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Auto blogTue, 22 Jul 2014 11:57:00 EST
Darrell Waltrip once said, "If the lion didn't bite the tamer every once in a while, it wouldn't be exciting." The sentiment behind that aphorism is causing my adrenal gland to wake up as Dodge and SRT drivers and engineers - somber-faced to a man - give me the track talk that will precede my driving the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT on the circuit at Portland International Raceway. PIR might not be Daytona, and the 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat might seem tame to a legend like ol' Jaws, but there's a not-small part of me that's thinking about how hard Dodge's fire-breathing kitty might bite.
Just a few hours previous, I'd gotten behind the wheel of the Hellcat for the first time, letting its hyperbole-spitting, supercharged V8 Hemi pull me yieldingly through Portland's morning commuter traffic. Lulled into a cocky certainty by the Challenger's good manners at low speed, I drove the throttle just a hair too deep, too fast when I ran on to the highway ramp. For just an instant the rear tires were utterly drenched in torque, and the back end of the big Dodge loosened up like a drift car on a wet track. Throttle steer lives at the fleeting whim of your right foot in this car.
It was no big thing to lay off the gas and pull the Hellcat back in line as I entered the highway, but the incident did get me to thinking: What will this car do to me on a road course?
Hidden amidst the overall very positive sales figures that Chrysler released earlier this week were a few disappointments, the biggest of which may be the Dodge Dart. While Dodge sales in general were down 11 percent from a year ago, the Dart's poor figures stood out from the rest - with 4,888 units sold, the Dart was down 37 percent in February.
It comes as little surprise, then, that the automaker has announced layoffs at its assembly plant in Belvidere, IL. According to The Daily Herald, Dodge will temporarily lay off 325 workers "to balance vehicle supply with current sales demand." Put more simply, there are more Darts than buyers at the moment...
We don't think the Dodge Dart is a bad car, but it's playing in a market that offers a few standout sellers, like the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. According to AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan, as quoted by The Daily Herald, "great incentives on the Dodge Avenger" are also partly to blame for the Dart's poor showing.
So far, whenever we've seen the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with its 707-horsepower, supercharged Hellcat V8, the muscle car has been smoking its tires. Dodge is finally proving that the SRT can do more than ruin perfectly good sets of rubber, though. In it's latest video, company CEO Tim Kuniskis hands the Hellcat off to the guys from Gas Monkey Garage to show how quickly the automaker's most powerful model can make it down the drag strip.
Of course, the only fitting contender to race against Dodge's latest top muscle car is its grandpa - a Hemi-powered 1971 Challenger, in this case. Before getting to the main event, the hosts also show off some of the SRT's unique features like the blanks in the grille that feed the intercoolers. We'll go ahead and spoil that the Hellcat makes its pass in the 10-second range, and the video admits the tires on the production version would take just a touch longer to cover the quarter-mile. However, you have to watch film to see just how quick it actually goes. Scroll down to see a classic example of American muscle drag racing against its modern legacy.