The Challenger has been a success for Dodge, remaining one of the most popular Coupes on the market. While Challengers are ubiquitous, the Hellcat is a rare bird. The 2019 Challenger Hellcat Red Eye is an amazing vehicle, combining power, performance technology, and daily drivability in one package. The 797 horsepower is so overwhelming that often the rest of the story is missed.
Even the most mundane Challenger SXT brings a taste of power and performance with over 300 horses in a very good performing chassis. Each bump up in trim level provides more power and better handling characteristics until you reach the pinnacle in the Hellcat editions. Dodge wasn’t happy with only offering the 717 horsepower Hellcat and upped the game with the awe-inspiring 797 horse Red Eye version.
The Hellcat comes with the 6.2-liter Supercharged Hemi engine making 717 horses. A beefed-up version of the same engine is used in the Red Eye kicking out a stunning 797 horsepower.
In the basic Hellcat you can get a 6-speed manual transmission, but in the more powerful Red Eye, it is 8-speed auto shift only. The mapping on the transmission is excellent, and it gives the best times letting the computer do the work. When used with launch control and line lock, you can shift your way to 3.5 second 0 to 60 times and a 10.8-second quarter mile. At 75 miles per hour you can break the rear tires loose on dry pavement with a crack of the throttle.
The rest of the story is that the Challenger is a fun car to drive. It offers a well-appointed cabin with leather seating, state of the art driver safety features, and one of the best infotainment systems on the market.
Our test car came with the Napa Alcantara leather Hellcat logo seats, but even the base Hellcat comes with Laguna leather seating. Standard equipment included the 4C U-Connect with navigation and Sirius XM Satellite radio, electronic roll mitigation, adaptive dampening, SRT configurable drive modes, SRT performance pages, 200 mph speedometer and Brembo 6 piston brakes in front with 4 piston Brembos in the rear. On top of all that the car came with about $27,000 worth of optional equipment that included adaptive cruise, upgraded leather, blind spot monitors, lane keeping, HID lighting, Harman Kardon audio, and the Wide Body package.
Perhaps one of the most valuable standard feature included in every Hellcat is the SRT Driving Experience that gives each buyer a one-day driving course to learn how to handle the amazing power of the car.
The Hellcat Red Eye earns a gas guzzler tax penalty of $1700. By the time you add all that up, and figure in the destination charges the total for our test car was a staggering $88,900. However, for the horsepower and performance the Hellcat Red Eye brings to the game, it is a good deal.
Driving the Red Eye is a treat. The stiff suspension provides a lot of road feel, without being too harsh to drive comfortably. Cornering is flat and fast with almost no body roll, and thanks to the Micheline Cup tires the car grips firmly and cuts through a curve. Braking with the upgraded Brembo brakes is positive and straight on wet or dry pavement. Acceleration is the selling point of the Red Eye; neck snapping power rockets the heavy coupe down the road or track.
There is so much high-tech on the car; it takes some time to master it all. SRT featured drive mode screens, and performance pages offer endless options to tune the suspension, steering and traction control while monitoring the performance. Self-timers are included for 0-60, 0-100, quarter mile, and eight-mile runs. The driver’s information center located in the instrument panel can displayed data ranging from fuel economy to high-performance stats.
Overall the feeling of the Challenger Hellcat Red Eye is of barely controlled power, like walking a lion on a leash.
If you’re not able to spring the spare bucks to get into a Red Eye, the Challenger line offers several levels of performance beginning with the base 305 horsepower SXT and for a few more dollars the Scat Pack with 485 horses for less than 40 grand.
Challenger is a fun car to drive in any trim level, combining sporty handling, retro styling, high-tech safety, and convenience features and decent economy.
If you need a four-door sedan and still want great performance try the Charger Scat Pack reviewed here
Build your own Challenger, including the Scat Pack, Hellcat and Red Eye here