Red Key vs. Black Key: Unlocking Hellcat Power

Two key fobs mean drivers of Dodge SRT vehicles can choose who can use all their immense power.

a red and a black Dodge key fobDodge


Some Dodge performance vehicles now exceed 1,000 horsepower straight from the factory. It's a good thing, then, that owners of high-output, Hemi-powered models such as the Dodge Challenger and Charger Hellcat editions have a way to make sure all that power stays in the right hands.

Many of the company's Street and Racing Technology (SRT) models come with two key fobs — one red, one black — allowing owners to limit their vehicles' output for certain drivers.

An orange 2022 Dodge Challenger SRT Super Stock and a black-on-white 202 Dodge Charger SRT HellcatDodge

The Red Key Unlocks All the Hellcat Power

For authorized drivers who want to tap the maximum power available, the red electronic key fob allows unrestricted access to all of that ferocious output. A separate black key fob, meanwhile, tones things down, capping output at a more manageable level.

The dual keys have been a feature on certain high-performance Dodge vehicles since the debut of the 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat, which makes 707 horsepower.

Having two different keys allows owners of SRT vehicles to use the power-limiting function for less-experienced drivers. It's also a preventative tool for times when the car is left with a valet or at a parking garage. The idea is to somewhat prevent a replay of the infamous joyriding parking attendants scene in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

As exciting as 700-plus horsepower sounds, it's a potentially overwhelming amount of output for many drivers.

Close-up of a Hellcat badgeDodge

The Black Key Restricts Horsepower

The vehicle recognizes each key and electronically adjusts certain functionalities, especially the maximum output of the often exceptionally high-horsepower engines. In the case of the 797-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, for example, using the black key to start the vehicle restricts its horsepower to 500 horsepower and rpms to 4,000.

That's still considerable horsepower but perhaps less of a temptation for an inexperienced or unauthorized driver to push the vehicle to its maximum potential. The key also disables the vehicle's first gear, limiting its overall acceleration.

Some drivers have also used the black key — or similar performance-restricting settings on the vehicle's setup screen — to get a better feel for their car's handling, shifting, and braking without the tire-smoking effect of the full output.

Close-up of Hellcat speedometerDodge

Red and Black Keys Are a Dodge SRT Thing

The two-key system is a hallmark of the Dodge SRT family, which includes the incrementally outrageous output of the Hellcat models. Those range from the first Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats, which made up to 707 and 717 horsepower respectively, to the 797-hp Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, the 807-hp Challenger SRT Super Stock, and 808-hp Challenger SRT Demon.

Curiously, the 1,025-hp 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170, the victor in the Detroit horsepower battles of the past decade, comes only with the full-power key.

The 710-hp Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat SUV, though it packs a lot of power, is also just a one-key model.

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Andy Stonehouse
Andy Stonehouse literally fell into the world of auto writing while working as a ski-town journalist, and has not looked back since. A childhood spent dealing with the eccentricities of a 1976 MG Midget has made any subsequent auto experience a more safe and reliable drive. He has been blessed with nearby mountain trails and snowy roads in Colorado to do TV-adventure-styled test drives on a weekly basis.