How do you keep the aging Dodge Charger relevant? Give it a supercharged V8 with 797 horsepower.
At this point, Dodge could sell the current Charger for another decade and I don't think anyone would mind. The company honed a simple but effective strategy of incrementally improving its hella-old full-size sedan with cool styling updates and the one thing everybody loves: more power. Like, a lot more power.
You've already read the headlines: The 2021 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye hits the road with a frankly silly 797 horsepower and 707 pound-feet of torque. It's absurd. It's awesome. And with its standard launch control, it's seriously quick. The Charger Redeye can accelerate to 60 mph in right around 3 seconds and it'll top out at a supercar-beating 203 mph. It's so dumb and I love it.
Dodge's 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8 is the star of the show, nestled under a redesigned hood that has a larger cold air scoop and two heat extractor vents. The Redeye upgrade comes with Dodge's Power Reserve feature, which pre-pressurizes the intake manifold for better throttle response, as well as the Power Chiller, which uses air conditioning refrigerant to help cool the intake air. It's a big engine in a big car making big power, and it's an absolute beast in action. You will never, ever, ever want for forward thrust in the Charger Redeye. The responsible adult in me feels it's necessary to point out that it's borderline dangerous to offer a 797-hp anything to the general public, but the laughing-his-ass-off enthusiast in me just says screw it, let's go.
The Hellcat V8 works in conjunction with an excellent eight-speed automatic transmission that's perfectly adept at keeping the engine humming in the heart of its powerband (which, given the output, is basically everywhere). There are chintzy little half-paddles attached to the steering wheel should you feel like shifting for yourself, but these metal protrusions are hardly satisfying to use. Just leave the transmission alone.
You can customize a whole mess of performance settings to your liking, from the steering weight to suspension stiffness to transmission mapping and more. You can even tell the V8 to settle the hell down and restrict its output to 500 hp, not like that really makes much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. My preferred tune is to leave everything in Street but put the steering in Sport, and naturally, leave the engine on full blast. This gives the wheel a bit more weight without feeling overly cumbersome, and keeps the adaptive dampers soft enough to make the Charger a real peach on long drives.
Honestly, as much as the Charger Redeye is typecast as a master of straight-line shenanigans, it's shockingly capable when you toss it around on a winding road. The Redeye gets the Widebody treatment, which adds 3.5 inches of additional track width and 50 extra cool points over a normal Charger. More importantly, this allows Dodge to fit meaty 305/35ZR20 tires at all four corners, though, weirdly, they're all-season tires, not stickier summers.
The underlying feeling of "if I give it too much gas coming out of a corner I'm going to spin and crash in a ball of flames" never really leaves you while hustling this 797-hp monster with two-decade-old underpinnings. But with great power comes great responsibility, and the adaptive dampers and wide tires do a wonderful job of keeping things copacetic in corners. There's a ton of feedback through the steering wheel, too, so you're always aware of how much grip is available at all times. I wouldn't call the Redeye agile by any means, but it's way less of a raucous, bite-you-in-the-ass hellion than you might think. Plus, it's got two-piece, 15.7-inch front brakes from the fine folks at Brembo, which is pretty solid peace of mind.
I guess I should mention fuel economy, even though it's irrelevant in any Hellcat-powered car. Exactly no one is buying this thing with efficiency in mind, and that's a good thing, because even the EPA ratings of 12 miles per gallon city, 21 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined are a little optimistic. Get used to seeing numbers in the low teens on the regular. Don't forget about the $2,100 gas guzzler tax, either.
The whole Redeye upgrade is technically just a $8,600 option package on the standard Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody. You get all the go-fast stuff as well as a 220-mph speedometer and some unique badges, but everything else carries over unchanged from other Charger models. Colorful brake calipers and matte black roof and decklid treatments are available as add-ons, but the only way to really tell a Redeye from lesser Hellcats is to spot the red eye inside the Hellcat logo on the front fender. (Get it?!)
That means the Redeye's interior is no different than the base Hellcat, which itself isn't much more special than the entry-level, V6-powered Charger. Sure, you can add things like a carbon/suede interior package ($1,595), but there's no hiding the fact that this cabin is old. Really old. You'll mostly notice cheap plastics on the door cards, and the buttons on the center stack look and feel like the 20-year-old parts they are. At least those supportive front seats are endlessly comfy, and they come standard with heating and ventilation. The rear seats are heated, too, though you'll be shocked how little legroom there is for a car this huge.
Every Charger Hellcat gets the Uconnect infotainment suite, housed on an 8.4-inch screen in the dash, with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is Fiat-Chrysler's older multimedia software, though, not the new-and-improved Uconnect 5. Still, this last-gen system has a ton of functionality and the touchscreen quickly responds to inputs. It's old tech, but at least it's good tech.
Driver-assistance technologies are few and far between. Blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic detection are standard, but that's about it, and modern conveniences like adaptive cruise control aren't available. (You'll notice the three dead buttons on the right side of the steering wheel where those features should be.) Then again, you buy the Charger Redeye because it makes 797 goddamn horsepower, not because it's full of gee-whiz tech.
The 2021 Charger Redeye costs $82,190 -- that's $69,995 for the Hellcat Widebody, $8,600 for the Redeye upgrade, $2,100 for the gas guzzler tax and $1,495 for destination. Throw on a few extras and you can get one of these up over $90,000; my slightly more restrained Hellraisin (yes, that's really the name of this color) tester costs $87,165.
Yes, that's a ton of money for a Dodge Charger, but good luck getting this much power for this little cash from any other automaker. Besides, if Dodge has proven anything over the last few years, it's that people love these things, and the bottom line really doesn't matter. That "shut up and just make it faster" attitude is a rare thing in the car world these days, and something we should embrace as long as we can. Flawed as it may be, I wouldn't have the Charger Redeye any other way.