2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye First Test Review: Seven Deadly Sins
The Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye is not my kind of car. My tastes lean toward agile canyon carvers over brute-force muscle machines, and I could be the only person to ever pick up a Hellcat wearing Birkenstocks and tie-dye wool socks. I pride myself on preferring the “add lightness” approach to performance to the big-power approach: humbly powered Mazda Miata types that provide the sensation of speed with less of the risk, and electric super sedans like the Porsche Taycan Turbo S that provide face-warping acceleration while easing my environmental guilt.
But the devil is a powerful temptress. Spending 10 days and 1,670 miles with the four-door Hellcat Redeye has me thinking more of garden serpents than flaming felines. I was presented with SRT’s apple and relished in eating it, seeds and all. Forgive me, my ministerial mother (no, really, my mom is a minister), for I have sinned. This is my confession.
Avoiding pride in the Charger Hellcat Redeye is nearly impossible. With 797 hp and a claimed top speed of 203 mph, this is the fastest and most powerful production sedan ever sold. No matter how many Mercedes-AMG E63s, BMW M5s, and Porsche Panamera Turbos you see on the road driving this Charger, your right foot reigns over more horses than any of them. At 797 hp split between just the two rear wheels, each of the Redeye’s rear tires is tasked with managing more power than those of the all-wheel-drive 1,479-hp Bugatti Chiron.
More than once I found myself condescendingly thinking, “Cute base Hellcat, bud, how you doing on those 275-section tires? Aww, a Scat Pack with the 6.4-liter V-8? Adorable!” The Redeye’s superlatives fade other cars’ accomplishments into the background. Driving this broad-shouldered beast, you’re the main character.
The Hellcat Redeye hoards horsepower—not only is this so, so much more power than you’ll ever need, but it’s also almost always more than you can use. Let’s take a look at the underwhelming 0-60, figure eight, and quarter-mile times for a little indication. The Charger Hellcat Redeye runs 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds and the quarter mile in 11.9 seconds at 126.6 mph. Plenty of less powerful cars have recorded quicker times, and the same goes for the Redeye’s 24.8-second lap of our figure-eight course at 0.80 average g.
Acceleration is limited by traction, not power. Even with colossal 305-section tires, the Charger struggles to transmit its 6.2-liter supercharged V-8’s output to the pavement below extralegal speeds. Even in the Redeye’s most restrictive traction control setting, full throttle will light up the rear tires at 70 mph. That explains why, despite wielding less power and more weight, the AWD Durango Hellcat is more than half a second quicker to 60 mph.
The brakes aren’t up to the task, either. They can feel grabby around town, which makes me think they’d be capable of hauling this 4,600-pound behemoth down from speed, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Our testing revealed a soft, squishy brake pedal with what feels like a foot of travel. Scary.
Back to power, it’s barely usable on most roads but—and there’s a significant but here—the Charger Hellcat Redeye feels like it pulls harder from 90 mph than most sports cars do from 40 mph. Skeptics can name dozens of less powerful vehicles that’ll beat the Redeye to 60 mph and even to the quarter mile, but the Redeye is only getting started at 1,320 feet. Case in point: A Tesla Model 3 will clear 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and the quarter in 11.7, but as the Tesla is running out of steam and crossing the quarter-mile line at 115.1 mph, this Charger is traveling more than 10 mph faster.
Slow-car-fast can be loads of fun, but there’s a level of fear and adrenaline at play understanding the risk involved in (allegedly) pushing a car with this kind of performance past the triple-digit threshold. The sinful power of this engine wouldn’t translate driving from 0 to 60 mph, it would be on display as you charge from 50 to 150 mph. Just know you’d need a rare breed of long, straight, well-paved, empty road with a mile of visibility to experience it.
As for the “fastest sedan in the world” moniker and the Redeye’s claimed 203-mph top speed? I believe it, but I wouldn’t want to be along for the ride. During one of my more reckless pursuits to land myself in jail on a trip down to Tucson, I found my speed more limited by confidence-sapping hood and dashboard shake than horsepower. The Redeye was still pulling hard at that ungodly speed, but I’d want a properly set-up example on a prepared surface to keep my foot in the throttle any longer.
I’m not an angry person, but you should see the way this thing hates tires. Heard of line lock? It’s included as a “drag racing” feature that locks the front brakes while leaving the rears wide open for easy burnouts, in theory to heat up the tires and increase traction for an optimal launch. Does it actually provide superior times? Maybe. Does it produce pavement-scarring, air-polluting, devilishly smokey burnouts? See for yourself:
Even without line lock, the Redeye is constantly punishing its rubber. Most attempts at full or even half throttle result in more wheelspin than a night with Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Dodge dropped off the car with new tires; when we returned the Redeye 10 days later, they were nearly bald.
No, this isn’t a creepy mechanophilia sex thing. Nineteenth-century English archbishop Henry Edward Manning said lust transforms a person into “a slave of the devil.” As much as I understand high-speed driving’s risk to myself and others, unnecessary fuel consumption, and candid pointlessness, my master commanded me, and I couldn’t refuse. Sorry, officer.
I constantly had the desire to charge up to felonious triple-digit speeds driving the Charger Redeye. Like a comedy funny enough to illicit belly laughs even watching alone on a quiet airplane, the Redeye’s highway performance inspired streams of expletives even when I was its only occupant.
Driving with a right shoe full of lithium rather than lead, though, and the Redeye exhibits an almost habitual disinclination to exertion. Testing my right foot’s restraint, I managed to make it halfway to Tucson without the engine exceeding 1,500 rpm.
Dodge cleverly engineered the Redeye with such lazy throttle tip-in that driving it like a normal car is nearly effortless, and there’s so much low-end torque that the engine is barely working in most scenarios. Other than extra tire roar and the raucous rumble of a cold start, the fastest sedan in the world can feel like a V-6 Charger without its morning coffee until you put your foot in it.
That feeling ceases at the gas pump. The Charger Hellcat Redeye exhibits overconsumption to the point of waste. In my first week with the car, I averaged 10.5 mpg. Following my 1,000-mile weekend road trip, that number rose to an acceptable 18.3 mpg.
Hear me out, though: 1,670 miles at 18.3 mpg comes to 91.3 gallons of gas. Apply that amount of fuel to a Honda Insight—which yes, even with 152 hp can comfortably cruise above 80 mph—and you’ll see the Redeye’s consumption in more context. At the Insight’s 52 mpg combined, you’d be able to drive 4,745 miles. That’s enough to carry you from Orlando, Florida, to Anchorage, Alaska; to drive a 20-mile round-trip commute 47 weeks of the year; to drive from Los Angeles to Atlanta and back.
(For what it’s worth, during a playful hypermiling exercise I averaged 22.0 mpg over a 200-mile stretch that included both stop-and-go traffic and 80-mph highway cruising. Reasonable fuel economy is possible, but only if you can resist temptation.)
That level of consumption also brought out envy. During my trip back up from Tucson, I noticed my gas gauge was below the quarter-tank mark and decided to search for the nearest station. My remaining range read 44 miles; the closest station was 46 miles away.
For the next 45 minutes I dropped my speed by at least 20 mph, tucking behind a semi truck to allow its huge frontal area to take the brunt of the aerodynamic drag so I could maximize efficiency. Watching multiple Priuses and plug-in hybrid Ford Fusions pass by temporarily had me yearning for a fuel sipper; 797 horses don’t do you much good when they’re bridled behind a truck, fearing starvation.
I’m not proud of the sins I committed during my time with the Charger Hellcat Redeye. But the various forms of desire, selfishness, punishment, and consumption it brought out in me won’t be forgotten. When high gas prices and strict emission policies make it impossible for a car like this to exist, the Redeye will be remembered as the most pleasurable guilt from the old-school era of performance. As for me? I’ll be back for confession next Sunday.
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