Cadillac CTS-V vs Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

December 02, 2015

Combined, the new 640bhp Cadillac CTS-V and 707bhp Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat offer more power than TWO Lamborghini Aventadors. So, how well do they handle the mountain?

  • Check out the original post on HERE and pdf coverage from evo Middle East HERE

 EnginePowerTorque0-100kphTop speedWeightPrice
Cadillac CTS-VV8, supercharged, 6166cc640bhp @ 6,400rpm854Nm (630lb ft) @ 3,600rpm3.7secs322kph1880kg (340bhp/ton)$85,700
Dodge Charger SRT HellcatHEMI V8, supercharged, 6166cc707bhp @ 6,000rpm881Nm (650lb ft) @ 4,800rpm3.7secs320kph2075kg (241bhp/ton)$57,200

Huh…I hadn’t expected that.

We’ve just finished a drag race between the Cadillac CTS-V and Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat – because combined they produce 1347bhp and, y’know, we’re childish idiots – and the CTS-V has won. And not by a margin. It’s a landslide.

And it’s thrown us completely. Okay, the CTS-V – the third of Cadillac’s decade old V-Series model range – boasts 640bhp and 630lb ft of torque from a 6.2-litre V8. The supercharger is from a Corvette Z06. Throw in a 1880kg kerb weight and the CTS-V has an impressive 340bhp/ton power-to-weight ratio. At full pelt, the V-Series will hit 320kph, having demolished 0-100kph in less than four seconds. So yeah, the credentials for a drag strip weapon are there.

But c’mon. This is the Charger Hellcat we’re talking about. Also boasting a 6.2-litre V8 (there’s only 4cc difference between them in the HEMI’s favour), the Charger kicks out 707bhp and 650lb ft of torque. It destroys a quarter mile in a little over 11 seconds. The monster is sold with two key fobs, one of which ‘limits’ the power to 500bhp to stop its occupants wrapping it around a lamppost. How in God’s name can it lose a drag race to an opponent, even one as formidable as the new
Cadillac CTS-V?

It’s a question I mull during the several drag races that follow (like I say, idiots) but the results speak for themselves. The CTS-V, after a little slip from the rear axle, finds traction quickly, power and torque combining for solid, perpetual pull thereafter. The Hellcat meanwhile immediately throws all it has at the rear tyres, which promptly squirrell sideways, only hooking up when into the mid-range of second gear, and only when both models are well past the 120kph mark does the Charger start to dig into the Caddy’s lead. It takes me a few runs, but I soon realise this precise albeit lunatically-powered approach of the CTS-V against the more theatrical power delivery of the Hellcat is an apt example of their
respective characters.

Purely from an aesthetic point of view, you may consider this odd. Both for instance include truly massive bonnet scoops, an entrance to an automotive Dante’s circle of damnation. They both feature beefed out wheel arches, slick cut glaring headlights, and more carbon fibre accenting than an Olympic bike frame. There are ‘SRT’ and ‘V’ badges for added bad-assery, and each was designed with ‘performance’ – and a crap-ton of it – in-mind.


“The precise albeit lunatically-powered approach of the CTS-V against the more theatrical power delivery of the Hellcat is an apt example of their respective characters.”


Take a REALLY close look though. There is a difference. The Charger embodies a stockier front end, larger alloy wheels, and ultimately, a far more muscular façade than the comparatively athletic CTS-V (even if the rear wing of the latter does beg to differ). Granted the CTS-V is a premium brand rival of the BMW M5 and the Charger a more ‘blue collar’ alternative to the Ford Mustang, but chances are the more flamboyant Hellcat will draw greater looks than the sleeker CTS-V. Such proves the case at most of the petrol stations and traffic signals we pull up at, plus – at one point – the police cruiser who mistakenly thought we were street racers. Even within our little group, the general consensus swings towards the Hellcat from a purely aesthetic perspective.

Taking up position in the CTS-V to begin with though, it’s not the looks and darting stares towards the Hellcat that strikes me. It’s the ride. Don’t get me wrong, the performance focused suspension – regardless of comfort setting – is stiff but superbly malleable during our highway jaunts: even the more rutted sections of tarmac we cross on our way into the mountains isn’t as jarring as one might expect from such a model. Nor even are my hackles spiked by the now slightly dated CUE system or the over the top carbon trim. Even with the Recaro sports seats, it’s an elegant look. And that would be all she wrote were it not for the intrusive nature of Cadillac’s driver assistance systems. These have rarely rankled with me, despite experience in the regular ATS and CTS models, but in the V-Series…I’m not sure if they’re more sensitive in a 640bhp performance saloon, but they quickly begin to get on my nerves. The lane departure ‘assist’ grates in particular: there are sections of our highway run where I feel like I’m genuinely fighting the steering. Thankfully this can be disabled.

Fortunately, as our slightly star-studded convoy (1347bhp really does draw a lot of attention) slopes off the highway and begins winding its way into the mountains, my rather fractious mood would improve. I’ll admit that, prior to today’s twin test, I didn’t have high hopes for either contender on probably the region’s most famous stretch of snaking tarmac, Jebel Jais. Though they had both been born for ‘performance’, surely at heart that insane amount of power was going to catch up and throw a spanner into the nutsack. Apparently not.

Let’s start with the CTS-V. In-house at Cadillac, it’s called ‘The Sledgehammer’. And yet through the corners, it drives with almost astonishing nimbleness. Perhaps not quite in the same bracket as its smaller V-Series sibling the ATS-V or even perhaps a BMW M5 (though we’ll have to wait for another day to find out), but there’s no denying the CTS-V’s capability through the turns. I’m keen not to stack $85K into the Armco some 25km away from the nearest service centre, and start the opening run in Sport mode, where – as is traditional – gear changes and throttle response become sharper and the suspension hunkers down for a beating. Through the opening high-speed sweepers the front end feels remarkably well composed, even despite the V8 lump balancing just behind the grille. There’s an enormous amount of grip from those 19in tyres granted, but even without that, there’s enough stability at the front under load that my confidence goes up almost immediately. There’s a modicum of bodyroll in the cabin but not enough for me to feel unnerved by the ever-rising speedometer needle. Indeed, thanks to those low mounted and superbly supportive Recaros and a low centre of gravity, it’s but a fleeting thought.

I’m a little perplexed. Even though I’ve already driven the CTS-V on track and am more than familiar with its capabilites, I had still expected that power output to mean a lairy rear end that required delicacy with the throttle pedal. And yet, though there is the occasional slip at the back when I go full beans on the pedal, the rears remain largely stable. Nor is the front end not being forced wide by 640bhp pushing the nose towards the rock face. It all feels very agile. So, should I switch to Track? Yeah. Yeah, I will.

 EnginePowerTorque0-100kphTop speedWeightPrice
Cadillac CTS-VV8, supercharged, 6166cc640bhp @ 6,400rpm854Nm (630lb ft) @ 3,600rpm3.7secs322kph1880kg (340bhp/ton)$85,700
Dodge Charger SRT HellcatHEMI V8, supercharged, 6166cc707bhp @ 6,000rpm881Nm (650lb ft) @ 4,800rpm3.7secs320kph2075kg (241bhp/ton)$57,200

There’s an immediate difference to the steering feel. Or should I say the weight of it. I’ve been critiqued in the past by the Ed-in-Chief for referencing the ‘heft’ of a particular steering column, but in the Cadillac, commenting is mandatory. Through the first high-speed sweeper, there’s almost no power steering at all to turn the front end in. It’s startling from then-on just how much effort I’m having to put into each turn of the wheel, most of the steering – here comes another cliché – coming from the power in my shoulders. It’s a heft (sorry) that really does make a superb difference to the driving experience though. Encouraged to work much harder at the wheel, and with superb road holding from that revised Magnetic Ride Control, I start leaning on the front end even harder, feeding the power in gently to keep the nose tight to the apex. There are still minute amounts of body roll to contend with but the composure is staggering, even for a car as big and powerful as the CTS-V.

Throughout the run though, the dark front grille of the Dodge Charger has loomed menacingly in the rear-view mirror, akin to Steven Spielberg’s Duel (watch it, it’s a masterpiece). I half expect the Hellcat to start growling as it finds traction out of the corners and begins eating into the CTS-V’s lead on the straights. Time to swap seats.

It’s a striking difference from the get-go, one that immediately sends a chill down my spine. Like the Cadillac, the overall look of the cabin is a powerful one, though far more in-yer-face than the CTS-V: the speedometer is red; the steering wheel thick-rimmed; ‘SRT’ jumps out at you from the seats and dashboard; there’s a power gauge on the instrument panel that chronicles horsepower usage (which, by the by, I don’t even come close to topping); and an SRT-spec driver mode screen in the centre console. In the Hellcat, the focus is very much on performance.

I’ve got everything in hairy-bollock-ed Track mode, and even after the rear tyres have stopped scrabbling for grip and finally found traction, under turn-in the difference is striking. Compared with the weight in the steering of the CTS-V, there’s almost nothing to that of the Charger, a realisation that catches me completely off-guard into the first couple of corners: where in the CTS-V I’d found textured feedback from the front end, in the Charger the correction to the front wheels feels more remote, and coupled with a higher centre of gravity, more weight on the nose and slightly more lean in the cabin, it takes a little while for me to adjust my driving style. Even the Recaros in the Charger, while arguably more comfortable, don’t offer quite the support of the CTS-V.

Quite honestly, mild-shock means I don’t really remember the first few corners, and it’s only when I’m through onto the first straight that I realise I’m laughing, almost maniacally. Dear Lord, this thing is truly insane!

Where in the CTS-V both the front and rear ends felt composed, in the Charger the rear end feels more manic, almost desperate to break free and destroy some rubber out of the slower turns: a couple of times I jump on the power too quickly, resulting in a spike of torque followed by armfuls of opposite lock to get things back under control, which admittedly is pretty easy to do.

After a while, and once I’ve got my eye in, I begin feeling more confident to lean on the front end. Feedback through the steering does feel comparatively vague but there’s still enough through the rack to keep me informed of what’s going on at the front. The rear wheels – mercifully – stay tight to their line and offer reasonable balance, all the better for really pushing that power on the main straights. Not that I ever see the magic ‘707’ on the power gauge.


“The dark front grille of the Charger has loomed
menacingly in the rear-view mirror,
akin to Steven Spielberg’s ‘Duel’ “


Even more so than the difference in styles through the corners, it’s the soundtrack of each bruiser that stays with me. The CTS-V for instance, more focused as the package is on premium quality, features impressive sound deadening in the cabin, the height of the engine notes coming through via the high pitched tones of the supercharger. With the Charger though, the supercharger’s whine resonates, but it’s coupled with the bassy, scintillating notes of that HEMI V8, one the Caddy struggles to match. The CTS-V’s soundtrack is a good one. But the Hellcat’s is just phenomenal.

Fortunately our mountain run ends with neither contender in the wall and our hearing only slightly dented. And I’m genuinely staggered. The looks of each had suggested this would be a very similar driving experience, but the reality couldn’t be any different. In the CTS-V, that absurd amount of power is delivered – occasionally with foreboding – but mostly with a baffling sense of refinement, the real ‘threat’ lingering beneath the surface. With the Hellcat, it’s all on the surface. Every bit of it. The CTS-V handles the corners with style and agility, while the Hellcat would prefer you go through each one sideways, and ideally on fire. Feedback from the front end borders on immaculate for the CTS-V while in the Hellcat, it feels like a sideshow to the biblical delivery of that power. Consider Hannibal Lector’s sophisticated insanity up against a chainsaw-wielding psychopath gargling brimstone and you’ll get the idea.

No question then, for a composed drive through the mountains, the CTS-V is untouchable. But for a sheer adrenaline pumping run, you’ve got to go for the Hellcat. My personal choice? Probably the CTS-V, even given the additional $30K price difference, since staring death in the face everyday could get a little exhausting.

*Images courtesy of Harisanker.S and Awesome Group


Cadillac CTS-V (Tech Specs)

Engine: V8, supercharged, 6166cc

Power: 640bhp @ 6,400rpm

Torque: 854Nm (630lb ft) @ 3,600rpm

Transmission: Hydra-matic 8L90 eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Front suspension: MacPherson-type with dual lower ball joints and direct-acting stabilizer bar / Magnetic Ride Control with monotube inverted struts

Rear suspension: Independent five-link with Magnetic Ride Control

Brakes: Brembo vented, 390x36mm (front),365x28mm (rear)

Wheels: 19 x 9.5in(front), 19 x 10in (rear)

Tyres: 265/35 ZR19 (front), 295/30 ZR19 (rear),Michelin Pilot Super Sport

Weight: 1,880kg

Power-to-weight: 340bhp/ton

0-100kph: 3.7secs

Top speed: 322kph

Price: $85,700


Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (Tech Specs)

Engine: HEMI V8, supercharged, 6166cc

Power: 707bhp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 881Nm (650lb ft) @ 4,800rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Front suspension: Independent SLA

Rear suspension: Five-link independent

Brakes: Brembo, 390mm (front), 350mm (rear)

Wheels: 20 x 9.5in (front and rear)

Tyres: 275/40 ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero Nero (front and rear)

Weight: 2,075kg

Power-to-weight: 241bhp/ton

0-100kph: 3.7secs

Top speed: 320kph

Price: $57,200