They say getting there is half the fun, but that also depends on your destination. If it’s the annual Carlisle Chrysler Nationals, you’re on the right route for all things Dodge and Mopar®. The sprawling 82-acre fairground is in the heart of the rolling Pennsylvania countryside and has been a gathering point for Chrysler enthusiasts for decades. Tons of old-school Dodge and Plymouth high-performance machines, along with late-model Challengers and Chargers, take over the show and bring together generations of Mopar fans while thousands of car lovers from across the country descend on this show.
The Carlisle Chrysler Nationals has been a big part of the hobby for over 30 years and I feel as if I’ve attended every one of them. So when the opportunity came up to drive a 2020 Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat Widebody from Detroit to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, I pounced on it. I knew this was going to be a memorable road trip with lasting impressions. The bulk of the 1,100-mile round-trip journey would take me piloting this award-winning, 707-horsepower sedan through the flatness of the Ohio Turnpike, then crossing the state line and jumping on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that climbs and twists through the Allegheny Mountains with some tunnels thrown in to make it interesting. The PA Turnpike is like a main circuit cable through the state that begins and ends in the city of brotherly love. The recent accolades bestowed on the Dodge brand from J.D. Power for becoming the first domestic brand ever to achieve a No. 1 ranking in the Initial Quality survey confirmed what I knew all along. This prestigious study has been around for 34 years and Dodge grabbed the top spot among 31 competitors. FCA’s performance brand found its groove and charged past seven places from last year’s results.
It’s no secret why Dodge received this impressive award from J.D. Power. The Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is no ordinary performance car, it continues to be the most powerful and fastest mass-produced sedan in the world. It’s also a car with dual personalities that can be well-mannered one moment, and a mean machine the next. It gobbled up the miles on the turnpikes like Pacman on speed. I grinned like a teenager when I whacked the accelerator with my right foot just to hear the sweet sound of the blower whine. The interior was well-appointed with heated and cooled leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and safety features like Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist, just in case someone is sneaking up in your blind spot.
The Pitch Black exterior paint made it look just as menacing, like its 1968 forefather who starred in the blockbuster movie Bullitt. But unlike its famous ancestor that was powered by a 440 Magnum big-block V8 and smoked its skinny whitewall tires on the big screen, the 2020 Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody’s 6.2L supercharged HEMI® engine will instantly shred its massive 305/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero performance tires when you whack the throttle. It’s the HEMI’s ground-pounding 650 lb.-ft. of torque that’s to blame for laying waste to perfectly good rubber. In the movie, the vintage Charger R/T had wheel covers flying off along the streets of San Francisco during the iconic chase scene, but today, the 2020 Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is fitted with 20-inch-by-11-inch split-five spoke wheels. They looked great in their Low-gloss Carbon Black finish with contrasting red painted Brembo brake calipers grabbing your attention. When it came to shifting gears, the standard TorqueFlite® eight-speed automatic transmission on the Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody had premonitions on exactly when to downshift and upshift. When scaling the grades that went over valleys, ravines and mountains along the scenic Pennsylvania Turnpike, the engine speed and gearing was perfectly match. The standard six-piston Brembo brakes hauled this kitty down in a hurry while the competition suspension with Bilstein three-mode adaptive damping made it sure footed on all four paws.
The 2020 Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is a sledgehammer of speed. It’s a 4,400-pound howitzer shell that will lay waste to anything in its path while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Every part of my body was engaged, every fragment of my mind was activated. It was almost like a religious experience when piloting this machine. The Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody has a bipolar personality. It can idle all day in 90-degree heat without breaking a sweat while plodding along in stop-and-go traffic. But hit the SRT button on the center stack and with your index finger press “TRACK” mode, look out. You’ve just unleashed a wild animal out of the cage. The car feels totally different as the front and rear Bilstein shocks get electronically recalibrated while the transmission’s shift schedule becomes very firm. So firm that under wide-open-throttle, it feels like you’ve been punched in the gut each time it upshifts into the next gear.
When arriving at the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals, we parked the Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody in the Dodge display in the sponsor midway among the other J.D. Power award-winning products from the Brotherhood of Muscle. The enthusiasts loved the look of the car and even had a chance to experience firsthand the power and quality of the 2020 Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcats at the the Dodge Thrill Rides going on at Carlisle’s Autocross Track. They felt what I felt when driving the Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody – power, speed, safety and comfort. Yep, it’s no secret why Dodge earned the number one spot in the J.D. Power Initial Quality survey, and with what’s coming down the line in 2021, we don’t see anyone knocking Dodge off the podium anytime soon. In the meantime, here are more pics from our epic road trip to the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals.