Two-and-a-half tons of sedan and passengers shouldn’t be capable of generating the g-forces I’m feeling right now, but sure enough, this 2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye is generating near face-wrinkling gs in every direction as Erich Heuschele, SRT’s vehicle dynamics guru, shows me the fast line around Carolina Motorsports Park’s 2.279-mile, 14-turn full road course. Approaching turn 10 at the end of a 1,312-foot straight, he’s carrying 130 mph—10 more than I’d mustered.
Sure, Heuschele’s spent years developing this suspension (and those of all the other SRT products) on tracks like this, and I haven’t. He’s also running with the safety nannies in Track mode, whereas we’d only been entrusted with Street mode (because even Sport mode defeats the traction control). It took me a lap or two, but I quickly calibrated my right ankle to find the point of incipient wheelspin to avoid traction control intervention. Heuschele’s ankle arrived pre-calibrated, so his corner-exit wheelspin strategically points the car in Track mode, only provoking ESC intervention once, when he dials up a big, drifty exit from one of the tighter corners. “In Track mode, ESC should only intervene when you’ve gotten so out of shape that you’ve already lost any chance of a reasonable lap time,” he explains, suggesting the trigger is a slip angle of about 45 degrees. And ESC can be switched completely off.
The fact is that the 305/35ZR20 Pirelli P Zero summer tires we’re running today (a $695 option) provide heroic grip under the control of a suspension setup that was developed last year for the 2020 Charger Hellcat Widebody. A bunch of critical, philosophical changes were made to that setup: The front springs were stiffened by 38 percent, the hollow front anti-roll bar was enlarged from 32.0 to 34.0 mm, and the solid rear bar increased from 19.0 to 21.7 mm. Electric power steering was also added for 2020, enabling three levels of programmable effort (I prefer the lightest, Street).
Heuschele explains his reasoning: “I set the 2015 car up to be neutral to make the big car feel more agile, but as the power increased it was just no fun to be chasing the tail all the time. So, the 2020 suspension retune dialed up the front understeer just a bit and settled the rear.” He claims the changes helped the 485-hp Charger SRT 392 Scat Pack Widebody achieve slightly better lap times than the 707-hp Charger Hellcat on the older suspension setup.
The fact that neither of our lapping sessions is being delayed by big traction/stability intervention as we route 797 hp and 707 lb-ft of torque through the rear wheels at the brisk pace we’re running is a testament to the tires and the revised suspension setup. The only other meaningful change made to the chassis for 2021 was regulatory in nature: removal of copper from the brake pad material. That engineering was all done by the suppliers, so the engineers on hand were unable to say what the new material is, but it likely includes “stainless steel swarf” (chips and filings). The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was first to market with the copper-free pads.
I found no complaints with either the stopping power or the fade resistance of these huge six-piston front, four-piston rear Brembo brakes and eco-friendlier pads. This despite my accelerating as aggressively as feasible out of every turn and then braking earlier and more aggressively than a pro like Heuschele in the name of self-preservation. That said, his later, harder braking served to illustrate how deep the well of available retardation is with these stoppers. Dodge claims a 107-foot 60-0 mph stopping distance for the Charger Hellcat Redeye, which compares favorably with the 103-105-foot stops we’ve recorded in three Charger Hellcat tests.
How much quicker is the 2021 Charger Hellcat Redeye? The SRT folks claim it will run a 10.6-second quarter mile, down from their claim of 11.0 for the Charger Hellcat Widebody, which we haven’t tested. (Raising the torque converter stall speed by 400 rpm contributes to this performance boost.) The quickest we ever managed to run our long-term 707-hp and 650-lb-ft Charger Hellcat on narrow-body tires was 11.9 seconds at 122.8 mph. If we do get a Charger to run mid-10s, it’ll be a testament to sedans hooking up better than two-door Challengers. That car’s Hellcat to Hellcat Redeye performance difference (both with Widebody tires) has been much smaller: 11.9 at 125.1 with 707 hp, 11.8 at 128.0 with 797 hp. They all feature SRT’s launch control, wonderful suite of performance packages, intercooler “Chiller” feature that uses the A/C system to supercool the intake, and a “Torque Reserve” feature that closes a bypass valve to prefill the blower with 3.9 psi of boost to increase the torque available at launch.
Should you find yourself on an autobahn or a long, empty desert highway wondering what the 2021 Charger Hellcat Redeye’s top speed might be, SRT claims it’ll do 203 mph, up from 196 on the Charger Hellcat Widebody. Helping pin the Charger to the ground at those speeds is a revised front splitter, revised air extractors in the new hood, and an improved diffuser and rear spoiler out back that combine to add 40 pounds of front aerodynamic downforce; 30 pounds in the rear. That new hood feeds cold ram air directly into the intake airbox (which also still inhales from a fender inlet and the faux headlamp inlet).
All-wheel drive would surely improve traction, but Heuschele says it doesn’t package. The V-6 system raises the ride height by nearly an inch and lowers the front suspension cradle, all of which is incompatible with SRT’s tires and suspension geometry. The sedan’s AWD hardware can’t withstand Hellcat power and torque, anyway, and the Durango Hellcat/Grand Cherokee Trackhawk system really doesn’t fit. Maserati’s AWD system on the related Ghibli/Quattroporte platform doesn’t raise the body so much and hence is more geometrically compatible, but it can’t handle power and torque in the 700s.
My overarching impression of the 2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye after several lapping sessions at CMP is that it’s easier to drive hard than I had imagined a 797-hp rear-drive car could be. You can’t use the all-or-nothing “digital throttle” approach that works on your spec Miata racer, but the limits of rear adhesion are easy to sense and adjust for. The shift programming of the 8HP90 eight-speed transmission is accurate enough to render the shift paddles largely redundant on my track laps.
And once the track went cold and the helmets came off, we were ushered into a fresh batch of Charger Hellcat Redeyes shod in the standard Pirelli P Zero All Season tires for an hour-plus-long rural drive back to Charlotte, North Carolina. I ran the default Auto drive mode for most of this trip just to assess the Redeye’s fitness as a daily commuter car. It is easy to drive smoothly, the exhaust note largely settles into the background when cruising, and it rides reasonably smoothly. The car’s age is showing, however. Certain bumps and road inputs send shudders through this elderly chassis, and the older Uconnect screen’s resolution is a third that of the newer Durango Hellcat’s.
Switching to Sport mode amps everything up and makes everyone aboard acutely aware of the road’s surface texture. The fact that this mode switches off traction control makes it slightly dangerous on public roads. Even in Auto with everything on, matting the pedal causes the electronics to struggle mightily against the onslaught of all that power and torque as the supercharger whines loudly. This car is destined to leave faint stripes across intersections everywhere that will fade only slightly more slowly than the smiles on the face of the driver who painted them.
So yes, the Charger Hellcat Redeye is a suitable commuter car, but never forget that it’s also incredibly thirsty. Its 12/21/15 mpg EPA rating earns it a $2,100 gas guzzler tax and means its 18.5-gallon tank will only take you about 220-380 miles. But if you can make peace with the notion that this is one of those “Earth First—we’ll mine the other planets later” cars, it’ll reliably generate smiles every time you nail the loud pedal.
|2021 Dodge Charger Hellcat Redeye|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||6.2L/797-hp/707-lb-ft supercharged OHV 16-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,600 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||201.0 x 78.3 x 57.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.5 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||12/21/15 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||281/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.30 lb/mile|