2015-Dodge-Challenger-SRT-Hellcat-style

DODGE CHALLENGER SRT HELLCAT:
“if you think about a Dodge Challenger SRT 392, this is more than 95 percent of the performance enthusiasts in the world will ever need,” said Tim Kuniskis, president and CEO, Dodge and SRT. “But there’s that guy out there, there’s that 5 percent of the enthusiast population that wants more. They want more horsepower. They want more handling. They want more braking. They want more aggressive styling. So, for that 5 percent, we have the SRT Hellcat.”

That pretty much lays out the Dodge Challenger Hellcat’s reason for being. The SRT Hellcat is not a car for everybody—and that’s all right. The team began with the 6.4-liter V8 from the SRT 392 and proceeded to change upward of 90 percent components or software. The deep-skirt iron block was reconfigured for better coolant flow. The crankshaft, pistons, and connecting rods were all bolstered for added strength and modified. Displacement goes from 6.4 to 6.2 liters to accommodate all the extra air.

The heads are redesigned with new intake- and exhaust-port geometry to accommodate the humongous intake air and exhaust gas. So much heat is involved in making massive power that the exhaust valves aren’t solid like the intake valves. Instead, they boast a sodium core for maximum heat dissipation. A 2.38-liter twin-scroll supercharger sits atop the engine, chugging air through the hollow inboard driver’s-side headlight. The tolerances between the two rotors’ blades is so fine the points use a proprietary coating containing nanoparticles of solid lubricants (including Teflon) to keep friction down while improving pumping efficiencies. This is the first-ever factory-supercharged Hemi engine. It’s sort of an anniversary present for fans because this is the engine that celebrates 50 years of Chrysler Hemispherical engines. And what a way to do it. All the hard work’s final result is a staggering 707 hp, the most any Hemi engine has ever produced.

2015-Dodge-Challenger-SRT-Hellcat-engine

It rests handsomely in the engine bay, too, one of the prettiest underhood views available. “On a car like this where the hood is often up, showing buddies, or at a car show, it was so important for us to have everything routed and looking proper,” said lead exterior designer Mark Trostle. He also pointed out the painted heads. “Hemi blocks are orange, but we wanted to bring that color up to the heads. You can also see how it is very tidy. We made sure everything runs north-south, east-west, up and down, so it looks nice. And, yes, we do have cupholders for your beverage of choice.”

It’s challenging to wrangle all that power, so the enthusiast-centric six-speed manual transmission is borrowed from the Viper. For the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, it gets a heavy-duty clutch and is attached to a new bell housing to fit the V8. Gearing runs from 2.26:1 to 0.63:1. To improve durability, first and second gears get three cone synchronizers, with a two-cone setup used for gears three-six. This is a performance car, but it still needs to make Uncle Sam happy, so it uses a first-to-fourth solenoid-enforced skip-shift under certain circumstances to reduce fuel consumption. This means the SRT Hellcat gets 22 mpg highway—your wallet won’t end up as light as it could be.

The SRT’s automatic is also ditched for the SRT Hellcat. It’s paired with the ZF 8HP90 TorqueFlite eight-speed, receiving upgraded internals compared to the 8HP70. The transmission gear ratios are identical, but the final drive is 2.62:1, compared to the SRT Hellcat’s 3.09:1.

All of that “go” needs some corresponding “whoa,” and the SRT Hellcat delivers in a huge way—it wears the largest steel brakes on any U.S. production car. While the rear 13.8-inch slotted discs are identical to the SRT 392, the front features 15.4-inch six-piston Brembos. Other chassis bits get breathed on, too. The front stabilizer bar is 32mm hollow-core, while the rear is up to 22mm hollow-core. The steering system is different, ditching the electronically assisted steering rack for fixed-displacement hydraulic-power assist. The rack delivers a 38.5-foot turning radius and 2.52 turns lock to lock. You get a bit more room to turn around, but the steering is quicker to get there.

THEN THERE’S THE LOOK:
Designers took inspiration from the ’71 Challenger front and rear. Note the front end’s split grille and distinct taillights. The hood wears an intake that a first-gen Viper owner can recognize, and there are 20-by-9.5-inch matte-black lightweight forged aluminum wheels with Pirelli P Zero Nero tires.

“When we set out to do the new Challenger, the car wasn’t broken/’ said Trostle. “Among the heritage cars, it’s the most pure and faithful to the original. Since we’d emulated the ’70 already, doing styling after the ’71 was a natural next step.”

The Hellcat leans heavily on Mopar’s heritage, wearing a nose somewhat like the ’71 Plymouth Road Runner. These cars are all about moving lots of air to keep the engine cool and well fed, as well as keeping the lift in check at high speed. The dri-ver’s-side inboard headlight is actually not a headlight but a cold air-intake duct with an LED halo around the perimeter. “You know, we were granted a patent on that,” said Trostle, offhandedly. “I’m not even kidding.”

The hood also uses an intake similar to the Viper’s to pass cool air over the supercharger. Functional rear-facing heat extractors pull hot air from the upgraded radiator. The SRT Hellcat has a unique front splitter and rear spoiler. They look good, and they’re completely functional. “The spoiler on the Hellcat is about 15mm taller than that on the SRT,” said Trostle. “And we had to fill in the cutout to optimize downforce.” The front downforce comes at the outside corners, and the splitter’s center cutout allows a reasonable approach angle for driveways. Top-speed stability is important, of course, and these components were responsible in part for the 35 percent greater wind-tunnel time compared to other cars. The SRT Hellcat is also lowered about a half-inch to improve aero performance but also because it just looks cooler hunkered down over the huge wheels. “As menacing as the SRT 392 is, the SRT Hellcat just goes beyond that,” noted Trostle. “Below the side marker the fascia doesn’t tuck in as much—we’ve pulled the surface out. Everything was done to maximize how wide that massive lower mouth is, allowing it to take in as much air as possible. Everything is about optimizing cooling.

“The other thing we did—and it’s very subtle—we dropped the leading edge of the nose about 7mm, so we actually cut a little bit more of that brow off to make it look just a little bit more pissed off. The badge of honor is the Hellcat badge,” Trostle said. “You know that, at the stoplight, this isn’t a car to be messed with.”

Heritage is important in cars like the Dodge Challenger SRT, so designers looked back to old Challengers. Thus, color and finish were something else designers paid attention to; wheel colors include “Brass Monkey,” and there are 11 different body colors, such as B5 blue, Sublime green and TorRed—each designed to eliminate the problem of finding an SRT in a parking lot. You can also get a matte black hood on the Hellcat. We asked if there was a plan for a purple. “We’re always looking at the color palettes, and I love some neat purples,” Trostle said.

THE RED-HEADED STEPCHILD BECOMES THE FAVORED SON:

Let’s get it right out of the way: The interior was the outgoing Challenger’s area of opportunity largely because it was built in an era dedicated to power first, comfort and technology second. The midcycle refresh helped, but the 2015 is like a Dreamliner compared to those Wright Flyers. The seats, styling and material choices are an update compared to the old cars. Like with the basic Challenger, all touch points surrounding the driver and passengers are significantly softened.

The SRT Hellcat’s front buckets have excellent support in all directions and high-quality Napa and Alcantara suede leather; they also get a special SRT logo stitched into the back. SRT logos are also embroidered into the carpets and located on the dash. The door panels, arm rests, steering wheel, dash panel and head-liner push luxury-car quality with French seams and contrast stitching.

Interior lead designer Ryan Nagode discussed his work with us. “We spent a lot of time getting the quality right between the first prototypes and the first cars to hit the road. Hopefully, the customer appreciates the final product even though they’ll never really know how much work went into it.” We asked if there was any pushback from the bean counters since the interior had become so premium. “Not specifically, because I think everyone in the company realizes the interiors have become the new playing field. With anything we do now, there’s a starting point for every car. The design office isn’t having to push as much.”

interior-DODGE CHALLENGER SRT HELLCAT 2015

Nagode’s favorite interior aspect? “Just how long it took to get this center console right. A lot of engineering happening in that small region—manual shifter in relation to the cupholders in relationship to the controls and lot of engineering to get the leather work done and the steel stamped to work with its finish.”

In all, there are 14 different interior color and trim selections across the Challenger range, including a wide variety of colors and materials, from throwback Houndstooth cloth to ruby red-and-black, tungsten-and-black, and pearl-and-black premium leather sport and performance seats with accent stitching.