For decades, certain people in my life (ahem, younger brothers) have complained that I drive like a grandma. Finally, driving like a grandma is apropos because I am one — and darn happy about it. So, what in the world was I doing driving a 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye for a weekend? Certain younger colleagues thought putting me in this street-legal racecar would be fun (or was that funny?).
Little did they know that I was the proud owner of a Dodge Charger decades ago, though by default rather than choice. It was a hand-me-down of sorts from an aforementioned younger brother who, because of his driving habits, attracted too much unwanted police attention. And that black Charger certainly did attract attention; I, too, fell victim to unwanted police attention, seduced by the ease at which the Charger accelerated on Chicago’s famed, curvy Lake Shore Drive. I will cop to deserving it, since I was going significantly over the speed limit. And, yes, I got the ticket — even though the officer was clearly surprised by finding my nerdy 22-year-old self behind the wheel of that beast.
Fast-forward to today: I admittedly felt some trepidation about driving a vehicle with such monstrous horsepower — 797, to be exact, or 432 hp more than the 2017 Ford Expedition EL that’s my personal ride and nearly 600 ponies more than my mid-1970s Charger that probably had a 180- to 200-hp engine. But drive the supercharged Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye I did, and it was fun.
So, what did this grandma do with the Hellcat Redeye for the weekend? Thankfully, Dodge allows you to dial back the power to tame this animal. That’s the first thing I did; 500 hp was plenty of power for me. At least for starters.
Exiting the parking garage near Cars.com’s downtown Chicago headquarters in broad daylight, the Plum Crazy-painted Hellcat attracted lots of pedestrian attention; folks literally stopped in their tracks to gawk as I burbled onto the street. This continued along historic U.S. Route 66 (or Ogden Avenue as we call it here) all 16 miles to my home in the western suburbs. While this seemed like a wise choice due to construction near the office and an accident on the interstate, it was a rough ride. Pairing the Challenger’s performance tires and stiff suspension with Ogden’s long-neglected concrete made for a bouncy ride. So, yes, I got my kicks on Route 66.
Upon my arrival home, the husband pronounced the Challenger “ridiculous” and declined rides in it throughout the weekend — although he did admit he would’ve liked it when he was 25.
Not only do I drive like a grandma, I weekend like a grandma, so here’s what the Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye did with me:
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
I took my nearly 4-year-old granddaughter Kylie for a ride — because purple is her favorite color and indulging grandkids is what being a grandparent is all about. She came with a purple car seat, so … perfect. (We let her mom come with, too.) Kylie agreed that it’s a loud car, but as the smiles in the photos show, that didn’t bother her. I also ran several errands with my youngest daughter; I’m sure she wished she was behind the wheel and not me.
Our local food provender is half a block from our home. The Challenger’s spare tire filled two-thirds of the trunk, yet it still swallowed a week’s worth of groceries. Impressive! The parking lot also was rife with attention; the standout encounter was with a woman my age who called out, “Is that bad boy yours?” We chatted and then I fired it up, making her day. Runner-up: The family in the SUV that pulled alongside and rolled down all the windows for a better look and listen.
I showed up in the Challenger to do the home evaluation of a potential foster family for the golden retriever rescue I volunteer with. Somehow, despite its raucous engine, we sneaked up on them on a quiet Sunday morning. They didn’t notice the car until the conclusion of our interview, when they escorted me to the driveway, producing smiles and laughter as I roared away.
Filled It Up
You not only pay a premium price for the Redeye (our tester cost $87,975 with destination fees), you also pay for premium gas at the pump. While replenishing the beast in the rain at a local gas station, a gentleman older than myself wandered over. “Hon, what is this? A Charger? A Demon?” After I gave him the lowdown on the car, his final words were, “Hon, you should not have it out in this weather.” He had a point. Wet pavement, high horsepower and rear-wheel drive are not a great combination, though I had no issues given my driving style.
- In less than 24 hours, I stopped worrying about the horsepower setting. The Challenger defaults to 797, so each time you start it, you need to reset it to 500 hp if that’s your preference. It’s easy to forget, and I did — and didn’t notice! I also had all the selectable drive modes (four of them) set to Street, which is meant for daily driving. Perhaps that, combined with my light throttle foot and the mostly low speeds at which I drove, made the higher horsepower setting less detectable. On the well-paved roads around my home, the Challenger was pleasant to drive — not the rocky ride I experienced on Route 66.
- I thought the engine noise would be bothersome because, ironically, when I’m sitting on my deck and the screams of loud engines shatter my suburban serenity, I get annoyed. Turns out that you have a completely different perspective when you’re driving; the engine noise really didn’t disturb me nor keep me from rocking out to E Street Radio (a fitting choice for this car).
- While the Challenger’s trunk impressed, the interior of the coupe felt cramped (though what wouldn’t if you drive a behemoth like the Expedition EL?) and the blind spots are huge, so the Challenger’s optional blind spot monitor and rear cross-path detection system was much appreciated.
Did I have fun driving the 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye? You betcha. And had the weather cooperated, I would have taken it for a 797-hp drive on higher-mph roads. Maybe next time.
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