First Drive: 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye

First Drive: 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye

Story by GerryFrechette, Photos Courtesy FCA

One of the best battles in the new car business is between the Detroit Three manufacturers and their muscle cars. The cars available today are quite amazing, in terms of their capabilities, compared to what was offered half a century ago – or even half a decade. The third-gen Dodge Challenger was introduced in 2008, and FCA has continually upgraded it to keep it current in technology.

Of course, horsepower and speed are what sells in this segment, and Dodge really set the cat among the pigeons with the 2015 Challenger Hellcat that had 707 horsepower. That car ruled the roost for a few years, until Dodge felt the need to introduce something with much more power. The 2018 Demon, with 840 hp and 770 lb-ft of torque, was the result, and it was more of a purpose-built drag car than a viable street car, and of course, an instant collectible. It was also a one-year only model that had the desired effect – lots of publicity.

The engine technology from the Demon needed to be put to use in a more streetable car, and FCA still needed the Challenger to be the horsepower leader in the muscle car segment, so the Hellcat Redeye model is the result. The supercharged 6.2-litre Hemi now pumps out a mere 797 hp and 707 lb-ft of torque, which still makes this the most powerful mass-produced car on the market. We wonder why they couldn’t find another 3 hp to enable a nice, round number like 800….

Backing up this monster is an upgraded 8-speed TorqueFlight automatic – only. Realistically, neither a manual, nor its clutch, nor its driver, could probably keep up with that kind of power, driven in anger. Then again, the regular Hellcat can be had with a manual, and it generates 717 hp for 2019, the increase attributable to a new twin-snorkle hood on both it and the Redeye, with air fed straight to the intake system just like the old days.

The additional 80 hp of the Redeye can be chalked up to standard hot rodding procedures, such as bigger blower, increased boost pressure (14.5 psi versus 11.6), higher rpm limit (6,500 rpm versus 6,200), and two dual-stage fuel pumps versus one. One interesting statistic, with this engine’s appetite for air and fuel – at full throttle, the Redeye’s engine consumes 5.4 litres per minute (1.21 imperial gallon/minute) of premium gasoline, enough to drain the fuel tank in just under 11 minutes.

The Redeye might not be as overt a drag racer as the Demon was, but it has all the high tech a weekend racer could want. Launch Assist controls wheel hop, while Launch Control holds the engine at optimal launch RPM and waits for the driver to release the brake. It then uses engine torque management to optimize wheel slip for maximum acceleration. There is even a Line Loc that engages the front brakes only, leaving the rear wheels free to spin those expensive rear tires into clouds of burnout smoke. For those who might want to slow down and turn corners, there is Bilstein Adaptive Damping Suspension, and Brembo brakes including six-piston calipers gripping 15.4-inch discs up front.

The Redeye (like the regular Hellcat) is available in two body styles – regular fenders and Widebody.  The fender flares look pretty cool, but the main reason for them is to allow larger tires that attempt to harness all that power and keep things safe and sane in all conditions, along with all the usual electronic safety gear. The 20-inch wheels are 1.5-inches wider, and the Pirelli P-Zero tires measure 305/35ZR20.

The interior is fairly standard issue Challenger with upscale touches. The seats, big and comfortable, come standard with houndstooth cloth upholstery, while three different leather packages are available, two with alcantara trim added.

As one might expect, Dodge is not bashful when it comes to quoting performance numbers for the Redeye. Bearing in mind that this is a big, heavy (about 4,500 lb) car, more so than its main competitors, the numbers are even more staggering. It will go zero-to-96 km/h (60 mph) in 3.4 seconds. It will do the quarter-mile in 10.8 seconds at 219 km/h (131 mph) – all with a rear gear ratio of only 3.09:1. And… will top out at 326 km/h. That is 203 mph, folks. And that is insane.

We didn’t quite approach that speed in the Redeye we briefly drove, but we did experience its  acceleration. Not even matting the throttle, just letting it run up through the gears at two-thirds-throttle, on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere, we glanced down at the speedometer to find ourselves doing the kind of speed that would put us in jail in many places. And it felt like half that fast. I don’t know how the Redeye driver could consistently keep to speed limits, and that will be a source of frustration, one would think. In my view, that would be the biggest negative to owning the car – other than fuel and rear tire costs.

As the saying goes, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The Challenger Hellcat Redeye is a very corrupting car. We fully expect to see the installation in a Challenger of the new 1,000-hp blown 426 Hemi, announced as a crate motor by FCA. Will it be a new official model above the Redeye? Nothing would surprise us now.