By: Tim Plouff
Travis is a hard-working and successful Gen X business-person now reaching his earning prime and wanting to make the leisure decisions that will complement his earning years. In other words, he and his wife Susan are ready to migrate from the toys they share with their wonderful children and onto the more personal toys that one might reward themselves with.
In Travis’ case, this means a muscle car, a pony car, anything that will deliver the excitement and visceral thrills that he has skipped since becoming a father, the fun he left behind when he was a youthful hellion riding fast motorcycles. With two proper samples to share with him, a warm summer night quickly became exhibit A on what is possible.
First up was my personal pony car, a current generation Mustang GT/CS convertible—with the proper 3-pedals that help revive the persistent memories of the fast cars of our youth—or, our parents youth, depending upon your age. Not a “Ford guy”, Travis quickly settles into the appropriate rhythm of the Mustang’s gearbox, letting the after-market exhaust find the sweet spot that makes this and most all pony cars the exciting cars that they can be.
Liking the seats, embracing the steering feel and the road comfort, and relishing the pleasant cabin of the convertible, I sense that the Mustang breaks down the barriers and previous impressions that suggested he wasn’t a “Ford guy”. That happens a lot when the changes we resist turn out so much better than we could have imagined.
Up next was a brand-new Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody sedan in stunning Go Mango. Get it? Go Man Go!?! From igniting the engine and hearing the deep baritone bark of the dual-mode exhaust system, Travis’ face expressed the realization that the Charger Hellcat was going to be far different from the Mustang.
Physically, the Charger is a much larger vehicle; four doors, longer chassis, taller greenhouse, much heavier—over 1,000-pounds heavier. Yet behind the wheel, Travis quickly proclaims that the Charger drives ‘much smaller’ than it looks. The steering wheel provides good feedback and a direct connection to the nicely paved rural roads we are sampling, but even when the surface reveals the results of countless frost cycles, the ride remains composed and compliant.
As his comfort level rises, I suggest a brisk, standing start—leaving all traction systems active. Travis is shocked at A) how hard the SRT wants to throw us into the back seat, B) how the Hellcat’s engine provides such an intoxicating bellow that you just want to play the soundtrack over and over, and C) how hard the tires fight for traction as they literally burn through first and second gear on the march to Mach 5. Okay, so maybe only Mach One tonight because I don’t want to tell Susan that Travis is addicted to Hellcat after his first power party.
After some more frivolity—when isn’t a Hellcat-powered vehicle full of frivolity?—we settle down back in the dooryard and do some bench-racing about the virtues of each car he has just driven. Like others, myself included, Travis asks if the Hellcat comes in any Mopar convertibles. No, I dejectedly tell him, but with one more year of proposed production, maybe Mr. Kuniskis can summon the capital for a Challenger SRT convertible?
Initially wanting a 3-pedal muscle/pony car, Travis says the Charger’s automatic is so impressive in all of its shifting functions, he now understands why this transmission produces the quickest acceleration. After all, Travis just got to experience one of the quickest, fastest sedans ever produced. It’s hard to question how the engineers arrived at the excellent ZF gearbox.
Since 2015, Hellcat powered Dodge (and Ram and Jeep) vehicles have been wowing those of us that still have gasoline coursing through our veins. Look around the landscape; how many other full-size domestic sedans still exist today? Chevy’s Impala, once the best-selling vehicle in America, never mind sedan, is gone. Ford’s Taurus, rest in peace. Toyota Avalon, kaput. Buick LeSabre, sleeping with the fishes. Dodge Charger—still selling, well.
Having a 717-hp Hellcat engine stoking the flames of passion certainly doesn’t hurt. What better halo vehicle can there be for a brand that uses a devilish character as the glow that excites the masses. Please, Hellcat’s for Everyone.