Let’s Get Down to Brass Tax. The Challenger SRT Hellcat is More Super Than Muscle Car

I had the honor and pleasure of road testing a Smoke Screen Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody. This 2022 model year Mopar meant it was one of the last ‘normal’ Challenger SRT Hellcats before the Last Call model year, which means it hasn’t been influenced by a swan song melody or collector’s item serial number slapped on the dashboard. Instead, it’s just a 717 horsepower supercharged Hemi Challenger that anyone with a down payment could drive off the lot. 

Throughout my week of testing and recording the historical significance of, what is being led to believe, one of the last gasoline-powered Hemi V8s, I started to see this marketed muscle car as something much more – a supercar! 

The frequent fuel stops gave me plenty of time to think about what this car was as I ignored the annoying gas station TV ads and waited for the beast to fill up with 93 premium. My argument for why the SRT Hellcat qualifies as a supercar can technically be applied to the entire Dodge SRT Hellcat lineup. However, I will focus on the Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody for this article, as its two-door coupe configuration makes it the sportiest out of the wild bunch. 

The Dodge Challenger, even with the widebody, is not shaped like a traditional supercar. Its doors do not open radically, the bodywork is not forged from carbon fiber or space-age material, and you don’t have to remove the engine to change the oil. But what makes the Challenger SRT Hellcat a supercar is how it delivers its performance and the emotional response it provokes. 

I’ve never driven a car that simultaneously thrilled and scared the living soul riding shotgun or made me feel like a bad neighbor for greeting the apartment building with a bass quake of Hemi engine warm-up early in the morning. It can be as subtle as a neon colored Lamborghini but at a fraction of the cost, and with the same anxiety when driving over speed bumps and steep driveways thanks to its front chin spoiler (with or without bumper guards). On the other hand this two-door car has plenty of room in the back for a child’s car seat. 

What Makes the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat a Supercar 

If you took a Family Feud survey on what makes a supercar “super,” they’ll probably say it has to be faster than common sense, styled to dazzle the eyes, loud (figuratively and literally), and wear a price tag that most can’t afford to ask. A supercar has to have the right look, deliver the right speed, and carry a particular reputation. Three character traits this Dodge Challenger met with ease. 

The Look

Wherever I drove the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody, people took notice. Other Challengers and Chargers respected the Hellcat emblem, acknowledging the supercharged Hemi hierarchy. During slow moving traffic, I noticed a family man in a Chevy Malibu full of kids ignoring the traffic ahead rubbernecking at the Challenger SRT Hellcat with an empty nest twinkle in his eye. In school zones, members of Generation Z would unplug to listen to the Challenger rumble past. When cruising the post-last-call streets of downtown San Antonio, figures lurking in the shadows of alleyways would step into the amber glow of a streetlight to shout, “Spin ’em, brother!” a request that felt rude to ignore. 

The Speed 

On an undisclosed stretch of highway, under the cloak of a moonless night, the Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody showed me what it could do when the throttle is set to full power. Hands wrapped tightly around the leather dressed steering wheel, I gave the gas pedal a shove and kept it pinned to the floor for the next mile and a half. That night I reached speeds that could set a Cannonball Run record as I fell into a white line fever induced trace—the fluorescent dotted lines on the road scrolling into one solid glow as the tachometer needle spun clockwise. 

One day, after the statute of limitations, I’ll disclose how far I got on the Challenger’s 200-mph speedometer. However, the point of this test wasn’t to dance with the devil but to gain a first-hand perspective on what it feels like to have 717 horsepower and 656 lb.-ft of torque at your beck and call. 

Sensational acceleration and intoxicating speed aside, what impressed me is how easy the Challenger SRT Hellcat makes it seem. No harsh vibrations, no ear-piercing shutter of rushing wind, just the sound of a supercharger force-feeding air into a synchronized symphony of rhythmic explosions as the car felt planted with confidence, seemingly unfazed by the laws of gravity. It’s no wonder these cars have earned a reputation with law enforcement. 

The Reputation 

Another thing I experienced when driving this Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody was instantly becoming a blip on every cop’s radar. Whether waiting at a stop light or traveling the speed limit, every silhouette behind the tinted glass of a police cruiser turned to look at me. Not at me directly, but at the car. Waiting. Waiting for an excuse. One chirp of the rear wheels, one slightly loud exhaust note, or any sudden movement that could be considered leaving the parameters of the traffic code. They were ready and willing to shut me down. 

I do not blame the officers because if you search for ‘police pursuits’ on YouTube, you’ll find several videos of SRT Hellcat spec Chargers and Challengers fleeing and, in some cases, outrunning the firm grasp of Johnny Law. It’s not an avocation, just an observation of how accessible speed can be when behind the wheel of a supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi—further cementing its rebellious reputation while writing its legend in tire marks. 

What Makes a Supercar Super?

Is it just the expensive price tag, Nürburgring lap time, and spine compressing ride height? Or is it a character trait instilled in intimidating yet seductive performance embedded in a chassis of legacy supported by a proven reputation? Personally, I think it’s all about the speed, a valuable commodity that the Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody supplies in surplus for under $100k. 

On a side note, the Harman Kardon sound system in the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody is fantastic! One of the best I’ve tested in my career. 

New for 2023, the Jailbreak 

Introduced in 2022, the Jailbreak package is the latest name to be added to the mile-long train of syllables on these supercharged Dodges. Like electronic devices, the Jailbreak removes all restrictions allowing SRT Hellcat buyers to choose any exterior and interior color available. It’s Dodge’s way of closing out its gasoline burning model year with a bit of color and style. Among the list of colors for paint, stripes, brake calipers, and interiors are five available colors for the Hellcat badge:

  • Light Black Chrome 
  • Brass Monkey 
  • Satin Chrome 
  • Midnight Metallic 
  • Devilish Red 

Top-of-line performance requires the 797 hp Redeye package. However, those wanting to reach the summit of the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat lineup can opt for the 807 hp Super Stock, which starts at $89k. 

The seventh and final Last Call special edition Dodge is scheduled to debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 20th, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a comma in its horsepower rating. 

Quintessentially American 

There is something quintessentially American about a rear wheel drive, v8 powered muscle car. It’s not apple pie or baseball; it’s stuffed crust pizza, self-righteous entitlement, and alternative facts. Nothing matches the singular sensation of dropping the hammer on a V8 and feeling the torque vibrate under your seat while the rear end darts from side to side, like a basset hound’s nose, looking for traction. All while knowing that whatever’s behind you is being fumigated with tire smoke.

That may be why many popular movies and television shows depict characters solving their problems with a Mopar V8. Whether it’s Kowalski outrunning the police, and his demons, in a white supercharged ’70 Challenger R/T, Dom Toretto using a heavily modified ’70 Charger to stop a nuclear submarine, or the Duke boys fighting small-town corruption one jump at a time in their orange 440 packing ’69 Charger, these cars have a flair for the dramatic. They even have a catchphrase – Mopar or No Car.