The 707-hp Dodge Charger Hellcat has always been a blunt instrument, flexing the same sort of cultural resonance as wild boars, jackhammers, and tactical nukes. Now it’s even blunter for the 2020 model year in available widebody form. One option conspicuously still not offered on this car, though, is subtlety.
Actually, everything about this car is conspicuous. It may be the first car to be visible, or possibly heard, from low Earth orbit. New fender flares add 3.3 inches of width to the Charger in order to accommodate 11.0-inch wide, 20-inch diameter wheels wrapped with optional Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires, sized 305/35R-20 at all four corners. (Similarly sized all-season rubber is standard.) It’s essentially the same optional modification recently brought to the four-door Charger’s two-door sibling, the Dodge Challenger, to create the Challenger widebody models.
The additional width emphasizes the Charger’s inherent visual menace. This, after all, is a robust and athletic-looking machine even in base V-6–powered trim. With the updated car’s nose configured around a new fascia with a revised grille opening, the effect is even more sinister. This is a car that looks like it’s up to no good.
A Wider Arsenal
The widebody Charger lineup starts with the Scat Pack model powered by a 391-cubic-inch, 6.4-liter Hemi under its hood. Rated at 485 horsepower, it is tractable and relatively easygoing in the way that only large displacement, naturally aspirated V-8s can be. The Charger’s widebody package is a $6,000 option atop the regular Scat Pack’s $41,490 base price, which still represents a significant value compared to similarly powered German hot-rod sedans. From there it’s a step up to the Charger SRT Hellcat widebody with the now-familiar, 707-hp supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V-8. All 2020-model-year Charger SRT Hellcats will be widebodies, with prices starting at $71,140. That, on the surface, may seem like a lot for a Dodge, but it, too, is a pretty solid deal for that many horses. All Chargers continue to feature Fiat Chrysler’s excellent eight-speed automatic transmission as standard.
There will also be Daytona 50thAnniversary edition versions of the 2020 Charger Hellcat, produced to celebrate the half-century since the original be-winged Charger Daytona made its debut on NASCAR racetracks. Software tweaks add an additional 10 horsepower to the supercharged V-8’s output, now up to 717. But don’t expect much in the way of a measurable performance boost; 10 ponies are but a 1 percent bump in output. Wearing its own color-keyed deck wing, Daytona stripe tail graphics, and a re-trimmed interior, the Daytona 50th Anniversary edition starts at $75,635, and only 501 will be produced, matching the number of original Charger Daytonas built in 1969.
Rubber Meets the Road
As with the regular Charger Hellcat, the widebody version quickly settles into low, burbling idle once you thumb the start button. It’s basso profundo expressed as an exhaust note. Blip the long-travel throttle pedal, and it roars with the voice of an artillery battery, accented by the whining snarl of the supercharger. The eight-speed transmission is pleasantly well-behaved given the monstrous torque it’s managing. But the brain-sloshing thrust of the Hellcat isn’t news. The big deal here is the sheer tenacity of the massive tires and the upgraded equipment needed to accommodate them. The Charger widebody uses stiffer anti-roll bars than regular models do, which results in level body control even at the limit of adhesion, when the world feels as if it’s going topsy-turvy. The adaptive Bilstein dampers impressively isolate out most road hiccups to help produce a tolerable ride over most road surfaces. The widebody’s revised electrically assisted steering, however, remains muted in its communication and sometimes feels unnecessarily heavy.
There’s so much rubber now that the big Dodge feels far more neutral in corners, with understeer significantly reduced when approaching the outer boundaries of its performance envelope. We’ve recorded a 3.4-second zero-to-60-mph time from the narrow-bodied Charger Hellcat, but the widebody’s additional grip likely will be more beneficial around the skidpad.
In an era when “new” is often limited to an electronic kludge or infotainment system add-on, the Charger widebody is about those most fundamental of automotive upgrades: putting more rubber on the road and looking good while doing it. That’s raw, physical change, and a no-brainer when you’re trying to corral up to 717 horses.
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