6.2-liter Supercharged V8 Gas
8 Speed Automatic
by Gabe Beita Kiser
Among us, there exists a certain demented set. They are the wolves hidden in the herd, those who aren't satisfied aiming the nose of a two-door beast down a drag strip and soaking up all the thrills for themselves. They're the ones who feel the need to share that rush with others, to lead the pack to the alter and offer them up for sacrifice. To them, the confines of European luxury has long been the only way to let four or five members of the flock share the excitement with them. That's because before FCA's 6.2-liter supercharged V8 made its way to the engine bay of every Charger Hellcat and Grand Cherokee TrackHawk, not many auto markets outside of the Eurozone made it possible to stuff a family into a sheetmetal shell and rocket them towards the horizon at demonic speeds.
The problem for Dodge, though, is that the current-gen Charger is already 8 years old and in theory, should be on the verge of going stale. But Dodge is at the forefront of the battle against aging. Unlike creams that remove wrinkles and diets that get rid of loose skin, Dodge's anti-aging procedure has always been an additive process. Dodge doesn't take away, Dodge adds more. More horsepower, more hood scoops, more inches to the wheels, more girth to the fender flares. And the endless act of piling on more has finally lead us to this moment, when Dodge crowns the new king of the barren land of muscle sedans. That crown is the Widebody package, which is now standard on the Charger Hellcat and optional on its less-powerful brother, the Charger Scat Pack. To give us a taste of hell's newest angel, Dodge flew us out to Northern California so we could spend time driving widened Charger Hellcats and Scat Packs on wine country pavement, some of which was located on Sonoma Raceway, the region's home track.
Even in the most basic of trims, the exterior of the Charger Widebody is a perfect example of how Dodge ensures its aging models remain hot sellers - simply by turning up the aggression. The Charger Hellcat and Scat Pack Widebody pack plenty of that. On the face of each lies that familiar thin grille with its large chin intake placed underneath and flanked by two additional side intakes. Widebody models now feature side sills to connect the front and rear fascias - the rear of which still has exit vents on the bumper - as well as a mail slot opening on the grille to more quickly route cool air to the radiator. But the Charger Widebody's star accessory can only been seen when looking past the boundaries of the C-shaped LED daytime running lights. Doing so is how to spot the signature Widebody fender flares that neatly tuck 20-inch by 11-inch wheels under the body. The flares and the 305/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero tires add 3.5 inches to the Charger's overall width that, as Dodge's own designers put it, enable the Charger to look more "badass" while expanding the vehicle's footprint.
Ignoring the badges, it's tough to spot external differences between the widened Scat Pack and Hellcat unless looking at the hood or the rear lip spoiler. The Hellcat's hood is similar to the Scat Pack's but houses additional vents to help cool the supercharger while its rear wing loses the indented midsection to add downforce and balance out the front end's aerodynamics.
The Charger Widebody follows a simple premise: more tire = more control. Of course, that's an oversimplification that overlooks the numerous changes made to the suspension system, steering system, and other parts of the super sedan, but it serves to highlight how Dodge didn't need to make any tweaks to the powertrain to improve the Charger. Like the original Hellcat, the Hellcat Widebody is all about numbers. Wider tires permit the 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 to send 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque through the 8-speed automatic and out to the ground more effectively. That makes Dodge's hottest sedan capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds, running the quarter mile in 10.96 seconds, and hitting a top speed of 196 mph. But the real difference can be found on the track where the Charger Widebody can pull up to 0.96 g and polish off a 2.1-mile road course in 2.1 fewer seconds than it takes the standard Charger Hellcat to do. That's accomplished with the help of extra grip afforded by the wider tires and by a retuned suspension system that features increased front spring rates that are 32% stiffer than the previous model's, larger sway bars measuring 34 mm in front and 22 mm at the rear, and retuned shocks that compliment the stiffened springs.
The Scat Pack Widebody takes the same approach but executes it to a less extreme degree. Its 6.4-liter (392 cubic-inch) naturally-aspirated Hemi V8 and 8-speed auto are left intact and still send "only" 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. With the wider tires, the Scat Pack Widebody can hit 60 mph from a standstill in 4.3 seconds and run past the quarter mile marker in 12.4 seconds. But again, the Widebody's tire and suspension upgrades are what make the difference. Handling improvements - which, like the Hellcat Widebody's, include modified springs, sway bars, and shocks, increased front spring rates (that are now 27% stiffer), a larger rear sway bar, and revised damper calibration to match - help the Scat Pack Widebody hit 0.98 g on the skidpad and finish that same 2.1-mile course 1.3 seconds faster than the sedan's predecessor. What's harder to quantify is the added level of driver confidence that having more control brings about.
But if cornering ability and straight line performance is less important than outright prestige, Dodge made sure to debut a 501 unit-strong Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition Hellcat Widebody, which gets the same hardware as a Hellcat but gains 10 horsepower through an ECU tune to compliment its unique styling.
The first thing one notices about the Charger Widebody's interior is that none of the inches added to the exterior help make the cabin feel less cramped than it was before. A low roof and thick C-pillars still contribute to the coziness of the interior, while thickly-padded bolstered front seats and a steeply sloped rear window egg that on. In order to open up some space, the dashboard is kept delightfully simple and ergonomic. The buttons not buried within a menu on the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen are kept flat against the dash and are easy to see and use. Cupholders and storage cubbies are accessible but not intrusive, and attention is generally diverted towards the front, where a 7-inch digital gauge cluster sits just behind a flat-bottom performance steering wheel and below the driver's line of sight.
While plastic trim pieces and loose-feeling leather remind occupants that this is no European luxury sedan, the interior has enough integrity and and performance badging to make it feel like the cockpit of a true muscle car. Rear seat occupants won't be happy with the cramped feel, but they won't care once the supercharger starts singing. On the contrary, the fact the Charger has such a small interior relative to its exterior footprint can be a good thing. With over 700 horsepower and a tail that wags as soon as traction control is turned off, it feels better to have more of a buffer between the interior and the outside world in case of an accident.
Despite having all of the advantages of a five-door passenger sedan with a 120-inch wheelbase, the Charger Widebody's interior space and cargo capacity don't exactly post numbers one can brag about. Legroom up front and in the rear is above adequate, coming in at 41.8 inches and 40.1 inches respectively, but headroom suffers from the Charger's low-slung roof. Front seat occupants only get 38.6 inches of headroom with a solid roof and 36.9 inches with a sunroof, while the rear glass allows for only 36.6 inches in the second row. Behind the passenger, the trunk manages to swallow up 16.5 cubic feet worth of cargo, which is on par with the 16.2 cubic feet of storage offered by the Charger's two-door cousin, the Challenger.
It's no secret that the Charger Widebody has tight dimensions relative to its footprint. Sitting 201 inches long, 57.6 inches high (57.8 inches high if it's the Scat Pack), and 78.3 inches wide at its widest point, the rear fender flares, the Charger won't be winning any awards for using space wisely. However, the low ratio of vehicle footprint to useable space did allow the designers the freedom to give the exterior that "badass" look that Charger fans know and love.
Thing is, badass looks are only part of the equation in a car like this. The more important part, how the car actually drives, is brought together through good engineering and by giving each component high tolerances. It's done well enough that driving through morning traffic in a 707 horsepower Hellcat was surprisingly easy. Uncharacteristically, we started our drive without having a cup of coffee beforehand. Naturally, that meant we commandeered the Hellcat Widebody for the first portion of the drive to see if adrenaline could fill in for caffeine. In short, it can, but you can only tap those adrenaline reserves by consciously pushing the throttle into illegal territories. If speeding tickets aren't your thing, then the throttle response, suspension, steering, and traction control settings in Street mode are your friend. But when morning traffic on California's State Route 37 gave way to the tight corner-filled roads that connect Sonoma county to Highway 1, Sport mode is the way to go.
With tight lanes and the lack of a curb providing zero margin for error, it quickly became clear that Dodge chose these roads because they force a driver to take it easy on the throttle and get violent with the brakes and steering wheel. With little room for acceleration between corners, we were forced to seesaw our way through the bends, marveling at how the Hellcat Widebody's new electric power steering system (wider tires need more assistance) felt so balanced. Steering skews on the light side but remains composed and direct as ever. When approaching a corner, the Widebody's front 15.4-inch Brembo rotors bite hard and bring those short but exhilarating acceleration jaunts back into the realm of normality.
After taking a break to snack on shellfish at an oyster farm along Highway 1, we got back in our Hellcat and headed to Sonoma Raceway to see what a 707 horsepower sedan could do while wearing a set of wider tires. We started in the Hellcat before migrating to the Daytona model. Both were an absolute riot on the track, delivering an exhilarating and engaging experience but never once fooling us into thinking we were in a race car. Some of the muscle car persona could be attributed to the Hellcat's 4,586-pound curb weight, which drops to 4,385 pounds in the Scat Pack, but the suspension played a bigger role. It had the contradicting habit of soaking up bumps like an Impala but trying to stay flat when it was seeking apexes, which made controlling corner entry speed the most important task if lap times were the priority. Thankfully, both Charger Widebody variants advertise their limits progressively, making it easy to find the edge without worrying about going too far over. While steering is direct yet a little too light for heavy track use in each of the Widebodys, it's the Scat Pack's lower output (which lends to a more precise throttle) that makes it the better car for a corner-heavy track like Sonoma's.
Nothing that calls itself American muscle can hold onto that designation without undercutting the competition in the price department. With a starting price of $69,645 before options and the $1,495 destination charge, the Hellcat Widebody certainly does keeps itself grounded. But because the Widebody variant is now the only four-door Hellcat on sale, it effectively pushes the barrier to Hellcat ownership up by $2,150, up from the standard Hellcat's $67,495 price tag. That $2,150 premium is less than the $6,000 needed to step up from the Charger Scat Pack to the Scat Pack Widebody - the former starting at $39,995 and the latter coming in at $45,995 (before destination). Dodge justifies that by pointing out the extensive modifications the Widebody package delivers, from the subtler cosmetic tweaks to the more serious suspension upgrades. But the same argument can't be made for the Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition, which commands a price of $74,140 in exchange for 10 extra horsepower, Daytona badging, and its status as the more exclusive beast.
America's muscle car wars are continuing to reach inconceivable heights. Chevy's mid-engine Corvette is selling a new chapter in the muscle car story for the same price as the previous ones while Ford's upcoming GT500 is set to send the 6th generation Mustang off with a bang. But despite the crowded playing field, Dodge's new family of Charger Widebodys makes for a winning recipe. The Charger itself continues to be a strong seller, even at a time where sedan sales (especially rear-wheel drive sedan sales) are slumping, and the fact that the Scat Pack is the sedan's most popular trim proves that Dodge's fanbase is heavily invested in performance. So for Dodge and the SRT division, bringing the Widebody package to the Charger is a no-brainer. It's an easy way to keep an aging model fresh and bring a new halo car to the Charger lineup without spending a fortune on research and development.
And the beauty of the plan is that enthusiasts win too. The only improvement the Hellcat really needed was more control with which to use its power. The Widebody package accomplishes that, bringing the Charger's limits to hew heights and sweetening the deal with a new and very "badass" look. Aside from that, this is still the same muscle car you've always known. Whether Hellcat or Scat Pack, it's still rude and unhinged yet easy to control, it'll still make the eyeballs of young gearheads pop out of their skulls, and it's still cheaper than almost any other car delivering over 550 horsepower. What Dodge has done right with the Charger Widebody is the same thing it did right for the skinnier Chargers in the lineup: it has made the thrill of speed attainable and able to be shared with the entire family.