The Chrysler LX platform has been around since 2005. It was born under Daimler, soldiered through the Cerberus malaise, and like many projects, has thrived under the Fiat regime.

For years, Chrysler was the only game in town when it came to large, American, rear-wheel drive machines outside the premium space, easily eclipsing Ford's ancient (and now deceased) Panther cars and GM's brief flirtation with mainstream Holden-based sedans.

And while the pre-Fiat years may have been dominated by cost-cutting and quality control issues, Chrysler engineers did the most with what they had, delivering unmistakably, unabashedly American cars whose character and charisma made up for their other shortcomings.

What is it?
The Charger Hellcat is not just the pinnacle of LX performance; it's the most powerful mainstream production sedan on Earth. The 6.2L, supercharged Hemi V8 makes 707 horsepower at 6,000 RPM and 650 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 RPM--not bad for an iron-block, pushrod boat anchor with a blower on top. Power goes to the ground by way of Chrysler's new flagship, eight-speed "Torqueflite" automatic transmission. While the smaller, sportier Challenger is available with a six-speed manual, no such option exists here.

Given the LX platform's age and size (and aforementioned iron-block V8), it should come as no surprise that the Hellcat is a bit hefty, but in a world of lightweighting and downsizing, its 4,575lb curb weight is borderline-alarming.

Aside from the go-fast bits, the Hellcat is a conventional, five-seat sedan. Sporting a large trunk and a respectable 22 mpg EPA highway rating, the Hellcat is surprisingly well-suited to long highway cruises and even your around-town chores. Resisting the urge to drop the hammer on unsuspecting fellow grocery shoppers may be a bit of a challenge, but with the suspension and transmission in street mode, the Hellcat can actually fill the role of daily driver admirably, even in the rain. The Hellcat's available all-season, narrow section-width tires will actually promote everyday competency. More on that later.

What's the competition?
There isn't any. There are plenty of large, powerful sedans in the world, to be sure, but the only machines on the road that can trade spec sheets with the Charger SRT Hellcat are German and British luxury cars with Germany and British luxury price tags. It's possible to buy cars that will lap a track faster for the money, sure, but that's not the Hellcat's game. The Charger is unique... uniquely powerful, uniquely fast, uniquely affordable and uniquely American.

How does it look?
The Hellcat takes the redesigned Charger's love-it-or-hate-it, Coke-bottle look and adds just a bit more subtle attitude. Hellcat badges adorn the front fenders and you'll find SRT badging front and rear. The brakes are big, red Brembos--six-piston in the front and four in the rear, clamping 15.4" and 13.8" discs, respectively--that are shared with the run-of-the-mill Charger SRT. It takes a careful eye to spot the differences, making the Hellcat fairly discreet, all things considered.

Until you fire it up, that is.

Inside?
The LX cars long suffered from subpar interiors, but with the 2011 refresh, Chrysler started to rectify that. With the 2015 model year, more improvements came, and the Charger's interior now makes a compelling case for itself. The center stack is fitted around a multifunction touchscreen that sits above redundant audio and HVAC controls, making for easy access to all vehicle functions.

Unique to SRT and SRT Hellcat models is a full suite of vehicle dynamics controls allowing customized throttle, suspension, transmission and traction/stability control modes. A power toggle will even let you open up the waste gate on the Hellcat's supercharger and limit the engine output to a meager 500 horsepower (using the Hellcat's black key rather than its red key accomplishes the same thing). The display is mirrored in the gauge cluster, where the SRT apps will track your 0-60 and quarter mile times too.

"SRT" badging is prominent in the interior, found on the wheel, seats, drive mode button and several other locations both obvious and not. The seats are comfortable, but not too aggressively bolstered. They're unsuited to prolonged hot-lapping sessions, but it's unlikely that too many owners will be taking the 2 ?-ton Hellcat out on road courses. The slimmer and more athletic Challenger? Maybe, but you'll want a harness to keep you planted.

Does it go?
It all comes down to tires. When the Charger SRT Hellcat hooks up, it accelerates in a way that should erode the bedrock of simple physics. When it doesn't, it sheds more rubber than an entire fleet of 18-wheelers. Under the rear fenders, you'll find Pirelli P Zero "Three-Season" performance tires in 275/40ZR20. Those keeping score at home will note the same compound and size is found on the rear axle of the 435-horsepower, 3,700lb Mustang GT equipped with the performance package. The Hellcat's size and power are just too much for those poor Pirellis.

A reasonable argument can be made that the Hellcat benefits from being under-tired in the same way the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ do. The lower limits may prevent drivers from fully exploiting the Hellcat's power and track-ready suspension on the street, but on the flip side, they allow for a lot of ridiculous fun. Accelerate away from a stop with any steering angle and the Hellcat is a hair's breadth of throttle travel away from a tail-out tire roast.

The absence of grip means the Hellcat transitions seamlessly up and down either side of its slip-angle curve. There's no razor's edge, but rather a progressive, predictable fall-off in traction as you push the tires beyond their capabilities.

And despite its weight, the Charger SRT Hellcat takes to twisties rather well. Put the suspension in "sport" or "track" mode and the Hellcat hunkers down and tucks in. On an open track, the throttle can be used to help control the Hellcat's line, but that's an iffy proposition on a narrow back road. The Charger is a lot of car, and you don't want its tail swinging out of a lane that is barely wide enough to hold it to begin with.




Leftlane's bottom line

The Charger Hellcat is a magnificent, boisterous, charismatic, unnecessary and thoroughly unapologetic example of American automotive engineering. The LX platform may be showing its age, but it still makes for an appealing package. We'll take two.

2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, base price, $62,295; Harman Kardon Audio Group, $1,995; Power Sunroof, $1,195; Uconnect, $695; Summer Tires, $195; Gas Guzzler Tax, $1,700; Destination, $995.



Written By: Byron Hurd