2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody Group Review: Gray Temples Do This Muscle Car No Harm

Dodge's mighty muscle car may not be all that fresh, but it's as big and bad as ever. 

Two of The Drive’s staffers—Will Sabel Courtney and Kyle Cheromcharecently spent time with the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody. They discussed the pluses and minuses of this modern muscle car via Slack, an instant message program with a fun ability to summon random gifs based on what users type. The following is a partial transcript of that conversation.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody, By the Numbers:

Base Price: $73,390

Powertrain: 6.2-liter supercharged V-8, 707 horsepower, 650 pound-feet; six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic; rear-wheel-drive

EPA Fuel Economy: 13 mpg city, 21 mpg highway (manual); 13 mpg city, 22 mpg highway (automatic)

0-60 MPH: 4.0 seconds (manual), 3.8 seconds (automatic) (Car and Driver testing)

Top Speed: 195 mph

Quick Take: No longer the maximum Challenger but still plenty badass, the Widebody brings more visual aggression and grip to the now-famous Hellcat.

Jonathan Harper

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willscourtney
So. Let's talk about the Dodge Challenger Hellcat Widebody. The outgoing one, I suppose you'd call it. Not the fancy new one with the Redeye version.

kylecheromcha
The meat-and-potatoes.

willscourtney
Yes. An apt term: a heavy meal for a heavy car. Kyle, you spent more time with it than I did, no?

kylecheromcha
There's just no getting around how massive the Challenger feels in every regard, and the Widebody package just adds to that. From the outside, behind the wheel, standing in the cloud of tire smoke left behind—it's just BIG.

But, that's why it has 707 horsepower. Because few things this hefty can move like the Hellcat WB.

willscourtney
Did it feel ungainly out in Los Angeles? It definitely felt like steering the USS Nimitz through the streets of New York. The giant, flat hood and matte-black-and-gray paint job on my tester certainly added to that feeling, though.

kylecheromcha
I did spend a lot of time in it, so much that I had to fill the tank three times during my one week review. Honestly, even LA's traffic it didn't feel too awkward. Our streets are wider than yours, plus the highways are straighter. Actually, I believe California is the biggest individual market for the Challenger.

Sam Bendall

[After-the-Fact Check: While California is the biggest market for the Hellcat, Texas is the number one destination for Challengers overall.]

willscourtney
That wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. It's an amazing car for cruising around in wide-open spaces. And it actually doesn't handle too badly for its size.

kylecheromcha
Not at all.

willscourtney
It's definitely the least agile of the Big Three's muscle cars, but it can still boogie. You do really have to just pitch it around, though - throw it into turns, let it tilt and wallow a tad, ride the momentum. It's a bit sloppy compared to Mustang or Camaro, but that's weirdly entertaining 

That's also a function of its age, though. It has been around for a while. Did it feel long in the tooth to you?

Jonathan Harper

kylecheromcha
I think FCA has done a fantastic job masking and marketing its age as "character," and I'm a sucker for it. But when push comes to shove, it trades on being more old-school thrill ride whose retro road feel matches its look perfectly. Think of it like a gigantic wooden roller coaster vs. a new steel one—the latter is far more advanced, but the former is a more visceral experience. And since people are still lining up to ride, they're not going to shut it down anytime soon.

There's an alluring danger to the Hellcat—moreso without the extra rubber of the Widebody—that's not present in its more-precise contemporaries.

willscourtney
Do you think the Widebody is better than the regular Hellcat?

kylecheromcha
Also, most cars with crazy long production runs end up there for a reason. Take the original Land Rover Series I-III—revered today, it went most unchanged for 40 years because no one else was doing what Land Rover was doing. I'd argue the Challenger is on a similar path.

The more I look at both the more I like how the regular Hellcat hits the eyes. It's a more classic look, while the Widebody is a bit of a cartoon writ large (though I like those wheels). But behind the wheel it's no contest. The Widebody is so much more manageable thanks to its wider track, and the amount of lateral grip really surprised me when I took it into the canyons.

willscourtney
I have to disagree when it comes to the looks. The Challenger is already a rolling cartoon of a design, and the more outlandish you make it, the better it works.

kylecheromcha
/giphy fighting words

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willscourtney
/giphy deal with it

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kylecheromcha
Retro =/= cartoon

willscourtney
no, but Challenger = cartoon

Regardless, that's a matter of taste. What isn't is the fact that, as you said, the Widebody package also adds beefier rubber, which increases grip. Would you say that benefits cornering more than straight-line acceleration?

Jonathan Harper

kylecheromcha
So here's the deal with that. I was blessed with a tester that had both a stunning Octane Red paint job AND the six-speed manual gearbox from Tremec. It's the second-most powerful car you can buy with a manual transmission today—but thanks to its tall gearing it's also slower than the automatic Hellcat in a straight line. 0-60 mph is around four seconds, compared to the promised 3.4 with the automatic.

[After-the-Fact Check: Independent testing finds the automatic Hellcat Widebody turns in a 0-60 time closer to 3.8 seconds.]

According to Dodge's official stats though, 0-60 in the regular-fendered Hellcat is 3.6 seconds. So the wider tires do aid in acceleration a bit.

willscourtney
Yeah, but you can still lay down a nasty burnout.
/giphy burnout

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kylecheromcha
The difference is far, far more noticeable in the corners. The Widebody stays planted in curves that would have its skinny sibling sailing off the cliff's edge.

willscourtney
Speak of acceleration: I know it's sacrilegious on the internet to say this, but there's not enough of a benefit to going Hellcat for me to choose it over the SRT 392.

kylecheromcha
4.2 seconds vs 3.4 seconds

willscourtney
I remember, back when the Hellcat first came out, I wound up behind one on Interstate 8 out in Arizona when I was in the 392. We were both picking our way through traffic at 70, and as soon as the road ahead cleared out, I heard him kick down, so I planted my foot on the gas. I stayed pretty close on his ass all the way to at least 120.

I have to wonder how much of that 0-60 difference comes down to tires.

Jonathan Harper

kylecheromcha
I see what you're saying, though he still won in the end and that's what counts in racing (right?). Math would say only a little comes down to tires—also the 392 uses a larger naturally-aspirated engine vs. the supercharger in the Hellcat. If you both started from a stop, I don't think it would have been that close.

There's also something wonderfully sinister about that supercharger whine. It sounds special.

So your ideal Challenger would be a 392 with a widebody package?

willscourtney
Probably a Scat Pack with the Widebody, yeah.

kylecheromcha
Worst trim name in recent memory, Scat Pack. I know the historical connection. But man, not great connotations there.

willscourtney
I like my Challengers like I like my whiskey: Cheap, potent, and leaving me screaming Lynyrd Skynyrd at the top of my lungs.

How'd you feel about the interior?

Sam Bendall

kylecheromcha
Before we get there, just one more thing on the price: The Scat Pack Will is talking about (485 horsepower, 475 pound-feet of torque) starts at just over $38,000. The Hellcat, at $58,000. I looked up those numbers to argue that he might as well just get the Hellcat, which dropped $5,000 in price this year. But damn. That's a lot of car for $38,000.

No "told you so?"

willscourtney
Sorry. I fell asleep while you were writing your latest novella of a post.

[After-the-Fact Check: Kyle often takes several minutes to compose a thoughtful Slack message.]

kylecheromcha
Rude.

Anyway, the interior is a surprisingly nice place to be. It's got these chunky bolstered seats that would look ridiculous in anything but a Challenger, and they mostly hold you in place. My tester was swaddled in handsome saddle brown leather. More saddle brown leather on everything, please.

willscourtney
Agreed on that count. Saddle brown leather ALL the things.

kylecheromcha
The overall dashboard design plays it a little too safe and hasn't aged quite as well as the exterior. But it's hilariously and fittingly expansive - there's about an acre of flat space on top between you and the base of the windshield. Of course, the one I experienced was anchored by a lovely six-speed stick, which makes everything look better to boot.

Worth noting: usable back seats.

willscourtney
Indeed. That alone would make it better than Camaro and Mustang for families.

kylecheromcha
And a big old trunk back there.

willscourtney
But in general, the interior is actually one of my favorite parts of the Chally. It pairs so well with the big V-8 in terms of providing that old-fashioned American car character. There's room to spread out and relax in a way you can't in many new cars.

kylecheromcha 
And how.

willscourtney
It'd never be my first place were I looking for something approximating a sports car...but as a road tripper, it's hard to beat.

kylecheromcha
No doubt...minus the fuel economy, of course.

Jonathan Harper

willscourtney
Well, you can't have everything in life. 

Also, we've discussed this before, I believe, but I really like the Uconnect system in the Chally (and Charger, and Grand Cherokee...) It's so intuitive and simple.

kylecheromcha
Yes! It is one of the best, really.

willscourtney
It kind of feels like it was made for kids. Which, oddly enough, feels like a smart idea.

kylecheromcha
It is sort of a real-life video game. Other manufacturers have started doing this, but few give you the level of data and control found here. Those SRT performance pages include things like adjustable launch control, 0-60 timer, 0-100 timer, braking distance, lap timers, top recorded speed, all sorts of G-force readouts, and more.

It's stupid fun to try and top the previous mark.

willscourtney
Fo'sho. Metrics, baby, metrics.
/giphy moneyball

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kylecheromcha
And Uconnect also gets points for its customizable menu pages, where you can drag and drop icons and shortcuts just like on your phone. Again, something others have moved to recently. But it feels more fluid and seamless here.

willscourtney
All right, two questions, then we'll wrap this thing up. Who do you see buying this thing? And would you recommend it?

kylecheromcha
Ah, where the rubber meets the road. So there are actually two answers to the first question. Who is the buyer for the exact car I tested, a Hellcat Widebody with a six-speed manual? To hear Dodge tell it, the answer is anyone who sees the death of the stick shift as an existential threat. The take rate on manual Hellcats is around 35 percent, compared to 2 percent industry-wide in 2018. There are people out there who have the cash to splurge on such a statement, and few are louder or stronger than the Hellcat. But in general, I think the Hellcat (and to a wider extent, the Challenger overall) rightly appeals to retro-biased enthusiasts who are probably cross-shopping it with the Mustang and see a little more authenticity in what Dodge is bringing to the table.

[After-the-Fact Check: For the 2018 model year, the manual take rate of Hellcats and Hellcat Widebodies combined in the U.S. market was 20 percent]

Then there's the Mopar Mo'Car crowd, who will never tire of it.

And I would recommend it, heartily. I don't think it's possible to not recommend a car like this in 2018. It's a roaring good time, a middle finger raised to a changing world, and one of the most unadulterated ways to experience pure power. Especially at under $60,000. The Widebody adds $6,000 to the price, but even that is worth the money if only for the peace of mind afforded by the wider tires.

Also, I think Dodge is making a mistake with that dual-scoop, nostril-looking hood on the 2019 model. These 2018s will age (and appreciate) well, mark my words.

Jonathan Harper

willscourtney
Agreed that the Mopar Action dudes and dudettes will no doubt continue to eat this up. My test car was the automatic, so I guess the buyers of that fall into that 65-percent-of-lazy-bones-Jones Hellcat owners—but I also see the appeal of the slushbox in a car like this. It's not a driver's car, that enigmatic creature that captivates based on character; it's a numbers car, like a GT2 RS or a Aventador SVJ. Except in this case, the number isn't a lap time, it's horsepower, pure and simple, followed by acceleration. And the auto, as you pointed out, better delivers on that. 

I love that the Hellcat Widebody exists, because it's a testament to the past made all the better by virtue of the present. No muscle car in the Glory Days of Yore could have dreamed of 700-plus horses stock. Now we don't blink at it, thanks to the Hellcat. But I still think that, for what the Challenger is supposed to be in my mind—all-American pleasure that's attainable by everyday folks—it's not worth the extra costs over the lesser models. You can vaporize the tires on that $38K Scat Pack just as easily as you can on the Heckitty with the traction control off.

Okay, any final thoughts?

Sam Bendall

kylecheromcha
I guess it comes down to numbers vs. experience. If you're the kind of person who needs the ultimate version of something, nothing aside from the Hellcat will do, nor should it. (It's worth noting that this car got the most looks and questions from passers-by out of everything I've driven this year, and 99 percent started with Is that a Hellcat?? Do you want to be the one saying no and destroying their dreams in that situation?). But if the purity of a manual muscle car (or simply a older-feeling muscle car) is all you desire, then a lower trim will do just fine. Better than fine, really.

willscourtney
"Buy a Hellcat, Let People Live Vicariously Through You"

You're right. And I certainly see the appeal. Every time I started up the Hellcat, I felt like my 10-year-old self popped his head up in my psyche and started making engine noises while jumping around in the seat. Because Hellcat, y'know?

My car reviewer's rational mind probably wouldn't me buy this over the other versions. But I can toooooootally see why someone would.

kylecheromcha
/giphy vroom vroom

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willscourtney
(Also, I reserve the right to change my mind pending time behind the wheel of the Redeye.)

Okay, well: On that note...
/giphy challenger hellcat

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...huh.

kylecheromcha
/giphy hellcat

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There we go.