Dodge Hell­cat Wide­body

A hint of De­mon ac­tu­ally helps tame the wild Hell­cat

Motor (Australia) - - FIRST FANG -

WHILE SRT’s de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers were busy de­vel­op­ing the earth-scorch­ing De­mon, they also dis­cov­ered some of the nec­es­sary changes could trans­late to the more ‘tame’ Hell­cat. And thus the Dodge Chal­lenger SRT Hell­cat Wide­body is born.

Af­ter trans­fer­ring the De­mon’s 9cm-wider body­work, the in­creased width gives the Chal­lenger SRT

Hell­cat Wide­body a distinc­tive pres­ence. That width lends a proper broad shoul­dered look suited to a mus­cle car with 700-horses in the old money. Sub­tle in some colours, but down­right men­ac­ing in black.

The new flares aren’t riv­eted on in the tra­di­tional JDM style, but care­fully shaped and prop­erly man­u­fac­tured. Even the Amer­i­can-spec side mark­ers are shaped to flow into the new wings. The De­mon’s wider split­ter is an­other carry-over to the Wide­body.

While the De­mon rolls on 18-inch drag-spec wheels and tyres, the Hell­cat Wide­body isn’t so con­strained. En­gi­neers were al­lowed to use all the new­found width un­der those wings.

There’s an all-new 20-inch wheel de­sign that’s a huge 11-inches wide. Mark Tros­tle, head of Per­for­mance Ve­hi­cle Ex­te­rior De­sign, is known to en­joy wash­ing his own cars, and ev­ery shape is im­por­tant, in­clud­ing the wheels. Thus, the de­sign of the new wheel is not just at­trac­tive, but open and ac­ces­si­ble for those who wash their own.

SRT stretches the lat­est gen­er­a­tion Pirelli P Zero tyre over the wheels, sized 305/35ZR20 all round. Just think about that: it’s like hav­ing a Porsche 911 Car­rera S’s rear tyres at all four cor­ners. Mean­while, the new strips of rub­ber are wider and con­sid­er­ably more ad­vanced than the stan­dard Hell­cat’s 275mm-wide tyre.

With greater lat­eral loads be­ing gen­er­ated through the sus­pen­sion, SRT chose to switch to an elec­tric power steer­ing sys­tem, sim­i­lar to that found in its big brother, the De­mon. The stan­dard Hell­cat re­tains its orig­i­nal hy­draulic setup.

Elec­tric power steer­ing gives the Wide­body some ad­di­tional flex­i­bil­ity for lev­els of as­sist in the dif­fer­ent SRT drive modes. Track is per­fectly suited to cir­cuit work, Sport has mid-level as­sist, while the base mode of­fers the light­est steer­ing ef­fort with the great­est level of as­sist.

Of­ten times with mod­ern EPS sys­tems, track modes feel ar­ti­fi­cially heavy, but not with the Wide­body. Track mode’s level of as­sist feels en­tirely nat­u­ral around the famed In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way.

That ex­tra rub­ber and ad­di­tional track width not only makes the Wide­body quicker around a rac­ing cir­cuit, but also more en­joy­able on the road. Dodge says the new tyre and track width are worth about two sec­onds per lap around its home 2.7-kilo­me­tre road course.

That new tyre and wider track also trans­lates into a 0.3 sec­ond bet­ter quar­ter mile time, sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter lat­eral grip (0.97G for the Wide­body ver­sus 0.93G for the stan­dard Hell­cat), and a slight im­prove­ment in

0-97km/h time, which is down to 3.4 from the stan­dard Hell­cat’s 3.5sec.

Not that our bum dyno could no­tice, to be hon­est, be­cause that su­per­charged Hemi’s un­re­lent­ing thrust is al­ready so prodi­gious.

Af­ter all, this is a car that can carry on to 313km/h while look­ing as aero­dy­namic as a para­chute.

What we did no­tice, how­ever, was not just the in­creased lev­els of grip, but a new level of con­fi­dence through high-speed cor­ners. Around por­tions of Indy’s Grand Prix cir­cuit, it only took a hand­ful of laps be­fore we started con­fi­dently slid­ing the Wide­body through mid- to high­speed cor­ners.

Where the Hell­cat earned its rep­u­ta­tion as a tail-happy mus­cle­car, the Wide­body gives the driver sig­nif­i­cantly more con­fi­dence. There are no han­dling sur­prises and the ad­di­tional grip is en­tirely us­able.

As it turned out, the wider track and ad­di­tional grip from the new Pirelli P Ze­ros suited the ex­ist­ing Hell­cat’s sus­pen­sion, trac­tion, and sta­bil­ity sys­tem cal­i­bra­tions. No changes were made to spring or sway bar rates, nor to any of the set­tings for the Hell­cat’s adap­tive dampers.

Given the com­plex­ity of those sys­tems, it may seem sur­pris­ing that changes weren’t needed. But ul­ti­mately the Wide­body re­mains a heavy beast, though with a much more re­solved han­dling setup that drivers will ap­pre­ci­ate.

There are sadly no plans to of­fi­cially im­port the Wide­body to Aus­tralia, but that shouldn’t stop some ad­ven­tur­ous blokes from con­vert­ing some to right-hand drive if a re­fined and mas­sively quick mus­cle car is your sort of ride.

Mighty 527kW Hemi re­mains un­touched, but ac­cel­er­a­tion im­proves thanks to 305-sec­tion tyres

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