dodge vehicle
7 min read

First Drive Charger Widebody

Dodge has never been about “less is more”, and the Charger has doubled down on “more is more” at every turn since it was introduced. It’s got two more doors than a regular muscle car. It has a longer wheelbase than its 2-door brother in arms, the Challenger. It has available both the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 and supercharged V8 in its segment. The latter is, of course, the SRT® Hellcat. It runs a 10-second ¼-mile. Goes 200 mph. Slays tires with the twitch of a right foot. The noise from the blower and the roar of the exhaust cuts through time and space with the absurdity of an African lion and silverback gorilla doing battle dance karaoke to Deftones’ Adrenaline. More is more is more.

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So where does the SRT Hellcat go from there? It needs more.

More details. The front fascia has a new look with a “mail slot” at the bottom of the grille to push more cold air to the radiator. The rear spoiler has been recrafted for aero. The badges are now two pieces, and vary in color depending on what is wearing them. Most are satin chrome on black. The Brass Monkey package comes with black-on-bronze badging, so sharp!

More body and all that entails. A “widebody”, if you will. Even if you won’t, it doesn’t matter, that’s what it’s called. The Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody adds 3.3” of width over its previous narrowbody configuration. Why is this a big deal? Because it looks more awesomer-er.

Annnnnnd because it’s significant from a performance standpoint. But how?

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More tire. All of that additional room in the wheel well fits wider tires with a larger contact patch and a stickier compound. In fact, the 305/35ZR20 3 season Pirelli P Zeros get enough grip on a prepped surface to spin the world and push the car to a 10.96. The narrowbody SRT Hellcat runs a similar time … with track-focused drag radials. This number on tires fit for anything south of a blizzard is incredible.

More wheels! As the widebody variants of both the Charger and the Challenger become more popular, wheel choices are increasing. Keep in mind that with the wide design, the backspacing on wheels change as well, meaning that the 20s you run on your narrowbody Charger/Challenger won’t fit correctly. The “Warp Speed” rims debuting on the 2020s caught my eyes immediately. They have a “sculptural” vibe that I can’t get enough of. While working on the concept for them, Mark Trostle admitted that he didn’t think there was any way the rad design would work, structurally. They have a ton of depth to them, enough to give it a “deep dish” quality. The engineers were able to build out the design with strength to spare. The look is complemented with a “low gloss Granite” finish; these will quickly become the most popular choice on widebodies.

What else?

More suspension. The Widebody Competition Suspension, to be exact. SRT engineers tuned 3 mode Bilstein ADS (Active Damping Suspension) shocks, stiffened up the coil springs, and added bigger sway bars to the front and rear to make sure the wider stance was fully utilized. Electric Power Steering was made standard, too, because wider tires means it takes more effort to turn them (especially at low speeds). Now to stop a large, high-performance, family sedan, you’ll need…

More brakes, in the form of the aptly named SRT/Brembo Ultra-High-Performance Brake Package. The front brakes are Brembo 6-piston aluminum monoblock calipers over 15.4” two-piece rotors. Size is one thing; heat is another. Inside the vented and slotted steel rotors is the aluminum “hat”, which bolts to the rotor and slips over the hub. The aluminum center section acts as a heat sink to keep temps lower in both the wheel bearings and the outer rotors. This centerpiece also helps keep unsprung, rotating mass down; in other words, it’s effectively lighter than the actual weight savings between it and a common one-piece steel rotor. 

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All this adds up to … more fun! Sonoma, California, and the surrounding area is a lovely place to put a car through its paces. Winding, undulating roads that are drawn through wine country and along San Pablo and Tomales Bay like a Matisse painting is sugar sweet driving candy even before you enter 707 hp into the equation. A traditionalist might say it’s the perfect course for a small sports car. I’m guessing that’s what the journalist riding shotgun with me was thinking as we began our drive. Later, I’d find out this was his first time in an SRT Hellcat. I think it was his first time in anything with more than 300 hp. He wasn’t about more. Yet.  

The first time I gave the Brass Monkey on F8 Green SRT Hellcat some juice, his eyes got wide, jaw dropped to the floor, and he let go of the map and instinctively scrambled to grab for anything to brace himself for the absolutely certain impending doom. I braked quickly and smoothly while entering a very tight corner, and he excitedly proclaimed his desire for me to not “tip” the car over. The Charger effortlessly stayed flat through that turn, and the many turns to come.

It didn’t take a shrink to read his body language, or the screeching, so I backed off a bit. The unfamiliar leisurely pace gave me an opportunity to admire the materials used in the cockpit. My favorite? Real carbon fiber trim pieces! There’s a tactile sensation it emits that the faux stuff just can’t match. It’s part of the new Carbon and Suede package, which also includes an eco-friendly microfibre out of Italy, called Dinamica, covering parts like the headliner, visors and front pillars. Pretty cool stuff. An Alcantara wrapped flat bottom steering wheel and Laguna leather seating made the cabin smell like many leather-bound books. Delightful.

At the halfway point of our drive, we switched seats. As my co-pilot found a rare straight piece of road, he goosed the throttle just a bit. “Whoa! Oh, my… that’s… my…” He struggle to speak in complete phrases, let alone sentences. But once settled in, he was rejuvenated by this newfound god-like strength at his beck and call. “I can see where you’re coming from now! So much power! And it’s so smooth!” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point. I played with the new version of Performance Pages and went through the suspension settings. Track mode is TIGHT, as well it should be. Auto (aka Street) mode is luxurious, and Sport mode strikes the right balance to have a little fun on the backroads.

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On the track the ’20 Charger SRT Hellcat is glorious fun. Now, I’m not gonna pretend like I’m a racetrack superstar, but I have driven both narrowbody and Widebody Hellcats on road courses before, and the WB Charger feels different. You could say it’s more civilized, but that’s like saying a great white shark is more civilized than a grizzly bear. The longer wheelbase plays nicely with the wider track, and rolling on the optional summer performance P-Zeros it dove into and sped out of corners confidently. That being said, I’ll repeat the advice I gave Darla when driving my Dodge Challenger SRT Demon: Make sure the wheels are pointed straight before you mash the pedal. At any speed. 

Which reminds me. In between laps, I overheard a handful of other media members discussing Scat Pack versus SRT Hellcat from a perspective previously only seen in click-baity headlines. “Yeah, I mean, I like the Scat Pack better. The [SRT] Hellcat has so much power, it’s too much for the street.” They all agreed. “It just isn’t usable power.” “Yup, 485 hp is all you need.” “Exactly.”

“You guys are f#%^ing insane!” I butted in, laughing maniacally. “I’ve owned both. I loved my Scat Pack. But I’m never gonna say no to an extra 222 hp. The throttle is there for a reason!”

I got a few dirty looks, then they turned back to the conversation I’d interrupted.

Now, the SRT Hellcat has a 500 hp mode you can switch to. Did anyone use it? Hell no.

More power is always better.

And now there’s just one thing I want: More time behind the wheel! 

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