The auto industry is in the midst of its most dramatic transition in more than a century. Just about everything is undergoing change as SUVs and CUVs continue to replace sedans, coupes and sports cars, while internal combustion engines phase out in favor of EVs.
Nowhere is that more apparent than at the Dodge brand. Best known for muscle cars like the Charger and Challenger, it will see the launch of its second utility vehicle later this year, with its first all-electric model slated to arrive in 2024. And, as part of “Dodge Speed Week,” the Stellantis brand is offering up a closer look at what’s to come — and what’s going away.
Among other things, Dodge is teasing a series of limited-edition Charger and Challenger models, and even a drop-top muscle car package. The coming model year also will be marked by the return of the Durango Hellcat.
The Speed Week event will lead us into the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, a celebration of classic muscle and will “pour gas on” the changes coming at Dodge, said brand boss Tim Kuniskis. It will “show people where we’re going.”
The transition, Kuniskis said during a media background briefing, begins this coming year as the long-lived Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger models make their final stand. At least in their current configuration, that is. But they will go out in a blaze of glory.
Among other things, Dodge will offer wannabe racers the chance to buy a rolling Challenger chassis for just $8,995. That package comes sans engine and transmission. But if you want something even more basic, you’ll be able to buy a stripped-down body-in-white package for just $7,995.
You’ll be able to finish the package with whatever drivetrain you want — though you’ll have the option to purchase several different engine and transmission packages from Dodge’s own Direct Connection website.
If you have to go, do it in a blaze of glory, and that certainly describes the Challenger which ended last year as the best-selling muscle car in the U.S.
So, to mark the end of the run, Dodge will introduce seven limited-edition models for 2023. The automaker is keeping them under wraps — quite literally — only showing the “heritage-influenced” muscle cars carefully camouflaged during last week’s background session. About all the automaker would reveal is each has a connection to “an iconic Dodge model from the past.”
Expect to hear more about six of these special edition muscle cars later this year.
A limited run
Dodge plans to produce only a handful of each and they will be shipped to select dealers around the country. Kuniskis acknowledged the likelihood that there could be something of a battle ahead as Dodge fans and collectors race to nab the heritage editions. He promised Dodge will be “completely transparent about where it ships not only the special editions but also all of the final-year production of the Challenger and Charger models to help potential customers track them down.
You’ll be able to find them on a special website: DodgeGarage.com.
The seventh heritage model is being billed as “the very last of its kind,” and will be unveiled during the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas scheduled for Nov. 1-4, 2022.
“We are celebrating the end of an era — and the start of a bright new electrified future — by staying true to our brand,” said Kuniskis. “At Dodge, we never lift, and the brand will mark the last of our iconic Charger and Challenger nameplates in their current form in the same way that got us here, with a passion both for our products and our enthusiasts that drives us to create as much uniqueness in the muscle car community and marketplace as possible.”
More on the agenda
Among other plans for the coming model year, Dodge will expand the number of “jailbreak” versions of the Charger and Challenger to include the 717-horsepower SRT Hellcat packages.
For those who’ve longed for a ragtop version of the Dodge muscle twins, you’ll be in luck this coming year. Well, sort of. “Dodge dealerships will offer an expedited ordering process for third-party convertible modifications for the 2022 Dodge Challenger through Drop Top Customs, the oldest convertible coachbuilder in the U.S.,” the automaker announced Monday.
This will mark the first time you can get a Challenger convertible since 1971. But it won’t come cheap, Drop Top Customs dealers expected to charge $25,999 for the conversion process.
The ongoing demand for the two Dodge muscle cars flies in the face of ongoing industry trends. But the automaker isn’t ignoring reality. Expect to hear more about its newest SUV, the Hornet, later this week. And brand boss Kuniskis already has confirmed that the most powerful version ever of the big Durango will be back for 2023.
The 2023 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat’s supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 will punch out 710 hp and 645 pound-feet of torque. That’s enough to launch the SUV from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and, according to the NHRA, should deliver quarter-mile runs of 11.5 seconds, hitting 180 mph as you blast through the traps.
“The Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat has generated a crazy amount of enthusiasm and demand since it was introduced in 2020 — we even extended its initial production run — so it seemed appropriate to bring back the most powerful SUV ever as part of our historic 2023 model-year Dodge line-up,” said Kuniskis.
Note that Dodge is only promising to have the Hellcat back for 2023, though Kuniskis told TheDetroitBureau.com he hopes to be able to extend the run for the supercharged package.
The challenge will be justifying the cost of producing that big V-8.
When the 2023 model year wraps up, Dodge not only will pull the plug on the Charger and Challenger models but also halt production at its big assembly plant in Brampton, Ontario. The factory won’t be down for long, however. It will undergo a massive transformation that will see it return in 2024 equipped to produce battery-electric vehicles.
And that is expected to include the eagerly anticipated Dodge electric muscle car that we should hear more about later on during Speed Week.