Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: September 13, 2020
The last time we drove a Hellcat was in 2015. Back then, 707 horsepower from a stock, production, four-door sedan, was pretty absurd, and an amazing technical feat no less. Power is easy but the difficult part is making a chassis that can handle it, and sourcing tires that won’t shred the moment you unleash maximum throttle. It also has to instill the driver with enough confidence to drive without being frightened on every misstep. The Hellcat did all of that, and it wasn’t astronomically priced either. Initial dealer markups from the hype train aside, when the Hellcat was first launched, you could land yourself a 700-horse warrior for under $80,000. The Hellcat created a fantastically attainable sub-brand, adding to Dodge’s dreamy lineups of HEMIs, Shakers, Scat Packs, and now, Redeyes and Demons. This ain’t no rental sedan anymore.
Fast forward to today and 700 horsepower might not seem as impressive, especially when you factor in the Bugattis and Koenigseggs that easily crest over four digits. Many consider over 500 hp to be overkill for the street anyways. But the Hellcat is still around, and now includes a new Widebody configuration. Dodge doesn’t offer the regular non-Widebody Hellcat anymore. For those not in the know, a Widebody kit flares out the wheel fenders outwards so that you can fit larger, wider, and meatier tires. A larger rubber contact patch means more grip. More grip means faster acceleration, better handling, and shorter braking distances. In this case, Dodge has flared out the fenders by almost 90 mm, and equipped fat 305/35 ZR 20-inch Pirelli all-season tires in the front that wrap around massive 15.4-inch front and 13.8-inch rear steel brake rotors, sandwiched by Brembo six-piston front and 4-piston rear calipers. This Widebody spec is also available on the Charger Scat Pack and Challenger models.
The Hellcat treatment further includes a three-mode Bilstein adaptive suspension setup, larger anti-roll bars, stiffer springs, a new electric power steering rack, a unique front hood with dual vents for improved engine cooling, and unique 20-inch wheels. To help it stand out from the pack, the Hellcat receives a new mail-slot front grill, as well as a lip spoiler completing the rear. You can also have a satin black hood and trunk lid if you desire that aftermarket midnight club vibe.
The 6.2-litre supercharged HEMI V8 is the showpiece of this muscle car. Spewing out 707 hp and 650 lb-ft through an 8-speed automatic transmission, this rear-driving beast will sprint from 0-96 km/h (0-60mph) in 3.6 seconds - we could not find an official 0-100 km/h time, but we’re going to peg it at around 3.7 to 3.8 seconds. That’s quicker than an Audi RS5 and BMW M3 CS, and as quick as a dedicated sports car like the Porsche 992 Carrera S. It’s still slower than other full-performance sedans like the BMW M5 Competition (3.3 s) and Mercedes-AMG E 63 S (3.4 s), but this is all coming from a sedan that won’t cost an arm and a leg. Top speed? 315 km/h, or just under 200 mph. And do note that this isn’t even more the powerful Redeye variant that ushers in an absurd 797 hp instead.
Digging deeper into the Hellcat’s toolbox reveals a few more goodies. It now receives a feature called Torque Reserve, which closes a bypass valve to prefill the supercharger and manages fuel flow to balance engine rpm and torque. This generates a reserve of torque that is delivered upon acceleration from a standing stop. In addition, a feature called Race Cooldown keeps cooling the supercharger after the engine is shut off by running the intercooler pump and radiator fan, all in an effort to preserve internals and keep the mechanicals in tip top shape.
Visually, the Widebody kit makes this Charger Hellcat look even more menacing and it drips with heightened road presence. From certain angles, the Hellcat always looked a little tame, and especially lanky from the front three-quarters, but this Widebody changes that outlook. To create more distinction, there are now Hellcat badges plastered on the front grill and rear trunk lid, as it only used to be on the side fenders. If you’re spending nearly $100,000 a vehicle, it better stand out, right? And then there’s the pricing. The Charger Hellcat Widebody starts at $84,345, with our specific test vehicle ringing the bell just under $100,000. Blame the pricey Satin Black Graphics Package ($5,200) and the fact that Dodge still charges $1,425 for a sunroof.
Inside is where you are clearly reminded that the Hellcat comes from humble beginnings. With an almost impossibly large cabin, seats as large and cozy as your living room recliner, and plastic parts galore, the Charger Hellcat Widebody remains as friendly and welcoming as your Hertz rental special. Plastic instead of metal. Plastic instead of leather. And if you thought BMW wheels were overly thick, the Charger’s is even thicker. Those with small hands might have difficulty finding a decent grip and wrestling the wheel properly at speed. Which is not to say the Hellcat is void of any cabin pizzazz. The SRT badge on the airbag cover lights up at night, and there are a flurry of performance menus and screens for the avid dragster to dig into and customize the launch rpm, the choice of 500 or 707 horsepower, steering and suspension tune, and gearbox intensity.
That UConnect infotainment system remains one of our favourites because of its ease of use, incredibly low learning curve due to its familiar structure to a smartphone, and customizable shortcut bar layout. Instantly responsive to touch, and the bright fonts and screen has us giving it two thumbs up. That’s why we are not insulted at all when Maserati decides to use it on their vehicles as well. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also standard across the 2020 Dodge Charger lineup.
But let’s get down to the real question: does the girthier Widebody drive any differently, and will the larger tires offer a better leash to tame all that horsepower?
In short, yes. The Widebody kit does make a difference, but not in terms of noticeable speed. Confided by street limits, we can’t notice a night and day difference with the non-Widebody variant. Rather, it’s the feeling and overall confidence that the Widebody gives you, that makes the difference palpable. There is clearly more lateral grip, and the Widebody lets you carry more speed into corners without breaking rear traction. Straight line acceleration is more up for debate. You still get wheelspin in fourth gear. Anything over 600 hp can be tricky to manage, let alone 707, and the Hellcat still requires a certain amount of respect and finesse to keep it from wrapping around the nearest tree.
Widebody or not, you can’t just hop into the Hellcat and expect to be friends. You have to build a level of trust, and a relationship to explore its limits. You need to learn where it bites and where it's forgiving. The acceleration is wicked but it demands constant driver monitoring. As long as you are delicate with the throttle, and keep the front wheels straight before matting it, you’re golden, and you will easily extract a good amount of performance out of this theatrically hairy-chested brute. Just note that a heavy right foot with the Hellcat goes unrewarded, unless smoke and spare Pirellis are what you’re getting at.
The new electric power steering feels decent, hiding much of the weight hampering down this sizable sedan. It’s light yet communicative enough for you to place the front tires exactly where you want. But I wouldn’t call the Hellcat confidence inspiring when the road begins to snake. Carrying too much speed into a corner exacerbates its weight penalty, and the resulting body roll shows why many lean (no pun intended) towards a more athletic and lithe E 63 and M5 instead. Of course, the latter two come with a higher price tag and more sophisticated suspensions and gearboxes designed from the get-go for performance, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t cross-shopping. One area we did come out very impressed with was the 8-speed transmission, a solid partner delivering clean and crispy shifts the instant you flip the paddle. It’s not buttery smooth like a ZF gearbox, but there’s purpose in the way the gears shove into their slot, jerking the Hellcat forward on high rpms followed by a banshee-wailing scream from the supercharger, almost like a race-derived sequential gearbox.
And by heavens, the noise. This is the car you want if you despise your neighbours. Even on idle, the V8 thrums like an American war drum, vibrating and exuding a soulful note. But where the Hellcat sets itself apart from other HEMI V8 powered cars is with its supercharger. The high-pitched whine is distinctive, and instantly gives it a unique auditory signature. You won’t hear it much when cruising around under gentle acceleration but the moment you depress the pedal past the halfway mark, that whine emerges and sounds glorious. Drive hard, rev the engine right up to its limiter, and downshift at the right rpms. It’s addicting, intoxicating, and is clearly one of the most appealing parts of the Hellcat. If the devil made a noise, it would sound something like this. Have a listen to our Exhaust Notes video to hear it for yourself, but do note that because our microphone was mounted right next to the exhaust tips, it doesn’t quite capture the sounds from the supercharger up front.
So what do we think of this spiced up, swollen Charger? In short, it’s a tamer but no less hairy-chested 707-hp muscle car sedan that lights up a smile as much as it does its rear tires. The Hellcat still requires a level of respect and finesse, but the Widebody manages to dial back the scare factor a few notches, and up the friendliness level. But don’t think that means the Hellcat will hold your hand. It still bites, it still sings the devil’s chord, and it still behaves the way an authentic V8 muscle car should, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Model: 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody
Paint Type: White Knuckle
Base Price: $84,345
Price as Tested: $95,460
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,105 / 1,989 / 1,462
Curb weight (kg): 2,080
Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged HEMI V8
Horsepower: 707 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 650 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 19.0 / 15,6 / 11.5
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 19.2
Tires: 305/35 ZR 20