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The Dodge Hellcat Isn't Cool Anymore

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author photo by Eric Brandt February 2018

Ladies and gentlemen of Oversteer, I regret to inform you that the Dodge Hellcat, the hottest muscle car(s) of 2015, is not cool anymore. It was cool when it came out, but its coolness factor was doomed to expire from the very beginning.

Yes, the Hellcat -- and I'm talking mainly about the Challenger Hellcat -- was doomed because of its shortsighted focus on one thing and one thing only: getting its horsepower rating as high as possible. The Hellcat's horsepower is all the way up in the high reaches of the 700 range, with the all-important statistic of 707 horsepower. That's a legitimately impressive number -- and yes, it's still a lot of horsepower. But it isn't a special car anymore, because that's one of the only things it has going for it.

When a car hangs its hat on doing one thing well, it had better keep doing that thing better than everyone else if it wants to remain relevant. When the Hellcat came out, Dodge marketed it like crazy, calling it "the most powerful muscle car in the world." That's a great claim to put into your ad copy, but only when it's true.

Ford just announced at the Detroit Auto Show that the Mustang Shelby GT500 is making a comeback. We only got a brief teaser and very little info about the car -- other than that it will arrive in 2019 and will have over 700 horsepower. That teaser alone should give any potential Hellcat buyer pause as to whether they should get a soon-to-be-outdated Hellcat, or just wait for the new GT500.

I'm no Mustang fanboy -- I've never owned one -- but I have a feeling the new Shelby GT500 will correct many of the faults in the Hellcat that its drivers gripe about. Not enough tire, not enough brakes, not a great-handling car. You know what's a great-handling car that was engineered to dominate both the street and the track? The current Mustang Shelby GT350. Something tells me the GT500 will have similar road/track manners as the GT350, but with way more horsepower -- deeming the Hellcat irrelevant. It's a lot harder to advertise the second- or third-most powerful muscle car in the world, especially if you're getting beaten in quarter-mile times and lap times by a Mustang. Of course, whether that will happen remains to be seen -- but it seems possible.

The Dodge Hellcat has a bigger problem on its hands than just the fact that it's about to be beaten by a direct competitor in the horsepower wars. The supercharged SRT Hellcat V8 is a fantastic engine stuffed in an aging car. Did you know the current Dodge Challenger is now a decade old? It came out for the 2008 model year and received only the mildest of facelifts for 2015.

Let's compare that time frame to the Challenger's competitors; the Chevy Camaro and the Ford Mustang. The fifth-gen Camaro didn't even exist yet when the 2008 Challenger came out. The Camaro was reintroduced for 2010, got a fairly noticeable facelift for 2014, and came out with the sixth generation for the 2016 model year. The 2008 Ford Mustang was a fifth-gen S197 model, which got a pretty thoroughly revised exterior for 2010, evolved into the sixth-generation S550 for 2015, and has already received a facelift for the 2018 model year. Simply put, in terms of modernity, the Challenger has been losing ground to its American rivals for a while now -- and something significant needs to happen for the Challenger to stay competitive in any capacity.

And then there's the Demon -- the car that turns up the ridiculousness even further. A car that's great for drag racing, and a car that beats out the Hellcat's horsepower rating from within Dodge's own stable. The Demon is cool, and it's exciting, and it's insane, and ... it certainly isn't doing the Hellcat any favors in terms of "coolness." Who wants the second-coolest Challenger?

For all of its throwback charms and all of its muscle, in both its sheet metal and under the hood, it appears the Hellcat is being dethroned. I hope Dodge is listening, and I hope there's a new Hellcat in the works (ideally based on a new Challenger) that can go toe-to-toe in any comparison test with the upcoming Shelby GT500. Just don't count out Chevy, because its engineers are probably trying to figure out a way to stuff a ZR1 engine in a Camaro as we speak.

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The Dodge Hellcat Isn't Cool Anymore - Autotrader