We finally have a mass-produced, ordinary car that will break 200 miles an hour. It's the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, and we don't know what will happen when it goes on sale.
It always felt like it was coming, didn't it? The steady march of top speeds, the democratization of horsepower reserved for the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the world.
There have been ultra-fast, somewhat affordable family cars before, of course.
The first big step to cheap speed came when Henry Ford started selling a flathead V8 in 1932. It was the world's first affordable car with an engine of that magnitude.
You could also look to the 1955 Chevrolet with its V8. The car's cheap speed was so right that it made GM the first corporation in the world to post a profit of over $1 billion.
There was also the muscle car boom in the 1960s and early '70s, so extreme in Australia that their transport minister called for a national ban on the high-performance V8 sedans on the market. They called it the Supercar Scare.
Over the course of the 1970s, car companies struggled with new emissions regulations and unleaded gas. Horsepower figures dropped for a decade, only to crawl back up in the 1980s.
It was in the '90s that the world had its next hugely fast affordable car. The Lotus Carlton started out as an ordinary GM family sedan, but when Lotus got a hold of it, the car became a 176 mile an hour beast. It had four doors and a trunk, and it topped out like a supercar.
Nationwide controversy broke out in the UK in 1994 over the Carlton. Newspapers started calling for a ban on the car after a number of robberies where a Lotus Carlton served as a getaway vehicle. The car was so fast it would outrun the cops.
Only in the past ten years have four-door cars breached 200 miles an hour. The BMW M5 that debuted in 2005 could hit 205 mph if you removed the limiter installed at the factory.
But that M5 was an expensive, rare, luxury car. Only now is there a blue collar sedan that will break 200.
The Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat advertises a top speed of 204 miles an hour. One engineer supposedly ran the thing to 206. A big part of that speed comes from a revised face for the blunt Charger, cleaning up the aerodynamic drag.
The 707-horsepower supercharged 6.2 liter V8 certainly helps, as well. I mean, it is the most powerful V8 ever to go in a mass-produced car.
Dodge hasn't announced pricing on the Charger Hellcat, but the brand did state they're going to make a bunch of these things. Rumors that only 1200 cars would leave the factory "really upset a lot of people" stated SRT.
And this is a car with four doors, plenty of room inside, and a big trunk. It might be a bit old school, what with rear-wheel drive, but it's still a common, ordinary full-size car.
The question now is what's going to happen once the Charger Hellcat hits the market in the first quarter of next year. I don't expect that the left lanes of the country's open highways will be terrorized with 200 mile an hour runs, but then I can't really say for sure. After all, we as a people have never had as much speed available to us before.
Photo Credits: Dodge