British Asia Network - Shahzad Sheikh
London 2 December 2019 - You're going to hate this car. As someone who is cautious with spending, considerate of the environment, likes to keep a low profile, drives moderately and takes up as little space as possible on our traffic-infested roads, you're clearly a responsible and sensible citizen of the modern world. Jog on, nothing to see here.
Ah but you're curious now aren't you? What could be so bad about this car - so bad that it's not even officially on sale in the UK? Was it not allowed? Maybe it's banned. Perhaps it should be. After all what justification is there for a car that can suck down 1.5 gallons of fuel per minute on full throttle and is too big to fit through our width restrictions?
What car am I talking about exactly? The 2020 Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody, which I flew to America to drive recently at its international media launch. And it needed to be America, because we needed space. Space enough to deploy a mind-boggling 707bhp in a four-door family saloon car.
The Charger Hellcat with that power from its outrageous 6.2-litre V8 has actually been around since 2015. But for the latest model year it gets a major refresh inside and out, and most significantly of all, the 'Widebody' package to fatten it up. And by that I mean it gains 3.5 inches to its already ample girth.
The styling has been tweaked around the front and rear corners and sides to incorporate huge fender flares, with wheel arches extended to cover massive 20-inch by 11-inch forged split-five spoke wheels in carbon black shod with grippy 305/35/20 Pirelli PZeros.
Inside the wheels sit big steel brake rotors gripped by six-piston Brembo calipers at the front and 4-piston units in the rear - because you will need epic stopping power. There's also Bilstein three-mode adaptive damping competition suspension with stiffer springs (32% tighter at the front), larger sway bars and retuned shocks.
And there's more: electric power steering (EPS); improved air flow to the radiator and 'Race Cooldown' (which continues to cool the supercharger even after the engine is switched off); Line Lock which helps you do burnouts; Launch Control and Launch Assist which detects and quashes wheel hop at launch; plus a new rear spoiler to help keep it pinned down.
The 650lb ft of torque is put to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic. If it manages to grip you'll achieve 0-60mph acceleration in 3.6 seconds, dispatch the quarter mile in 10.96 seconds and hit 315kph if you have space enough, and permission enough. The extra grip from the wider tyres mean you can pull a staggering 0.96 cornering g-force compared to 0.90 previously, it also stops sooner and is 13 car lengths quicker around a 3.4km circuit than its predecessor.
Inside you can access all the various SRT drive modes and settings through the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen. There's sumptuous leather upholstery and carbon fibre trim on the dashboard. As Europeans we like to poo-poo American interior build quality, but this feels solid and fine - and there is genuinely room for a family of five in here.
But forget that and drive it. The wider tyres and all that suspension work make the Hellcat more composed, less intimidating, more cooperative and certainly nowhere near as unruly as you'd imagine, despite all that torque and power. You can drive it calmly if you must, or let the demons take over your right foot and give your passengers whiplash from the traffic lights and exit screeching sideways out of every junction. That is for as long as you manage to evade getting your licence shredded!
If you like the look but feel that much power will get you into way too much trouble, there is a lesser Widebody sibling to be had - the Scat Pack Charger. I say lesser but the 6.4-litre V8 in that still puts out 485bhp and offers a 0-60mph time of 4.3 seconds. It'll still break traction on a whim and continue to send your passengers moaning to a chiropractor.
It may sound like both these cars would be useless on a fun B-road - but if you can manage the size, and get past driving from the wrong side of the car in the UK, you'll find that both hunker down, turn-in sharply, keep the rear glued when you want it to be and constantly entertain.
Frankly that's what these cars are really about - they're mad, bad and super rad. They'll make you laugh and whoop for joy, and get you sweating when you unleash a little more torque than you intended and spin around in your own cloud of smoke. They're loud enough to awaken your wilder nature, but smart enough to be surprisingly practical and satisfying to smoke about town. Plus the Hellcat is the most powerful production four-door you can buy (at about half the price of the next most powerful petrol four-door, the 680bhp Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid). End of discussion!