Why is Dodge Discontinuing the Charger & Challenger?
The Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger are legendary muscle cars that can trace their popularity back to the 1960s and 1970s. More recently appearing in the Fast and Furious movie franchise and other popular films and TV shows, these automotive treasures helped capture a spirit of independence and speed. But, nothing lasts forever, especially in an industry where more and more automakers are shifting their focus to electric vehicles.
As a result, it comes as no surprise that Dodge is dropping the gas-powered Charger and Challenger after 2023. Their potent Hellcat and Hemi V8 engines aren’t keeping with the times as automakers focus on kilowatts, not horsepower.
Why is Dodge Discontinuing its Muscle Cars?
Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis has hinted that the brand’s future won’t include high-powered internal combustion engines. “The days of an iron block supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 are numbered,” he told CNBC in a 2021 interview. So, enthusiasts of the SRT Hellcat, SRT Jailbreak, and other over-the-top model variants can’t be totally unaware that this fateful day has come.
With growing environmental concerns and flashy EVs from Tesla, Lucid, and others getting more attention, Dodge has no choice but to go with the flow. Fully sensing the paradigm shift, the 122-year-old brand felt the time was right to scrap its gas-guzzling heritage.
There’s also another factor in Dodge‘s favor; it’s now part of the multi-national and multi-brand Stellantis corporate umbrella. When it was part of scrappy Chrysler, resources were always modest, so the opportunities to flourish with new products were limited. But Fiat‘s 2014 acquisition of the Mopar world helped lay the groundwork for today. Fiat Chrysler merged with PSA Peugeot Citroën in 2021 to form Stellantis, an Amsterdam-based corporation whose brands include Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Maserati, and RAM.
What’s Next for Dodge?
The new structure under Stellantis is already paying off for the Dodge brand, as their first new vehicle in a decade, the Dodge Hornet, will reach its dealerships later in 2022. Based on the subcompact Alfa Romeo Tonale, the Hornet is a plug-in hybrid, marking Dodge‘s first electrified vehicle. And much to Alfa Romeo’s chagrin, the Hornet will have a starting price of $10,000 less than the least expensive Tonale.
But Dodge is ready to cast off its bonds with the past, as next year will see a series of seven “Last Call” editions of the storied Challenger and Charger. The first of these, the 2023 Dodge Challenger Shakedown, will debut in November at the 2022 SEMA show in Las Vegas. The limited-edition Shakedown will feature unique exterior and interior treatments, with a 345-cubic-inch Hemi V8 under the hood.
Dodge has also teased its legion of fans with the Charger Daytona SRT Concept. This all-electric coupe idea could foreshadow what’s ahead. Among the features highlighted during the 2022 Dodge Speed Week event reveal is the new 800-volt Banshee electric propulsion system. Should this go into production, the system would be in the upper range of capabilities, as Lucid and top-tier GM models use 800- to 900-volt EV systems. In comparison, Tesla uses 300- to 400-volt systems for its models.
Among the other distinctive aspects of this EV concept are a multi-speed transmission (most EVs have a single-speed gearbox) and the ability to artificially produce an exhaust sound as loud as the current SRT Hellcat.
About the Charger & Challenger
This pair of memorable Dodge vehicles dates back to the height of the muscle car era when the Big Three battled for youthful buyers with the need for speed. Competitive offerings of the day included the Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, and Pontiac GTO.
The Charger entered the automotive world for the 1966 model year and shared components with the more-sedate Coronet family. But, this was a highly contested period, so Dodge didn’t hesitate to roll out an all-new Charger for 1968. The second generation is arguably the most memorable of classic Chargers as it embraces the popularized “coke-bottle” style body made famous by the Corvette; it also served as the basis for the original and legendary Dodge Charger Daytona.
With the rise of emissions and safety regulations, the third-generation Charger (1971-1974) adopted a bulkier profile thanks to more pronounced hind quarters. Yet, Dodge introduced a brand new car named the Charger in 1975, formulated as a personal luxury coupe to take on the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The Charger nameplate would also appear on the brand’s small front-drive hatchback coupe from 1982 to 1987.
The Charger name was resurrected as a four-door sedan in 2006, with the seventh-generation (and second version as a sedan) continuing to this day. Dodge cleverly found a market for a family-friendly four-door in a market dominated by sports coupes.
Chrysler introduced the Challenger in 1969 (a 1970 model) as Dodge‘s performance benchmark (the car also shared components with its corporate cousin, the Plymouth Barracuda). A dizzying array of engines included the 426-cubic-inch Hemi and 440-cubic-inch V8s, with the former cranking out 425 horsepower (a significant feat during this time). But the onset of restrictive federal emissions regulations spelled doom for this iconic coupe, and Dodge axed the model after 1974.
Challenger fans howled when the name was used on a rebadged Mitsubishi coupe from 1978 to 1983. However, all was right again in the Mopar world as Dodge relaunched the Challenger for the 2008 model year. This cleverly designed coupe had just enough retro touches to pay tribute to the original Challenger. At the same time, modern technology made the car relevant to performance-hungry consumers. And like its original mandate, this new Challenger serves as the showcase for Dodge‘s performance engineering. Recent models, such as the Challenger SRT Jailbreak, offer up to 807 horsepower. There are also other six- and eight-cylinder powerplants for those looking for less expensive insurance and fuel bills.
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