2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Test Drive

Ron Sessions | Jan 08, 2020

Introduction

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody front view

Photo: Ron Sessions

The muscle car rage of the 1960s and early 1970s never really ended. It just took a long afternoon snooze and is back with us well-rested and more persnickety than ever.

The 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody rides a fast and furious wave of homegrown high-performance machines that includes the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette Stingray and Dodge’s own Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye. What separates the Charger from the other sports and performance coupes is its 4-door configuration. With 707 supercharged horsepower and 196-mph top speed capability, it’s the last of the big domestic sedans with even bigger V8 power under the hood.

The Widebody version of the Hellcat, new for 2020, adds more grip, enhanced high-speed aerodynamics and track capabilities and insane levels of engine cooling. It looks like it means business and sounds that way too. There’s nothing subtle about the Charger Hellcat Widebody, with its wide, fat-tired stance, bellowing exhaust and predatory gaze.

Stickered at $71,140 with the $1,495 destination charge, it’s right up there at the top of the Charger food chain with the even more expensive $75,635 717-hp Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition. And yet, it’s a relative bargain compared to European-brand high-performance sedans with far less power under the hood.

A recent drive opportunity found me sampling the 2020 Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody’s capabilities on Sonoma Raceway’s 2.5-mile road course and a 75-mile tour of the surrounding, twisty 2-lane byways.

Styling and Design

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody styling blue stripes burnout

Photo: Ron Sessions

Although the current-generation Charger’s basic shape and rear-drive layout haven’t changed since the sedan’s introduction 15 years ago, the SRT Hellcat’s look has no cobwebs. Ageless are the sedan’s 1970 Charger coupe-inspired side scallops along the doors, the sloping coupe-like roof profile, the full-width racetrack tail lamps and the ominous, low-set grille and slit-like headlamps. SRT add-ons such as the composite hood with NACA-style air intake and twin heat exhaust vents and the full-width rear spoiler bring attitude.

As the name implies, the Widebody rendition of the Hellcat ponies up fatter, Corvette-size 20-inch wheels and tires and wider fender flares to cover them. All-in, the Charger Hellcat Widebody is 3.5 inches broader of beam than non-Widebody iterations. Matching the larger wheel wells are wider front and rear fascias plus ground-effect rocker extensions to tie it all together. A revised rear spoiler gives the Widebody more downforce to aid the sedan’s stability at higher speeds. And a new mail-slot grille opening delivers more cooling air to deal with the increased thermal loads generated by the supercharged Hemi V8.

No one is going to mistake the Hellcat Widebody for one of the V6-powered Chargers at airport rental lots or the numerous small-hubcap renditions pressed into service for police or other government duty.

Features and Controls

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody dashboard front seats

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Charger Hellcat Widebody is an $80,000 car, so despite the golden drivetrain, Dodge didn’t squander all of the car’s goodness on the steely bits. Inside, the Hellcat comes with standard dual-zone automatic climate control, extra-soft upgrade leather seat coverings, heated and cooled power front buckets with lumbar adjustment, driver’s seat memory functions, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a leather-wrapped tilt/telescoping and heated flat-bottom SRT steering wheel with shift paddles. French-stitched leather dresses up the console, armrests, instrument panel and door uppers. Other standard Hellcat fare includes a pair of USB ports, LED ambient lighting, a 200-mph speedometer, the SRT Performance Pages, dark engine-turned aluminum trim, and more.

Well-bolstered sport buckets up front cradle their occupants with significant thorax and thigh support, but do without the hard wings and hot spots you’d encounter in the perches of some European brands. A suede headliner is optional as is carbon-fiber trim on the dash and console. Despite the over-the-top engine, nothing about the Charger Hellcat’s cabin is overdone or in poor taste.

Even with the coupe-like roofline, this is a five-seater with room for five adults.

In the aft section, standard Hellcat features include rear climate-control vents, two more USB ports, heat for the outboard rear seat passengers, a fold-down center armrest and the same French-stitched soft leather covering the seats, upper door trim and door armrests that adorn the front passenger area. The Hellcat’s rear seatbacks are split 60/40 and fold down, adding the capability to carry longer items in the generously sized 16.5 cu. ft. trunk.

Safety and Technology

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Uconnect technology

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Hellcat comes standard with Dodge’s best Uconnect infotainment system with a high-resolution 8.4-inch display. With a smaller screen than in some of the newer vehicles such as the Ram 1500 pickup, the Hellcat’s system nevertheless gives easy access to audio, paired cellphone, climate control and vehicle information via integrated voice command, the touchscreen’s large, colorful tiles, and simple analog volume and tuning controls. Navigation with 3D mapping is optional.

Standard Hellcat fare is a 6-speaker AM/FM stereo with SiriusXM satellite radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone connectivity. A 19-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system with big sound to match the supercharged Hemi’s big beat is optional.

Owners can access the Hellcat’s SRT Street, Custom, Sport or Track drive modes via the Uconnect screen. These enable the driver to customize engine output, transmission shift mapping, steering effort, adaptive suspension damping and traction control settings. Track mode turns off or reduces the intervention of some stability control functions, so its use is best limited to off-highway locales.

You might be surprised that outside of standard stability and traction control, some of the more advanced driver-assistive systems are not on the Hellcat menu. Of course, a backup camera (not the overhead 360-degree one) is standard as is sonar rear park assist that beeps faster as the rear of the car approaches an obstacle. And blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems that can spot vehicles and pedestrians behind you before you do are standard in the Hellcat as well.

But a focus on getting the best cooling for the Hellcat’s potent supercharged Hemi left no room for a forward-mounted radar sensor. As a result, the Hellcat Widebody doesn’t have an adaptive cruise control system, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist systems or a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking.

Driving Impressions

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody 6.2 liter Hemi engine

Photo: Ron Sessions

Some of the more expensive electric cars today are nearly as quick to accelerate to 60 mph as the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody, but few if any make such a spectacle of it. If FiatChrysler Automobiles was still involved in NASCAR racing, the Charger Hellcat Widebody would be its rolling icon.

The handsome, supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 with 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of Earth-rotating torque nestled neatly between the shock towers sounds as good as it looks. The Hellcat’s large-diameter dual-mode active performance exhaust system emits a heady soundtrack of scintillating crackles and pops and lusty rumbles.

Fuel economy might not be top of mind with this car but the EPA estimates you’ll see 12 mpg in the city, 21 mpg on the highway and 15 mpg in combined driving. All on 91-octane premium unleaded, naturally.

With the Hellcat, it’s hard to resist spinning the rear tires every now and then. In normal driving, the Widebody’s extra-wide 305/35ZR20s and traction control do a great job of preventing wheelspin. Another nice Hellcat feature is Launch Assist which modifies engine torque to quell wheel hop.

Other Hellcat performance technologies provide significant entertainment. One is Line Lock, which brakes the front wheels while allowing the rears to spin to “clean” the tires. The other is Launch Control, which works with the transmission and the supercharger to get the car to 60 mph from rest the quickest. With the car in Drive, push the Launch Control via the button on the center stack below the Uconnect screen, mash the brake pedal with your left foot and matt the accelerator with your right foot for a couple seconds. Then lift off the brake and if you do it right, 60 mph is yours in 3.6 seconds.

The Hellcat Widebody’s added 3.5 inches of width enables the installation of massive Michelin PZero 305/35R20s (standard all-season or optional performance three-season compound) on big-offset 20x11-inch forged aluminum wheels at all four corners. These work hand-in-glove with the Widebody’s huge Brembo brakes—15.4-inch two-piece slotted and vented rotors and six-piston calipers up front and 13.8-inch rotors and four-piston calipers at the rear. The performance-compound Michelins stuck like glue and the powerful Brembos exhibited no warpage or fade in multiple hot laps around the twisty 2.5-mile road course at Sonoma Raceway.

For a sedan this large and substantial, the Hellcat offers plenty of stick to balance its prodigious power. It’s steering is weighted on the heavy side, but fairly quick. And the big Michelins aid turn-in while providing more grip to enable the driver to tap into the power sooner exiting a curve.

Conclusion

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody rear view

Photo: Ron Sessions

Right now may be the golden age of the gasoline-fueled musclecar. The higher-output versions of today’s Mustangs, Camaros and Challengers will run circles around vintage 1960s or 1970s iron, with much better handling, more powerful braking, sharper steering, and more comfortable seats, not to mention the latest safety technology and the ability to stream tunes from your phone.

What the 5-seat, 4-door Charger Hellcat has over the above-mentioned coupes is the ability to bring more than one friend or family member along for what will be one heck of a ride.

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