Some assignments are just better than others. This one was especially good. DrivingToday traveled to Sonoma, California, to test drive the new 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody. If muscle cars aren’t your thing, fear not and read on, because this car is much more than muscle. It is true that the super-sedan Charger SRT sports a 707-horsepower 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat V8 engine, 650 lb-ft of torque and an 8-speed automatic transmission, but that is no reason to fear it. And for those to whom 707 horsepower is just too much to contemplate, don’t sleep on its more affordable Scat Pack sibling that boasts a 485-horsepower HEMI V8. With an array of options that include a real carbon fiber dashboard finish, a stylish and comfortable roomy interior and a huge rear trunk for storage, the Charger is, as FCA Senior Dodge Brand Manager Jeff Strauss said, “America’s baddest-ass family sedan.”
From the outside, the car looks menacing and powerful with extra-wide fender flares to house the wider wheels, a sleek front fascia with larger air intakes for cooling, and a unique rear spoiler for added stability. Visually, the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is impressive, even for a classically designed muscle car. For the non-enthusiast, stats like 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, or a quarter-mile time of 10.96 seconds may not even register, and it is only once you’re behind the wheel can you fully appreciate the raw power and the sounds and senses that go along with it. After a few laps around a test track or a few miles up a windy California coastal canyon road in a fully stacked Hellcat, it is easy to see why they call this the most powerful mass-produced sedan ever made.
Stomping on the gas from a standstill will produce an adrenal rush accompanied by the screech and smell of rubber on the road. The extra-wide Pirelli 305/35ZR20 tires are essential for handling around corners at high speeds, and the car requires a Brembo brake system for rapid deceleration. A vehicle with this much power requires a high-end braking system, and the Brembo rotors and pads that come standard are thicker and cool down faster than lesser versions after pushing the car to its limits.
Great as the engine and brakes are, by far my favorite feature is the availability of three custom suspension settings. “Street” (or “Auto”) is the most forgiving setting for general driving. It acts to soften and smooth out the ride quality. The “Sport” setting gives extra feel and responsiveness for aggressive driving on curvy, hilly backcountry roads. And then there’s “Track,” for well, the track. I found the combination of Sport while using the shifting paddles really fun.
Not surprisingly, accelerating this quickly and braking this abruptly doesn’t equate to decent fuel efficiency, and since a new set of tires on a Hellcat will run north of $1,000, you should think before you get your race on. But if you’ve got a family outing or a road trip to take, you can do so (in “Street” mode) and earn 22 MPG. The average driver will also find the surprisingly roomy rear seats and the large trunk more than ample for family sedan duties.
After flogging it hard, we can attest the 2020 Dodge Charger is so much more than what you read in the spec sheet. If the sleek and stylish design of this muscle car looks familiar, it should, because there are more of them on the road these days. Thanks to incentives, the third quarter of 2019 was the best in recent memory for both the Charger and the Challenger, so even though the platform dates back to 2004, FCA has found a way to keep people in love with Dodge with the high-octane upgrades. Such raw power and performance do however come at a high price point, and the SRT Hellcat Widebody starts at about $70,000. The Hellcat we drove had a premium sound system and a few other bells and whistles that brought the list price to $77,710. Fortunately, for those who can’t justify paying this much for a high-performance sedan, Dodge offers the Charger Scat Pack (V8 6.2-liter engine, 485 horsepower), which starts at $39,995, while the ScatPack Widebody version commands an extra $6,000. For those who have more money and need more muscle, the limited Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition will get you up to 717 horsepower for a starting price of $74,140.
Dodge has been making high-horsepower sedans for more than five decades now, but I found to be delightfully surprising and downright appealing was the spacious interior, the luxury stitched Laguna leather seats, the 20 X 11-inch wheels, the extra thick leather-wrapped steering wheel, the extra legroom in the back for your passengers, and the sleek infotainment display. Whether you are a loyal Dodge enthusiast or just looking for a new car, you will be impressed by the design and engineering of this super-sedan.
Read about the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Here.