First Drive

2020 Dodge Charger Widebody First Drive Review | Wider is better

Testing the Hellcat, Scat Pack and Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition

Dodge//SRT expands its high-performance 2020 Charger SRT Hellcat
Dodge//SRT expands its high-performance 2020 Charger SRT Hellcat
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NAPA VALLEY, Calif. - The guy in the white Silverado is already pissed off. He didn’t appreciate the first two times we blazed the rear tires of this 2020 Dodge Charger Widebody Hellcat through three gears, so we might as well do it again. That’s right, sir, we are number one.

Dodge seems to be playing by a different set of rules than the rest of the industry.

While everyone else is worried about small crossovers and CAFE regulations, miles per gallon and electrification, autonomy and Elon Musk, the gang at Dodge is building America’s best muscle cars ever. Unapologetic, loud, in your face, tire-smoking muscle cars. Hellcats, Demons, Scat Packs and Redeyes.

For 2020, the brand’s list of Hemi-powered, rear-wheel-drive tire fryers now includes Widebody versions of the Charger Scat Pack and Hellcat, borrowing parts and inspiration from Widebody Challenger models, which began showing up for 2018. Dodge will also offer the 2020 Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition to commemorate the 1969 Charger Daytona, a NASCAR homologation special with special aerodynamics for the superspeedways, including a massive rear wing and pointed beak with pop up headlamps.

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Daytona 50th Anniversary
2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody Daytona 50th Anniversary
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Just 501 will be sold, the same number of Daytonas Dodge had to build back in the day to satisfy Big Bill France. It’s available in four colors, and for 2020, it’s the only Charger to wear B5 Blue, which was also originally offered in 1969. It’s a favorite color of classic Mopar muscle car enthusiasts.

“Customers said we were giving too much love to the Challenger and ignoring the Charger,” said Jeff Strauss, the senior manager of Dodge/SRT Sales Operations. “That’s not the case anymore.”

The Widebody Package will be optional on the Charger Scat Pack (the white car in the above photos), but it’s standard equipment on every 2020 Charger Hellcat and only adds about 30 pounds to the car. Just as on the Widebody Challenger, the plastic wheelwell flares widen the sedan's 3.5 inches, and their wider 20x11-inch forged aluminum wheels wear massive 305/35ZR20 tires front and rear. All-seasons are standard, but the cars are best on the available Pirelli Summer tires. There are also new front and rear fascias, rocker trim and a reshaped rear spoiler. 

“My main goal was to make the cars look bad ass,” said Mark Trostle, FCA’s head of performance, passenger and utility vehicle design. “It was my job to give these cars attitude.” Heck of a job, dude.

With 1.6 inches of additional track width, and all that extra rubber on the road, the Hellcat’s handling is noticeably improved over the previous narrow-bodied version. After testing at several racetracks, including Gingerman in Michigan and Nelson Ledges in Ohio, SRT’s engineers increased the Hellcat’s front spring rate 32 percent and increased the size of its sway bars. The front has gone from 19 mm to 21.7 mm and the rear has increased from 32 mm to 34 mm. Its adjustable Bilstein shocks have also been firmed up, but not too much, and they're adaptive, switching to the significantly firmer Track setting as soon as you increase lateral demands.

The Widebody Charger Hellcat's suspension isn't tuned as stiffly as the Challenger version's, while the Charger Scat Pack’s suspension is a bit more compliant. Cruising around California’s Napa Valley in Street mode, the Charger Hellcat’s ride is firm but comfortable and its interior is impressively quiet on the highway once the Hemi settles down in top gear. There’s very little impact harshness on the region’s undulating two lanes and not enough head toss to get tiresome. There’s more of both in the new BMW M340i.

There’s also very little body roll, just enough to help you communicate with its tires and chassis as you pick up the pace. This is still a big, heavy car, and its wheelbase is 4-inches longer than a Challenger's, but it’s impressively agile considering its bulk, even on tighter roads.

Anyone who thinks a Charger is too big to toss around needs to drive this one. Despite having 56 percent of its weight over its ginormous front tires, it’s very well balanced and turns in even if you think you’re in too hot. The Hellcat is now actually fun to push in the hills. It takes a solid set in the faster stuff and rotates on the brakes perfectly in slower corners, allowing you to drive it out on the throttle in long, controlled powerslides. But this takes practice. Until you master this beast, it's better to leave its stability control on.

The 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody runs 0-60 mph in 4.3 s
The 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody runs 0-60 mph in 4.3 s
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Other changes include a switch to electrically assisted power steering, which the Challenger Hellcat got in 2018. Like the Charger’s suspension, transmission and traction control, the system’s heft is adjustable, with Street, Sport and Track settings. Its effort is too heavy for the street in Track mode, but not when taking a few laps of Sonoma Raceway, a hilly 12-turn road course used by NASCAR and IndyCar. The 14.4:1 ratio is also spot on and there’s good feel in the steering. It isn’t video gamey at all.   

And then there’s the power. The Hellcat’s intoxicating, mind-altering, spine-tingling, endless power. You’d swear there’s a nuke under its scooped hood. Which there basically is. It’s the same supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 as last year and it’s still cranking out 707 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 650 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. It’s easy to make fun of its pushrods, but half throttle is enough to chunk tires, and its thunderous V8 rumble and maniacal supercharger whine are as invigorating as the intensity of its pull.

Yes, its output is 10-hp less than you get in a Widebody Challenger Hellcat, but you won’t miss them. The Daytona version is also rated 717 hp, but it’s funny math. The engine is exactly the same as the standard Charger Hellcat’s – Dodge just takes the power rating at 6,100 rpm instead of 6,000 rpm and delays upshifts at wide-open throttle with the change from third to fourth. At 6,100 rpm, a standard Charger Hellcat makes the same 717 hp and they both have a 6,200-rpm fuel cutoff.

There are no manuals. Every Charger Hellcat Widebody gets an excellent ZF eight-speed automatic. Its short, tight ratios are perfectly matched to the Hemi and it bangs gears with a snap in Track mode.

Designed and engineered to push the boundaries of what a four-do
Designed and engineered to push the boundaries of what a four-do
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For acceleration testing, the SRT team went to multiple dragstrips including US 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan and Orlando Speedworld in Florida. With the stickier summer tires and the Charger’s Launch Control, which is programmable from 1,200 rpm to 2,400 rpm, Dodge says the Widebody Hellcat hits 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and covers the quarter mile in 10.96 seconds. Top speed is 196 mph. The company also says it’s the most powerful and fastest mass-produced sedan in the world, and it can be your for just $71,140, including the $1,495 destination charge. The Daytona costs $4,500 more.

It’s a big fat bargain when you consider the performance, interior space and other factors, but the deal of the century is the Charger Scat Pack Widebody. At just $47,490 it costs just $6,000 more than the standard-width Scat Pack. It also looks the same as the Hellcat except for some badging, and with its improved balance courtesy the slightly softer suspension tuning and lighter engine, it rides and handles a bit better then the Hellcat. Dodge says it’ll pull .98g on a skidpad, while the Hellcat manages .96g. Both cars get the same six-piston Brembo brakes.

It’s 485 hp and 475 lb-ft or torque doesn’t sound like much compared to the Hellcat, but the Scat Pack’s 6.4-liter naturally aspirated Hemi sounds great and packs more than enough wallop to also piss off Mr. Silverado. Dodge claims 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds and a 12.4 second quarter mile at 111 mph. Do you really need more than that?

No, you don’t. But you want more. And the new Charger Hellcat Widebody will match the Scat Pack’s acceleration with its air conditioning on, your wife riding shotgun, your kids in the backseat and a trunk full of luggage. It’s the best all-around Hellcat Dodge has created, and it's easily America’s best high-performance sedan. Sure, an M5 will probably leave it for dead on the Nurburgring, but who's actually going there? In the real world, the Widebody is more fun to dive than the BMW and its costs about $40,000 less.

SRT Development Manager Jim Wilder said it best, “The new Charger Widebody Hellcat is a car you can use to drive your family from coast to coast while tearing up every dragstrip and racetrack along the way.” Just be prepared to burn through a few truck loads of fuel and rear tires during the trip. And watch out for killjoys in white Silverados.

Dodge Charger Information

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