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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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The Nissan Pathfinder is just at home on the trial as it is on the road.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken". The message is about making choices and, how the road taken made all the difference. Often in life and on the road, we have to make one choice. Take one road. No turning back. I thought of this poem on my recent test drive in the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder in the hinterlands of Montana, when I could take two different roads—paved and dirt—and that made all the difference!

Nissan has redesigned and retooled its fifth-generation Pathfinder instilling greater latitude for buyers who want to travel both types of roads and expand their adventure footprint. After seven decades of off-road development, 35 years in the business of selling Pathfinders, and with more than 1.8 million sold in the U.S., this Japanese automaker has moved the needle with a ground-up revision of the previous-gen model.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is a capable off-roader.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The full-sized sport utility is available in four trims (S, SV, SL and Platinum) and two- and four-wheel drive versions; Nissan expects that nearly 60 percent of buyers will choose four-wheel drive. The Pathfinder is in a segment that has grown larger each year as more families want a vehicle for around-town, school and playdate runs and for weekend getaways with traction technology that allows travel in the backcountry and good towing capability. Direct competitors are the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer.

A day-long drive of approximately 150 miles on tarmac and over a variety of dirt roads and tracks provided the opportunity to assess the Pathfinder's updates. A late-spring snowstorm added slickness to all the road surfaces in the region and allowed the Pathfinder to show off its traction capabilities at both slow and higher speeds and with lane change and emergency-braking maneuvers, when towing. I concentrated my evaluation on the augmented hardware and software designed to enhance the crossover's capabilities for backcountry travel and towing.

What I found most notable over every road surface was the comfortable ride and responsive handling that come from a collection of upgrades—and, in particular, as a result of the following: the gearing on the new nine-speed transmission, with paddle shifters for personal and more precise shifting for sport driving and slowing over rough terrain; the new terrain mode system that's engineered for different driving conditions; the four-wheel drive system that moves torque more quickly to avoid wheel slip; the improved suspension system; and new tires with a larger contact patch and more aggressive tread pattern, among other changes.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Pathfinder's drive modes are designed to inspire confidence. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Pathfinder provided sure-footed motoring and comfort over uneven surfaces. Its 7.1 inches of ground clearance easily maneuvered over the small obstacles on the trail and hill descent control took the reigns without hesitation for steeper and longer downhills on traction-compromised surfaces.

I was also impressed with the Pathfinder's towing competence and appreciated the standard trailer sway control onboard all trims. It offered notably strong, mannered acceleration from a standing start and excellent straight-line braking without porpoising for either exercise.

The new 2022 Pathfinder brings off-road and towing attributes that are important to families who are seeking to spend time in the backcountry for days trips and longer and for overlanding in terrain that doesn't require a true off-road vehicle with a low range. It's will appeal to buyers who want don't want to have to choose only one road.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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