Dodge Charger Gets Widebodied Times Two
The Year of the Muscle Car.
Every year, FCA hosts a full-line drive for selected media and in addition to the opportunity for invitees to sample pretty much everything Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler and Ram have to offer, there’s often a tasty reveal of something we’ve never seen before.
This year, it would appear, is the year of the muscle car as FCA used the event to introduce not one but two new versions of their Charger muscle sedan: the widebody versions of both the Scat pack and Hellcat models, as the Charger follows its two-door Challenger sibling down Widebody Lane. They’re a bit of a crowning achievement for Dodge, as in the era of the SUV, Charger and its Challenger sibling sales soldiered on rather successfully; over the last 10 years Challenger and Charger sales have increased 60 per cent, at last year was the Challenger’s most successful since its inception…in 1970. According to Tim Kuniskis, Head of Passenger Cars in North America, the reasons for this are simple.
“(We maintain our success) by introducing a stream of vehicles that resonate with the performance enthusiast,” he said. “We’ve sold more than 35 thousand supercharged Hemis, putting over 26 million horsepower into the hands of Dodge enthusiasts.”
Having said that, Kuniskis also admits that their market research shows that the Charger’s flower has wilted a little in the face of the Challenger’s success, and it was time to show the Charger some love.
“The Charger is a car unlike anything else,” he said. “It’s the only four-door muscle car, and Dodge and SRT have (now) pushed the boundaries of what a performance sedan can—and maybe should – be.”
So while the power figures remain the same – 707 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque for the supercharged Hellcat, 485 hp and 475 lb-ft for the 392 Scat Pack – the real story comes in the handling department, with the widebody adding .6 inches of front and rear track width, plus 3.5 inches of overall width. That means the fitment of fat, new 305-section Pirelli P Zero rubber and increased handling performance; the widebody can pull .96 G on the skidpad. On the 2.1-mile road course they used to test the Charger, the widebody was 2.1 seconds faster ‘round than non-widebody versions.
Performance-wise, the Hellcat performs the 0-60 mph sprint in 3.6 seconds, the Scat Pack performs the feat in 4.3. There is a launch-control system on-hand – because, of course there is – but it’s complemented by the launch assist system that helps reduce potentially harmful rear axle-hop. Other Hellcat-specific adds include a “race cooldown” feature that cools the supercharger after you’ve shut off the engine, as well as a line-lock that, once activated, automatically holds the front brakes for super cool burnouts.
In addition to the new rubber, both the Hellcat and Scat Pack get retuned suspension; the Hellcat’s front springs are 32 per cent stiffer than previous and Scat Pack’s get a 27 per cent increase in stiffness. The Hellcat also gets larger front and rear sway bars (to the tune of 34 mm and 22 mm, respectively), while the Scat Pack sees its rear sway bar increase to 22 mm – the front remains the same as non-widebody models.
In addition to the widened wheel arches (they are technically bolted on to the body but you can’t tell as there are no exposed bolts), the Hellcat gets a special front grille and rear spoiler and rims, while the Scat Pack gets bespoke rims as part of the deal.
Which, for me at least, poses a bit of a problem.
You see, while Dodge is known for building some pretty rowdy stuff – it’s kind of their calling card, what with colour names like “Plum Crazy” and “Citron Yella”. The thing about the regular Charger Hellcat, though, was that you really had to know what to look for as indications that it had 707 hp under the hood, and wasn’t just some other Charger. When you think about it, it was actually a bit of a Q-car, especially if you had one of the tamer colours. It was actually part of its attraction; the most powerful sedan to ever roll off the Dodge line actually did so in more subtle of a way than the Scat Packs and Daytonas before it. With the Widebody, that’s no longer the case; I agree 100% with Kuniskis when he says that “when you see this thing on the road, there’s no way it’s not going to get your attention.” Double-negatives aside, the point is a valid one – it’s almost as if Dodge chose a fairly tame colour for the reveal car to show the presence added by the widebody.
But the fix is easy, right? Just get the non-widebody one. Well, not so fast; if you want all the power the Hellcat provides, it’s Widebody only for you going forward in 2020. The Scat Pack can still be had both ways, however, so there’s that.
Inside, the Hellcat gets a unique black-and red instrument cluster, with real carbon fibre accents on the instrument panel and gauges. Uconnect infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support comes as standard (really? CarPlay and Android Auto is what you’re worried about in your 707 hp widebody muscle car?), but you can also use the 8.4” screen for much more performance-oriented adjustments, including your suspension, powertrain, electronic driver aid settings and – for the first time in a Charger – your electronic power steering.
Both the Hellcat and Scat Pack Widebody models will be in dealers in early 2020.