Mopar Drops 1,000-Horsepower Crate Engine Bombshell at SEMA 2018
Following a number of teasers in the run-up to the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas, the speed gurus from Mopar, FCA’s in-house performance group, pulled the sheets on a brand-new, utterly custom Dodge Charger concept car, and with it, a new crate engine that puts last year’s “Hellcrate” package to shame.
Teenagers Steal Hellcats, Promptly Crash Them
Last week, four Dodge models, including two Hellcats, were stolen from a dealership in St. Peters, Missouri, according to local affiliate Fox 2 News. At approximately 1:30 AM last Friday, a group of teenaged suspects managed to snag the high-performance muscle cars and get them off the lot, but apparently, three of them crashed “almost immediately.”
“They lost control of them fairly easily,” said St. Peters Police Officer Melissa Doss. “They made it less than a mile.”
The suspects were apprehended on foot shortly thereafter. The three suspects are aged 16, 17, and 19 years old.
The 16-year-old will be tried in juvenile court, while the 17- and 18-year-old will be tried as adults.
Unfortunately, two of the cars seem to be totaled.
“It’s going to take several months to replace before Chrysler will give me allocation to replace them, so this one left is kind of special,” said Frank Schaffer, general manager at the Napleton Mid Rivers Dodge dealership where the cars were stolen.
In case you were unaware, the Dodge Charger Hellcat and Challenger Hellcat are both powered by a 6.2-liter V-8 that’s supercharged to 707 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque. It’s enough output to propel the RWD rocket ships to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, with top speed in excess of 200 mph. Pricing starts at $62,495 for the Challenger, and $65,945 for the Charger.
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The 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat is without question one of the most important products that Dodge and Fiat Chrysler have built in recent years. The car has been touted as the perfect combination of power and efficiency and yet, it almost didn’t happen if not for Chris Cowland, FCA’s director of advanced and SRT powertrain development. In a story that will likely go down in the halls of FCA as a legend in it of itself, Cowland and his team created a Hemi V-8 engine that few thought was possible. And yet they did it and the rest, as they say, is history.
As the Detroit Free Press puts it, Cowland, back in 2011, managed to convince FCA’s brass that included CEO Sergio Marchionne to build the Hellcat engine. Once he got the approval to build a 600-horsepower engine, Cowland and his powertrain team began cooking up the design for the HEMI-based engine. Not long after that, word reached the team that Ford was developing its own 600-horsepower engine to slap into the Shelby Mustang GT500. Cowland immediately went back to the executives asking if he could twist the Hellcat engine and squeeze 675 horsepower out of it. Management approved on the condition that the engine would be developed in the same time frame and the extra power would not come at the expense of reducing its fuel economy.
Turns out, Cowland and his team wasn’t intent on settling for just 675 horsepower and had already mapped out a plan to exceed 700 horsepower for the Hellcat engine. The whole projected was shrouded in so much secrecy that when the horsepower tests were verified by the Society of Automotive Engineers showing the Hellcat producing a total of 707 horsepower, the numbers were never released within the company. According to the Free Press, it became FCA’s equivalent of the Manhattan Project with people working on one part of the engine not knowing what those working on another part were doing.
Ultimately, Cowland’s visionary plan has paid off in spades for both Dodge and FCA as the company has sold over 15,000 units of the Challenger Hellcat and Charger Hellcat models. More importantly, it gave Dodge a jolt in the arm that it needed at the right time, something Cowland admitted was one of his objectives when the plan to build the Hellcat engine was first cooked up. “We wanted to make a statement and move the brand forward.”
Consider that mission accomplished.
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Dodge didn’t expect the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to be as popular as they are. In fact, the demand was so high, Dodge just couldn’t keep up. All 2015 models have been spoken for, and all remaining orders that cannot be fulfilled have been canceled so production of 2016 models can begin. Not all of the cancellations are the fault of Dodge or Chrysler as a company, though – a few sketchy dealers unethically took orders after they hit their order cap for the muscle cars.
The good news is that, as of Monday, August 17, 2015, you can now reserve a 2016 Charger or Challenger Hellcat – with a deposit, of course. Dodge also thought ahead and changed up its ordering system as well. This time around, dealerships will not be able to order above their order cap. Moreover, to help accommodate such a high demand for both vehicles, Dodge has expanded its Hellcat testing capabilities — it will now be able to produce more the twice the number of Hellcat models than it did last year
With the success of the Hellcat models, Dodge is planning on bringing the SRT and Hellcat badges to other models in its lineup. Dodge hasn’t speculated on what models yet, but I suspect we’ll see the Hellcat come to the Durango, 2017 Dodge Ram and maybe even the Barracuda — if Dodge and SRT change their minds about axing the fish car. Despite the demand from customers to create a Viper Hellcat, Dodge has implied that it does not intend to do so. The Viper is a “perfect” track car, according to Dodge, and throwing the Hellcat engine into it would disrupt the 50/50 weight ratio that makes the Viper what it is. Of course, if you’re looking to purchase a Viper anytime soon, the 2016 Dodge Viper ACR and its extreme performance should more than satisfy you.
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“It’s like the ’71 Hemi all over again.” That’s a pretty good way to sum up the wildfire sales success of Dodge’s 707-horsepower Hellcat twins, and it’s how Dodge and SRT CEO Tim Kuniskis explained it when asked about that success. Now, Dodge is responding to the laws of supply and demand by giving the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat a price increase of $2,500 and the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat an increase of $1,950 for 2016. In return, customers get new standard equipment, including Laguna leather and navigation.
Kuniskis also spoke with Detroit News about broader plans for the Hellcat brand. Dodge has sold roughly 4,500 Hellcats so far in 2015 and plans to double production next year. The previously limited supply meant several customers spent months on waiting lists, which often led to dealers taking deposits for orders they weren’t certain could be fulfilled. In response, Dodge has cleared orders of 2015 Hellcats and reset them for 2016, though customers who initially ordered 2015 cars will get a 2016 at the same cost. A new ordering system also ensures that dealers can’t take deposits for cars they can’t deliver.
The production bottle neck was apparently caused by a limited number of dynamometers at the factory. Each Hellcat engine requires a rigorous 42-minute test, and Dodge has remedied this with expanded dynamometer capacity. Now that Dodge has the capacity to meet demand, expect continued Hellcat sales growth, even despite the minimal price increase.
How do you feel about 700-horsepower muscle cars? What about Phil Collins? If these are both things you appreciate, then you’ll probably find a lot to like in Dodge’s latest marketing campaign, entitled ‘Predators.’ The sinister new spot features a 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat, 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat and a 2015 Dodge Viper GTS executing a few smoky donuts and skidding around the deserted nighttime streets of Miami. Phil Collins’ 1981 hit ‘In the Air Tonight’ provides the soundtrack — which science has proven to have the greatest drum-fill in the history of music.
The new commercials, both 30- and 90-second versions, highlight Dodge SRT’s halo products and how they shape Dodge’s image as a whole. “We don’t build Hellcats or Vipers for high volume, we build them as brand positioning statements,” says Dodge, SRT and FCA boss Tim Kuniskis. “These vehicles may be a small percentage of our overall sales but they send a very strong message about the brand personality and attitude.”
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By now, everybody and their grandma knows what the Hellcat name means for Dodge. It’s synonymous with 707 horsepower of supercharged V-8 goodness that makes both the Challenger and the Charger extraordinarily ferocious machines of American might. There are countless write-ups with hard numbers of 0-to-60 times, quarter-mile runs, and so forth. This isn’t one of those reviews. No, I wanted to know what it was like to live with and drive the most powerful production sedan on the planet throughout the week.
Obviously the four-door Charger should be much easier to live with than the 2+2 Challenger – that’s a given – and it proves true. Despite the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat’s insane amount of horsepower and torque, it’s still a Charger underneath. Show up to the rental counter at your local airport, and you can drive the Charger minus the powertrain, fancy (and functional) hood scoops, and performance rubber.
That fact actually helps the Charger Hellcat. Sure it’s a powerful sedan, but it also foregoes the usual compromises associated with a performance-focused machine. So let’s get down and dirty in the daily grind of owning a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.
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