Dodge Challenger Hellcat is a car your neighbors will want to drive

PLUM CRAZY: That’s this Hellcat’s limited-availability color. The color makes this Challenger a potential collectible and adds to the scenery wherever you park it.
PLUM CRAZY: That’s this Hellcat’s limited-availability color. The color makes this Challenger a potential collectible and adds to the scenery wherever you park it. –Bill Griffith

The color is Plum Crazy, and plumb crazy is as good a way as any to describe the driving experience of today’s test car, the 2016 Dodge Challenger Hellcat.

Normally, all you need to recognize Dodge’s over-the-top Hellcat editions are the distinct MoPar exhaust note, combined with the little Hellcat logo on each front fender.

But Dodge has added a limited run of these Challengers painted in the iconic Plum Crazy, a color that made its debut in 1970.

With the Hellcat already being produced in limited numbers and only a limited number in Plum Crazy, Dodge rightly predicts the combination will become a highly desirable collectible. Heck, I’d be happy with a “Hot Wheels’’ version.

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For anyone unfamiliar with the term, MoPar refers to the in-house Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) organization dedicated to customer service, parts, accessories, and performance.

It also has become a nickname for both the company’s performance cars and their fans.

Boston.com Dealer Specials:

Our new next-door neighbor, Mike, shook his head every time he saw the Hellcat. “Why is it you and not me [at the wheel]?’’ he’d ask. He described himself as a MoPar guy through and through. “Not only me, but my whole family. Some days our yard would look like a MoPar car show.’’

He loved the Plum Crazy color, but only had one question.

“Did they give you the red key?’’ he asked.

The answer was, yes.

The Hellcat comes with two key fobs, a black one that permits operation with reduced power and a red one that unlocks all the goodies of this retro-styled sports coupe. But there’s a lot more than retro. These vehicles combine striking looks, modern refinement, hellacious power, and all the sound and fury of the muscle-car era.

The Hellcat has a rearview camera, gridlines, and rear cross traffic alert to help navigate parking spaces. —Bill Griffith

Car nuts know all about Hellcats.

But, for everyone else, they’re the top of the line performance offering in both the Dodge Charger and Challenger lines.

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The Challenger is available in a long list of configurations, starting with the SXT, SXT Plus, R/T, R/T Plus, R/T Scat Pack, SRT 392, and SRT Hellcat.

Base price for the Hellcat (with destination and a $1,700 gas guzzler tax) is $65,190.

Our test vehicle had a $2,995 26R Package that added a 2.62 rear axle, heavier duty 8-speed automatic transmission with manual option (and old-style T-bar shifter), paddle shifters, and remote start. A sunroof ($1,995) and Z-rated summer performance tires ($595) brings the bottom line to $70,775, assuming you had the sense to order one over the winter.

That’s all in addition to the 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V-8 that makes a preposterous 707 horsepower and 650 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Hellcat comes with adjustable suspension (street, sport, and track settings) and similar choices for drive mode. In truth, the default street mode is plenty strong and offers a ride with a veneer of comfort over the built-in firmness.

All-speed traction control helps, but if put your foot into this car, you’re going to get some tire spin, even if by accident.

INSIDE STORY: A combination of quality leather, user-friendly technology, and supportive seats add to the Hellcat’s refinement. —Bill Griffith

Stopping with the oversize Brembo brakes is as impressive as the acceleration, and that’s saying something because this 4,476-pound beast will get from 0-to-60 in just over 4 seconds. More impressive yet is when you punch it from a rolling start and see it go from 30 to 70 in an eye blink.

Dodge has done a nice job in refining the interior, adding more beauty to the beast that’s residing under the hood.

We found the heated and ventilated sport seats quite comfortable on longer rides—and this is a vehicle you’ll want to drive. The leather was good quality as were the dashboard finish and stitching.

The gauge package is basic Chrysler, meaning it’s easy to read and functional, with the additional performance menu for the high performance Hellcat.

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An 8.4-inch UConnect touch screen makes the infotainment easy to access, and we found the navigation system among the most useful we’ve encountered, especially as the names of approaching side streets have a tendency to pop into place just when you were looking for them.

The back seat is accessible and somewhat more roomy than those in the Challenger’s main rivals, the Mustang and Camaro. That means a decent-size adult can ride back there in relative comfort, assuming the front-seat passengers make some space accommodations, too.

Fuel mileage didn’t seem as bad as the gas-guzzler tax implies. The EPA rates the Hellcat at 13 miles per gallon in city driving, 22 on the highway, and 16 combined. We surprised ourselves by averaging 17.5, despite driving with a heavy foot and spending some extra time idling as folks would come over to talk about the car.

On the road, the Hellcat is both refined and docile as long as you’re behaving and driving (relatively) sedately. Unfortunately, even Aunt Sarah wouldn’t be able to resist punching the accelerator on this car now and again.

The longish wheelbase (116.2 inches) helps smooth out the ride.

If there’s a drawback, it’s in rear visibility. Fortunately, the rearview camera, parking gridlines, and rear cross traffic alert help in parking.

Because the Hellcat is long (197.5 inches) and the front air deflector is low, we relied on those aids to back into parking spaces where the back end could extend over the curbs that would have scraped the front deflector.

Mrs. G gets the last word: “Don’t forget to say how the transmission seems to sing when it’s really starting to work.’’

2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

THE BASICS

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $65,190/$70,775. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 13 city, 22 highway, 16 combined. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 17.5. Drivetrain: 6.2-liter supercharged V-8, 8-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel-drive. Body: 2-door, 5-passenger coupe.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 707. Torque: 650 lb.-ft. Overall length: 197.5 in. Wheelbase: 116.2 in. Height: 55.7 in. Width: 85.8 in. (w/mirrors). Curb weight: 4,476 lbs.

THE GOOD

Head-turning styling, raw-but-controlled power, interior quality, overall refinement.

THE BAD

Rear visibility.

THE BOTTOM LINE

A special and collectible vehicle that’s wonderful to look at and a thrill to drive.

ALSO CONSIDER

Mustang GT, Camaro ZL1 and Z/28

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