The 797-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Jailbreak is a throwback union of old school and new school
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I heard the car pull up before I saw it, and when I saw it, I muttered the enthusiast’s silent prayer, which goes something like: “Jeeziz, keep me from my own undoing.” I was looking at a 797-horsepower 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Jailbreak Widebody.
Driving this week’s test car, in its TorRed paint and a straight-through exhaust hustle, I’d be guilty until proven innocent.
The supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 engine tinked and tokked as it cooled. With its 12-inch-wide Pirelli P Zero gumshoe-sticky tires and body widened 3.5 inches by pronounced fender flares, the Challenger Jailbreak has the stance of a predator. Yet, the bright red paint and Warp-Speed satin carbon chrome wheels made it appear less of a hooligan and just gloriously badass.
First impressions might be to hate this musclebound coupe for its gas-guzzling ways. It’s a throwback, but there just ain’t nothing wrong with being all ate up with motor, even as it inhales premium-unleaded fuel.
As a five-seat sport coupe, the Challenger has some utility. The wife of a vintage-racing friend told her husband, who was considering a Hellcat: “Go ahead and get it, honey. It has a back seat, a big trunk, and the back seat folds.”
The Challenger is a big two-door with distinct American features. It has big front headroom of 39.3 inches and long legroom of 42 inches. Sightlines are unimpeded for cornering, and the 38.7-foot turning circle is quite manageable.
The ride quality can be comfortable, and the standard equipment list is mostly competitive. But the aging architecture is apparent in the lack of small-item storage, wireless charging, or even a dedicated place to lay a phone.
But when it comes to performance hardware and engineering, the Challenger SRT Hellcats are fully functional.
The Dodge Challenger is old school and new school — and the same goes for those who embrace this champion of the Mopar Nation.
This big pony car has been in production so long — 14 years — that whatever wasn’t right has been made right. J.D. Power — a juggernaut among automotive research firms — named the Dodge Challenger the “Best Midsize Sporty Car of 2022.”
With detailed survey feedback from verified car owners, J.D. Power gives the Challenger an 85 out of 100 rating. The ratings include an overall rating and sub-ratings for quality and reliability (40 percent), driving experience (20 percent), resale value (20 percent), and dealership experience (20 percent).
The Dodge Challenger is among the more elevated and choice-optimized sport coupes in modern history. It goes way beyond its spiritual predecessor of the 1970-1974 Dodge Challenger pony car. And even it had eight engine choices, which ranged from the Slant 6 (aka, “Leaning Tower of Power”) to the legendary 426-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 and the even more powerful 7.2-liter 440 V-8.
There were less illustrious “Challenger” models, too. The 1978-1983 “badge engineered” Mitsubishi Galant coupe was hopeful but hollow of performance. It was a dreadful offering during the 1980s “malaise” years in American cars, performance or otherwise.
And here’s a note of trivia. Dodge first applied the Challenger nameplate in 1959 for the “value version” of its full-sized Coronet Silver Challenger.
The modern-era Dodge Challenger has been the golden Hellcat of sales. It was early 2008 when the current generation made its U.S. debut. And the Challenger has rode out its 14 years with the same basic chassis architecture but with a few face-lifts, dozens of fresh option packages, and iconic paint colors. The current-gen Challenger was introduced in 2014 for the 2015 model year.
Through 2021, the Dodge Challenger has racked up 645,509 U.S. sales since 2008, backed up by 19,856 in Canada, 4,603 in Mexico, and 3,077 from Europe. The grand total comes to 673,045, according to the Challenger page on Wikipedia. Last year there were 54,314 Challengers sold in the U.S. . So far in 2022, the Challenger has brought in 25,682 sales, down just 3 percent from the second quarter of 2021.
And all that while weathering a pandemic, gasoline crisis, and the pangs of a threatening recession.
The End Is Near, or might be
Alas, all good things come to an end, at least for Hellcat models.
According to a report in Automotive News, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis is quoted in a report that the supercharged models are in their last days. Redesigned versions of the Charger and Challenger muscle cars are expected to move to Stellantis’ electrified STLA Large platform, which is capable of up to 500 miles of range.
“I will have this car, this platform, this powertrain as we know it, through the end of ‘23,” Kuniskis said in an interview during the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show. “There’s two more years to buy a Hellcat, then it’s history.”
Dodge has said it plans to unveil an electric concept car that will give enthusiasts a taste of what’s to come when it debuts an electric muscle car in 2024. There is speculation that the upcoming vehicles could be an electric speedster and a plug-in hybrid.
There are nine trim levels to the 2022 Dodge Challenger, with:
- 6 choices for horsepower: One V-6 and five V-8 engines;
- 2 choices of transmissions: six-speed manual (on certain trim levels) or eight-speed AutoStick automatic, with specific beefiness for each V-8, and;
- Rear- or all-wheel drive (available on some models).
You have to love the marketing creativity of paint-color names for the 2022 Challenger:
- F8 Green
- Go Mango
- Indigo Blue
- Octane Red
- Pitch Black
- Sinamon Stick
- Smoke Show
- Triple Nickel
- White Knuckle
Decisions, decisions when it comes to power, but most Mopar disciples will buy the most their budget allows. There are five V-8s from which to choose:
375-hp 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 with fuel-saver (cylinder shutoff) technology
485-hp 392 Hemi V-8 SRT
717-hp supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat V-8
797-hp supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat high-output V-8
807-hp supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat high-output V-8
Challenger SRT Super Stock.
Starting prices range from $32,025 for the entry Challenger SXT with 303-hp 3.6-liter V-6 to $89,125 for the Challenger SRT Super Stock. Pricing includes the $2,100 gas-guzzler tax and the $1,595 freight charge from Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Today’s 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Jailbreak starts at $87,120 and was $97,077 with 12 options and the $2,100 gas-guzzler tax.
The $18,595 Jailbreak 27D package includes: a 220-mph speedometer, widebody fender flares, high-performance engine controller, widebody competition suspension, instrument panel Jailbreak badge, and SRT power chiller, which uses air conditioning refrigerant to further cool the air fed to the supercharged engine.
And that is just the tip of the options list. Buyers of the Challenger SRT Hellcat Jailbreak can order unrestricted option combinations.
Among the more than 20 categories of upgrades are:
- 7 choices for seats, body stripes, and wheels;
- 6 brake caliper colors;
- 5 exterior badging finishes;
- 4 choices of steering wheels, seat belt colors, and floor mats, and;
- 13 paint colors. 3 are no-cost, the others range in cost from $95 to $395;
Buyer Be Aware
Challenger (and Charger) Hellcat buyers should know that the Monroney price is merely a suggestion. Dealers are routinely charging $20,000 and more above the sticker. Check the MoparInsider website for more details.
For current Dodge Challenger pricing and incentives, check the factory website here. . And Dodge is currently offering a National Retail Consumer Cash (22CN1) discount of $1,000.
The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Jailbreak runs with the 797-hp high-output V-8. Car and Driver says the Jailbreak can accelerate to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds and has a top speed of 203 mph.
Everybody loves a whiner when it’s the sound made by the Hellcat’s 2.7-liter supercharger, which spools up 14.5 pounds of boost. On hard acceleration, the supercharger’s industrial whine harmonizes with the gutty bellow of the Hellcat V-8 for a near-religious experience: “Sweet Jesus, take me home.”
As comfortable as a grand-tourer can be, the Challenger Jailbreak is not my choice for a road trip. There is significant drone in the cabin at highway speeds. And then there is the fuel-economy consideration.
Fuel economy ratings are a hopeful 13 mpg city, 21 highway, and 15 mpg combined using the required premium fuel. I might have been averaging 15 mpg, and the 18.5-gallon tank provides the range of a decent electric vehicle.
Some models of Challenger models have the choice of a six-speed manual transmission — R/T, Scat Pack, and SRT Hellcat. The Tremec TR-6060 features a twin-disc clutch and has the much-hated first-to-fourth-gear skip shift.
Hellcats with the high-output V-8 are uprated with a heavy-duty Torqueflite 8HP90 eight-speed automatic. It rolls through the gears with fuel-saving precision in the standard drive mode. Punch up Sport on the touchscreen, and steering, suspension, and shift points sharpen but are not overly aggressive. The Torqueflite also allows manual control. Gear changes can be made at the gear shift or steering-wheel paddle shifters with three SRT selectable performance modes of Street, Sport, and Track.
The AutoStick is probably easier on tires than the manual. But hit the gas and concentrate on steering as the Pirellis light up. The 20-inch rollers (305/35ZR) are of such a grippy recipe that some owners run through a set in four months. With restraint, the tires can last a year. Replacements for the Pirelli P Zero summer performance tires cost around $400 a pop.
The Pirellis contribute to a cushioned ride quality and extreme adhesion, whether in cornering at speed or in launch control. Tires are essential to suspension and car control, so don’t cheap out.
With a curb weight of 4,481 pounds, the Hellcat is more of a barrel-chested straight-line blacktop pounder than a road-course interceptor.
Unfortunately, the Active Exhaust lustily rumbles out the call to let ’er rip. Standard on all Hemi V-8 models, the dual 2.75-inch straight-through exhaust pipes have twin electronic exhaust valves. Black Vapor-chromed tips finish the appearance.
Buy it now because you’ve always wanted a Hellcat. An 800-horsepower coupe is not a need, but neither is a four-carat diamond ring, which, if it is of high quality, can cost as much as a stock Hellcat.
Damn the price of gas, full speed ahead.
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares said, “The muscle cars are a very nice niche business that is now being prepared for full electrification with some amazing innovations that will bring even more passion from the fans of this brand in the near future.”
Body style: midsize, 5-seat 2-door rear-wheel-drive coupe
Engine: supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat high-output V-8; 797-hp at 6,300 rpm; 707 lb.-ft. torque at 4,500 rpm
Transmission: Torqueflite 8HP90 8-speed AutoStick automatic; adaptive electronic control with full manual control via gear selector or paddle shifters with 3 SRT-unique selectable modes: Street, Sport, and Track (features performance shifting and gear holding)
Fuel economy: 13/21/15 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium 91 octane fuel required
Top speed: 203 mph (per Car and Driver)
0-60 mph acceleration: 3.7 seconds (per Car and Driver)
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons
Trunk space: 16.2 cubic feet
Front head/leg room: 39.3/42 inches
Rear head/leg room: 37.1/33.1 inches
Length/wheelbase: 197.5/116 inches
Curb weight: 4,481 pounds
Turning circle: 38.7 feet
Standard Hellcat equipment includes: smart-key locking and push-button ignition, LED interior lighting, six-way power driver’s seat with lumbar, manual front passenger seat, heated front seats, power side mirrors, split-folding back seat, floor mats, leather-wrapped flat-bottom (heated) SRT steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift handle, tilt-telescoping steering column, Uconnect 4C infotainment with 8.4-inch color display (music, climate controls, and vehicle
Information), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 6-speaker Alpine audio system, satellite radio (trial subscription), integrated voice command, Bluetooth, phone and streaming audio, a media hub with audio input jack and two USB ports
SRT performance equipment: 2 ignition keys (one red and one black, which holds power at 500 hp), SRT Track Experience (DodgeGarage.com/SRT), competition suspension, Brembo 6-piston front calipers, line lock, anti-spin differential rear axle, launch control with launch assist, dual scoop hood, conical cold air intake, after-run chiller, active exhaust, SRT configurable drive modes, SRT performance pages, performance shift indicator;
Safety features include: 6 air bags, electronic roll mitigation, stability and all-speed traction controls, hill-start assist, ParkView rearview camera with guidance lines, ParkSense rear park-assist system, rain-brake support, and ready-alert braking;
SRT Jailbreak base price: $87,120, including $1,595 freight charge and $2,100 gas-guzzler; price as tested $97,077
Options on test vehicle: Hammerhead-gray seat belts $395; Hammerhead Gray floor mat binding $99; Black and Hammerhead-Gray seats $295; satin chrome exterior badges; 305/35ZR Pirelli P Zero summer performance tires $695; Uconnect 4C Navigation with 8.4-inch color touchscreen display, $995, with 5-year subscriptions for SiriusXM Travel Link and Travel Plus; 20-inch-by-11-inch Warp Speed satin carbon wheels $1,295; chrome fuel-filler door $9;
SRT Jailbreak package, $18,595, includes: widebody fender flares, widebody competition suspension, SRT Power Chiller, 220 mph speedometer, high-performance engine controller, and Jailbreak dashboard badge
TorqueFlite 8-speed AutoStick transmission (standard) with steering wheel shift control and remote start;
Laguna leather front seats with SRT Hellcat logo, $3,890, package includes ventilated front seats, Laguna leather door trim, stitched dash top, memory presets for driver-radio-mirrors, power tilt-telescoping steering column;
Driver convenience group, $1,295, power side mirrors with manual fold function, HID headlights, blind-spot and rear cross-path detection;
Harmon Kardon 18-speaker, surround-sound audio system with subwoofer and GreenEdge amplifier $1,995;
Where assembled: Brampton Assembly Plant, Ontario, Canada
Warranty: 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain