The Dodge Challenger Hellcat may make 707 horsepower, but on a casual drive through the city, the amount of power it actually uses tops off at Honda Accord numbers. We set out to test how much of the car’s 707 HP a driver actually uses, thanks to a handy meter on the dash.
Horsepower, of course, isn’t simply that one number listed online, all the time, unchanging. Horsepower and torque are on a curve based on the engine’s RPM, peaking at certain points depending on how quickly the engine is working at any given time. That means all 707 HP isn’t available in the Hellcat as soon as your pinky toe hits the gas, and no matter how loud and angry it is, the car certainly isn’t at peak horsepower on your average, 40-mph grocery run during the week.
Even knowing that, it’s still incredible to see the actual data on the dashboard. I took the car out and left it in automatic mode, without paddle shifters as to not play with the RPMs, and casually drove it. Looking at the dash, 243 HP was by far the highest amount I got while driving in the city and on the highway. Most numbers hovered at and below 200 HP.
The Hellcat’s horsepower feature, likely meant to show people just how hard they’re pushing it on the drag strip, serves a dual purpose by showing how much power is left untouched a majority of the time. The tool can be used to boost or deflate the ego, depending on what kind of driver turns it on.
This whole test was sparked by one evening with a Hellcat Widebody on loan from Dodge, when I pulled up to a light next to another Challenger. The driver and his friend glanced at the car a few times, glanced at me a few times, then turned up their music to drown out my 707-horsepower Hemi engine and restore his self confidence.
All of us in the Hellcat tried to laugh quietly enough to keep the two guys in the car next to us from hearing it. They were already suffering enough as it was. The light changed and the other Challenger took off while we stayed behind under the speed limit, watching as the other driver floored it to get away from us. His V6 let out a cute little nnnnnnnnnnnnrom as it went.
We all laughed. We probably shouldn’t have laughed, but we did, filled with supercharger-saturated arrogance. We didn’t need to prove anything to that other Challenger, and deep down, the driver knew it.
Their fragile masculinity made them feel the need to show off all six of their Challenger’s cylinders, whereas my red Hellcat key promising 707 HP made me feel like a four-wheeled earthquake of power. I could shake the very ground their car stood on. I felt invincible, but really, it was all a facade.
It was all a facade, because while having a lot of horsepower available to you is a wonderful, confidence-boosting thing, knowing exactly how much—or little—power you’re using at any given time is far more humbling. And if we’re honest, we all need to be brought back down to earth from time to time.