2016 DODGE CHARGER SRT HELLCAT LONG TERM UPDATE 6: KILL ALL TIRES EDITION

“As soon as Jason’s done, get on the walkie and say, ‘Let me warm up the tires first.’ Then do a big burnout.” Those were the instructions from my director, Anthony Esposito. In other words, commanded me to do. See, we were filming episode 4 of season six of Head 2 Head. Miata RF versus Toyota 86. So, naturally, obviously, we had to sneak in a long-term Hellcat cameo. Wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

Burnout I did. It was OK. Shifted into second gear, the speedo said 56 mph as I eased off the brakes and began leaving telltale black stripes down the front straight at Streets of Willow. Total length? Maybe fifty feet, maybe a bit more, maybe less. Obviously the Charger Hellcat and the chronically underrated (says me) 650 pound-feet of torque it comes packing from the factory is capable of more. Much, much more.

Take two. Yeah baby! Now we’re talking. I shift up to third gear and hold that big 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 steady at 4,000 rpm, an engine speed that in my mind/experience squarely equates to maximum tire death. Count backwards from 10, slip the brakes, and lay rubber. Halfway down the straight seems appropriate, adequate. Much, much better. I may have had to perform another burnout (or two) for “safety.” Remember, our video team’s mantra: Perfect, do it again.
2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat front three quarter in motion 07

“After you’re done with your lap, go ahead and stage up a few corners before the skid pad. We’re going to film you drifting back onto the front straight and then blowing past the finish line.” Most 4,530-pound family sedans don’t drift so well. The Hellcat, however, is different, and even a hack like me can do something that looks decent enough on camera. Though apparently, not quite decent enough.

“Jason, do you think you could do a giant drift onto the front straight?” Anthony asked Mr. Difto, Jason Cammisa. Jason said no problem, hopped in the Hellcat, did a practice sideways slide, and came to a complete stop. “I can hear the tire separating,” he says worriedly over the walkie-talkie. We check and sure enough cords of tire are hanging off the big Pirellis. Lots and lots of cords. “The air is showing,” joked Randy Pobst. Oops.

A quick, 19-mile trip down to the tire shop was much more arduous than you might think. Obviously, we determined that the rears were shipshape enough to put-put down the freeway in a very un-Hellcat manner, i.e. obeying the speed limit. However, there were a bunch of those separated cords wrapped around things like half-shafts that were producing horrible, end of the world-sounding noises. Long story short, once I got the big red Charger safely to the shop and the rear wheels came off, I wasn’t surprised at the sheer volume of rubber woven into the rear suspension. Nor the tire mung melted onto the bottom of the exhaust pipes.

I went to grab the left rear for a picture and the tire shop employee hollered, “Don’t touch that!” in reference to the very exposed steel part of the steel belted radials. “They’re like razors.” I wanted to say something to the effect of, “Yeah man, not my first wanton destruction of company property rodeo.” Instead I just played dumb. Dumb beats guilty, no? The sad part is that the hour and a half I had filming the thing on the track is the first 90 minutes I’d been able to spend with the Hellcat since Obama was President.

What did I learn? Never let Jason Cammisa drive your car.