automatic shifting but in the Track setting.
Getting the Charger Hellcat out of the hole was best accomplished by leaving the line as smoothly as possible from idle by gently squeezing the pedal before rolling into wide-open throttle at roughly the 60-foot mark on the drag strip; a drag strip's timing system measure distance in intervals of 60 feet, 330 feet, an eighth-mile, 1,000 feet and a quarter-mile. Lower 60-foot times are a good indication of how well the car is leaving the starting line. The 1.77 seconds of the 11.03 run was bested by a 1.72-second 60-foot later in the day, but that run was botched when the tires let loose on the 2nd-gear shift, ending what could have been a glorious 10-second pass. It was the one that got away.
Our run of 11.03 seconds in the quarter-mile is insane for a sedan you can buy straight off the showroom floor. For that kind of hellacious acceleration the $63,290 starting price seems reasonable.