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Nobody in their right mind would ever say that the Dodge Challenger Hellcat was lacking in oomph. With 707 horsepower on tap from a 6.2-liter supercharged V8, you're never more than a twitch of the right foot away from a life-changing (and possibly license-revoking) experience.
But, when it came to handling... well, that was another story. Hitting the track in a Hellcat can be a lot of fun, but in the corners the car was never what you'd call confidence inspiring. With the new Challenger Hellcat Widebody configuration, we're finally getting closer to competence.
At a high level, the Challenger Hellcat Widebody is a Hellcat that's received the fender flares from the Demon, along with bigger wheels and tires to match. The extended girth of the car measures 3.5-inches. Its wheels are now 20x11 inches and wrapped in 305/34ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero tires. The bigger front splitter lurking beneath the bumper is also borrowed from the Demon, but the rear spoiler remains the same as the normal Challenger Hellcat. It's taller than the Demon's and offers better downforce.
But in talking about what the Widebody is, it's important to discuss what it isn't. Namely, this isn't a trackday special in the vein of the Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R or the Chevy Camaro ZL1. Those cars have seen extensive modifications to make them monsters around a circuit, and they're both incredible performers.
The Widebody is a little more simple and, frankly, more limited in scope. And that's OK because despite the seemingly minor changes there are definite improvements to be felt.
I spent some time in the new Hellcat Widebody at the tight and twisty infield circuit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Though the oval might seem like the more appropriate venue for a car like this, the new Challenger showed what a difference a little bit more grip can make.
The combination of stickier, wider tires with the mild geometry tweaks made for a car that didn't feel completely misplaced when pushing hard through an apex. The car turns in well and maintains a balanced poise throughout. It's a big improvement over the base Hellcat's terminal understeer at entry followed by wild oversteer when you try to get back on the power.
Don't get me wrong, the Widebody is still more than happy to send you sideways should you get too eager with your right foot. But now the car actually feels like it has almost enough grip and chassis to manage all 707 horsepower. Almost, but not quite -- if it felt totally in control it wouldn't be as much fun, right?
I'm sorry to say the shift to an electronic power steering hasn't helped the feel, though. Feedback from the front end is definitely on the vague side, and in the track setting the steering just feels artificially heavy and slow. The steering resistance can be reduced quite quickly through the SRT custom tuning settings, but the speed or feedback never improves. The brake pedal, too, is long and vague, but the big Brembo brakes themselves (shared with the Hellcat) were more than up to the task of hauling this big beast down to speed.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Widebody is that Dodge hasn't compromised anything that already made the Hellcat a success. It is still outrageously powerful, still sounds as ferocious as any car on the road and, with those massive fender flares and meaty tires, it now looks even more menacing. If that weren't enough, the Widebody is even quicker down the quarter mile: 10.9 seconds vs. 11.2 in the base Hellcat.
The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody isn't the ultimate trackday toy, but then it isn't really trying to be. It is instead a Hellcat that actually feels like it has enough grip to stand a fighting chance at managing all the power flowing out from under the hood. While chassis dynamics still feel rudimentary and a bit vague, this is a much better handling car than before, and a hugely improved package over the base Hellcat.
The only question, of course, is whether it's worth the extra cost. The Widebody starts at $71,495, a fair premium over the $64,195 Hellcat and a price increase that puts it tantalizingly close to the $84,995 Demon. For reference, that's about $10,000 higher than either the Mustang Shelby GT350R or the Camaro ZL1. Neither of those will touch a Hellcat at the strip, but both are far more capable trackday performers. Only you can decide which is right for you, so pick your poison and know that you'll have a hell of a time whichever way you go.