First Drive – 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody | automobiles

What’s Best: This is what a “muscle car” is all about.

What’s Worst: Trying to get this thing insured

What’s Interesting: Like the folks at Dodge, I’m wondering why its main competitors have not tried to match it and the Daytona.

NAPA, CA: Still the most powerful and fastest sedan in the world, Dodge’s Brampton-built 2020 Charger Hellcat now gets with full “wide body” treatment for 2020.

Like the previous Charger SRT Hellcat, the 2020 version is equipped with a 6.2-liter, supercharged Hemi V8 blasting out 707 hp and 650 lb/ft of torque with a 0-96 km/h (0-60 mph) time of 3.6 seconds , a quarter-mile time of 10.96 seconds and a top speed (if you dare) of 315 km/h (196 mph).

But for 2020, the “wide body” is standard on Hellcat meaning adding fender flares that make the Charger 3.5-in reflected. That extends the body width in order to accommodate 20-inch by 11-inch Carbon Black forged wheels riding on wider, stickier Pirelli 305/35ZR20 tires.

Those tires combined with new competition suspension tuning with SRT-tuned Bilstein three-mode adaptive damping, result in even more grip and deliver improved performance on the street, strip and road course, making this the quickest and best handling production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat ever .

If that’s not enough power for you, the 501-unit limited edition Charger Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition (50 in Canada) boasts 717 hp.

At the top of the 2020 Charger feeding chain, the Widebody ($83,495) and Daytona ($88,490) are two of six models that start with the 3.6-liter V6 Charger SXT rear-drive ($37,345).

Besides the flares, wheels and suspension, several changes have been made like the adoption for the first time of electric power steering. It not only reacts better at slow speeds but it’s easier to calibrate with the SRT Performance Pages suite of driver selectable drive modes.

In terms of appearance, the front fascias has been altered to include a new mail-slot grille, providing the most direct route for cool air to travel into the radiator and maintain ideal operating temperature even in the hottest conditions.

At the Canadian media introduction in Napa, Dodge officials made an interesting point about the Charger marketing strategy.

By design, but more my necessity, Dodge does not have a mid-size or compact car anymore, just the Challenger mid-size coupe and full-size Charger.

Dodge realized the performance side was a small but stable segment and started skewing all its cars towards enthusiasts and inaugurating the SRT (Street and Racing Technology) brand sub-division and things literally began to take off.

First was the return of the classic 392 cu in Hemi V8 and then the 707 supercharged version of the Hemi and then the astounding 840 hp Hemi stuffed into a Challenger called the Demon.

With the widebody extensions, the 2020 is faster than the 2019 in all respects. It stops quicker too with the big Brembo six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers with aluminum housings fitted to better dissipate heat.

And though it is wider that the standard Charger it has a lower drag coefficient of 0.348 compared to 0.381.

At cold start, the engine rumbles into life with a low guttural sound until the internal fluids start to warm up and the engine idles with a basso burble that turns into bark if you stab the gas pedal.

On Highways 121 and 29 in the Napa, the Widebody was docile and easy to drive in traffic not unlike the family sedan it is with 467-liter trunk big enough to stow your luggage and all the baby stuff you might need for the weekend like a folding crib and playpen.

But that all changes when you step on it with the first sensation being an all mighty engine roar followed by 650 lb/ft of torque arriving at the rear wheels.

With the rear slightly squatting for an instant as the traction control kicks in, the Widebody rockets forward. If you have good vision, there is a slight peripheral blurring as signposts and telephone poles recede at warp speed.

All the time, the Pirellis and the multi-programmable suspension system with active damping soak up the twists and turns of the several back roads on our routing.

Dodge intentionally styled the new front fascia to look aggressive with the top of the grille and LED light treatment giving the widebody a baleful stare that is kind of intimidating.

Even though I was driving at or below the posted speed limit, several cars in front either pulled over, or two cases, pulled off the road to left me waft by.

I played around a bit with new electric power steering and standard SRT Drive Modes selected through the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen. They control horsepower, transmission shift speeds, steering, paddle shifters, traction and suspension settings.

SRT Drive Modes have driver selectable settings for Street (Auto), Sport and Track, while the Custom setting allows for the driver to select individual preferences

But mostly I left it in sport and reveled in the ride.

With two colleagues aboard, we drove through the upper Napa Valley stopping off and Cakebread Cellars so my friends could meet the staff and have a wine tasting (I was driving so not drinking) under a blue sky turned golden in the late afternoon by the sun .

What a way to end the day and in what a car.

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