First Drive

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody First Drive | Same snarl, more bite

The fat cat’s extra width means better performance through grip.

  • Trim
    2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody
  • Engine
    6.2L Supercharged V8
  • Power
    707 HP / 650 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • 0-60 Time
    3.4 Seconds
  • Top Speed
    195 MPH
  • Drivetrain
    Rear-Wheel Drive
  • Engine Placement
  • MPG
    13 City / 22 HWY
  • Base Price
By now, you've read a lot about the Dodge Demon, including our driving impressions from the drag strip. You've also heard a lot about the Challenger Hellcat, which we've had the pleasure of driving at Portland International Raceway, Willow Springs, and on our home turf of Woodward Avenue, both during the Dream Cruise and for an episode of AutoblogVR. Last week, Dodge and SRT invited us out to Indianapolis to sample the Demon, as well as the Durango SRT. Sandwiched between those two launches, however, was another distillation of Dodge's retro-cool coupe, the 2018 Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody.

The Widebody shares most of the guts of the standard Charger Hellcat, but went to the same cosmetic surgeon as the Demon. The Hellcat 6.2-Liter V8 with 2.4-liter-per-rev supercharger, producing 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, is unchanged. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission, but our tester had the optional eight-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. It's 3.5 inches wider (look at those fenders!) than the standard Hellcat, though, which allows it to accommodate 20-by-11-inch "Devil's Rim" wheels. It shares its front splitter with the Demon, but retains the Hellcat's rear spoiler. The Widebody also features an electronic power steering system with selectable drive modes.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody

It just slightly outperforms the standard Hellcat, as well, with better cornering grip, improved acceleration, and better braking (even though it shares the same Brembo brake package as the standard Hellcat). Dodge claims that the Widebody does the quarter-mile 0.3 seconds quicker, dropping it just out of the 11s to 10.9 seconds. 0-60 miles per hour drops from 3.5 to 3.4 seconds. Lateral grip increases by 0.04 G to 0.97 G on the skid pad. On the company's 1.7-mile road course, Dodge says the Widebody drops two seconds off its lap time compared to the standard Hellcat, finishing about 13 car lengths ahead.

We spent our time with the Hellcat Widebody on the infield road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sliding into the car, the seating position is cozy and comfortable even with a helmet on, and we have no trouble adjusting our chair and steering column to ideal placement. The infotainment display shows us our drive settings for the next few miles: the transmission and suspension are in Track Mode, steering is set to Sport, with traction set to Street. We fire up the car with an instructor in the right seat, and head out of the pit lane.

The Hellcat V8 offers a stirring snarl accompanied by a chilling whine from the supercharger as we accelerate out onto the straight and into the first turn. Acceleration is sharp, but easy to manage, which is especially helpful when easing out of a long corner. The steering is progressive, too, with enough heft to feel natural, but not so much that your arms get tired stitching corner after corner together – which is something this car does surprisingly well. As you can imagine, those wide tires make the Hellcat Widebody supremely sticky, and quickly achieve a satisfying sense of flow as we head through the last corners and back out onto the long straightaway the road course shares with Indy's oval track.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody

Laying into the throttle, we're mashed back in our seat as the engine snarls up to its 6,200-rpm redline. The whole car shudders with each shift. We've left the transmission in automatic mode, which makes those shifts seem even more jarring, as they don't correspond to a physical input from us. They're quick gear changes, though, and the car doesn't lose steam as it crosses 140 mph (the digital speedometer on the TFT display is easy to read) before we run out of track and have to brake for a corner. As we circumnavigate the course again – a bit more aggressively this time – we continue to find the car balanced, compliant, and still really comfortable. These well bolstered seat keeps us squarely in place throughout our laps, and we find it hard to leave it (psychologically, not physically) as we finally come to a stop near the bricks in the pit lane. Our sadness over the brevity of our encounter with the second-best Challenger, though, would be soothed by hopping into the Durango SRT and, later that day, the Demon.

The Hellcat Widebody starts at $70,890 (not including the $1,700 gas guzzler tax), which is $7,300 more than the standard Hellcat, but $13,500 less than the hardcore Demon's MSRP. If you don't want to sell your soul to be one of the 3,300 in North America to get the drag-focused Demon, you'll do well to get the fat cat. Trust us, 707 horsepower is plenty. The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody goes into production later this summer, and will show up in dealerships in the third quarter of the year.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody

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