Mountain Wheels: Total automotive madness in Dodge’s 797-horsepower Charger Hellcat Redeye |

Mountain Wheels: Total automotive madness in Dodge’s 797-horsepower Charger Hellcat Redeye

You, too, can smoke your tires like professional drag racer Leah Pruett in the 797-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye, though a setting like Bandimere Speedway is probably a safer venue for that.
Photo by Andy Stonehouse / Mountain Wheels

As a testament to the triumph (and pitfalls) of free will, the notion of a factory-made 797-horsepower family vehicle is very much top of the list. That is the magic of Dodge’s 2021 Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody, an American speed machine like no other (except maybe the closely related 807-horsepower Challenger Super Stock).

I got to spend a whole week with the super-high-output Charger, including one of the most ill-advised briefly-snowing-sideways-but-not-sticking Eisenhower Tunnel trips in history. On dry pavement, it lived up to its hype, offering acceleration that’s cataclysmic.

But the place the car really belongs is an actual drag strip, and I spent Thursday afternoon at Bandimere Speedway near Morrison getting rides in the Charger with two of the top racers in the country as a warmup for this weekend’s 41st annual Dodge/SRT Mile-High NHRA Nationals.

Leah Pruett drives the Mopar Dodge/SRT Top Fuel dragster — and can hit over 330 mph on her sub-four-second runs — and Matt Hagan, the current NHRA Funny Car world champion, drives a Hellcat Redeye Funny Car that puts out a slightly more impressive 11,000 horsepower.

Both took us for runs on the strip in the stock Hellcat Redeye and a Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, itself 710 horsepower, and (safely) demonstrated the flat-out potential of both vehicles.

Pruett, who’s been racing since she was 9 years old, describes even the street-legal Hellcat experience as a combination of hurricane, tornado and tsunami, practically defying physics. Her dragster, meanwhile, hits 100 mph in a single second. She escaped a major crash last year with “just a concussion” and preps for the Denver-area races by drinking a gallon of water a day.

I got a few runs myself in both the Charger and the Durango, and even without launch control or the various track-tuning tweaks turned on, I started to see the appeal and adrenaline rush of professional-level drag racing.

Out in the wild, the Charger Hellcat Redeye is indeed something else, with a base price of $69,995 and a rather stunning $90,060 tab for the massively tricked out model I drove in late May. It’s got a top speed of 203 mph, pretty close to the four-times-as-expensive McLaren supercar profiled recently, and sits on ridiculously wide 20-inch 305/35 Pirelli race tires.

Not so long ago, even 300 horsepower was a big deal. This thing will get wheel spin in fourth gear and can go so alarmingly sideways on a full-throttle takeoff that you see the potential for serious trouble if not treated with great respect.

Unlike the lightweight McLaren, getting up to those terminal speeds — which I did not really try to do, besides my quarter-mile on the track — takes a lot of open road, maybe a stretch of the Autobahn or an abandoned airstrip.

But you can still nail zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds and do a quarter-mile in 10.6 seconds at 129 mph. (I was too busy focusing on the horizon at Bandimere to see if I matched that.) Its German-made, eight-speed transmission somehow copes with all of that unbelievable torque and those repeated thrashings you know everyone is going to throw at it, over and over again.

And yes, you can go to a Dodge dealer and simply purchase one and drive away. What you choose to do with it is entirely up to you, though I would suggest maybe not driving it in torrential rainstorms or light snow showers; 15.7-inch rotors and Brembo brakes up front certainly preserved me during those outings.

The widebody effect stretches the already substantial Charger platform by 3.5 inches, and on dry canyon roads, I discovered that it’s got very impressive lateral grip and suspension that makes it much more than just a straight-line monster.

Charger’s already menacing looks are further enhanced with a functional performance hood that hides what looks like, well, an almost 800-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi, one of the most powerful stock engines ever created. The supercharger whine is pretty omnipresent and full throttle noises are practically pornographic.

Inside, it’s not exactly what you might imagine a $90,000 vehicle looking like, with a largely stock interior classed up considerably with a suede headliner and authentic carbon fiber highlights. The seats certainly keep you planted in place, and there’s ample room for the kids in the back.

As a kind gesture to parents of teen drivers, the Hellcat Redeye can also be electronically limited to 500 horsepower — consider that statement for a minute. You can also micro-tune the suspension, traction, steering or loads of other variables to make it a more pleasant daily driver, but what’s the point of that, really?

Andy Stonehouse

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