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First Drive Review: 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye is a potent, pricey beast

Dodge has designed a new top-tier variant of the Charger, the 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye.

Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The Dodge Charger entered its seventh generation in 2011 with major changes coming for 2014 making it the car it is today. Now 10 years on, the model continues to be popular with buyers thanks in no small part to the number of variants the automaker offers it in: Charger SXT, Charger SXT AWD, Charger GT, Charger GT AWD, Charger R/T, Charger Scat Pack, Charger Scat Pack Widebody, Charger SRT Hellcat, and Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye.

The 2021 Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye is a new, 797-horsepower track-ready beast. But, it's also a calm, yet ready-to-pounce kitten on city streets. Here, Dodge has struck a balance delivering comfort, power, convenience (hello, four doors and three car seats across the back), and a good-looking exterior. Still, the car isn't a home run.

2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye The rear of the model features familiar Dodge Charger design. Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

On the surface, there's not too much differentiation between the Charger models - a hood scoop here, larger intakes there. Dodge struggles to make this particular Charger look special. For its $80,000-ish price tag, it's apparent that buyers are paying for the under-body parts rather than the interior and technology. Dodge says that's on purpose giving the "if you know, you know" wink, wink, nudge, nudge edge to customers that are part of its "brotherhood of muscle".

Dodge has done a fantastic job harnessing the muscle of the Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye. The top-of-the-lineup model has the most powerful engine option of the lot, a supercharged 6.2-ltier HEMI high-output V8 that is mated to a high-performance eight-speed automatic transmission. It gets 797 horsepower and 707 pound-feet of torque. Engineering makes all that power manageable whether on the track or off.

When you're on the track, you can accelerate in a responsive jiffy while slowing and cornering in an appropriate amount of time. Even with a helmet on, you can hear the car's technology working to the driver's advantage, When left in its standard automatic drive mode, the transmission shifts loudly and appropriately to modulate the revs going up and down while in less harsh street driving conditions, the transmission is seamless and silent in its workings. All the while, the Charger stays stable, not letting on too much that it's aging like the Durango does.

2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye The interior features standard Laguna leather seats. Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

Where the age of the car shows is in the cabin. Here, the materials are appropriate for a $40,000 car, maybe even a $50,000 one. However, one look at the gauge cluster or climate controls will tell you exactly how old the Charger's current generation is. There's a fair amount of hard plastic and rubberized surfaces in the model, which lacks the true modern polish of other vehicles in its price point.

The car has a standard 8.4-inch infotainment screen located in the center of the dashboard that runs Uconnect 4 (Uconnect 5 isn't available in the Charger). The screen is responsive and relatively easy to navigate. However, switching between a vehicle with the new system and the Charger with the old in the same day made the faults of the red and black color schemed system stand out and show just how much of an improvement Uconnect 5 is.

Ask how it is as you pass me by on the street and I'd likely say, "I mean... It's fine" and sigh.

But you don't buy a Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye for its interior. You buy it for the roar of the engine that makes everyone look at you as you leave them squarely in your rearview mirror, for the badging that makes those who know stop and take notice, and the sheer power exerted when you press on the throttle.

2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye The 797-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye features a functional hood scoop. Photo courtesy of FCA US LLC

The 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye starts at $78,595. There's a $1,495 destination and delivery charge piled on top of that amount. Does the car look like $80k? No. Does it drive like it? Maybe. If you're looking for four doors of American muscle, the Charger may be your best bet, but unless you're dead set on hitting the track as often as possible, you'll want to spend less and go with a traditional Charger SRT Hellcat ($70,000-ish) or Charger Scat Pack ($42,000-ish) where you'll feel like you got more bang for your buck.

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Motul has released a new line of lubricants for "rad" era vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Motul

Motul has been around for 168 years, far longer than automobiles. The new Classic Line of lubricants have been specifically formulated for cars slightly newer, those that are members of the "rad" era. Motul's Classic Line features oils, detergents, and additives that the company has engineered to enhance the performance of older powertrains while offering improved protection.

Each Classic Line lubricant features an additive package with high-zinc (ZDDP) and molybdenum (moly) for reduced friction and increased power. Synthetic base oils and adapted detergent levels of each formulation are suited for metals and gasket materials that are common of the era of vehicle manufacturing. Advanced additives ensure that the lubricants meet or exceed American Petroleum Institute (API) standards.

Motul Eighties 10W30 Motul's Eighties formulation is made for forced induction engine vehicles.Photo courtesy of Motul

The Classic Line's products have high-adhesion properties that are designed to provide excellent cold flow properties to prevent engine wear during start-ups and to coat and protect engine internals and running gear during the periods of prolonged storage that collector vehicles often experience.

Motul Modern Classic Eighties 10W40 meets the needs of forced induction engines while Modern Classic Nineties 10W30 was designed for the demands of high-revving engines with more modern valvetrains. Both Modern Classic oils are the first products to offer high ZDDP and moly for "rad" era collector cars from these two decades.

To get the new 2100 Classic Oil 15W50, Motul revised its 2100 oil to better lubricate and protect naturally aspirated and forced induction engines with flat tappet cams common to the vehicles in the 1970s and beyond.

Motul Classic 10W50 Classic vehicles have different needs and their lubricants have a different formation than Eighties and Nineties branded oils.Photo courtesy of Motul

Classic Oil 20W50 is designed for hot rods, muscle cars, and collector vehicles, and uses additive packages fortified with ~1,800 ppm of ZDDP. According to Motul, this oil provides "improved protection for flat tappet or high-lift cams and high-performance engines with tighter tolerances and older elastomer gaskets; the medium detergent level also makes Classic Oil 20W50 an appropriate break-in oil for newly refurbished engines".

Straight-weight Classic Oil SAE 30 and SAE 50 are mineral monograde engine oils with low detergent levels, blended specifically for gasoline or diesel four-stroke engines generally produced before 1950.

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The Tahoe has three available powertrains.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

When I write car reviews, I don't typically say very much about the engine and drivetrain unless there's something particularly interesting or unique about it.

I believe most car buyers don't really care about things like zero to 60 mph times or how many gears a transmission has. Those are features and statistics, and they're an imperfect measurement of an automobile.

I'm a fan of the Good-Better-Best school of cars, and it looks a bit like a bell curve. There aren't any genuinely terrible new cars sold today, so at worst, you're getting something that's Good. I'll call that the bottom 20 percent of the market. Sometimes these cars have engines that really are too weak and should probably be avoided, and I'll mention that in my review.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel Diesel-powered versions of the Tahoe look just like gasoline-powered Tahoes.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Then there's the class of Better, or the middle 60 percent. When I review these cars, I'll include a throwaway line about the engine or drivetrain as it's not worth mentioning in depth. They get the job done, but there's nothing to get excited about.

Then there's that top twenty percent where the magic happens. Whether it's the perfect majesty of a Rolls-Royce V12, the throaty bark of a Lamborghini V10, or even the brilliance of a Toyota Corolla Hybrid's effortless 52 miles per gallon — these are engines worth discussing.

And so it is again with my test car this week: the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe. We've already reviewed two of the Tahoe's sister vehicles, the GMC Yukon and the Cadillac Escalade. Despite being from the same family, they're definitively different branches.

But under the hood of the Tahoe is an engine that is so firmly lodged in the Best category that I can't help but write hundreds of words about it. It's the 3.0-liter six-cylinder "baby" Duramax turbodiesel that was in the works at GM for more than a decade.

It gives terrific fuel economy (for a giant truck, anyway) and fantastic torque in everyday driving. I find it far preferable to the extraordinarily thirsty 6.2-liter V8 that I had in the Yukon and the Escalade and heartily recommend it to anyone buying a GM full-size SUV or half-ton pickup. That's even more impressive because the 6.2-liter V8 is already an upgrade over the smaller 5.3-liter V8 that comes standard in most Tahoe trims.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel The engine is a mighty six-cylinder.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

It sports 277 horsepower, which doesn't sound like a lot, but horsepower is a poor quantifier of engine performance. Because it's a diesel and because it has a turbocharger, the baby Duramax has gobs of torque with which to pull away from stoplights or accelerate on a hill, or when you're trying to pass someone and you need to accelerate from 55 to 75 mph as quickly as possible.

The Tahoe's diesel engine excels in all these scenarios while delivering an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined in the RWD trim that I drove. That's a healthy improvement over the 16 mpg combined from the 6.2L and four-wheel drive-equipped Yukon. It's worth noting that the four-wheel drive diesel fares a little worse, getting 22 mpg combined, but that's still far better than the traditional gasoline engine.

It does all this, and it can even tow up to 8,200 pounds when properly equipped, but most people will never tow anything heavier than a small horse trailer or a boat with their full-size SUV. If you're hauling that much weight on the regular, you've likely opted for a heavy-duty pickup.

The irony of the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal is twofold. For one, some were pulling similar testing shenanigans that Volkswagen was — it's just that VW was the first to get caught. And second, those VW diesel engines were fantastic. They were torquey and excelled in everyday driving, pesky pollution aside.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel Diesel Tahoes are branded with the Duramax name.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

There's a dirty secret to the horsepower numbers that most carmakers cite: they peak at very high RPMs that average drivers will never reach. But torquey turbocharged engines like this baby Duramax? It generates 95% of its 460 pound-feet of torque at just 1,250 RPM, and then peak torque runs all the way from 1,500 to 3,000 RPM. That means you're in the prime torque band nearly continuously.

In plain English, that means it's way better to drive. It's more fun, it's more efficient, and thanks to all manner of fancy technology, diesel engines aren't weird and finicky anymore.

Yes, you should probably plug it in if you park it outside in frigid weather. But other than that one minor caveat, this diesel is nonpareil.

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