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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 RedeyeThe 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 RedeyeThe 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 RedeyeThe 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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American muscle cars

Ford Mustang continues sales dominance

2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1
Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford has good reason to be proud of the Mustang. Now almost 60 years on from its introduction, Ford continues innovating with new versions and performance upgrades. It's all good news for buyers, as it's hard to find a "bad" Mustang in Ford's current catalog. The efforts have paid off, too, as the automaker just announced that the Mustang outsold its competition for the seventh year in a row.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Mustang continued outselling the Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger, and did so without help from the Shelby GT350, which was discontinued. The Mustang Mach 1, with its 5.0-liter V8, led the charge, but Ford notes the performance of its most powerful Mustang, the Shelby GT500.

Ford says Americans are the most prolific Mustang buyers, representing 76 percent of the car's worldwide sales. Mustang sales in New Zealand grew 54 percent and Brazil saw sales climb 37.3 percent, so the car is a global effort for Ford. The automaker notes that retail orders, where a customer places an order for a car instead of shopping for one off the lot, almost doubled last year.

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Photo courtesy of Ted Fontenot

The 2022 Mustang may mark the last year of the car's current generation. Spy photographers have caught next-generation cars testing in the wild, and the current-gen cars have been on sale since 2015. Ford also expanded the Mustang name in 2021 with the addition of the new electric Mustang Mach-E, which was met with huge demand and several awards from around the auto industry.

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The 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine delivers big power numbers.

Stellantis

The old saying that there's "no replacement for displacement" isn't quite as accurate as it once was. Turbochargers and the latest engine designs have made it possible to extract major power from smaller, more efficient power plants. Stellantis' latest announcement proves this point, as its new Hurricane inline-six-cylinder engine will generate big power numbers from a relatively modest 3.0 liters and two turbos.

Stellantis says two variants will be available. The standard output version produces more than 400 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque, while a high output variant delivers more than 500 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. The twin-turbo inline-six delivers that power with up to 15 percent better fuel efficiency.

Stellantis Hurricane Inline-SixIt's not yet clear which vehicles will get the engine.Stellantis

The new engine comes as Stellantis works to position itself for an electrified future. The automaker stated a goal of 50 percent a 50 percent battery electric vehicle mix by 2030, but notes that gas engines will still play a major role in its vehicle line for years to come. "The Hurricane twin-turbo is a no-compromise engine that delivers better fuel economy and an important reduction in greenhouse gases without asking our customers to give up performance," said Micky Bly, Stellantis head of propulsion systems.

At this point, it's unclear which vehicles will get the new engine, but Stellantis' brands are packed with opportunities. Dodge, whose Hellcat-powered muscle cars could be a good candidate, and then there's Jeep, with a line of off-road-ready SUVs that could greatly benefit from such an engine. The Hurricane's projected high output of 500 horsepower puts it behind the Hellcat engines power output, but it's still strong enough to make a seriously quick vehicle.

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