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