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A small row of red and black cars with sleek exteriors and bulked-up frames are lined up in the vast lot of I-5 Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram in Chehalis. Are they the latest model of an American sports car? A throwback to the classic muscle cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s? The answer is all of the above.

A high point in “pony car” culture, the 1970 Dodge Challenger was equipped with a 425 horsepower engine and an average speed of 108 miles per hour. Fast forward to the present, where the new Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat boasts a whopping 707 horsepower Hemi engine and a maximum speed of 199 miles per hour.

I-5 Dodge Hellcats
Sales Manager Rob Snyder poses with the Hellcat, placed in the center of the showroom. Photo credit: Greg Carlson.

Rob Snyder, sales manager at I-5 Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, is enthusiastic about Dodge’s updated sport vehicle. “I’ve always been a fan of the older car look,” he says, “but I like the newer cars because of what you can get now that you couldn’t get back in the ‘60s. The Hellcats are maxed out with the latest technology.”

In addition to the enhanced speed, the Hellcats are equipped with the latest in automotive technology, such as GPS navigation, in-car Wi-Fi, satellite radio and a dashboard camera to assist with backing out of tight spots. Sales manager Armando Juarez explains one of the more innovative features: “The Hellcat comes with two keys. One key allows you to not maximize the horsepower. Say you got friends and family members who want to borrow your car—you give them the black key that conserves the horsepower to about 500. Then you have the red key, which will maximize the power once you have 2,000 miles on the car, allowing the owner to access the 707 horsepower.”

Hellcat
Sales Manager Armando Juarez and a Hellcat. Photo credit: Greg Carlson.

“One of the main features it has is traction control, and traction control is very important,” adds sales consultant Rich Christian. “It only allows the horsepower to get to the back wheels as much as allowed without major slippage and spinning. It also recharges the power to your back tires so it will stay straight. With all the technology it has, the Hellcat really is like a space shuttle. It will set you back in the seat for sure. This car lives up to its name.”

The employees at I-5 Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram understand that potential buyers may be intimidated by all the technical features, and they go the extra mile to make people comfortable with everything before, during, and after the transaction. “I have a team of certified and trained professionals at the dealership that are well-versed on all the latest features,” says Rob. “One of the nice things we offer here is that before we make a delivery, we’ll go over the vehicle step-by-step and focus on the features that the owner is going to use, like navigation. When the Hellcats first came out in 2015, they were extremely rare and the demand was so high that we couldn’t keep them in stock.”

Indeed, the nationwide acclaim of these vehicles has been so massive that Dodge doubled their Hellcat production for 2016, and plans for a 2017 model are in the works.

Although there are other versions of the Dodge Challenger that would be practical for an owner with kids, or for someone who frequently travels and needs ample trunk space, the prime demographic for the Hellcat is sports car enthusiasts who remember the classic cars like the ‘70 Challenger.

Under a Hellcat Hoot
The hood of the Hellcat is usually kept open to display the powerful engine and other high-tech components. Photo credit: Greg Carlson.

“We mainly see people in their fifties and sixties, successful businesspeople that can relate to the cars from back in the ‘70s,” says Rich. “Compared to any other sports-based models, it’s a lot of car for under $100,000, less expensive than a European model. It’s a very affordable sports car from the United States. Last year, if you bought a Hellcat, you could go down to SRT Racetrack in Arizona, and the staff would teach you about the vehicle’s power and technology.”

For local Hellcat owners, The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton provides a safe environment to test out the supercharged horsepower and zero-to-sixty-in-three-seconds velocity. “If you’re looking for performance when going out to the racetrack, you definitely get what you pay for with the Hellcat,” says Armando.

When the subject of the advantages of working at a Chehalis-based car dealership come up, the sales managers have positive responses.

“The whole I-5 auto group’s saying across the board, our philosophy as a company set by the owner Heidi Pehl, is ‘be bold, be kind, be awesome,’” says Rob. “She wants to incorporate that into the tasks we do every day.”

Dodge Hellcat
The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat has the exterior design of a classic car, and the power and technology of a 21st century vehicle. Photo credit: Greg Carlson.

“I’ve been working in Chehalis for about a year now, and I definitely enjoy it,” says Armando. “It’s a close-knit community and the people here are wonderful.”

Rich agrees: “I grew up 35 miles west of here, in Menlo, and Chehalis was the big town for us. I can relate to the clientele in this area.”

I-5 Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram is located at 1560 NW State Ave. in Chehalis. For hours and appointment information, call 360-748-1717 or visit them at http://www.i-5dodge.net/.

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