2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody in TorRed
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2020 Dodge Charger First Drive: Scat Pack is Great, Hellcat is Greater

Whether you pick the 2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack with the optional widebody package or the Hellcat with the standard widebody package, the wider wheels and tires make both cars even greater sport sedans.
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Over the past few months, we have talked extensively about the 2020 Dodge Charger and for the new model year, the biggest news for America’s favorite full-sized sedan is the introduction of the long-awaited widebody package. This new look is optional on the R/T Scat Pack and it is standard on the Hellcat, but in both cases, this new design leads to better all-around performance from what was already the best performing four-door in the US market.

Last week, I traveled to Napa, California to test the 2020 Dodge Charger widebody lineup, including the Scat Pack, the Hellcat and the limited edition Hellcat Daytona, all of which offer improved performance on the road and on the track. Today, I bring you a look at how the bigger Chargers are noticeably better in terms of handling, braking and acceleration.

2020 Dodge Charger Widebody Features
If you have somehow missed all of our coverage about the 2020 Dodge Charger over the past few months, here is a quick rundown of what makes the cars equipped with the widebody package special.

Of course, the most noticeable change is the flared wheel openings at all four corners, but this setup is a bit more elaborate than the Challenger widebody package. In addition to the components that bolt over the unique front fenders and rear quarter panels, the widened sedan features unique front and rear fascias which include a portion of the flares. This provides a cleaner, more finished look that the critics of the Challenger widebody package should appreciate. There is also a unique side skirt and new rear spoiler, but when you see these cars, the first thing that catches your eye is the wide, low and menacing stance.

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Next, the key reason for introducing the widebody package was to fit wider wheels and tires under the body while still meeting FCA’s internet wheel fitment standards. Adding the flared openings allow Dodge to run a wider wheel and a wider Pirelli tire measuring 305 millimeters wide, compared to the 275-millimeter tires on the non-widebody Scat Pack and Hellcat.

Finally, the engineers added stiffer springs to the widebody Scat Pack and Hellcat Charger, along with thicker rear sway bars on both cars and a thicker front sway bar on the Hellcat. When you combine these unique suspension bits with the wider tires and the specific tuning of both the suspension and the steering systems, the Charger widebody cars are designed to offer better grip in every driving situation – from a hard launch at the drag strip to carving through the corners of a road course.

To experience just how well the 2020 Charger Scat Pack Widebody and Hellcat perform, Dodge invited members of the media to Sonoma Raceway in California for a day of high performance driving and what a day it was. From cruising the curvy local roads to storming around the race track, the widebody Charger proved that it was superior to its slender sibling.

2020 Charger Road Test
Our test time with the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat began on the open road, cruising from Sonoma Raceway out towards the California coast. This drive allowed us to experience the handling capabilities of the big sedan on some of the most exciting roads in America, with the supercharged four-door comfortably negotiating the tight turns with confidence. However, with these being public roads that were packed with bicyclists and other motorists, we could only push the car so far in terms of handling.

On the other hand, the road test allowed us to find out how much better the wider tires grip the road under hard power. I made several hard launches out in the middle of nowhere and I found that even with the wider tires, 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque still makes it very easy to smoke the tires, but with a bit of practice, you can definitely launch the widebody Hellcat Charger harder than the non-widebody models. You still can’t run wide open in first gear, but you can use more throttle through first gear and you can get to full throttle much sooner in second gear without smoking the tires.

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Where the wider tires make the biggest difference in terms of acceleration comes in the mid-range, as stomping the throttle with a standard-width Hellcat Charger in second gear will lead to a smoke show, but with the wider Pirelli tires, traction was much more achievable from a slow roll in second gear.

Aside from the improved launch and cornering grip, the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat rides and drives very much like the earlier models with the original body design, so it still makes for a wonderful daily driver.

Widebody Track Time
The folks at Dodge wanted to show off the handling capabilities of the 2020 Dodge Charger in widebody form, but they knew that a road test wouldn’t do it, so after spending a few hours on public roads, we headed back to Sonoma Raceway for some time on the road course. The Indy Car configuration of Sonoma is chock full of tight turns, with a few sweeping turns and a couple short straightaways mixed in, but in the long run, it is a much greater test of a car’s braking and cornering ability than its power. This is the kind of track that reveals if a car can’t turn and with the Hellcat cars constantly being accused of being nothing more than straight-line machines, some might expect the Charger to struggle, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

The 2020 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Widebody and Hellcat share the same tires, brakes and dampers, with the biggest differences between the two being a little more front end weight and a whole lot more power in the Hellcat. The lighter engine allowed the Scat Pack to turn in a little better, but for the most part, these two sedans handled very similarly.

The big Pirelli tires grip the track very well under cornering, so on the tight turns, the widebody Charger is far more nimble than you would expect. With the adjustable dampers set to track mode, there is almost no body roll under hard cornering, so you can confidently dive into a tight corner and power out on the other side. When you approach one of these tight turns at higher speed, the Brembo brakes slow the car down in a big hurry, so even when you get too deep into a corner, the Charger is forgiving. Even in a slalom situation, where the car is being tossed side to side, the 305-millimter-wide tires and the track tuned suspension do a masterful job of keeping the car glued to the track.

On longer, sweeping turns, the widebody Charger is flat enough that you can begin powering out as soon as you hit the apex and on turns like this, there is a much bigger risk of applying too much throttle too soon, initiating a drift, than there is of the car understeering. That being said, when you do throttle-down at the right time, both the Scat Pack and Hellcat both come tearing out of the turns.

Mind you, we are talking about a full-sized sedan that weights roughly 4,600 pounds with a driver and adult passenger, yet it handles a track designed for lightweight Indy Cars beautifully. Sure, there are smaller cars that will get around a track like Sonoma a bit better, but the key takeaway here is that the 2020 Dodge Charger – a sedan that is often accused of being nothing more than a four-door drag car – can shine bright on an intricate road course.

The Final Word
If you are considering a Dodge Charger and you want the highest level of performance possible, whether you are looking at the 485-horsepower R/T Scat Pack or the 707-horsepower SRT Hellcat, you want the widebody package. It is standard on the Hellcat, so everyone who buys a supercharged Dodge sedan in 2020 will benefit from the added performance, but for the Scat Pack, it is an option that you are going to want to order.

2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Even if you don’t road race and you never do any hard cornering, the added launch grip coupled with the menacing stance and the daily driving comfort makes the widebody package something that every 2020 Dodge Charger buyer who is looking to go fast should want.

Patrick Rall @TheAutoBeard is the Managing Editor of Torque News. Please follow us on Twitter at @TorqueNewsAuto, Facebook and send us tips. You can also Follow Patrick on Youtube.


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