First drive: 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat – Digital Trends

While the Challenger SRT Hellcat has actually been out terrorizing the streets of America and beyond for some time now, it’s safe to say that the 707 horsepower muscle automobile demands to be unleashed on a track.

Dodge and SRT have actually been operating the SRT monitor Experience ever because 2005 as soon as the very first SRT vehicles started rolling off from the factory and in to the hands of enthusiasts, along with the suggestion of providing brand-new owners some time on a road road to grab much better acclimated along with their cars in order to grab the most from these higher performance machines. While the program has actually been a triumph ever because it launched, it recently became clear along with the introduction of the Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcat models – along along with the incredibly capable fifth generation Viper and various other SRT vehicles that have actually recently seen a substantial leap in capability – that Dodge required to step points up a bit.

Accordingly, they’ve partnered up along with the Bob Bondurant higher Performance Racing School to conduct the SRT monitor Experience. Located in Chandler, Arizona, the Bondurant school is a purpose-built facility created for higher performance driver training.

Since 1968, Bondurant has actually been teaching tens of thousands of drivers ranging teenagers and military personnel to professional race automobile drivers in disciplines ranging from evasive maneuvering and automobile regulate techniques to high-speed race road driving. Racing icon Bob Bondurant and his roster of instructors – several of which are likewise highly successful former racers – are on hand to offer their expert tutelage, and that’s particularly reassuring as soon as you’ve got 707 horsepower under the hood, a 6 speed shifter in hand, and plenty of adrenaline operating through your veins.

Great power, Excellent responsibility

For every YouTube video of a Challenger SRT Hellcat dusting a Lamborghini Huracan out there there’s likewise a story concerning somebody wrapping one about a tree minutes after leaving the dealership or a clip of a guy roasting the tires all the method down the drag strip to a pitiful loss. As remarkably simple as these cars are to drive about town, the torrent of horsepower and torque they can easily dish out on command is something that has actually to be respected.
2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

Ask any suffered higher performance driver just what the very best method to improve a car’s performance is and they will certainly invariably suggest a driver mod – or in various other words, enhancing your ability behind the wheel prior to worrying concerning the ceiling of the car’s capability. That notion isn’t lost on the folks from Dodge and Bondurant, so the SRT monitor Experience will certainly now include not only road road laps, however skid control, autocross, and crash avoidance training as well.

The Challenger SRT Hellcat is merely Excellent at being an immensely enjoyable automobile that’s exceptional in day-to-day use and still engaging at the track.

In different ways, each of these disciplines reinforce higher performance driving fundamentals: Using your eyes to point the automobile where you want it to go (fairly compared to just what you hope to avoid), understanding handling dynamics based on grip and where the car’s weight is focused throughout a particular maneuver, applying throttle and braking inputs smoothly, and listening to just what the automobile is telling you through the wheel and elsewhere.

In terms of the latter, it’s worth noting that while the rest of the Challenger lineup (including the SRT 392) gets electrically assisted steering, the Hellcat model sticks along with a hydraulically assisted unit. A while ago I asked an SRT engineer concerning the rationale behind this move, assuming it had something to do along with the packaging constraints that the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 introduced in to the mix. As it turns out, that was not the case – Hellcat development started prior to the rest of the refreshed lineup did, and SRT engineers merely weren’t satisfied along with the steering feel and level of feedback given by the electric racks available at the time. It could sound trivial, however that engineering mindset goes a long method here.

On the track

The Challenger SRT Hellcat gets a reasonable quantity of flak from those that haven’t steered it – accusations that it’s a one trick pony that can easily only go in a straight line. Make no mistake, the Challenger is big and need to never be confused along with a purpose-built sports automobile – that’s the Viper’s wheelhouse. however SRT’s engineers clearly spent a lot of time making this a well-rounded performance automobile that’s not only simple to drive in the actual globe and absurdly fast in a straight line, however likewise highly capable on a road road as well.
The Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving in Chandler

At 4,500 pounds, the Challenger SRT Hellcat is no McLaren, and transitioning between a Viper TA 2.0 and the Challenger between road road lapping sessions serves to drive house the difference between a muscle automobile and a sports automobile in terms of size, weight, focus of gravity and driving position. however the naked truth of the matter is that this automobile can easily keep an really fast pace on the track, and do so lap after lap devoid of mechanical hiccups.

Despite having much more weight at the nose compared to ever, the Challenger SRT Hellcat is surprisingly neutral. As has actually methods been the case along with SRT’s muscle coupe, rotation is merely a stab of the throttle away, despite the fact that now along with so more power on tap, ham-fisted inputs aren’t as defensible as they once were. The brand-new traction regulate system will certainly undoubtedly save your neck if you decide to ignore physics and grab on the throttle too early, and plowing in to a corner is undoubtedly still feasible because front end grip is ultimately finite. however where the road road was something of a novelty for the Challenger in years past, the SRT Hellcat is absolutely a capable dancing partner a the track and will certainly reward good behavior along with steadily faster lap times.

Make no mistake, the Challenger is big and need to never be confused along with a purpose-built sports car.

Complimenting that supercharged Hemi is a set of massive Brembo brakes, along with 6 piston calipers up front that chomp down on 15.4-inch discs, while four piston units are mated to 13.8-inch rotors in the rear. Despite the warm Arizona weather and the near-constant lapping done throughout the day on Bondurant’s road course, none of the Challengers I drove exhibited brake fade at any point – even as soon as I was allowed to hunt an instructor automobile devoid of any various other journalist cars in tow to anchor us at a slower pace.

However, it’s worth noting that the Bondurant school uses motorsport-style brake pads on all of their cars. While these pads insight make the cars much more resistant to brake fade, the tradeoff is that the brakes are far noisier compared to they would certainly be off the showroom floor. Having previously steered a showroom-stock Challenger SRT Hellcat throughout lapping sessions at Auto Club Speedway’s sport automobile course, which includes multiple sections where speeds can easily exceed 140 miles per hour and are immediately followed by heavy braking sections, I’d say that the standard pads are up to the task in all however the most extreme cases – love the near-constant day-to-day monitor use that the cars at Bondurant see – and they’re as quiet as can easily be, unlike most carbon ceramic setups.

On the road

At the end of the day I hopped in a Hellcat for the drive spine to the hotel from the Bondurant facility. Aside from the livery, brake pads and the tires it rolled on (Pirelli supplies the Hellcat’s factory-installed tires however Goodyear sponsors the Bondurant school and provides Eagle F1s for their training cars), this Hellcat was essentially identical to the ones we had been abusing all day out on the track. however as opposed to strapping on my helmet, I sunk in to the plush leather seats, turned on the AC, cranked up the stereo, and headed out on the highway.

Therein lies the genius of this car. several performance cars focus their efforts so sharply on a particular metric that it serves as a detriment to the overall enjoyment of the automobile – an unyielding stiff suspension may be practical on certain monitor surfaces however it’s invariably unpleasant on public roads, and a small chassis is good for lap times however much less so as soon as you have to go to Costco.

And that’s where the Challenger SRT Hellcat suddenly starts to make a whole lot of sense. fairly compared to chasing mythic lateral g ratings or Nurburgring times, the Challenger SRT Hellcat is merely Excellent at being an immensely enjoyable automobile that’s exceptional in day-to-day use and still engaging at the track. It looks cool, sounds fantastic, it’s comfortable, it’s capable, and it’s even relatively practical on some level – all devoid of any adjustment whatsoever.

Tuning the nut behind the wheel

If there’s any scenario that can easily clearly illustrate Exactly how driver ability is of paramount importance to performance, it’s the Bondurant Racing School. In the early section of the day, we took a trio of passes about the autocross course, and my ideal time was a 26.25. In recent years I’ve truly found myself drawn to autocrossing due to the fact that it truly allows you to pinpoint areas for improvement in your ability set along with much more precision compared to a road road does, so I made a point to revisit the road later in the day as soon as the program had concluded however we still had an hour or so to kill.

After a dozen laps and feedback from Bondurant’s instructors, I managed to bring my time down to a 23.18, dropping much more compared to three seconds in the process. That’s an eternity on a road that short, and apparently it put my time on par along with a driver that had formerly raced Vipers mug cars in a semi-pro capacity however had opted to only do the very first trio of laps earlier in the day, fairly compared to the additional laps I put in later on.

That’s something to think about the next time a discrepancy of hundredths of a second in a comparison test between two models puts doubts in your mind concerning a particular car’s performance prowess – the driver mod counts for a lot much more compared to you could think, and brand-new SRT owners are concerning learn Exactly how to go fairly fast at Bondurant.


  • Absurdly powerful
  • Sinister throwback style
  • Sounds love an old-school NASCAR racer
  • Comfortable, along with room for five
  • Great bang-for-your-buck performance


  • Heavier compared to ever at 4,500 pounds
  • Start a savings account for tires, you’re going to reason it