New Dodge is emblematic of combustion | Cars

The Dodge Challenger Hellcat has always traded on nostalgia.

Its retro-themed bodywork, pre-fuel embargo gas mileage and roaring American V8 engine are as close to a 1970s dream car as anything on sale today.

It’s a bit poignant, though, as the contemporary world moves further and further away from the hydrocarbon-burning roots of the Challenger.

I can’t think of a more iconic vehicle for internal combustion engines than this, a 717-horsepower, gas-scorching monument. Pressing the gas pedal to the floor is a religious experience – something that can only be done with the touch of a pen, when the Challenger is pointed in a perfectly straight line, and even then with some trepidation.

It’s a monster of a car, for sure, with a curb weight of over 4,400 pounds and a length of just under 200 inches, about the same as a minivan. With one engine, it feels like it could power a Navy aircraft carrier, but it’s still one of the fastest cars on planet Earth.

It’s as intimidating as any car I’ve driven, especially on the track. Even with tires as wide as a Volkswagen, it still seems to struggle to hang on at 25 percent throttle and punishes clumsy drivers like me at every opportunity.

Those brief moments you get with a full-throttle Hellcat engine, however, will stay with you for the rest of your life. The feelings are so good.

Why do I feel poignant, then?

That’s because cars like this have reached the end of their road.

Between buyers moving en masse to crossovers, the enactment of tougher government regulations, and today’s pro-electric zeitgeist, gas consumers are doomed.

And it won’t just be the short list of crazy vehicles with the dying Hellcat engine. Anything deemed ridiculous, unnecessary, irresponsible or socially inappropriate will be prohibited on public roads.

It’s automotive cancel culture, and it’ll be here before we know it.

Tellingly, my drive in the Challenger Hellcat was sandwiched between two electric cars I’m testing: the Nissan Leaf and the Kia EV6. Going from an electric vehicle to the king of gas burners, and then back to another electric vehicle, is an intense boost.

Just like with people, I think there should be room in the world for all kinds of different cars. I’m as in love with a Challenger Hellcat as I am with battery-powered vehicles, and hope that for a long time buyers can buy both and pick whichever they want.

The Challenger Hellcat starts at $68,320, more than double the price of a base Challenger, but also a bargain for 717 horsepower.

If that’s not crazy enough, Dodge is offering some extra-crazy choices this year. The Redeye ($76,925) produces 797 horsepower, while the Super Stock ($86,230) produces 807.

Kevin A. Perras