You know the old trick for getting into places you aren’t supposed to be: Walk in like you own the place. You just need the confidence to pull it off. One look at the new 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody and you’ll be convinced it belongs wherever the hell it wants to be.
The Dodge Charger has always been a looker. Something about 3.5 extra inches of fender flares and deep dish wheels, though, makes it look—as its own designer put it—“bold, and even a little offensive.” This speaks to the modern Dodge brand as a whole. Dodge knows exactly what it stands for and who it’s selling to, and the Charger Hellcat Widebody is the four-door embodiment of the brand’s creed. In your face, unapologetic, and yeah, a little offensive. Deal with it.
If it were all shallow chest puffing, it’d be easy to dismiss. Thing is, Dodge has put in the work. Barely contained by those fender flares are 20-inch wheels with 305-width Pirelli PZeros at all four corners (all-seasons standard, summers a must-have option). Under those are 15.4-inch front and 13.8-inch rear steel brake rotors gripped by six-piston Brembo calipers in front and 4-piston units rear. Behind them are three-mode Bilstein shock absorbers, larger diameter front and rear anti-roll bars, and stiffer front springs. Finally, a new electric power steering rack.
This ain’t a trailer queen mod list, either. Dodge says the extra grip afforded by those wider contact patches lets the Widebody put the power down in ways the narrow body Charger Hellcat (which has been discontinued) never could. So much so, they say, the Widebody is 2.1 seconds faster around a 2.1-mile track. That’s a big chunk of lap time, and they turned us loose on a restricted Sonoma Raceway to try it for ourselves.
To keep it short, they aren’t wrong. The 2020 Charger Hellcat Widebody has much more lateral grip than the old Charger Hellcat, so you can carry significantly higher speeds through the corners. If you treat the loud pedal with the utmost respect, you can get on the power much earlier without throwing the car into a lurid drift. You still can’t use all the power unless you’re pointed straight, and on a tight, technical track like Sonoma you’ll almost never get to full throttle. But can you track the car now? Absolutely.
For a few laps, anyway. As we know from tracking its fraternal twin earlier this summer, Hellcats are still heavy and steel brakes can only take so much heat. A track test of the Challenger Hellcat Widebody revealed that it, too, can credibly attack a racetrack now, but after two or three laps the brake pedal gets real long. There’s just a lot of car here to slow down, and with 707 hp, it’s going real, real fast. Any track day is going to be an exercise in managing both pedals.
Helping you do so are three different stability control programs, four if you count “off” as a setting. Even in the Street setting, the Charger Hellcat Widebody will light up the rear tires at any stop sign and let the rear end walk a little sideways before getting involved. Sport ESC is even more permissive, letting you really piss off the neighborhood before saving you from yourself. Track is actually the opposite, designed to be a performance aid that keeps the car pointed straight and prevents lap-killing power oversteer, turning power into forward progress rather than noise and smoke. If you’re real brave or real dumb, you can turn it all off and try your luck. Chargers and Challengers are natural drifters, but you might not be, so think first.
You have to wonder whether this kind of anti-social behavior is the result of a devil’s bargain with the FCA legal department, the winning argument going something like this: “Look, our customers are going to do burnouts with these cars no matter what. If we let the car spin the wheels a bit with the stability control all the way on, maybe they won’t turn it all the way off and get themselves in trouble and sue us.”
Dodge also claims the extra real estate under the rear tires will knock the 0–60 time down to 3.6 seconds, which would make it two-tenths quicker than our narrow body 2016 Charger Hellcat long-termer. A better launch means better quarter-mile performance, and Dodge claims you can do a 10.9 in the Widebody. You’d better nail the perfect launch, and it had better be on a well-prepped drag strip, because that would make it a full second quicker than the narrow body Charger Hellcat we tested on a street surface. We’ve launched Hellcat Chargers and Challengers on the street and at the strip, and, well, color us skeptical.
Five seconds behind the wheel and you’ll know why. Sneezing on the gas pedal is enough to chirp the tires and a big, violent sneeze will melt them. Getting this car moving quickly—either from a stop or out of a corner—takes a practiced right foot. Sure, it takes less care than an old Hellcat, but it’s still got way, way more power than it needs to overwhelm those Pirellis.
In that way, it becomes a fun challenge. First, you carry a little more speed into a corner and realize this Charger Hellcat Widebody has lots of grip and stays very flat. Much more so than you’d expect for a car this size. Then, you start going to the throttle earlier and a teensy bit harder. It can definitely take more than you expect. Then you’ll mess it up and give it a tiny bit too much and the rear end will threaten to pop loose, and you’ll spend of the rest of the drive trying to walk that thin line between road-slaying performance and insurance claim. The width of the car is a bonus, reminding you there’s little margin for error, so maybe don’t push it too hard.
You won’t really appreciate what it’s doing, though, until you steal a glance at the speedometer (or have a passenger do it, for safety). Because it’s big and isolating, you often don’t realize just how fast it’s moving through the turns. The new electric steering is nicely weighted and responsive, but it tells you nothing about the road. The brake pedal has just the right bite, bringing strong and encouraging stopping power when you ask for it. All you hear is supercharger whine and exhaust noise, which are loud enough to drown out the screaming from your passengers. Or the screaming from people in cars unfortunate enough to be in front of you, because damn is this thing intimidating in a rearview mirror. The only tradeoff is a bouncier ride, even with the shocks in their Street setting. If there’s anything car fans think they know about Hellcat Chargers and Challengers, it’s that they can’t go around corners. That was never strictly true, and it’s definitely not true now. Sure, some of them will sneer at the big family sedan when it pulls up at a track day, but once the Charger Hellcat Widebody is in the front gate and out of the pit lane, it’ll make everybody believe it belongs there.
The post 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Review: Deal With It appeared first on MotorTrend.