2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody First Drive | Same snarl, more bite

By now, you’ve read a lot about the Dodge Demon, including our driving impressions from the drag strip. You’ve also heard a lot about the Challenger Hellcat, which we’ve had the pleasure of driving at Portland International Raceway, Willow Springs, and on our home turf of Woodward Avenue, both during the Dream Cruise and for an episode of AutoblogVR . Last week, Dodge and SRT invited us out to Indianapolis to sample the Demon, as well as the Durango SRT. Sandwiched between those two launches, however, was another distillation of Dodge’s retro-cool coupe, the 2018 Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody.

It just slightly outperforms the standard Hellcat, as well, with better cornering grip, improved acceleration, and better braking (even though it shares the same Brembo brake package as the standard Hellcat). Dodge claims that the Widebody does the quarter-mile 0.3 seconds quicker, dropping it just out of the 11s to 10.9 seconds. 0-60 miles per hour drops from 3.5 to 3.4 seconds. Lateral grip increases by 0.04 G to 0.97 G on the skid pad. On the company’s 1.7-mile road course, Dodge says the Widebody drops two seconds off its lap time compared to the standard Hellcat, finishing about 13 car lengths ahead.

We spent our time with the Hellcat Widebody on the infield road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sliding into the car, the seating position is cozy and comfortable even with a helmet on, and we have no trouble adjusting our chair and steering column to ideal placement. The infotainment display shows us our drive settings for the next few miles: the transmission and suspension are in Track Mode, steering is set to Sport, with traction set to Street. We fire up the car with an instructor in the right seat, and head out of the pit lane.

Laying into the throttle, we’re mashed back in our seat as the engine snarls up to its 6,200-rpm redline. The whole car shudders with each shift. We’ve left the transmission in automatic mode, which makes those shifts seem even more jarring, as they don’t correspond to a physical input from us. They’re quick gear changes, though, and the car doesn’t lose steam as it crosses 140 mph (the digital speedometer on the TFT display is easy to read) before we run out of track and have to brake for a corner. As we circumnavigate the course again – a bit more aggressively this time – we continue to find the car balanced, compliant, and still really comfortable. These well bolstered seat keeps us squarely in place throughout our laps, and we find it hard to leave it (psychologically, not physically) as we finally come to a stop near the bricks in the pit lane. Our sadness over the brevity of our encounter with the second-best Challenger, though, would be soothed by hopping into the Durango SRT and, later that day, the Demon.

The Hellcat Widebody starts at $70,890 (not including the $1,700 gas guzzler tax), which is $7,300 more than the standard Hellcat, but $13,500 less than the hardcore Demon’s MSRP. If you don’t want to sell your soul to be one of the 3,300 in North America to get the drag-focused Demon, you’ll do well to get the fat cat. Trust us, 707 horsepower is plenty. The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody goes into production later this summer, and will show up in dealerships in the third quarter of the year.