In an age of alphanumeric car names, it’s got to be the longest name in the business, but each word in the 2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody Jailbreak has a meaning.
“SRT” means the regular Dodge Charger was developed by Dodge’s Street and Racing Technology division. “Hellcat” means the Charger is the high-performance version that has a 6.2-litre V8 engine. “Redeye” means that engine is bumped up to 797 horsepower from the stock 717. “Widebody” means the tires are wider than stock, and the larger fender flares that cover them help add an additional nine centimetres to the width of the car. And “Jailbreak” means the owner paid extra money to have more colour options and that Dodge retuned the engine to add another 10 horsepower, for a total of 807. Phew!
Dodge is making the point that this $131,340 vehicle encompasses a series of many progressions over the regular Charger sedan, which has a comfortable 300 horsepower in its V6 engine and costs one-third the price. This is the final year of production for the Hemi-engine-powered Charger and its two-door sibling, the Challenger, and their Chrysler cousin, the 300, which are all built at the Stellantis assembly plant in Brampton, Ont. This means they will almost certainly be the last true V8 muscle cars. The Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro are considered “performance cars” by their makers. Whatever.
(This doesn’t mean the end of the Charger and Challenger nameplates. As Stellantis says, they are “coming to an end in their current form at the end of 2023.” Read into that what you will, but it leaves plenty of room for them to return with the company’s new 500-horsepower Hurricane straight-six-cylinder engine, or as electrified cars.)
Dodge has milked this end-of-the-muscle-car era for all it’s worth, as it should. There have been seven “Last Call” limited-production editions of the Charger and Challenger this year, and only the final vehicle, the 1,025-horsepower Challenger Demon, is still being built – all the others are done, with a few still on dealer lots. The drag-strip-ready Demon is limited to 3,300 gas-guzzling units and Dodge says it’s run a National Hot Rod Association-certified 8.91 seconds over the quarter-mile. Its fuel rail and injectors are capable of squirting 621 litres of fuel an hour into the cylinders, which is apparently more capacity than the average North American shower head. Take that, Tesla Model S Plaid owners.
But this review is not about that $130,890 coupe. It’s about the Jailbreak Charger I drove recently, which came in at about the same price after its many various options. It’s notable for its prodigious but usable horsepower, and also for being the most stolen car in America. The Highway Loss Data Institute, which is a branch of the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, says Charger Hellcats are stolen about 60 times more frequently than the average car. “If you own a Hellcat, you better check your driveway,” HDLI senior vice-president Matt Moore said on the non-profit institute’s website in August. “These numbers are unbelievable.”
2023 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody Jailbreak
- Base price/as tested: $95,695 / $131,340, plus taxes
- Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged V8; 807 horsepower with 707 lb-ft or torque
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic / rear-wheel drive
- Fuel consumption (litres per 100 kilometres): 19 city, 11.5 highway, 15.6 combined (premium fuel required)
- Alternatives: Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, Nissan GT-R, BMW M5, Jaguar F-Type R, Mercedes-AMG E63 S
The Charger has a face only a parent could love, but that parent – probably a dad, let’s be honest – likely loves it, with posters of its past generations on the garage walls. The broad, stubby front punches its way through the air like a fist, with a drag co-efficient of 0.376 for the Hellcats.
If that number doesn’t mean much, most modern cars are about 0.3. And then compare it to cars that actually give a damn about slipping through the wind, like the Porsche Taycan at 0.22 or the Tesla Model S at 0.208. Those are electric cars that don’t need prodigious amounts of cooling wind through their radiators, but even so – the Hellcat’s hood scoop that’s supposedly there to help cool the engine is blocked off inside. Stellantis calls it “functional,” but probably not as you’d expect.
If you’ve sat in a Dodge, a Chrysler or even a Jeep in the past decade, then the cabin will feel familiar. This isn’t a bad thing. The thick leather seats seem overstuffed but they’re comfortable, and the switches and buttons fall nicely to hand for the driver. There aren’t as many as you’d think, with much of the work being assumed by the 8.4-inch touchscreen or the plethora of buttons on the steering wheel.
The true achievement of the Jailbreak is that it’s a very driveable car at normal speeds, pootling through traffic and cruising with everyone else on the highway. You can even tune it down to 500 horsepower if you want – maybe the abysmal fuel consumption improves, but like any owner, I rarely did this to find out. The detuned setting is there for your kids or the parking valet, and the black key fob that activates it makes this very clear. I kept the red key fob in my pocket and looked for places to stomp on the gas.
The Jailbreak’s acceleration is monumental at a claimed 3.6 seconds from standstill to 100 kilometres an hour, with a 10.6-second quarter-mile, but this is limited by its rear-wheel drive. Only the back tires are clawing for traction, while most of its competitors have all four tires digging in. There’s launch control and assist to help with this, and there’s even a line-lock control that applies the brakes to the front wheels while letting the rear tires spin themselves into smoky oblivion. Stellantis says this is “to heat up and clean the rear tires” before a drag run. Yeah, right.
Other sports cars these days can post quicker times from a standstill, especially at the six-figure price of the Jailbreak, and electric cars can match its acceleration for half the cost. This Dodge is all about the “feel” of the performance, however, and that’s why it’s rear-wheel drive, and the whining supercharger has a massive 2.7-litre air box, and the tires stick out beyond the edges of the wheel flares. It’s no fingertips-on-the-steering-wheel Porsche or even C8 Corvette around corners, but the burble of the exhaust makes you feel like royalty on the straights.
The antiquated touchscreen display includes the SRT Performance Pages, so you can see more about this car’s performance parameters than practically anything else on the road. It’s a Mopar app that comes standard with the Hellcat, and it will tell you all kinds of nerdy stuff, including G-forces, temperatures for every fluid under the hood, timers for set distances, braking speed and reactions, even the air-fuel ratio and boost pressure in the supercharger. One page showed a maximum speed achieved of 186 kilometres an hour and no, that wasn’t me. (Owners will want to go to a track to try to hit the Jailbreak’s top speed of 327 kilometres an hour, just to display that on their own cluster for posterity.)
There’s 467 litres of space in the trunk. The back seats are comfortable for a pair of adults, or three kids.
The Dodge Charger is a true muscle car, and if that turns your crank, you’re faced with a wide variety of options for the level of performance you want and can afford. Dodge is holding its cards close to its chest for now but it’s unlikely this is the end of its high-horsepower gas-powered vehicles.