LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE, CALIFORNIA — When evaluating increasingly rare automotive flaws, it’s deceptively easy to be lured into conditionals. Usually, it follows the template of “if Automaker implemented B instead of A, the car in question would instantly be better off.” This was the rallying cry around the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcat when we got our first taste a few years ago. With 707 hp and 650 lb-ft on tap, the stock 275-width rears weren’t up to the task of putting the power down or keeping things composed when you swung that 4,500-pound bulk around. To quell the unintended burnouts—and help keep hedges free of Challenger bumpers—the Challenger SRT Hellcat received a widebody variant for 2018 that added a much-needed tire upgrade.
Bursting from the new hyper-aggressive fender flares are a set of four 305/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zeros. These fancy new Italian shoes are wrapped around a set of new five-spoke “coffin” wheels, filling the aforementioned swells with ease. The Challenger Hellcat Widebody lives up to its name, gaining 3.5-inches in overall width, with a 1.6-inch growth spurt for the front track and two inches for the rear.
To compensate for the additional steering resistance, the puffier Hellcat adds electric-assisted steering. Don’t fret about any loss of steering feel—there wasn’t much to begin with. Much like the customizable power, transmission, traction control, and suspension options, steering weight is dialed up or down from the loosey goosey Street setting to the artificially heavy Track mode through Uconnect’s excellent SRT pages.
No hyptotheticals here—these small changes add up to big results. With the wider track and a much-improved contact patch, the 707 hp is weaponized. The widebody Hellcat Challenger launches harder and hooks up sooner, the rears no longer turning to mist when you go past half-throttle. It’s easier to predict, but that much power, no matter the rubber, is far from mundane. Dodge claims the extra meat out back cuts the 0-60 mph hustle by 0.1 second to a brutal 3.4 seconds. Hustling the Hellcat’s 4,500 pounds quickly is accompanied quite the soundtrack. That supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 emits a ferocious sound, a distinctive war cry far removed the classic caramel lope of the naturally aspirated 6.4-liter thumper found in its SRT and Scat Pack siblings.
Don’t forget to work those front Pirellis, too. Like its 426 Hemi progenitors, the slender-hipped OG Hellcat was best left on an arrow-straight drag strip and away from all that nasty canyon curvature. The wider track and sasquatch-sized footprint of the 305s gives the Widebody impressive high-speed stability, especially on the fast, sweeping turns of Angeles Crest Highway.
ACH is LA’s performance proving grounds for big ‘uns. Leave the tight and technical Malibu ridge roads for the Miatas and hot hatches and take your Z06, Mustang GT350, or Aventador for a run up the San Gabriel Mountains. The roads are reasonably wide and most of the corners are predictable sweepers that spit out into short straights.
Even at 7,000 feet, with sharp drop-offs and crumbly, craggy walls, the IndiGo Blue Widebody is remarkably sure-footed. My destination is the bisected tunnel roughly 40 miles from the base of the route, providing a rare opportunity to enjoy tunnel acoustics outside of clogged and well-patrolled Los Angeles.
It takes a few miles to acclimate to its cornering speed, especially if you’re used to slabside Challengers. It hunkers down and barrels through long corners like a fullback, with confidence that only runs short when you’re foolish with the throttle. It’s not just me, either. During testing, Dodge reported a two-second lead over the regular Hellcat on a 1.7-mile road course, thanks to a 0.04g increase in lateral grip to 0.97g total.
Don’t get it twisted—the 2018 Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody is not Dodge’s answer to a ZL1 1LE or GT350, nor is it a Diet Demon. It isn’t even a replacement for the regular Hellcat, considering you can still pick up a slabside for 2018. Instead, it’s a shockingly well-rounded addition to the lineup even as the second most expensive and second most powerful Challenger available. It’s big on presence, speed, and usability, as ridiculous as that sounds.
2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody Specifications
|ENGINE||6.2 supercharged OVH 16-valve V-8/707 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 650 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe|
|EPA MILEAGE||13/21-22 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||197.5 x 75.7 x 57.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.4 sec|
|TOP SPEED||195 mph|