Greta Thunberg would not be pleased with this car.
No, the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is not something the young Swedish eco-warrior would be caught dead in. In a world of increasing focus on lowering emissions and saving the planet, the Hellcat is an outlier, a 707-horsepower last gasp of sheer muscle squeezed from firing massive pistons with fossil fuels.
And that’s kind of what makes it so great.
No doubt, we should all be driving cleaner cars, but the fact that the mad engineers (and executives) at Dodge even made this beast is a testament to their dedication to making modern versions of old muscle cars. Like it or not, they’re exciting to drive.
The SRT Hellcat has been around since 2015, made famous for its 6.2-litre, supercharged V-8 that pumps out 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of tire-churning torque and mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. But new for 2020 is the now-standard Widebody format, with looming fender flares, massive wheels and an increase of 8.8 centimetres in width (1,667 cm front, 1,658 cm rear). According to FCA, that makes this not only the fastest and most powerful mass-produced sedan in the world (with a top speed of 315 km/h), but also the quickest and best handling Hellcat ever (notice that last caveat is “Hellcat” and not “sedan”).
Coupled with that increase in width comes some other engineering changes, notably 38 per cent stiffer springs in the front and larger sway bars, along with new front and rear fascia, Bilstein adjustable shocks, a rear spoiler and brake ducts to cool the six-pot Brembos in the front. All of this is intended to make this hulking sedan better in the corners, and if FCA’s numbers are to be believed, it will be: with a .96 g on the skidpad, it will outclass its former, non-Widebody Hellcat around a 3.4-kilometre track 2.1 seconds faster.
In a few laps around Sonoma Raceway in California’s wine country, the Hellcat certainly delivers some startling performance. Once you get used to the eye-popping acceleration (zero-to-96 km/h in 3.6 seconds), the cornering prowess belies the heft of this 2,057-kilogram behemoth. Heavy braking pulls the car down to speed quickly without fade, and the electric-assisted steering gives decent feedback through the front wheels. Tip-in to the corner doesn’t even warrant a squeal from those massive Pirelli 305/35ZR20 tires, mounted on 11-inch-deep wheels, until you’re well past your sense of physics. Even when you think you’re way too early on the gas out of the corner, the rear stays planted with grip. This is way too much fun for such a heavy car.
And yet, out on public roads, put the driving mode into Normal and you’re purring around town like a pussycat; the throttle response and exhaust note are more muted, and unless you really put your foot into it, it’s as sedate as any other four-door car. The difference is striking, and makes this wild creation a real, livable, everyday car. The ride can be easy-soft or bone-jarring firm thanks to those Bilsteins, and even the steering can be adjusted for weight. Just a few clicks in the UConnect infotainment system can change this from a daily commuter to a track demon, complete with drag racing features such as line lock and launch control.
Of course, your daily commute won’t exactly be cheap; while FCA hasn’t yet released fuel economy figures for the Hellcat, I averaged around 15 L/100km on the winding, picturesque roads around Sonoma and Napa in what can only be described as spirited motoring, if that. But if you’re buying a car with a 6.2 litre V-8, you’ve got to realize fuel economy won’t be its thing.
In a world of political correctness and climate change, the time for cars such as the Hellcat Widebody may be coming to a close soon. I, for one, celebrate that Dodge still thinks there is still a place for these visceral, adrenaline-pumping creations.
The 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody starts at $83,495. The Widebody package is also an $8,000 option on the 485 hp Charger Scat Pack, which starts at $51,945. And if 707 hp just isn’t enough for you, Dodge is releasing a 50th-anniversary Daytona version of the Hellcat Widebody, with 10 more horsepower and special striping. Only 50 will be available to Canada (and just 150 worldwide), starting at $88,490.
Base price: $83,495, not including $2,595 freight and PDI
Engine: 6.2 litre supercharged V-8; 707 hp, 650 lb-ft of torque
Transmission/drive: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: N/A
Alternatives: BMW 760Li, Mercedes-AMG S65, Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Porsche Panamera Turbo 4 E-Hybrid, Tesla Model S Performance
What a mean, badass-looking car. The raised hood sports an air scoop and nostrils to help engine cooling, and the wide stance makes it look like it wants to pick a fight.
While you get a sporty, flat-bottomed steering wheel and some carbon fibre trim, the rest of the interior is all Charger, which is not a bad thing. Leather seats, lots of comfort options and more than enough room for five passengers make this snorting beast actually comfortable.
Really, what else can be said about 707 hp in a family sedan? Cornering traction in this rear-driver makes it fun to flick around country roads, too.
While there’s nothing really groundbreaking here, the Hellcat does come with plenty of comfort, convenience and performance features, of which most are controlled by the simple-to-use UConnect. Most features are clear to find and easily accessible, but it’s disappointing that the Hellcat can’t be had with some key safety systems found on other Chargers in the lineup, such as Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Forward Collision Warning with Active Braking.
This is a larger sedan, and there’s plenty of leg- and headroom, even for rear passengers. The trunk is a sizable 467.2 litres.
There really is nothing out there that compares with the Hellcat Widebody in terms of power, performance and everyday usability, especially at this price. If only it didn’t use so much gas, we’d all be happy with it.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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