Caraganza First Drive Review 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody: Long live the Demon



When Dodge announced the Demon last year, it was met with much fanfare. Rock music, smoke, movie stars, the reveal was a huge production that no doubt set the Dodge brothers back more than a few pennies.  The big to-do was warranted, after all this was the world’s fastest street production car, a street-legal drag racer or “the heavy-fisted muscle car brute with the soul of a Viper” as Dodge called it.

It lasted one model year.

But fear not my muscle car enthusiasts, you can still get one, at least on that’s pretty darn close. It may not carry the Demon name, nor was it introduced in a cloud of smoke and loud rock music, but the truth is that while you won’t be able to buy a new Demon, you can still enjoy the experience.

What was lost amid all that tire smoke last year was the fact that the Demon was actually a limited production model. In all there were only 3,300 Demons, with 3,000 going to the U.S. and 300 to Canada. The last one rolled off the assembly line this past June.

I, of course, love the Demon.  An 840-horsepower beast with a 6.2-liter Hemi Demon V-8 under the hood that required you option in passenger seats.  However, most of us could never own one.  Not because of the price, which was an MSRP of around $80,000, but because 840 horses on the street for most of us is just too much to handle.

The truth is that many horses under the hood, along with 770 pound-feet of torque (it’ll hit 60 mph in 2.3 seconds, 100 mph in 5.1 seconds and rocket down the quarter-mile in 9.65 seconds at 140 mph) is far too dangerous for the average driver.

A short tale: back in the day I bought a 1980 Trans-Am. At the time I had been out of racing for a few years but still worked as a mechanic. The shop boss let me work on the car in the shop after hours. With access to all sorts of wonderful things I rebuild the motor, added a NASCAR style suspension and transmission; I lowered it, lightened it made room for fatter tires and put racing seats in the front. I never did know how much horsepower was under that hood but after a few trips through the mountains of North Carolina, I knew I couldn’t keep it. I towed it to Florida and drove it a few more times, but my daughter who was about 7 at this point was always laughing in the passenger seat and screaming for me to go “faster daddy.” I knew that eventually that Trans-Am would be found wrapped around a tree with charred human remains inside. So, I sold it.

I realized then that too much horsepower in the wrong hands can be downright stupid.  The Demon with its 840 horses was meant to be raced on a drag strip, not driven around town.



The Hellcat however is a different story.

The Widebody version keeps the Demon alive.   That’s because the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody is essentially an SRT Demon without its 840-horsepower Hemi.

And it’s a beautiful thing indeed.

The Widebody adds fender flares, a front splitter shared with the Demon, new 20×11-inch aluminum wheels, 305/35ZR20 Pirelli tires and electric power steering with selectable modes. The selectable modes are Sport, Track, Default and Custom which pretty much let a driver tailor the Hellcat and unleash it or keep it tame.

The 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi under the hood can crank out 707 horses and deliver 650 lb-ft of torque to the road.  This can send the Hellcat from 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds and to a top speed of 199 mph. That is of course if you have the all-important (cue the angels) red key. With the black key some of the horses are kept in the barn, leaving a driver with 500, which is plenty enough for everyday driving. And that’s the beautiful thing; the Demon is a great machine, a once in a lifetime sort of thing. But it’s the kind of car meant to be parked and taken to the track on occasion. This Widebody Hellcat on the other hand can be driven every day. The red key can stay at home until you head to a track.

My week with it, and the black key, was pure unadulterated motoring nirvana.  The whine of the supercharger combined with the high pro exhaust was like an orchestra. When unleashed, the 500 horses were more than enough to slam you back in the seat and leave you smiling.  Those 500 horses are also near the top of the range on the street for most drivers; fully unleashing them puts you on the ragged edge; 200 more would most likely put many over the edge and leave this beautiful machine wrapped around a tree somewhere.

It’s also reasonably affordable.

Try to find a Demon for under $100,000.  They are not being produced anymore and only brokers and private owners can get you one, and for a pretty price.

The Widebody Hellcat however is still being produced and starts at $63,795. My tester for the week with all the options I could ever want topped out at $78,770.

And I can assure you that it is absolutely worth every single dollar.

I’ve driven many cars over the years, and I like many of my fellow gearheads was salivating like Pavlov’s dog when the Demon was debuted.  I knew I could never have one. But with this Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody I learned I can have just as much fun; without the worry or expense that comes along with the Demon and those 840 horses.

This will be at the top of my all-time favorite street cars for some time I imagine, and it will be hard to kind something that will knock it off.

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody
MSRP: $63,795
MSRP (as tested): $78,770
Engine: 6.2-liter supercharged V8, 707hp @ 6000 rpm, 650 lb-ft torque @ 480 rpm
Transmission: TorqueFlite 8HP90 eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 13 city, 22 highway, 16 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions):  15 mpg
Base Curb Weight: lbs    4448

Exterior Dimensions
Wheelbase: in     116.2
Length, Overall: in     197.5
Width, Max w/o mirrors: in     79.2
Height, Overall: in     55.7
Track Width, Front: in     64
Track Width, Rear: in     63.7
Min Ground Clearance: in     4.5
Liftover Height: in     33.2

Interior Dimensions
Passenger Capacity:     5
Passenger Volume: ft³     93.9
Front Head Room: in     39.3
Front Leg Room: in     42
Front Shoulder Room: in     58.5
Front Hip Room: in     55.3
Second Head Room: in     37.1
Second Leg Room: in     33.1
Second Shoulder Room: in     53.9
Second Hip Room: in     47.8
Weight Information

Basic: 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 5 Years/60,000 Miles
Corrosion: 5 Years/Unlimited Miles
Roadside Assistance: 5 Years/60,000 Miles

Greg Engle