PORTLAND, OR – What the heck, let’s state the obvious about the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat with 707 hp, record-breaking for a non-exotic car.

This is not a vehicle you give to your kids on their 16th birthday. And except for the little old lady from Pasadena in her super-stock Dodge, elders who prefer to drive 30 mph (48 km) in the fast lane will want something less hellish than the Hellcat.

This muscle car is the heaviest lifter in the gym. The closest others come in Detroit’s cross-town flex-a-thon rivalry are the ’14 Ford Shelby GT 500 at 662 hp, the upcoming ’15 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 at 650 hp and the '15 Chevy Camaro ZL1 at 580 hp.

 “This car is not for everybody,” Tim Kuniskis, president and CEO of Dodge, says of the Hellcat at a media preview here. The event includes the Dodge Challenger and the RT versions, but the Hellcat takes center stage.

The Hellcat goes on sale later this summer. If it’s not for teens or senior citizens (trust me, it isn’t), who will buy it? It’s for driving enthusiasts who like life in the fast lane and have $59,995 to spend on a car that is National Hot Rod Assn.-certified for a 10.8-second quarter-mile time at 126 mph 203 km/h). 

The Hellcat has generated a lot of buzz. In a recent WardsAuto reader poll, participants ranked it as the summer’s hottest vehicle introduction. Dodge bills it as the most powerful muscle car ever. No one disputes that claim.

But the thing is, despite breaking the 700-hp barrier and despite the somewhat menacing name, the Hellcat is reasonably obedient. Driving it is not like riding a tiger.

Oh, you can get in trouble if your driving-skill limits are exceeded while trying to push the car to its limits. But when driven responsibly enough, the Hellcat will not turn on you like a wild animal. You control it, rather than the other way around.

That was evident during hot laps at the Portland International Raceway, as well as driving on public roads, which is more inhibiting (“What color are Portland police cars again?”)

A lot of people love the original muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s, and they were cool for their era. But the first ones were just ordinary cars with big engines dropped into them. When pushed, they were like out-of-control cruise missiles.

But modern muscle cars, with the Hellcat as a fine example, are manifestations of modern engineering. They are carefully balanced, ruggedly outfitted and come with sophisticated suspension systems that help keep things under control.