Dodge Hellcat Widebody

The Hellcat Widebody can hit 313km/h despite being as aerodynamic as a parachute

BRIAN MAKSE

A hint of Demon actually helps tame the wild Hellcat

ENGINE 6166cc V8, OHV, 16v, supercharger / POWER 527kW @ 6000rpm / TORQUE 881Nm @ 4800rpm/ WEIGHT 2037kg/ 0-100km/h 3.6sec (est.)/ PRICE US$71,495 (A$89,908)

STAR RATING 4.0

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Muscular looks with improved grip and handling

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Not available in Australia; mass; ageing platform HILE SRTís designers and engineers were busy developing the earth-scorching Demon, they also discovered some of the necessary changes could translate to the more Ďtameí Hellcat. And thus the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody is born.

After transferring the Demonís 9cm-wider bodywork, the increased width gives the Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody a distinctive presence. That width lends a proper broad shouldered look suited to a muscle car with 700-horses in the old money. Subtle in some colours, but downright menacing in black.

The new flares arenít riveted on in the traditional JDM style, but carefully shaped and properly manufactured.

Even the American-spec side markers are shaped to flow into the new wings. The Demonís wider splitter is another carry-over to the Widebody.

While the Demon rolls on 18-inch W drag-spec wheels and tyres, the Hellcat Widebody isnít so constrained.

Engineers were allowed to use all the newfound width under those wings.

Thereís an all-new 20-inch wheel design thatís a huge 11-inches wide.

Mark Trostle, head of Performance Vehicle Exterior Design, is known to enjoy washing his own cars, and every shape is important, including the wheels. Thus, the design of the new wheel is not just attractive, but open and accessible for those who wash their own.

SRT stretches the latest generation Pirelli P Zero tyre over the wheels, sized 305/35ZR20 all round. Just think about that: itís like having a Porsche 911 Carrera Sís rear tyres at all four corners. Meanwhile, the new strips of rubber are wider and considerably more advanced than the standard Hellcatís 275mm-wide tyre.

With greater lateral loads being generated through the suspension, SRT chose to switch to an electric power steering system, similar to that found in its big brother, the Demon.

The standard Hellcat retains its original hydraulic setup.

Electric power steering gives the Widebody some additional flexibility for levels of assist in the different SRT drive modes. Track is perfectly suited to circuit work, Sport has mid-level assist, while the base mode offers the lightest steering effort with the greatest level of assist.

Often times with modern EPS systems, track modes feel artificially heavy, but not with the Widebody.

Track modeís level of assist feels entirely natural around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That extra rubber and additional track width not only makes the Widebody quicker around a racing circuit, but also more enjoyable on the road. Dodge says the new tyre and track width are worth about two seconds per lap around its home 2.7-kilometre road course.

That new tyre and wider track also translates into a 0.3 second better quarter mile time, significantly better lateral grip (0.97G for the Widebody versus 0.93G for the standard Hellcat), and a slight improvement in 0-97km/h time, which is down to 3.4 from the standard Hellcatís 3.5sec.

Not that our bum dyno could notice, to be honest, because that supercharged Hemiís unrelenting thrust is already so prodigious.

After all, this is a car that can carry on to 313km/h while looking as aerodynamic as a parachute.

What we did notice, however, was not just the increased levels of grip, but a new level of confidence through high-speed corners. Around portions of Indyís Grand Prix circuit, it only took a handful of laps before we started confidently sliding the Widebody through mid- to highspeed corners.

Where the Hellcat earned its reputation as a tail-happy musclecar, the Widebody gives the driver significantly more confidence. There are no handling surprises and the additional grip is entirely usable.

As it turned out, the wider track and additional grip from the new Pirelli P Zeros suited the existing Hellcatís suspension, traction, and stability system calibrations. No changes were made to spring or sway bar rates, nor to any of the settings for the Hellcatís adaptive dampers.

Given the complexity of those systems, it may seem surprising that changes werenít needed. But ultimately the Widebody remains a heavy beast, though with a much more resolved handling setup that drivers will appreciate.

There are sadly no plans to officially import the Widebody to Australia, but that shouldnít stop some adventurous blokes from converting some to right-hand drive if a refined and massively quick muscle car is your sort of ride. M