Whilst other carmakers frantically flail about in their attempts to be greener-than-thou, jettisoning cubic capacity for hybrid drivetrains and lithium cells, Dodge is doubling down on old-skool ICE (internal combustion engine), and that intrepidity stems from seeing Charger and Challenger sales increase more than 60 per cent in the last ten years.
A major refresh in 2015 for the Charger, along with the deployment of the outlandish 707bhp Hellcat version, gave this nearly 15-year old sedan a fresh lease of life. Not that there’s any need for a desperate attempt at rejuvenation (not with Charger having dominated the US full-size sedan segment for five straight years!), it’s all merely part of the evolutionary process which sees the four-door muscle car metamorphose again for 2020.
This time it gains girth in Hellcat guise, inspired by the Challenger Demon Widebody, adopting a similar stance, but arguably pulling it off with even more panache, thanks to the remoulding of the front and rear fascias to better aesthetically incorporate fender flares that add 3.5in to the width. The wheel arches get pulled out over massive 20in by 11in 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.
The phat new look isn’t just superficial though, inside the wheels sit 15.4in front and 13.8in rear steel brake rotors gripped by six-piston Brembo calipers at the front and 4-piston units in the rear. Peer in further and find Bilstein three-mode adaptive damping competition suspension with stiffer springs (32 per cent 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 for awesome burnouts; Launch Control and Launch Assist which detects and quashes wheel hop at launch; plus a new rear spoiler unique to the Hellcat to better balance aero in combination with the new front design.
Widebody is the only way the 2020 Charger Hellcat will come, from when it arrives in the region in February next year at prices only slightly above present, with more colours available featuring epic names such as ‘Hellraisin’ (a dark purple), ‘Frostbite’ (blue) and Sinamon Stick (orangey-red).
The drive train remains the same, a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 continues to put out the still staggering 707bhp and 881Nm of torque driving the rear wheels through a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic. You get 0-100kph acceleration in 3.6 seconds, the quarter-mile is dispatched in 10.96 seconds, and there’s a top speed of 315kph. More significantly it can pull 0.96 cornering g compared to 0.90 previously thanks to those wide boots. As such the Hellcat Widebody is 2.1 seconds quicker than the narrow body around a 3.4km course — about 13 car lengths after one lap! And the stopping distance from 100kph has reduced by 4ft (122cm).
Inside you can continue to access all the various SRT drive modes and settings through the 8.4in Uconnect touchscreen, whilst ensconced in the Laguna leather front seats, gripping that leather or Alcantara-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel, and admiring the new French stitching on the dashboard and door panels as well as taking in the real carbon fibre trim. Sitting behind that meaty steering wheel feels familiar, satisfying, commanding and Dodge continues to refine an interior that might one day give premium European car makers cause for concern. Those are the facts, here are the feels: the wider tyres and all that suspension work is highly effective. The car is far more composed, less intimidating, more cooperative and certainly nowhere near as unruly, despite all that devastating torque and power on tap. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still easy to give your passengers whiplash in a standing start, it’s quite possible to come screeching sideways out of a junction when you didn’t mean too, and it’s still totally likely you’ll one day get arrested and locked away for a bazillion years for contravening every road traffic law in the book, and all at the same time!
Nonetheless the Hellcat’s newfound maturity and tameability, was particularly apparent when doing a couple of laps of the incredibly snappy little Sonoma Raceway with its short straights, blind crests and brake-challenging dips. Genuinely fearful as you venture out, after only for the first couple of corners, you’d start to trust the surprisingly planted attitude, remarkably neutral cornering and reassuringly flat composure. Don’t be a nutter-hooligan and it’ll get you home in one piece — and very, very quickly indeed.
At heart though the Charger itself does remain a nutter-hooligan, and a few inappropriate choices of settings, plus over-zealous flexing of your right ankle will ensure all hell breaks loose — and that’s just as it should be, and why we love, and will continue to love the Charger Hellcat so much.
Charger Scat Pack Widebody and Hellcat Daytona EditionS
From the second half of next year, the Widebody kit will also be available as an option on the Scat Pack Charger with the SRT 6.4-litre 485bhp V8.
It gets the same brakes and suspension upgrades as the Hellcat Widebody, along with Launch Control, Launch Assist and Line Lock. The 0-100kph acceleration time is 4.3 seconds and it’ll hit a quarter mile in 12.4. Cornering g is up even on the Hellcat at 0.98 and it’s eight car lengths quicker than a narrow body version on the same 3.4km circuit.
A little more manageable on the tight and twisty Sonoma Raceway, it remains flighty on the road at lower speeds, with even a slightly too eager squirt of the throttle embedding your cranium into the headrest. Having said that, on a fast twisty road, it acquitted itself with aplomb, accurately hitting apexes, keeping the front end sharp, whilst glueing the rear to the road. It didn’t roll or threaten to lose traction, and its agile behaviour belied its bulk and size. It even has its own cool Scat Pack badge and quite frankly if you can’t stretch to a Hellcat, you won’t be missing out much with this version, and most people will be just as wowed!
Finally, created to win NASCAR races, the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona featured an outlandish 58cm tall rear wing and an aerodynamic front nose cone. The ‘Winged Warrior’ did exactly what it was intended to and won its first race, the Talladega 500. It was also the first NASCAR racer to break 200mph (322kph). With only 501 made, these are highly sought after now and worth around $1m each.
For a whole lot less, Dodge has issued a tribute special edition Charger Hellcat Daytona in four colours including iconic B5 Blue adorned in bespoke ‘Daytona’ bootlid and rear quarter decals with matching spoiler — although that’s a regular Hellcat item, not a towering wing!
There is no nose cone either, but you do get an extra 10bhp thanks to revised powertrain calibration. Like the original, only 501 will be made with just 20 units coming to the Middle East.