There are many shock and awe stats that could serve to introduce the new Hellcat Redeye, most obviously its Ferrari-baiting tally of horses, but I'll start with one which illustrates the extraordinary forces at play in this steroidal muscle car. Stamp on the throttle pedal and leave it fully pinned and Dodge says the Redeye's pair of high-pressure fuel pumps will drain its 70 litre tank in just 11 minutes, the mighty supercharged V8 turning it all into heat, noise and a trouser-soiling level of kinetic energy. The regular SRT Hellcat, itself no eco warrior, would take nearly 14 minutes to guzzle the same quantity of unleaded.
Not that British buyers will ever get the chance to experience the Redeye's unparalleled ability to harvest Shell Points. Dodge barely exists outside the U.S. these days, and the brand has become geriatric at home in terms of both its model line-up and typical ownership demographic. Having just celebrated its first decade, the Challenger is now 70 in dog years; at least with the SRT versions it seems committed to growing old disgracefully.
Come to the Redeye looking for original thought and you will entirely miss the point. Beyond producing the most muscular muscle car, there isn't any - this is a triumph for the "more is more" logic that has guided this part of the market from the very beginning. It also means that somebody looked at the ferocious 707hp Challenger SRT Hellcat and said words to the effect of "not bad, but it could do with a little more oomph."
That thinking led to the Hellcat Demon, released last year, a limited-to-3300 special intended for regular drag strip use and sold with the option of super sticky tyres and an 840hp engine upgrade enabling it to turn in sub-10 second quarter mile times. Now most of the same mechanical upgrades have been put into the road-focussed Challenger SRT Redeye.
It's not quite as powerful as the Demon, but 797hp still represents a substantial upgrade over the SRT. The Redeye uses the same 6.2-litre pushrod V8 as a base, but gets strengthened connecting rods, stronger pistons and a bigger supercharger. There's also an upgraded lubrication system and what's described as "high speed valve gear", allowing for a 6,500rpm redline, 300rpm higher than the Hellcat. Oh, and unlike the Demon, the Redeye doesn't need to be drinking 100-Octane fuel to deliver its full paddock of horsepower.
The transmission has been strengthened, too - the standard eight-speed ZF auto getting the Demon's meatier torque converter and upgraded propshaft and half-shafts. A 2.62:1 limited slip differential is standard, but a shorter 3.09:1 one can be optioned by anyone planning regular trips to a drag strip. The Redeye also features the same package of launch-assistance systems as the Demon, plus a line lock function to enable the rear tyres to be brought up to temperature by the time-honoured expedient of a massive burnout.
You will be entirely unsurprised to hear that the Redeye is not a lithe, agile sportscar. The other side of its power to weight ratio remains as heavily stacked as Eccentrica Gallumbits; in its cotton socks the Redeye is over two tonnes. Yet despite that, Dodge claims a 3.4-second 0-60mph time and a top speed of 203mph.
The base Challenger might be old enough to draw a pension, but the Redeye still looks great. My test car was wearing the optional $6,000 wide body kit which adds huge arch extensions and fatter tyres, the combination radiating cartoonish aggression to just the right degree.
Perceived quality is limited. The scent of cheap plastics hits your nose as soon as the door opens. The cabin design is clean and functional, though, with enough driving position adjustment even for higher percentile American bodyshapes. It's a comfortable place to spend time - the seats not hugging too tightly and the audio system having more than enough kick to make itself heard at cruising speeds. Despite some low-rent plastics it feels well screwed together, and the central touchscreen handles all the basics competently, including an SRT menu for the different active performance systems.
Nor does the Redeye have to be savage. The engine note is a constant, brooding presence from idle upwards, but the ride is pliant at urban speeds, the gearbox shuffles its ratios cleanly and the light-feeling steering is free from slop. In short, it's surprisingly sensible; limit yourself to the top inch or so of throttle pedal travel and the Redeye feels almost entirely unexceptional.
You're not going to do that, of course. And don't worry - the transformation from Jekyll to Hyde is a spectacularly quick one. Push harder on the accelerator and the big V8 turns angry, the engine note hardening and - once the rev counter needle gets past 3,000rpm - the supercharger adding both whine and a sense of jet-propelled thrust. Even with the accelerator less than halfway to the floor I found the rate of acceleration sufficiently serious - and the soundtrack savage enough - to trick my mind into thinking the Redeye was giving its all. Realising how much more there was to come was a genuine shock, although the pedal can only ever meet the mat for scant seconds before things become too silly.
Given its head and a full ration of beans the Redeye blurs the scenery and spins its speedo in a way that's reminiscent of a fast motorbike. Okay, so it's not quite that quick, and I'm sure a McLaren 720S would walk away beyond 100mph in a straight fight, but the forces involved in accelerating so much mass so quickly make the process feel that violent. There's another marked similarity to a sportsbike, too - the Redeye's ability to withstand more longitudinal Gs than lateral ones, meaning it's necessary to start braking for corners a long way before they arrive.
Yes, bends - the point where [Insert Gag Here] is written on the script.
Yet, you know what, providing expectations are kept in check, the Redeye isn't bad. There's never any doubt of its weight and the amount of momentum fighting against any sudden vector changes, but the steering wheel delivers accurate front-end responses and, once turned, the SRT holds a cornering line without wandering. There's less steering corruption over rough surfaces than I remember with the regular Hellcat too.
This is predicated on staying suitably respectful. Start to send a significant amount of torque to the rear and the Redeye becomes more of a barrow load than a handful. At higher speeds the stability control stops anything too dramatic from happening; the car can actually be accelerated into understeer on faster corners. But at lower velocities and traction management pretty much settles down on the porch with a beer, allowing the Redeye adopt the sort of rakish angles that used to feature in the pursuit sequences of 'seventies cop shows, even with the stability fully on.
There's no doubting this can be fun when the mood takes - especially as the electronics will intervene before things become terminal. But it also makes you a bit conspicuous: I found it hard not to accelerate out of junctions without smoking the rear tyres, and Michigan's surprising number of roundabouts seemed to be rubbering in noticeably during my time with the car.
Turning the stability fully off is the equivalent of alligator wrestling. A full throttle start has the mirrors obscured with billowing clouds of tyre smoke, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Guinness World Record for longest burn-out is shortly awarded to a Redeye. That was in the dry; in the wet I reckon a fully unleashed Redeye would accelerate its rear axle through the gears to 200mph and keep spinning the tyres until the rest of the car caught up...
Beyond its ridonculous power output there's nothing clever or sophisticated about the Redeye. There doesn't need to be. U.S. buyers looking for more nuanced dynamic thrills have an abundance of performance cars to choose from in this bit of the market - an RS5 costs pretty much exactly the same as the non-widebody, albeit with barely more than half the power. But if they want the most muscular muscle car, and the most quintessentially American one, then this is definitely it.
SPECIFICATION - DODGE CHALLENGER HELLCAT SRT RED EYE
Engine: 6,166cc, supercharged V8
Transmission: 8-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power: 797hp at 6,300rpm
Torque: 707lb ft at 4,500rpm
Top speed: 202mph
MPG: 19mpg (est)
Price: $77,045 (Widebody)
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