Like a bat out of heck: Auto123 reviews the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody.
We’re most of us quite familiar with the Dodge Charger, at least from seeing it on our roads; it’s certainly common enough, and the model has been around for many years now. You can get one for starting at $30,895, which is attractive in its own right; for that you get the SXT trim with a V6 engine producing 300 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque. Six rungs further up the trim ladder, however, you find the RT Hellcat Widebody variant, available at $77,045. This frenzied version develops a gasp-inducing 707 hp and an astronomical 650 lb-ft of torque. Oh boy.
You read that right; a vehicle with over 700 hp, priced at “only” $77,000. To all those looking for a performance car and for whom those vehicles carrying the BMW, Audi or Mercedes name (specifically, those with the M, RS or AMG badging) are simply out of reach, well, that’s where FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) comes in with its Hellcat versions.
Want a car that rips up the pavement and makes you feel humbled in the face of a horde of screaming horses, just chomping at the bit to be let loose in the wilderness? The Hellcat engine will give you great value for your money, not to mention that it won’t go unnoticed. You’ll receive respect from those acquaintances you meet on your journeys.
But enough of the fantasizing - let's get to the nuts and the bolts. This engine has been serving the Charger since 2015. The Widebody version accommodates wider tires (305/35ZR20) and features new front and rear bumpers that make it look pretty aggressively beast-like. Connoisseurs – in fact anyone with functioning eyes - will notice right away that this is no ordinary sedan...
Inside, the story is far more nuanced. Except for a few SRT logos or badges, the Charger, even in this iteration, is considerably outdated. Although the seats provide a fairly comfortable ride, they’re a far cry from those of the German sports cars. The manufacturer obviously had to cut somewhere to keep the price of admission so low...
Worse still, some options that are now standard in most passenger vehicles, for example automatic wipers and adaptive cruise control, are missing with this car.
To which you probably reply that all of that doesn’t matter, because folks get this car first and foremost for its engine. And you're right. Frankly, the Dodge stable includes a number of very good engines. The Charger SXT starts things off at $30,895, and comes with a 300-hp V6. At $36,895, it's possible to get your hands on a 370-hp V8 with the R/T model. For an additional $8,600, the Scat Pack 392 variant with 485 hp is available. We have to admit there aren't many cars on the market that offer that many horses for "only" $45,495. None, in fact - except for this Charger.
But back to the celebrated Hellcat engine.
Raise the hood of an SRT Hellcat Widebody version, and you find a supercharged 6.2L V8 that produces 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque at just 4,800 RPM. Starting that engine generates a supremely pleasant low-pitched sound, typical of American muscle cars. It's impossible to stat indifference to this sound that makes heads turn when you start it up. To liven things up even more, an excellent 8-speed ZF gearbox goes very well with this engine.
The money you’re paying for this car? It’s all going into the powertrain. It’s that simple.
On the road
Another advantage of having a performance car that doesn't wipe out the college funds of your first two offspring is that you can then budget for the tire replacement that you might need each summer. We mention that because in fact, at every aggressive acceleration the back end of the Hellcat tries to overtake you. If you attack the right pedal with even a little too much purpose, the rear tires will gallop ahead, and not before leaving a bit of themselves on the road and creating a nifty cloud of white smoke!
Burnouts and doughnuts are common in the vocabulary when discussing the Charger. With each small acceleration, this car invites you to sin by excess. Just know that the rear tires that equipped our test model, the Pirelli P Zero, cost close to $700 each. Times that by four, using your calculators if you must. Fortunately, huge Brembo brakes are on hand to stop the car as suddenly as it takes off!
This ultra-powerful car, is not to be placed in the hands of just anyone with a driver’s licence. And so Dodge made the sage (and savvy, marketing-wise) decision to sell it to you with a set of two keys: a red and a black one.
The red key allows the driver to take advantage of the 707 hp of the Hellcat engine - no restrictions, just power. All settings and modes are accessible. If you have a teenager at home, hide this key.
And give them the black key if you must. Power is then “limited” to 500 hp and some modes become unavailable. As for those 500 horses, believe me, the parking valet or your teen will find a way to tap them, even with half of the available driving modes at their disposal.
We could write a whole book about this car. But after a week of testing and about 800 km driven, one big conclusion stands out: the Charger SRT Hellcat is a pure performance car, a wilder brute than a BMW M5 or a Mercedes-AMG E 63. Beyond that, it's amazingly fun to drive, but requires a lot of skill to be used to its full potential on the track; the engine remains noisy even at cruising speed on the highway; and its suspension, on damaged roads, will shake you like a coconut tree in a hurricane.
As for the fuel consumption you’re probably not even asking about, know this: be willing to feel some pain. In the city and driving without regard for saving on gas (because of course), we recorded an average of around 23.0L/100 km. File under astronomical. On the highway, at average speeds of 120 km/h (ed. note: 100 km/h), we registered a more-acceptable-but-still-hefty 12.0L/100 km.
If you're looking for a unique, high-performance, all-purpose, relatively affordable car, look no further than Dodge. With the Charger and the Challenger Hellcat, you will certainly find happiness.
User-friendly UConnect system
We like less
Ultra-impressive in straight-line only
Iffy quality of assembly