In the face of an inevitable EV onslaught, Dodge is determined not to go quietly into that good night. Yesterday, they showed plans for a half-dozen Charger/Challenger special editions for its final model year in 2023, tag-teamed a shop in Florida to make Chally convertibles, and heralded the return of the Durango Hellcat.
Pop quiz, hotshot: What job combines a Challenger Hellcat, wrestling champ Bill Goldberg, and a $150,000 paycheck? If you answered with something along the lines of Vince McMahon’s assistant or slightly-above-board import/export professional, we totally understand.
In reality, that’s the job description for Chief Donut Maker at Dodge. Yep – you read that correctly.
As the character Q said to Captain Picard on the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, “All good things must come to an end.” This time around, the phrase refers to a snippet of information about the mighty Hellcat engine family, plus a few other details gleaned in a conversation with Tim Kuniskis at last week’s L.A. Auto Show.
To put it bluntly now’s the time to act if you want a brand-new Hellcat-powered vehicle.
Few car companies on this planet do special editions with the vigor (and frequency) of the American brands at Stellantis. Dodge, Jeep, Ram, and – to a lesser extent – Chrysler all return to their respective wells in search of a way to quench their thirst for profits.
This time, the retro-inspired Charger and Challenger brothers have once again been enrolled in Special Ed(itions) class. Specifically called the Jailbreak models, these Hellcat Redeye Widebody machines will permit customers to unlock color combination ordering restrictions while layering on new factory-custom options.
Most large sedans exist to provide comfort and some level of luxury to their owners. Some have a bit of sport, and some are bought to haul humans while others are meant to coddle the driver, regardless of whether they’re sporty or not.
Then there’s the Dodge Charger Hellcat, which exists to kick ass while also being an easy commuter.
Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis has repeatedly suggested that electrification would be a keystone trait of tomorrow’s automobiles. But he never sounds truly gleeful about the prospect, injecting the level of joy one might reserve when announcing that the trip to the grocery store after noticing spartan shelves in the kitchen. Kuniskis is aware that Dodge’s lineup caters heavily to automotive size queens and that its ability to manufacture those models is swiftly coming to a close.
Despite the former FCA giving the brand the go-ahead to manufacture V8-equipped behemoths like the Hellcat, the newly formed Stellantis auto group may be less inclined to continue those efforts and the freshly installed Biden administration seems wholly committed to doubling down on environmental regulations that were already at odds with high-output automobiles. Kuniskis typically stops short of discussing these issues as the death knell for automotive performance, suggesting instead that electrification will open new doors for the industry while closing a few others. But he occasionally issues statements hinting that he’s not quite so enthralled with or as hopeful about EVs as his contemporaries.
Putting a Hellcat motor in every vehicle you sell, at this point, comes off as a bit lazy. We’ve become almost numb to cars in the Dodge lineup making 700 horsepower or more, so numb that we sometimes forget how insane 700 horsepower is in a family car. But the tactic works for Dodge, and each subsequent Hellcat I drive I find them more and more surprising. For the 2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat, the same thing applies.
I didn’t plan for it to happen. It just did.
I had requested a Shelby GT500 loan because I’d driven the car on the launch but wanted to see what it’s like to live with the king of current Mustangs in the real world. Because the car is likely in high demand among Chicago-area automotive journalists, the loan would be short. So I’d have a gap in my schedule.
I don’t need test cars to get around. I am not dependent on them – I don’t feel beholden to the fleets or the automakers. I have other ways to get around, whether it be walking, biking, using a cab/Uber, or whatever. But I try to schedule cars each week, either so I can review them for TTAC (even if it takes a while to actually get around to the write-up, sorry gang) or at least use them as background for knowledge and comparison.
For 2021, five Fiat Chrysler models will boast available Hellcat power. But only for 2021.
The recently unveiled Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat, with its supercharged 6.2-liter V8, can only legally exist for one year before new EPA emissions rules come into effect for 2022. The constrained lifespan means the Durango Hellcat is destined to be a relatively rare ride for all time. And getting into one will carry a steep premium over the previous top-dog model, the SRT 392.
Dodge continues to parade its buffet of power ahead of the July 4th weekend, announcing the most aggressive versions of its coupe, sedan, and SUV. While the 2021 Dodge Durango lineup happens to be last we’ll cover, we wouldn’t consider it the least important — especially in regard to sales. Most transactions will come via the standard Durango model, which receives a number of exterior enhancements and sweeping upgrades to its interior.
But it wouldn’t have been right for FCA to just leave us with a better SUV after showing us what could be done with the Challenger and Charger. So it crammed the Hellcat’s 6.2-liter V8 inside the Durango before calling it a day, satisfied that it had finally done enough for enthusiasts before emissions regulations manage to ruin their lives forever.
You’ve probably never looked at the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and thought to yourself, “There’s no way I’m going to buy that thing until the factory makes one with 797 horsepower and a stop speed of 203 mph.”
Those are figures best left to high-end exotics even rich people rarely drive, not the plebeian family sedan. Besides, Dodge has already done so much to make the Charger as menacing as possible, and the Hellcat variant is already the fastest production sedan in existence. There would be nothing to gain by adding another 80 horsepower and 57 lb-ft of torque except continued bragging rights. It’s a preposterous notion. Yet Dodge happens to be a ridiculous company, absolutely loves bragging, and has earned the right to do so.
Our coverage of Dodge’s latest and greatest performance products continues with the all-new Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye.
It seems Dodge, the most flag-wavingly patriotic of all domestic brands, may have something fearsome in store for its aging Durango SUV.
Amid a flurry of Super Bowl ad spots Sunday night, Dodge offered up an orgy of tire-smoking horsepower and Vin Diesel, no doubt prompting its viewership to immediately envision themselves tearing up the local soccer field under the cover of darkness. But did it also offer up a clue?
When Dodge first built a Challenger, back in 1959, it was actually a Coronet. A decade later, the car returned as the spiritual foundation of the coupe we know today. Presumably, the name is intended to represent Chrysler rising to meet the Challenges laid by rival manufacturers already building American muscle. But we can nitpick here endlessly, going back to the 1950s and giving the pentastar brand plenty of credit for going bananas on horsepower.
It would actually take decades for us to realize the Challenger’s true purpose — serving as a canvas for a hilarious number of special edition vehicles. Thankfully, they usually turn out to be fairly enjoyable and totally on brand, leaving us with little to complain about.
For the Challenger’s 50th anniversary, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to offer limited production Dodges in new colors with commemorative bling. It’s basically the same recipe Ford used for the 50th Anniversary Mustang but with some additional brashness from Dodge. However, while those Fords only came in Wimbledon White and Kona Blue, the Challenger comes in every high-impact paint color FCA has at its disposal — including Gold Rush.
There is definitely a sense of pride piloting a machine — be it car, pickup, or an off-road rig — that you built up with your own tools and your own two hands. We’re not talking about Factory Five levels of build-it-yourselfness, however, but rather the satisfaction of putting in the wrench time to either restore or modify something to your own liking.
YouTube is rife with channels of gearheads doing just this, so when the DIY Gang Family completely rebuilt this barn burner of a Hellcat, it got your author thinking: what’s the most-ambitious project you’ve ever attempted?
No one has a need for a large family sedan that produces over 700 horsepower.
But I’m glad one exists.
Dodge is now offering a wider Charger Hellcat and Scat Pack in a bid to keep reminding us enthusiasts that the Charger’s aging platform may still have plenty of life left in it. Somehow, this trick continues to work.
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