The Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody gives Dodge something no other American rival offers: a full-size sedan with astronomical horsepower. Ford is getting out of the sedan business altogether and Chevrolet is trimming back its portfolio, with both companies shifting focus towards crossovers and SUVs. Thankfully, Dodge isn't following that lead.
- Mighty supercharged V8
- Improved handling dynamics
- Meaner looks
- Aging cabin
- Dreaded fuel economy
- Lacks driver-assistance features
More than wider hips
The new-for-2020 Widebody adds 3.5 inches of width compared to the standard Charger. In addition to the fender flares, the Widebody gets a unique front fascia with a mail-slot grille providing more direct route radiator cooling, as well as a new rear spoiler and side sills to better blend with the added width. The result is a more menacing design that gets many nods of approval wherever this sedan goes.
Besides a more hulking stance, the wider exterior shell allows for the installation of thicker wheels and tires. In the Hellcat's case, the previously standard 20-by-9.5-inch wheels wrapped with 275/40-series tires are replaced by 20-by-11-inch wheels covered in 305/50-series rubber.
A new wheel and tire package also means the engineers had to rework the Hellcat's suspension, resulting in new tuning for the three-mode Bilstein adaptive dampers, 32% stiffer front springs and larger anti-roll bars. Another chassis tweak is a multimode electric power steering system in place of the old full-hydraulic setup, while the massive brakes remain with six-piston front Brembo calipers biting down on 15.4-inch, two-piece rotors.
What's the result of chassis revisions and meatier rubber? A much more competent Charger that instills more confidence through corners. With Track mode activated, steering response is nearly immediate, and the dampers keep the 4,587-pound big boy from being clumsy in turns. The Pirelli P Zero tires' wider contact patches give the Charger commendable stick before the fronts begin plowing forward, and brake muscle is stout, quickly getting the car slowed down. Where the Charger's size can't be disguised is under braking and side-to-side weight transfers, but avoid slalom exercises and you'll be fine.
The Hellcat Widebody is stiff in Track mode, transmitting impacts from every road rut into the cabin. Additionally, in Track mode, the steering weight is on the heavy side for street use -- unless you want Popeye-sized forearms. Summon the Hellcat's Sport setting for the best balance of performance and comfort. You'll want Street mode for the gentlest behavior, but be forewarned that ride quality isn't magic-carpet cushy and the steering still has quite a bit of weight with a small dead spot on center.
Visual and handling changes aside, the main reason anyone buys a Hellcat is for the 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 under the hood. It still makes 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque for 2020, but hold out for a 2021 model and you'll get 717 hp in the Hellcat and 797 hp in the new Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye.
The more powerful 2021 SRT Chargers won't arrive in dealers until Spring, meaning if you want a Hellcat now, it's going to be an example with 707 horses, which is difficult to pooh-pooh. Not with a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.6 seconds and a 10.96-second quarter-mile run. The Charger Hellcat is a brute that makes the right noises burbling at idle, which becomes supercharger whine during acceleration with a menacing exhaust note to boot. Throttle response is nearly instant, and a tidal wave of power is available at all parts of the rev band to forcefully push this sedan forward or spin the rear tires for smokey burnouts and donuts.
Power is routed to the Hellcat's rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission that, in Track mode, rips off rapid but not completely seamless shifts. You can shift it yourself with the steering wheel-mounted paddles, which offer respectable response to commands and rev-matching on downshifts. My advice is to let the computer do all the shifting, though, because the transmission is nicely programmed.
For the times you aren't trying to find a nice piece of pavement on which to perform smoke shows, the Street setting gives the drivetrain a more mellow personality. Gearbox shifts are smoother and slightly muted. Not surprisingly, the biggest strike against the Charger SRT is poor fuel economy, which is apparent with how rapidly the fuel gauge needle drops. EPA fuel economy estimates have this 707-hp beast returning 12 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway -- numbers low enough for the Charger to be slapped with a $2,100 gas guzzler tax. Does that matter to a typical Hellcat shopper? Not likely.
Same as it ever was
Inside is where the Charger is showing its age. It's roomy, with a straightforward layout and clearly marked controls. The front bucket seats are comfortable with generous side bolsters and trimmed with nice leather, while lots of soft-touch surfaces, an optional suede headliner and real carbon fiber trim bring some premium touches to this test car. There's also a nice big trunk in the back with 16.5 cubic feet of space. Unfortunately, the interior design is a bit stale now and there are some budget-rate areas, such as the hollow window controls and flimsy plastic lower door panel compartments.
What isn't stale is the Uconnect infotainment system with its crisp-looking and responsive 8.4-inch touchscreen controlling a bumping 19-speaker Harman Kardon audio setup, navigation system that quickly calculates routes, Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And to keep anyone phones or tablets from going dead in the Charger, there are numerous USB and 12-volt outlets within easy reach of people in both rows of seats.
Sadly, anyone looking for a big driver-assistance tech menu will be disappointed. The Charger Hellcat comes with the federally mandated backup camera and standard blind-spot monitoring and that's it. Things like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and forward-collision warning are not available.
Big performance bang for your buck
Really, when you think about what the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody brings to the table for $73,590 (including $1,495 for destination and gas guzzler tax), it's a performance bargain. And that's even truer with the Widebody, which allows the Charger to take corners in a respectable fashion thanks to its suspension changes and bigger tires.
The Hellcat Widebody tester pictured here stickers for $83,150 with a handful of options that I'd gladly leave off, such as different wheels, a sunroof and some small visual upgrades. My ideal car keeps the frostbite paint job seen here, though, as well as the $1,595 carbon-suede interior package. I'll also keep the great $1,995 Harman Kardon Audio Group, bringing my ideal car's bottom line to $77,180.
Yes, the Charger Hellcat Widebody has plenty of shortcomings, but when I walk towards this menacing machine in the parking lot, I don't think about them. When I engage launch control and let the supercharged V8 rocket me forward, I also don't think about them because I'm too busy laughing with glee. The Charger Hellcat Widebody is an immensely entertaining machine.