The annual SEMA show in Las Vegas is rapidly approaching, meaning car companies will surely be dangling umpteen teaser images of what they’ve in store for this soirée in the desert. Stellantis is usually good for an outrageous reveal or three, and they’ve started off this year with an electrified bang.
For the first time since American muscle returned to the assembly line in earnest, Dodge’s Challenger has managed to outsell both the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro inside the United States. Though Mopar fans might point out that Dodge would win every year if we bothered to include Charger sales in the headcount or were more precise when making determinations about what constitutes a muscle vs pony car.
Regardless of semantics, the Big Three have their performance icons and the Challenger has taken the two-door sales crown for the first time in modern history. Sadly, it was less about Dodge making inroads with new customers than it was about the other brands flubbing things. Performance vehicles aimed at the middle class are presently experiencing a rough patch, with the Challenger having lost the least amount of ground in the last decade.
Following the PSA-FCA merger that resulted in Stellantis, Dodge has been promising that it would reinvent muscle cars to become all-electric vehicles. This rattled many Mopar fans, with the hardest day being when the automaker teased what was undoubtedly an EV concept inspired by the original Dodge Charger in July. In an act of true sacrilege, it even carried the Fratzog logo worn by many Chrysler products from the era.
This week, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis provided a loose timeline for the company’s planned EV offensive and what we might expect. He also acknowledged that the company knows that some fans of the brand are filled to the brim with trepidation at the prospect of an electric muscle car.
While we knew Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would have to undergo substantial changes after it merged with PSA Group to form Stellantis, many enthusiasts were holding out hope that the North American Street & Racing Technology (SRT) engineering team would skate by unmolested.
No such luck.
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.
While this year’s Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) event was laden with utilities and pickups, American manufacturers have not forgotten models riding closer to the ground. Dodge presented the latest incarnation of its Mopar Dodge Challenger “Drag Pak” — presumably spelled poorly due to the existence of Ford’s Drag Pack cars. Unlike most vehicles at SEMA, it’s something you can theoretically own.
Normally, SEMA display cars exist to showcase individual parts. While this also applies to the Challenger, Fiat Chrysler’s parts arm is at least interested in offering a comprehensive ass-hauling package. It’s a turnkey racer, something the industry has embraced a bit more fully these last few years. Yet the Drag Pak isn’t a track car meant for curves or corners. It’s all about straight-line speed and is legally obligated to keep itself off public roads because it’s not good at doing anything else.
I hardly watch television anymore. I’ve a couple of shows that I keep up with via on-demand or DVR, but generally my time is spent working or with my kids. Occasionally, however, I’ll end up at the in-laws, where invariably they’ll have the old Sony tuned to some half-hearted reality show. One of their faves is Dancing With The Stars, where washed-up tertiary celebs dress in tight clothes and strut for an hour.
Often, one of those stars is a washed-up football player who’s blown through his rookie contract and trying to increase his marketability before the league pension and/or CTE settlement dough starts rolling in. Getting those hulking beasts to move with grace is quite a sight.
You can see where I’m going with this. Yeah, the platform on which this 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody is old enough to vote. But Mopar engineers, in creating this package, have taught this bruising lineman to shake a leg in style.
Thanks to its unique ability to keep old things fresh, Dodge has become the Tupperware of automotive brands. Instead of a patented burp that locks in freshness, the automaker fields an endless supply of special editions, and yet another entry has appeared for 2019.
While Dodge has spent time refining its aged LD platform vehicles by repeatedly sprucing up their powertrain and bodywork, its specialty seems to be appearance packages that add stripes, decals, and unique paint options. A gradually expanding roster of factory racing stripes greeted buyers in recent years. First available on SRT variants of the Charger and Challenger, Dodge eventually made them an option for R/T buyers, adding a broader choice of colors for good measure.
There have also been numerous black editions, one of which wandered over to Chrysler to help butch up the Pacifica, but it’s the Charger Hellcat that receives the latest injection of attitude — not that it needed the help.
Remember when we told you you could purchase Fiat Chrysler’s beastly, 1,000-horsepower Hellephant crate engine last week? Well, you’ve missed the window. After just a few days of availability, Mopar’s mightiest engine is entirely sold out.
According to Allpar, FCA’s inventory was depleted within 48 hours of pre-orders opening for “Hemi Day” (April 26th) after third-party sources began saying the motor was no longer available. The outlet posited that the $29,995 hand-built unit was likely produced in extremely limited numbers and reached out to the manufacturer for verification about its availability.
Apparently, today is Hemi Day in our vast autoverse, though Twitter tells me it’s also Lesbian Visibility Day, while Wikipedia informs me that John Wilkes Booth was shot through the neck in a Virginia farmhouse on this day in 1865.
But yes, Hemi Day. April 26th … 4/26. Get it?
Appropriately, Fiat Chrysler
waited for choose this calendar date to open pre-orders for its monstrous “Hellephant” 426 crate engine, a 1,000-horsepower, 950 lb-ft beast of an powerplant designed to turn your pre-1976 Mopar into an object of fear and testosterone-fueled lust. It now has a price tag.
It’ll have not escaped your notice that the performance arm of FCA is currently going all-in on horsepower. Numbers cresting the 700 mark currently reside in SUVs, while the march towards the stratosphere continues in the Challenger. I firmly believe that, even at 840 horsepower, they haven’t yet reached the upper limits of what a speed-crazed Mopar fan can buy right off the showroom floor.
If that same fan is willing to deal with the “some assembly required” mantra, they can now treat themselves to Mopar’s new Hellephant engine — a supercharged beast making 1,000 horsepower.
Are you ready for a Dodge Omni R-GLH? (Really Goes Like Hell)? Okay, maybe this new engine won’t fit between the fenders of an old Chrysler subcompact, but it will probably plug quite nicely under the hood of your 1970 ‘Cuda.
As is Fiat Chrysler’s wont, they’ve left us plenty of clues over which to mull. All of them point to one thing – a return of the 426 Elephant engine.
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- Tassos Unlike Tim, I don't use this space as a wastebasket for ANYTHING BUT a proper used car.If you seriously need a car AND you are as destitute as Tim's finds imply, HERE IS A PROPER ONE FOR YOUR NEEDS:You can probably get it for only $4k, WITH Leather, Factory Navigation, plenty of room and a V6.https://www.cars.com/research/toyota-camry-2005/I even considered getting it myself as an extra reliable car.
- Jeff Of all the EV trucks I like the Rivian the best but I am still years away if ever from buying an EV.
- Kwik_Shift I definitely like the looks of the newest 300s over the Chargers.
- SCE to AUX "Should car companies shack up with tech giants in order to produce legible infotainment systems and the like? Or should they go it alone?"Great question(s).The River Rouge days are gone, where Ford produced whole cars out of raw materials entering the plant at the other end. Nearly everything is outsourced these days - sometimes well, sometimes disastrously.But the problem with infotainment systems is that they are integrated with the car's operation. VW has delayed entire products for issues with infotainment.For me, the question boils down to a contractual arrangement - who owns and maintains the code forever? Since more and more of the car's function is tied to the infotainment system, I'd argue that the car mfr needs to own it - especially the larger ones.Do mfrs really want to share intellectual property with Huawei just to fast-track some code they've managed themselves in the past?
- Kwi65728132 I always did like the styling of the 300C and it was on my short list for a new (to me) rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated V8 luxury sedan but I found a Hyundai Equus that was better optioned than any 300C I could find and for several grand less.