Driving Every Modern Dodge Performance Vehicle on the Road and Track – Part II

1 month ago Reviews Video

In the first portion of our look at each of the Dodge media drive events held over the past seven years, we looked at the original Dodge Challenger SRT® Hellcat, the original Charger SRT Hellcat, the widebody Challenger, the SRT Demon and the Durango SRT. In this second piece, we look at the Redeye cars, the widebody Charger and the Durango SRT Hellcat.

Challenger SRT® Hellcat Redeye, Maine, Summer of 2018

After Dodge introduced the 800-horsepower Challenger SRT Demon in 2017 for the 2018 model year, many fans of the brand were hoping for a follow-up and in 2018, the Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye was introduced. Borrowing an array of parts from the SRT Demon, the Challenger Redeye debuted with 797 horsepower, with the key difference between the SRT Demon and the Redeye being a slightly different pump gas engine tune and, of course, the Redeye doesn’t have the SRT Demon’s 100-octane race gas capabilities. However, for those folks who missed out on an SRT Demon a year early, the Redeye was the perfect solution.

To get our first seat time in the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, we traveled to Portland, Maine, with a planned local destination of Club Motorsports in New Hampshire. Club is a newer track, one which Stellantis/FCA had used for several media drive events in the past, offering stunning scenery and some of the most dramatic elevation changes I have experienced on a road course. Club has huge ascents and descents, combined with varying degrees of corners and a big-speed front straightaway. The track tests every aspect of a performance cars, from braking to handling to all-out acceleration.

Our drive time in the Challenger Redeye began at our hotel in downtown Portland and snaked its way out of town, onto the winding back roads leading us to the track. As you might expect, the brawny Challenger made for a comfortable ride, while the Bilstein suspension allowed the car to carve along the twisty country roads. Along the way, a few long straight stretches gave the SRT Hellcat Redeye a chance to “clear its throat” a bit, but we saved the high speeds for the track – instead using the road drive to enjoy the ride quality, the handling abilities and the premium interior amenities. There is no other American car that combines the performance and comfort of the Challenger Redeye, making it the perfect ride for a long road trip.

Once we arrived at the track, we got to really experience the fury of the Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye. Like every media track event, the morning began with a safety meeting and then we headed out onto the track. A lap of Club Motorsports begins with a steep, winding climb up the hill, a series of short straights and tight turns at the top of the hill, a curvy blast back down the hill and then a long front straightaway that runs along pit road. Needless to say, the Redeye had plenty of power to roar up the hill and down the straights while the adaptive suspension and brakes allowed the 4,500-pound muscle car to race back down the hill – through all of the turns – with surprising ease.

The drive event at Club Motorsports and on the road leading to the track showed that the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye is not just a drag car. It is the ultimate American touring coupe, combining interior comfort, ride quality, world-class handling and unrivaled power in a package that will also run 9-second quarter-miles with a set of drag radial tires.

Charger Widebody (Scat Pack and SRT Hellcat), California, Fall of 2019

When Dodge introduced the widebody Challenger, the SRT Demon and the Redeye, hardcore Charger fans shared this displeasure in the lack of new performance-minded introductions with four doors. That all changed in the summer of 2019, when the brand introduced the widebody Charger – available in both Scat Pack and SRT Hellcat flavors. The introduction of the wider Charger also came with the debut of the 50th Anniversary Edition Daytona package, featuring unique stripes, wheels and 10 extra horsepower.

In the fall of 2019, Dodge invited select members of the media to Sacramento, California, where we would be driving the new, wider Charger. The on-road drive was great, as Northern California might be at its best during the fall. It was relatively cool, allowing us to scoot along the winding roads leading to the race track with the windows down to best enjoy the roar of the supercharged HEMI® engine.

Speaking of the track, our destination was Sonoma Raceway, better known as Sears Point to old-school NASCAR fans. For gamers like myself, the Sonoma road course has been featured on many racing games, so while this was my first trip there, the track was relatively familiar. What surprised a few of the people on hand for testing is that the Sonoma road course has more tight turns than broad, sweeping turns. It seems like a less-than-ideal testing venue for a rear-drive full-sized sedan with more than 700 horsepower, but the supercharged Dodge four-door shined bright in the tight turns. Of course, the sveltier Scat Pack also got through the turns very nicely, but the SRT Hellcat Charger – including the 50th Anniversary Daytona models – were an absolute blast on the legendary road course. On the few straights of Sonoma, the 707- and 717-horsepower Chargers built speed in a hurry, but the massive Brembo brakes got the cars back down to manageable speeds to handle the corners.

Dodge Charger fans had to wait a little longer for their widebody option than Challenger fans, but our first seat time made it clear that it was worth the wait. We also got to witness a righteous burnout, courtesy of a member of the engineering team.

Charger Redeye, Durango SRT Hellcat, North Carolina, Fall of 2020

While the Daytona anniversary package got a few extra horsepower, Dodge Charger fans had been asking for significantly more power since the SRT Demon was introduced. Those Dodge owners and racers who wanted the extra interior space wanted big power and in 2020, those calls were answered with the Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye. Packing the same 797-horsepower HEMI engine as the Challenger Redeye, there was finally a sedan that offered the best of everything in the Dodge arsenal – shy of the SRT Demon’s track-focused features and the race gas engine tune.

Around the same time that the Redeye Charger was announced, the Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat was introduced after a few years of requests by prospective buyers. The Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk had been introduced a few years earlier with 707 horsepower, leading Dodge fans to want a similar package for the Durango. When the Durango SRT Hellcat was introduced, it received a rating of 710 horsepower, making it the most powerful SUV on the market.

In the fall of 2020, Dodge held a media first drive event in North and South Carolina, where we would test both of these new supercharged models. We began our drive in Charlotte, North Carolina, and made our way south to Carolina Motorsports Park in South Carolina.

While attending all of the events mentioned above, I never ran into any weather that hampered the track action. That streak of success ended at the Charger Redeye/Durango SRT Hellcat drive, as when we set out in the morning, it was pouring rain. Luckily, we drove the all-wheel-drive supercharged Durango to start the day, so the wet streets didn’t have much of an impact on the experience. Sure, we weren’t pushing the big SUV to its limits, but since we were headed to a race track, we didn’t need to push the Durango SRT Hellcat hard on the wet roads. Instead, we used the morning drive to get a feel for the ride quality and how it handled the rain with all of that power. Of course, the advanced all-wheel-drive system made short work of the wet roads and thanks to the adaptive suspension system, the ride was remarkably smooth. The Durango SRT Hellcat also has a loaded interior, packed with premium technology, so it makes for a wonderful road trip vehicle that will go very, very fast when the need arises.

When we got to the track, the rain had stopped enough to get rid of any puddling on the track. The surface was still damp and it rained lightly on and off during the track time, so we had to be more careful than usual, but there were times when the track was dry enough to push both vehicles very hard.

With the Durango SRT Hellcat, the all-wheel-drive system made the wet track less of an issue, especially when leaving a corner under power. With the 797-horsepower Charger, we had to be much more delicate with the throttle when coming out of a wet turn, but the standard tires did a great job of providing grip under acceleration along with braking and cornering. In short, while the track was wet, we were still able to use all of the Redeye Charger power at times and those times were incredible. The Charger is longer and feels a bit more stable than the Challenger, so we were able to push the car hard into tighter turns, even when the track was wet. The biggest trouble area was the long, sweeping turns where you would normally want to apply more and more power, but on the wet track, we had to be far more patient, as adding much throttle while cornering in the rain was a recipe for drifting – and we didn’t want that. However, even with the damp track, the trip to Carolina Motorsports Park revealed the impressive handling characteristics of the Redeye Charger and Durango SRT Hellcat.

My day ended with the Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye for the drive from the track back to the hotel and as I left the track, I found myself driving into clear skies and dry roads. That allowed me to get a feel for the 797-horsepower super-sedan on dry roads with the windows down. From roasting the tires on a desolate country road to the combination of exhaust roar and supercharger whine, the Charger Redeye is truly the ultimate American performance sedan. Some people scoff at the fact that Dodge calls the four-door Charger a muscle car, but it embodies everything that made the original muscle cars so special, but it does so while providing room for five adults.

Best of all, the rain didn’t stop the engineering team from putting on a nice burnout display before we all left the track.

Of course, for those drivers who want the muscle car experience, but who also need lots more interior space, the Durango SRT Hellcat is as close to a muscle car as an SUV will ever get. Sadly, it was only available for one model year, but the supercharged Challengers and Chargers are still readily available at dealerships around the United States and Canada.

What new Dodge product will I drive next? Right now, I don’t know of any drive events coming up, but with the end of the current generation coming up and the debut of the next generation of Dodge performance on the horizon, there could be some very different muscle cars on the way.

Author: Patrick Rall

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