Dodge Challenger Hellcat: Last Drive

By automotive-mag.com 6 Min Read

After 16 successful years on its current platform, Dodge is sending the Challenger to the big junkyard in the sky where it’ll rip burnouts with the Camaro until the end of days. As part of Dodge’s run of “Last Call” models, they tossed me the keys to a Black Ghost special edition—the sixth of seven limited models set to send off the muscle car. And this one has a badass backstory.

It honors the 1970 Challenger R/T SE with the same name. Commissioned by Godfrey Qualls—a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and a then-new Detroit traffic cop—it had a reputation among Detroit street racers. The legend goes, according to Hagerty, that this Challenger would emerge from the shadows and just as quickly mop up fellow Detroit street racers before disappearing into the darkness, earning it the name “Black Ghost.”

The story is legendary. But unless you really know Dodge and/or its muscle car history, this is essentially just a Challenger Hellcat with more power and style. Not that that’s a bad thing.

Ten extra horses and 100 more revs give the Black Ghost a slight advantage over the “basic” Challenger Hellcat. The supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 puts out 807 horsepower at a 6,400 RPM redline, able to launch the Black Ghost to 60 miles per hour in 3.8 seconds.

Hood pins, a “DODGE” wordmark across the hood line, and a darkened grille do just enough to differentiate this special edition from a factory model. A retro Challenger script sits behind the wheel wells with a white stripe across the trunk. The “Gator Grain” vinyl that covers the roof is the most prominent nod to the original Black Ghost.

Dodge Challenger Hellcat Black Ghost Review
Dodge Challenger Hellcat Black Ghost Review

The driver’s seat is like a portal to the mid-oughts when Challenger Hellcats were new and exciting and Tame Impala was still cool. Laguna leather and Alcantara upholstery upgrades gussy up an otherwise ancient-feeling cabin that’s rife with cheap materials and a touchscreen that lags like its early-2000s construction would suggest. But that’s a moot point in this car.

The only thing you need to worry about is the pistol grip shifter. There’s no manual, instead an eight-speed automatic sends all 807 hp to the rear wheels. With the right tires and enough discipline (in this case, Pirelli P Zero All Season), this setup will get you to 60 miles per hour in that aforementioned 3.8 seconds.

But more fun is stomping on the gas pedal and lighting up the rear rubber like Christmas. Like modern Challenger Hellcats, this version has a Line Lock function that keeps the front tires from turning as you rip off some sweet, factory-sanctioned burnouts. You don’t even need it, though; enough pressure on the pedal from a standstill will send the back tires into a fit of smoke.

Once you do find traction, the Challenger Black Ghost races like a bat out of hell up to illegally fast speeds. I found an empty stretch of road let ‘er rip—the sound of the exhaust echoed throughout the cabin so clearly it’s as if the twin tailpipes were being pumped directly into the back seats. The speedometer climbed frighteningly quickly before I had to stand on the six-piston Brembo front brakes to bring this behemoth down to speed.

Dodge Challenger Hellcat Black Ghost Review

Assuming you can get the tires to stick at all, this car is an absolute riot in a straight line. It’d be even more fun with drag radials and a prepped surface. At 4,415 pounds, though, you won’t be taking this Challenger to next weekend’s autocross. Even with adaptive dampers that help with body roll (somewhat), the Challenger still tosses its weight around aggressively. At least the steering is heavy and crisp, and those ultra-wide tires tell you what the car is doing most of the time.

The Challenger’s cushy ride quality offers a welcomed reprieve from some of its counterparts, which makes it an excellent long-distance cruiser. It soaks up even the most imperfect pavement. And the sonorous soundtrack of the exhaust follows you wherever you go.

As a sendoff, the Black Ghost is pretty understated. The backstory is excellent, but for a muscle car that has made such an impact, it feels almost too subtle. The only thing that isn’t subtle is the price; Dodge is building 300 units at $99,315 each.

Dodge Challenger Hellcat Black Ghost Review

But it’s all about perspective. There’s nothing subtle about the Challenger as a whole—it’s a 16-and-a-half foot boat that’s survived 16 years of market evolution and is being killed off now as its overlords plan for an EV future.

The electric Dodge Charger—its spiritual successor—will undoubtedly be exciting. How could it not be with 900 horsepower and instant torque? But there’s one thing that will be forever missing: A Hellcat V-8.

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