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Desktop Drives: America’s Drift Heroes-Family Matters

This week we are continuing the ‘America’s Drift Heroes’ series, and as such this on-paper comparison will not really be looking at the interior or daily drivability, but rather how well it can make it around a corner in a nice, smoky manner.

The Contenders: [L] Dodge Charger Hellcat, [R] Cadillac CTS-V
The Dodge Viper and the Chevrolet Corvette might be the go-to American drift-o machine for those who have let their children out of the nest, or who avoided children in general, but for those who need a back seat, all is not lost. In fact, if you need, want, or wouldn’t mind a back seat, you get rewarded with automobiles that are either more powerful or more richly appointed than their sports car stablemates—while also featuring insane power. For this weeks ‘Desktop Drives’, we will be looking at the best drift alternative for those who need a bit more space for their things. In the Dodge corner, the Viper must contend with its younger brother, the Charger, which just had one Hell(cat) of a growth spurt. Unless you just got back from an expedition or hermitage, you have heard of the Hellcat family of engines and their 6.2L of supercharged awesome, pumping out their 707bhp and 650 lb-ft of torque. That is a very safe ~50bhp and ~50lb-ft more than the “top-dog” Viper and its larger V10. Competing against the Hellcat Charger this week is the Cadillac CTS-V. The CTS-V also features a 6.2L supercharged V8, although it makes a ‘paltry’ 640bhp. A third car will get an honorable mention, but sadly can’t compete with these new monsters on the block: The Chevrolet SS sedan. Featuring a naturally aspirated 6.2L V8 producing 415bhp, it simply can’t run with the pack. I chose the SS sedan over other N/A sedans like the Chrysler 300 SRT8 and the Charger 392-equipped models, due to the open-ended nature of the LS engine family found in the Chevy when it comes to modifications, in comparison to the Gen III Hemi motors found in the other offerings.

2016 Dodge Charger

MSRP: From $68,740

As built: $72,325

Engine: 6.2 L V8 Supercharged

Horsepower: 707 hp

Torque: 650 lb-ft

MPG: 13 city / 22 highway

Curb weight: 4,575 lbs

Dimensions: 198-201″ L x 75″ W x 58″ H

2016 Cadillac CTS-V

MSRP: From $87,590

As Built: $89,785

Engine: 6.2L V8 Supercharged

Horsepower: 640 hp

Torque: 630 lb-ft

MPG: 14 city / 21 highway

Curb weight: 4,141 lbs

Dimensions: 198″ L x 72″ W x 57″ H

2016 Chevrolet SS

MSRP: From $48,070

As Built: $48,070

Engine: 6.2 L V8

Horsepower: 415 hp

Torque: 415lb-ft

MPG: Up to 14 city / 22 highway

Curb weight: 3,997 lbs

Dimensions: 196″ L x 75″ W x 58″ H

Dodge Charger Hellcat: Little Boy Blue

Charger Hellcat Front

I talked about the importance of standing out visually while drifting during last week’s article, and stand out the Hellcat does. If passerby happen to miss the snarling, metal cat emblem on the side, the plethora of visual options allow owners to set their rides apart much more than normal for manufactures. I opted for the artfully named and certainly polarizing color, B5 Blue Pearl Coat paired with the “Brass Monkey” wheels. While it may not be to everyone’s liking, it is definitely noticeable, especially while sideways in a cloud of smoke. A quick note on those “Brass Monkey” wheels. At $995 additional, they are a steal. Not only do they look better, but on the aftermarket, they advertise at about $450 a wheel more expensive then the stock wheels on an SRT Hellcat.

Charger Hellcat Rear
Hellcat Interior. I like brown.

As for the performance of the Hellcat, it certainly isn’t lacking any. At over 700bhp and 650lb-ft of torque, the Charger has enough power to snap loose its laughably small 275 section-width rear tires at will. While not ideal for a family cruiser, for a drift machine, it sounds just dandy. The 8-speed automatic only transmission choice isn’t ideal, but the paddles should allow you to stay in the sweet spot needed. Oh, and did I mention the 707bhp? The suspension is a 3-way adjustable Bilstein unit, and while not magnetic in nature, by all reports perform admirably. And of course it has the prerequisite Brembo brake package should pair nicely with the suspension to allow nice drift control. Luckily, Dodge has learned from the early SRT mistakes, and equipped this model with a LSD in the rear. That, combined with everything previously mentioned—707 horsepower—should allow the Hellcat Charger to get sideways, and control it properly. It should also be noted that the long-wheelbase of the Charger should make controlling drifting easier. The variable length of the car in the stats is due to the difference in the SRT bumpers and the stock bumpers.

Cadillac CTS-V: Not for Grandpa

Cadillac CTS-V. Sorry for white background

While the Cadillac brand has lately been trying to throw off the image of retired folks tootling along slowly in the fast lane, nothing does so with such vehemence like the CTS-V. While it may look subdued, it is packing 640 horsepower, with more than 400 pounds less than the Dodge. So while it may not produce as extravagant a number as the Hellcat, with a bit of maths, you can see that the power-to-weight ratio is much closer together: 6.47lbs per HP for the Charger, and an exactly the same 6.47lbs per HP for the CTS-V. While the engineers at Dodge wrung out all the horsepower numbers they could from the engine, Cadillac and GM in general has developed almost equally as fantastic an engine, but also a superbly strong, lightweight chassis to go along with it. Paired to this engine and lightweight chassis is a like-the-Hellcat 8-speed automatic only transmission choice, routing power to the rear-wheels and a LSD, this one with electric control. Again, the brakes are Brembo. All the performance hardware is there to achieve similar drifts to the Hellcat, although the Magnetic Ride Control, while great for comfort, is questionable for drifting. Also questionable is the surprisingly narrow width, a whole 3in less than not only the Charger, but also the Chevy SS.

Cadillac CTS-V Rear
Cadillac CTS-V Interior. Sport seats not selecteable without Carbon Package for $6,250. Gimmick-y

Where the Cadillac truly shines is its creature comforts. I know I said this was merely a drift comparison, but I will connect the two. While costing $20,000 more than the Charger at its base price, they certainly try and make it feel like you are getting $20,000 worth of comforts. The seats are heated and ventilated, the suspension is magnetic, adjustable, and supple, and the materials are a step above the Dodge. It also looks a little more dignified, and less ‘boy-racer’ than the Hellcat, and wouldn’t be out of place at a Los Angeles Party or official State function. This is the same company that makes the Presidents limo after all. All those reasons are why I think that the Cadillac is actually way, way more ridiculous visually than the Hellcat. Yes, while parked or driving slowly, the Dodge looks the part, but going around a corner in a slide-y manner—the whole point of this test, remember—not much would look more ridiculous than the big Caddy. While this theory is deeply subjective, it certainly holds sway with me.

Chevy SS: Super Steal

Chevrolet SS, A dying breed

The Chevy SS is dying. While this news will sadden many a car-guys heart, we are honestly the ones to blame. While the SS has been on the market for four model years—what is normally half the life cycle of a car—it has sold less than 3000 units each year. This means that no one, their target market of car lovers included, are buying the car. This is odd, considering that for less than $50,000, you could get four seats, leather interior, the sporting chassis and engine/transmission from the last generation Camaro SS, and Chevrolet’s fantastic Magnetic Ride Control. The final cherry on top to tempt the family-saddled enthusiast: it comes with either a manual or an automatic, both equipped with a LSD. This means that even though the ‘old’ LS3 engine makes a now-small 415bhp, you can hustle the SS—filled with 3 of your closest friends—around a corner sideways with relative ease and comfort. After the smoke clears, and you all step out, it becomes apparent why it may not have been easy for Chevy salespeople to move them out of showrooms: It looks like a rear-drive Malibu, with a bit of glitz-and -glam. It should be noted that they have had such difficulty that any optional extras or accessories are essentially thrown in for free at the moment.

Chevrolet SS Rear End
Chevrolet SS Interior

While not having the power or the looks to run with the big dogs above, it does have one gigantic advantage on its side: Price. Coming $20,000 under the Hellcat, and an eye-watering $40,000 under the CTS-V, the SS starts looking a little better. Not only do those sums keep tires on your car and gas in the tank for the conceivable life of the car, that left-over cash leaves room for modifications, something the LS3 is more than willing to accommodate. For $7,650 shipped, you can get a ‘complete’ Whipple supercharger system. Never taking the word ‘complete’ as true is always safe with kits, and after small parts and installation, a $10k-$12k price-tag is a safe bet. This investment nets you around 600 horsepower at the crank, with a powertrain warranty intact through Whipple. This means that for about $60,000—still significantly less than the cheapest Hellcat—you can have a car that can run with these beasts. Investing a few thousand more for a cam and other supporting modifications for the supercharger system is well within budget, and would further bridge this gap. Looking to the cars homeland, Australia and the Holden motor company, there is already an existing supercharged model to study, and as one final send-off, they might even be bringing a few here. Until they do though, this car will remain an honorable, wistful, mention, that the brave few can take on and have fun with.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, I simply wouldn’t be able to stand not having the Hellcat. Yes, if you do math the CTS-V is almost exactly the same power-wise, but I wouldn’t want to have people have to do math to know. If they are the same, I might as well go with the one with the higher starting number, right? Well, that is what I would convince myself, and I would end up driving home in the Charger. Even if the numbers were not so similar, it wouldn’t matter. We should just be happy that cars like this even exist, and take the sad example of the Chevy SS and ensure cars like these continue to exist.

Remember to like, share, and comment below, especially if you think I am wrong!

The Winner!

Stephen Hyden View All

I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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