Review: Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody – forbidden fruit!

Antiquated and outmoded, or the automotive last action heroes? Either way, it’s worth one last ride

If you’re here, here in the UK that is, you can’t have this car. It’s like automotive forbidden fruit. Now you’re curious right? Especially when I tell you that you’re looking at the most powerful production four-door saloon car in the world. Yep, the next most powerful four-door would be the 680bhp Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid.

But for half the money you get another 27bhp, Hollywood charisma, space for five, and torque and sound that would trouble the Richter scale. I recently attended the international media launch of the 2020 Dodger Charger Hellcat Widebody in Nappa, San Francisco, driving it and it’s lesser sibling (the Scat Pack Widebody) on road and track (Sonoma Raceway).

It’s not entirely new of course. Since 2015 there’s been a Charger Hellcat with a 6.2-litre V8 putting out 700bhp. But for 2020 it gets phatter. Inspired by the Challenger Demon Widebody, the Charger Widebody grows wider by 3.5 inches. The styling has been tweaked around the front/rear corners and sides to incorporate huge fender flares, with wheel arches extended to cover massive 20-inch by 11-inch forged split-five spoke wheels in carbon black, or other optional alloys named ‘Brass Monkey’ and the astonishingly deep-dish ‘Warp Speed’! These are shod with grippy 305/35/20 Pirelli PZeros.

Inside the wheels sit 15.4-inch front and 13.8-inch rear steel brake rotors gripped by six-piston Brembo callipers at the front and 4-piston units in the rear – because you will need epic stopping power. There’s also Bilstein three-mode adaptive damping competition suspension with stiffer springs (32% tighter at the front), larger sway bars and retuned shocks.

And there’s more: electric power steering (EPS); improved air flow to the radiator and ‘Race Cooldown’ (which continues to cool the supercharger even after the engine is switched off); Line Lock which helps you do burnouts; Launch Control and Launch Assist which detects and quashes wheel hop at launch; plus a new rear spoiler to help keep it pinned down.

The 650lb ft of torque is put to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic. If it manages to grip you’ll achieve 0-60mph acceleration in 3.6 seconds, dispatch the quarter mile in 10.96 seconds and hit 315kph if you have space enough, and permission enough. The extra grip from the wider tyres mean you can pull a staggering 0.96 cornering g-force compared to 0.90 previously, it also stops sooner and is 13 car lengths quicker around a 3.4km circuit than its predecessor.

Inside you can access all the various SRT drive modes and settings through the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen. There’s sumptuous leather upholstery and carbon fibre trim on the dashboard. As Europeans we like to poo-poo American interior build quality, but this feels solid and fine – and there is genuinely room for a family of five in here.

But forget that and drive it. The wider tyres and all that suspension work make the Hellcat more composed, less intimidating, more cooperative and certainly nowhere near as unruly as you’d imagine, despite all that torque and power. You can drive it calmly if you must, or let the demons take over your right foot, give your passengers whiplash from the traffic lights and exit screeching sideways out of every junction. That is for as long as you manage to evade getting your licence shredded!

If you like the look but feel that much power will get you into way too much trouble, there is a lesser Widebody sibling to be had – the Scat Pack Charger. I say lesser but the 6.4-litre V8 in that still puts out 485bhp and offers a 0-60mph time of 4.3 seconds. It’ll still break traction on a whim and continue to send your passengers moaning to a chiropractor.

It may sound like both these cars would be useless on a fun B-road – but if you can manage the size, and get past driving from the wrong side of the car in the UK, you’ll find that both hunker down, turn-in sharply, keep the rear glued when you want it to be and constantly entertain.

The tight little Sonoma Raceway in Northern California is a hectic workout if you attack it at any kind of speed. The straights are short and squirty, the corners are tight to never-ending, some crests leave you second-guessing and the dips suggest you shouldn’t have had that extra taco earlier. Yet in the Hellcat there is no unsettling pitch and roll, the front bites, the back stays planted, the anchors reign in two tons of ballistic mass (although too many laps and they will start to fade). It’ll drift if you want (and if you have the cojones) but it’ll also do apex-to-apex in a manner that will surprise motoring snobs on this side of the Atlantic.

Did I like it? Do I want one? Hell yeah! To behold in the metal it is awesome – brutal but handsome, head-turning for sure. You could probably accuse it of being vulgar with all those scoops and vents at the front, the entrancing LED lights, the devilish badge – but that’s all part of its in-yer-face persona. It’s mad, bad and super rad. It will make you laugh and whoop for joy, and get you sweating when you unleash a little more torque than you intended and spin around in your own cloud of smoke.

There’s something else. It represents euphoric motoring excess of a bygone era and will be amongst the last of its kind – yeah, I’ve been saying that for a while about traditional muscle cars – but with electric Mustangs on the horizon and rumours that the Camaro may be discontinued, the former wildchilds of the interstates have not only grown up, but seem close checking in their chips and heading up to the heavenly highways. Make the most of them whilst you still can.

Oh did I say you can’t have one? I lied. There are companies that will import them for you. Go on, you know you want to.

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