By Shari Prymak
With its aggressive widebody treatment, mean-looking front fascia, and muscular rear haunches, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody looks ready to do some serious damage at a moment’s notice. As wild and bullish as it looks, appearances alone can’t prepare you for the ruthless, tire-melting, absurdity of America’s most powerful super sedan. Although it flirts in the big leagues with some of the most accomplished high performance machinery from the major players, sophistication and setting record lap times aren’t really the Hellcat’s forte. Instead, this muscle car is all about the simple thrills of lighting up its tires while simultaneously scaring the pants off its occupants.
The bit largely responsible for its lunacy is the supercharged 6.2L V8 lurking under the hood. With 707 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque fed to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission, the Hellcat’s powerplant is really more nuclear weapon than engine. The experience of nailing the throttle can only be compared to stabbing a grizzly bear with a branding iron. The acceleration is just violent. It explodes off the line in a barely controllable manner as the tires clamor hopelessly for grip. If you can keep the rear end in check and hook up the tires, 0-100km/h can be achieved in a supercar rivaling 3.6 seconds.
More impressive than the incredible power is the experience along the way. The engine’s loud supercharger whine and V8 roar are as entertaining as its effortless ability to shred apart rubber. Despite the presence of various electronic drive modes, launch control, and meaty 305-section performance tires, the rear end always feels ready to let loose at a moment’s notice. Treat it with delicacy, however, and the Hellcat has a surprising amount of cornering grip and stability. It never quite sheds the feeling being the big, heavy bruiser that it is, but it is still a highly competent handling machine.
Despite its monstrous power and outstanding performance capability, the Charger Hellcat is perfectly capable of carrying out daily driver duties. The ride quality is perfectly comfortable and suitable for long distance commutes. The rear seats and trunk are just as accommodating as a V6 Charger from the rental counter. Although there are fleeting attempts to dress up the interior like the microsuede headliner, colour-contrast stitching, and carbon fibre trim, it is still a fairly low-rent, utilitarian space. Still, it comes packed with features and well-designed controls that, along with the performance, help justify the $84,345 starting price.
Compared to the far pricier BMW M5 or Mercedes-AMG E 63, the Charger SRT Hellcat makes a rather interesting alternative for a high-performance four-door sedan. Although it lacks the badge appeal, luxury, and polished nature of its European rivals, it more than makes up for it with a wildly entertaining driving experience that no other large four-door can replicate. If you can live with its crude nature and dismal fuel economy, the Charger Hellcat is guaranteed to thrill and excite one short-lived set of tires at a time.