Updated: Apr 2, 2022
"These are the good old days." (Carly Simon, "Anticipation")
An entire generation of Americans (mine) spent decades bemoaning the early 70s death of the muscle car. Just as we were getting our licenses, the cars we watched the upperclassmen roar around in were neutered by emissions regulations and insurance surcharges, including the king of them all---any Chrysler product with the 426 Hemi engine. Yeah, we could have picked them up used, but then the 1973 Arab Oil embargo sent fuel prices skyrocketing and we resigned ourselves to immaculately built, highly-reliable Japanese cars.
But the true believers at Chrysler kept at it---taking advantage of advances in technology, and now, Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep make a range of vehicles with power outputs, top speeds and 0-60 times that shatter the marks set by the late 60s "golden age" muscle cars---including those powered by the 426 Hemi.
The 363 horsepower in the Chrysler 300C is nothing to sneeze at (that's net horsepower---not the gross horsepower rating used back in the day). Nor is the 485 horsepower in the Dodge Challenger Scat Pack or the Dodge Charger Scat Pack Plus. At least in the abstract.
But even those numbers pale in comparison to the power of the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody. This 6.2-liter Hemi V8 makes 707 horsepower and 650 pounds per foot of torque. Zero to 60 happens in 3.6 seconds. The quarter-mile at a dragstrip evaporates in 10.96 seconds at well over 125 miles per hour.
At that point, the Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is just getting warmed up. The top speed is 196 miles per hour. Yes, one hundred ninety-six. Four shy of two hundred. Or so I'm told. I value my California driver license and my low insurance premiums too much to do any serious fact-checking. But you don't need to be aggressive to understand the power in this beast. Just step on the gas pedal the way you would in, say, a minivan, and you'll wonder who ordered Sulu to engage warp speed.
All that power goes through an eight-speed automatic transmission with line-launch lock control, an after-run chiller, launch assist, an anti-spin differential rear axle, Brembo six-piston fixed front caliper brakes with red brake calipers, adaptive damping suspension, SRT configurable drive modes, a performance shift indicator, electronic stability control, and the SRT Track Experience. Incredibly, the EPA fuel economy estimates aren't coronary-inducing: 12 mpg city/21 highway. A '70 Charger with the 426 Hemi? You'd have been looking at 8 mpg with a tailwind.
What's remarkable about the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is that it isn't the one-trick pony you might expect it to be. This car isn't just about blistering straight-line speed---it handles far better than it ought to. Much of that can be attributed to the Widebody part of the equation---an extra three and a half-inches of width at the rear that allows for wider tires (305/35ZR20) and wheels (20 by 11). On a 100-mile circuit of Sierra foothill winding two-lanes, the Hellcat always felt planted. Dodge claims .96g on the skidpad and I don't doubt it.
The base price of the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is $69,645. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see the full list, but among the highlights on the standard equipment list are heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, a six-speaker Alpine premium audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel.
Our tester also came with extra-cost options, including $1,595 for the Carbon/Suede Interior Package (suede headliner and real carbon fiber interior accents) plus the Power Convenience Group (power front driver and passenger seats with four-way power lumbar adjustment and a power tilt/telescope steering column), $995 for the Navigation & Travel Group (GPS Navigation, SiriusXM Travel Link and Travel Plus, five years of both SiriusXM Traffic and Sirius XM Travel Link service), $1,795 for the Harman Kardon Audio Group (an upgraded surround sound system with 19 GreenEdge speakers and a GreenEdge amplifier), $1,995 for a power sunroof and $995 for a carbon dual stripe.
Add $2,100 gas guzzler tax and $1,495 destination charge and the as-tested price comes to $80.615.
There are two ways to look at that price tag. One, it's over eighty freaking grand. Two, you're getting 707 horsepower, zero to 60 in 3.6 and a top speed of 196 for under 100K. And unlike most fire-breathing uber-performance cars, this is one you can use every day. From that perspective, the 2020 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody is a bargain.