I'm going to admit that I got sucked into all the Hellcat frenzy. How could you not when Dodge gave us a 707hp monster muscle car for sixty-grand. Now that the tire smoke has cleared, I've come to the conclusion that the Hellcat is a bonkers car to drive, but a stupid car to buy. Here is why you shouldn't get one right now.
We all knew this was going to happen, just like with the Camaro Z/28, dealers have an opportunity to sell a limited edition muscle car to a select few, so they mark it up. Despite Dodge's efforts to prevent this, dealers like this one in Oregon are jacking the price up to over $100,000!
For about $64,000 the Hellcat is the horsepower bargain of the decade, but $103,480? While there are plenty of dealers that are selling these cars at or below MSRP, according to Autotrader there are less than 200 available for sale. That supply and demand is not in favor of the buyer.
A bad driver in any car, regardless of horsepower, is dangerous. But the Hellcat isn't just a car with a lot of power, it is how that power is put down where it feels like the car is trying to kill you. Our own Patrick George explains:
The thing is, given that power's propensity for rear wheelspin and its ability to overwhelm the chassis, it's seldom easy to drive. Remember that guy who crashed his Hellcat within an hour of driving it off the lot? I can see how that happened. I really can.
If you try to drive this machine without the utmost respect for it, and at least some experience with very powerful rear-wheel drive cars, it will bite you. It reminds me of the stories I've heard about the original Viper.
The Challenger Hellcat is really good at laying sick burnouts all day long. You know what it else it is really good at? The answer is not very much. If you are the type of driver who needs a car to get from one end of an airport runway to the other really quickly, the Hellcat is perfect for you. If you are the type of driver that encounters things like: traffic, speed-limits, turns, and roads that aren't perfectly dry, every time you venture out you will feel like you brought a .50 cal sniper rifle on a deer hunt. It will get the job done, but it might get messy.
The point is, due to the car's weight and handling limitations, you will rarely be able to actually experience its full potential. There are plenty of cars such as the Nissan GT-R that are less than ideal street cars, but at least you can enjoy them on the track. As Damon pointed out in an early drive, the Hellcat isn't exactly home on a wet road course.
Like Patrick, my favorite modern muscle car is the Challenger. I love it because it doesn't pretend to be anything other than a car that looks mean, makes a lot of noise, and goes fast in a straight line. For just less than $40,000, Dodge will give you almost 500 horsepower and the same looks, in a package that is a bit more civilized. What will probably happen to most Hellcat buyers is they will try out that 707 horsepower the first day, soil their pants and putz around in "500 horsepower mode." These people should just keep the extra twenty-grand in the bank and get a Scat-Pack.
There are few cars than can be compared to the Hellcat, so I've come up with two on opposite ends of the spectrum. For similar amount of money you can have Ford GT500 Mustang on the now discontinued platform. Like the Challenger Hellcat, it is a badass muscle car with a supercharged V8 that cranks out 662hp for about $60,000.
In order to have an apples-to-apples comparison on power we have the Ferrari F12 and, like the Hellcat, it is a front-engine coupe with more than 700hp, but it costs about $400,000. Here is the thing, the Hellcat was never designed to be a garage queen only to be taken out in ideal conditions, it was made in the same vein as the GT500, a daily muscle car for people who want MOAR POWER! But both lack the finesse and control to consider them ideal daily drivers.
Now I love the fact that Dodge even made this car. Regardless of how many they actually sell it was a brilliant move to get people talking about the brand. And the reality is if you are determined to get a Hellcat, you aren't the type of car buyer that really cares about "logical" purchases; and I salute you for that. So if you are determined to tame 707 horsepower of MOPAR fury, here is my last tip... wait.
Wait about a year until the first batch of Hellcats are bought up by people who want the bragging rights then soon realize that this car is way too much for them to handle. The ones that aren't wrapped around trees will be dumped into the used market with low miles, and hopefully some tread left on the tires. Rather than pay the ridiculous dealer markups, wait for the hype to die down and pick up an already depreciated example at a nice discount.
If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.
Photos credit Kurt Bradley, Patrick George for Jalopnik, Chrysler