Too many times, automakers try to be all things to all people. The end result can be a portfolio of vehicles that is more average than exceptional.
They’ll cut whole segments out of their lineups and build more of what they think the mass consumer wants, creating more unexceptional vehicles in a sea of mediocrity.
So, it is interesting when you encounter a manufacturer that goes against the stream and focuses on its own core consumer, and to heck with anyone else.
Hello, Dodge. You’re a breath of fresh air.
“Dodge is a 3 percent brand in a huge industry,” said Matt Huber, senior manager for Dodge/SRT product. “We stopped trying to appeal to the other 97 percent.”
And in focusing on its enthusiast fan base, Charger and Challenger sales have gone up. In fact, Charger just had its best third quarter since 2006 – pre bailout – and Challenger had its best third quarter sales ever.
Not bad for a couple of passenger cars when the world is thirsting for SUVs.
By listening to customers, Dodge has created another special vehicle that is one-part family sedan and two-parts track car.
The 2020 Dodge Charger Widebody is the culmination of SRT engineers and designers pushing a sedan to its performance limits. The result: The most powerful and fastest mass-produced sedan in the world.
“We wanted to make it something a kid would want to put on a poster in his bedroom,” said Chris Piscitelli, manager for Dodge/SRT exterior design. “And that’s not easy to do when you’re talking about a sedan.”
Dodge added 3.5 inches of body width with integrated fender flares, 20-inch by 11-inch wheels, “monster” Pirelli 305 tires, Brembo 6-piston front calipers, a new mail-slot grille, front splitters that integrate into the widebody flares and electric power steering.
It’s also worth noting that launch control, launch assist and line lock features are standard on all Charger Widebody models, with the race cooldown technology also being standard on the SRT Hellcat.
The overall effect, in Piscitelli’s words: an aggressive, unapologetic car.
The interior manages to look both sporty and plush at the same time.
The SRT Hellcat we drove had the caramel leather seats with the carbon interior package. The Scat Pack had red suede seat inserts. They both suited their respective exterior colors of F8 Green and Triple Nickel.
If you are familiar with Dodge vehicles, there are no surprises with the gauges and controls on the Widebody as they echo what you see in other Chargers. Everything is clearly labeled and organized as well as intuitively placed.
The Charger Widebody will be available in three variants for 2020: Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat and the Daytona 50th Anniversary Edition.
The Scat Pack, similar to its slim-bodied brother, comes equipped with the 392-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 engine that delivers 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. This translates to a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.3 seconds and a quarter-mile sprint in 12.4 seconds at 111 mph.
The SRT Hellcat will only be available as a Widebody for 2020, and it comes equipped with the 6.2-liter Hemi V-8 Hellcat engine that delivers 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. It’ll run the 0-to-60-mph sprint in 3.6 seconds, has a top speed of 196 mph and will complete a quarter mile in 10.96 seconds.
The Daytona pays tribute to the 1969 Charger Daytona and will feature a unique “Daytona” decklid and rear-quarter decal. It’s only available in four colors – B5 Blue, Pitch Black, Triple Nickel and White Knuckle – and it will have a limited run of just 501 vehicles.
The Daytona will be equipped with the 6.2-liter Hellcat engine, but it will be specially tuned to produce 717 horsepower.
The only transmission available in all variants: An 8-speed TorqueFlite 8HP70 transmission.
During the preview, we drove both the SRT Hellcat and Scat Pack on the street and track.
Both are amazing and fast.
But the Scat Pack has more finesse where the SRT Hellcat possesses sheer brute force.
On the street, this meant quicker acceleration for the SRT Hellcat, and I often found myself at higher speeds on the highways without realizing it. Owners of this vehicle will likely find cruise control useful for avoiding speeding tickets.
On the racetrack, the lighter-weight Scat Pack felt a little nimbler and handled corners with more grace.
In general, both vehicles are comfortable as the seats are well bolstered and supportive, and the suspension does well for daily driving in street mode. But the beauty of this vehicle is the custom SRT Performance Pages that let you go from commute comfort to track stiff in a couple of screen taps.
Pricing for the 2020 models will be as follows:
- Scat Pack: $45,995
- SRT Hellcat: $69,645
- Daytona 50th Anniversary Special Edition: $74,140
For comparison, the base price of a Charger SXT with rear-wheel drive is $29,895. All prices listed are without the $1,495 destination fee.
The 2020 Dodge Charger Widebody will be available for orders starting in November, and the vehicles themselves will show up in dealers starting in early 2020.
The bottom line:
Dodge knows its customers, and it pushes the limits of design and performance to keep them happy. The 2020 Dodge Charger Widebody, with its grippy, wide “monster” tires, is faster and more fun to drive than its slim-bodied counterparts, and it is unabashedly unapologetic.
However, I have an inkling this isn’t the end of performance innovation for Charger.
During his presentation at the press preview, Huber said the Widebody was just “step 1” toward bringing Charger on more equal performance footing with Challenger.
We eagerly await “step 2” and hope it culminates in a word that starts with “dee” and ends with “mon.”
Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Dodge covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.