What’s Good: Tire-melting power and the sound to go with it.
What’s Bad: It should look far more sinister with nearly eight hundred horsepower. Buy it in black.
The thing about this Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye is that it straddles between what last year’s Demon was and the Hellcat Widebody. However, to understand a Redeye, you have to examine both the Demon and the basic Hellcat, assuming that you can call a Hellcat basic.
Technically, there is a basic Hellcat, which is the narrow body Challenger with the low output, supercharged HEMI. You can get that car with an automatic or manual gearbox, The Widebody model is also available with a low output HEMI and your choice of transmission. Then, at the top of the range, there’s this – the Redeye – which can be had in narrow or Widebody styles, but the Widebody has the right street presence.
What makes a Redeye special is that it’s got a bunch of tricks from the Demon – the big supercharger with more boost, the eight speed automatic with the better torque converter, the dual fuel pumps, the Power Chiller, the After Run Chiller, and the stronger drive shaft and half shafts. Like all SRT Challengers, it’s got launch control and line lock, and to be crystal clear, the Redeye is only available with the automatic.
Unlike the Demon, though, the Redeye doesn’t get the trans brake, the drag radials, nor the drag-oriented suspension, which is a good thing because this Redeye is actually fun to throw around in the corners.
This high output supercharged HEMI produces 797 horsepower and 707 pounds-feet of torque, which is just a handful shy of the Demon, at least when the Demon’s on pump gas. (On race gas, the old Demon makes a full 840 horses.)
What defines the Redeye is its high-pitched supercharger whine. Only audible under load, it makes driving this Challenger an occasion. It’s very distinctive and when you hear that sound, you know there’s a supercharged HEMI approaching.
In terms of straight-line numbers, the Redeye is among the quickest cars on the road. It does zero to sixty in the mid threes and the quarter mile in less than eleven seconds. Dodge says it’ll top out at over two hundred miles an hour. In the aggressive muscle car bodywork of this big Challenger, exploring maximum velocity would be as entertaining as a moon landing.
SRT’s Power and After Run Chillers are a truly innovative approach to improving Hellcat performance and, of course, this tech is lifted straight from the Demon.
With the Power Chiller, the refrigerant normally used to chill the cabin air gets diverted and cools the engine’s intake air by way of heat exchangers in the supercharger.
Perhaps even cooler, pun intended, is the After-Run Chiller which uses the same system, but engages after the engine shuts down, minimizing heat soak. Because SRT has thought of everything, you can check the supercharger coolant temperature on the SRT Performance Pages in the Uconnect screen.
You’d expect an ultra high performance car like this Redeye to be equipped with most options, but the tester that Dodge provided was an unusual, low-option specification. Thankfully, it was fitted with just a few: cloth upholstery and, interestingly, the rear seat-delete option. It’s no surprise that SRT builds some of the most compelling enthusiast vehicles because their engineers are as nerdy for cars as their customers.
There’s a lot of tire under this Widebody Hellcat Redeye and how the suspension is calibrated makes it very different from the Demon. The Widebody automatically adds the good looking 20 x 11-inch wheels, “Devil’s Rim,” as Dodge calls them, with 305-wide Pirelli P Zeros. The suspension is similar to other Widebodys with multi-mode Bilstein adaptive dampers.
Looking at the Challenger, you wouldn’t think that it could be a corner carver, but this Redeye was engineered for the turns, not just the quarter mile. On the other hand, those Pirellis are not as sticky as what you find on the Demon, but that Demon is a straight line car. As composed as the Redeye handles, the wide Pirellis aren’t a track tire, which makes the rear axle very, very lively. It does all sorts of anti-social things – instant wheelspin, tire smoke, as well as aggressive oversteer – and this is precisely what experienced drivers appreciate.
The individual drive modes are distinct from one another and you can customize your own drive mode, should you choose. When you set the Redeye to its more aggressive settings, it shifts quickly and has instant throttle response. If you dial back traction and stability settings, and are courageous enough, you’re left controlling the Challenger’s attitude with your right foot.
Although it’s not a hardcore sports car, you can throw it into corners and it responds surprisingly well. It brakes and turns with relative precision, and it’s the sort of muscle car that lends some confidence to the driver and can be enjoyed on challenging roads.
The remarkable zero to sixty and quarter mile times are academic because, as all responsible drivers know, you’re never going to get the perfect launch on public roads, nor should you ever try to.
What none of the Redeye’s numbers actually convey is that its one of the craziest cars you can buy today. Sure, it’s one of the quickest cars on the road and the sound it makes is exceptionally distinctive, but the other consideration is that this Redeye will, if you’re not prudent, wildly light up its rear tires any time you want.
The Challenger is a big, bad muscle car and it’s fitted with these big, bad muscle car seats, which are comfortable and supportive. They’re unmistakably American in style, but you feel like you sit atop this chassis, not in it. In day-to-day driving, the Redeye’s taller seating position is perfectly usable, but when you’re carving corners, you’re left wanting to sit lower in a seat that’s more bolstered.
The Hellcat Redeye is a large, comfortable, massively powerful, unapologetic muscle car that looks the part, but it’s so unique and so special that it’ll reach legendary status in the very near future, assuming it hasn’t already.
Enthusiasts like us are fortunate to be living in this automotive era, where one can stroll into a Dodge store, write a modest cheque, and drive out with what is perhaps the performance bargain of the century.