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by Patrick Rallin July 2017 (5)
Dodge stole the 2018 high-performance show with the 840 horsepower Demon, but for Challenger buyers who would just like a little better grip from the 707 hp Hellcat, the new Widebody package is the answer.
The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody package is relatively simple; it’s basically a Hellcat Challenger with the flared fenders of the new Demon, a new Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system, new 20x11 “Devil's Rim” split spoke aluminum wheels, and a new Pirelli P-Zero tire measuring 305/35ZR20 at all four corners. As a result, the Widebody Hellcat is quicker to 60 and in the quarter mile than past Hellcat Challengers, thanks to the added traction of the wider tires. The wider tires and new steering system also bring better lateral grip and improved lap times - beating a “standard” supercharged Challenger by more than 2 seconds on a 1.7-mile road course.
That all sounds great, but will wider tires and a new power steering system make a difference that you can feel when driving the 2018 Hellcat Challenger Widebody? To find that out, Dodge invited us to come to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where we tested the Widebody Hellcat on the Classic Grand Prix road course — and the newest high performance Challenger did not disappoint.
Our track time in the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody began on pit row of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We headed out onto the F1 Circuit configuration (with some light modifications due to work being done around the facility). We were running the road course counterclockwise, which is the opposite direction of the Indy 500, so our first turn was just inside of the fourth turn of the oval. The track began with a sweeping left turn followed by a sharp right and a quick sharp left, leading onto a long, sweeping left hand turn. During this initial stretch of the track, it was quickly evident that the advantages of the Widebody package make a clear difference over the “normal” Hellcat Challenger.
I have had the pleasure of testing the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat on a few different road courses, so I have a fair deal of experience with pushing the 707 hp muscle car to its limits. Through the sweeping first turn, I was able to apply more throttle to the wider rear tires without the same concern of smoking the tires and “drifting” through the turn. Traction is also vastly improved when exiting the tighter turns, although as is the case with the original Hellcat Challenger, you have to be gentle with the throttle when building speed as you come out of a corner. You can come out of the turns harder, but you still need to ease into the throttle rather than just flooring it when you reach a straightaway after a series of turns.
In addition to allowing the Hellcat Challenger to power through the turns and exit the turns with far more gusto, the Widebody package tires allow this 4,400 pound muscle car to grip the turns better than the original supercharged Challenger. The Pirelli P Zero tires (275mm wide) on the first Hellcat Challenger make for a great handling car, but the 305mm-wide P Zero tires – which feature a new tread pattern and new rubber compound – allow you to hit the corners much harder without the nose of the car pushing out. Also, when entering a series of S turns which require you to cut from left turn to right turn to left turn, the wider tires keep the car planted better whereas the narrower tires are more prone to sliding when you get to tossing all of the weight back and forth.
While the wider tires are the biggest advantage of the 2018 Challenger Hellcat Widebody, the new electronic power steering (EPS) system also helps make this Dodge muscle car more capable on the road course. With Track mode engaged, the EPS offers the least amount of assist while also providing the greatest level of feedback, giving the driver a much more engaged feel when throwing the car around an intricate road course. The steering system really feels great and I far prefer the feel of the Widebody steering setup over the hydraulic system in the non-Widebody Hellcat Challenger, as the Track mode provides a far more connected feel which I love.
Finally, after using the wider tires and the new power steering system to carve through the tight and wide turns of the Indy road course, we exited onto the front straightaway, slipping through an added chicane before tearing down the famed front stretch and across the bricks at the start/finish line. Thanks to the added grip of the wider rear tires, the Hellcat Challenger Widebody test car was able to reach 130mph as we crossed the finish line while still being able to slow for the first turn – carrying lots of speed through that long, sweeping turn thanks to the wider rear tires.
The video below shows one of my test sessions in the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody, starting with a light warmup lap, moving onto a wide open lap and finishing with an easy cool down lap.
In short, the simple addition of wider front and rear tires under the flared bodywork and a new power steering setup make the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody a better performance car in every way, but our testing didn’t end on the road course.
After finishing up at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we were headed to Indianapolis Raceway Park to test the new Demon, but only after an hour-long cruise in the Widebody Hellcat. My test car was a bright white machine with a 6-speed manual transmission. During the course of my 40 mile road trip, I found that the Widebody Challenger has comparable ride quality and improved handling on the street, but most importantly, those wide rear tires allow the supercharged Mopar muscle car to launch much more confidently. I didn’t make any timed runs, but I was most certainly able to leave a stop light with far more throttle than I could with a Hellcat wearing 275mm-wide rear tires. When power shifting from gear to gear, the Widebody Hellcat spins the tires less than the non-Widebody car.
So, to answer the question “do the changes to the Widebody Hellcat Challenger really make a difference?,” the answer is a resounding “yes”. The wider tires allow the Hellcat Challenger to launch harder, corner harder and leave the corners harder, all without compromising ride quality. While the changes are minimal, the new Widebody Hellcat will most certainly help to make the new Mopar muscle car even more dominant on any track or on the street.
Dodge Challenger Demon Review • Dodge Challenger Hellcats
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