Dodge’s Direct Connection aftersales program boosts horsepower for its traditional muscle cars — as well as future all-electric models.
Performance brand Stellaantis NV gave an idea of six of the nine power levels it will offer on its battery-electric muscle car due to launch in 2024 and unveiled the new Hellephant and HurriCrate engine series at Tuesday’s Specialty Equipment Market Association Show. through Friday runs in Las Vegas. The display is a clash of heritage and the future as Dodge strives to keep enthusiasts excited as they move towards its electrified vision.
Dodge unveiled a look at that destination in August: the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Banshee concept. At the time, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said the production muscle car will have three base models, each with two available eStage kits to boost power.
The vehicle is based on the STLA Large platform that can support multiple powertrains. The first two base models will have a 400 volt system. The basic equipment of 340 kilowatts provides 455 horsepower. The Direction Connection kits would push that up to 370 kilowatts with 495 horsepower and 400 kilowatts with 535 horsepower.
“Where some people stop,” Kuniskis said, “we’ll start.”
The next trim-up starts at 440 kilowatts with 590 horsepower. That increases to 470 kilowatts with 630 hp in the first stage and 500 kilowatts with 670 hp in the second. The top cladding will be an 800-volt Banshee system and the company is waiting to share details on the output.
“It’s not linear,” Kuniskis said of the Banshee system. “It’s a completely different system. Don’t try to calculate. Believe me, it’s very different. Much more.”
A radio frequency controlled “crystal” key plugs into the dash for each of the stage kits to unlock the higher power levels. The crystals are associated with each vehicle identification number. Kuniskis compared the crystals to the Hellcat’s black and red keychains.
In comparison, the Tesla Model S offers horsepower from 670 and goes up to 1020 with the Plaid.
Dodge launched Direct Connection last year, whose parts are sold exclusively through its approximately 100 certified “Power Broker” dealers and are available online. It creates an additional revenue stream for dealers who will see revenues from EVs decline as they require less maintenance. Half of Dodge owners also modify their vehicles, and if a Power Broker installs Direct Connection parts, owners can keep their factory warranty.
That’s especially important for EVs and connected vehicles that are updated over the air, where inappropriate adjustments can create cybersecurity risks, Kuniskis said.
“We want to run it through our Direct Connection and Power Brokers program to support that group of people to make sure we control everything that happens to these cars,” he said. “Now we don’t want to lock the cars and say, ‘You can’t modify them.’ We just want to lock them and say, “Change them through us so we know it’s done right.” … We’d rather spend our time coming up with more tweaks for you rather than literally trying to whack a mole at the hackers because over-the-air updates, these things get hacked, and you can just constantly chase after you We want to try to close that door before that door even opens and still give you the option to modify your car.”
SEMA visitors will be able to see and hear Dodge’s concept. Company representatives will interview attendees about the patent-pending Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust, a system that attempts to mimic the air movement in an internal combustion engine that produces its roar to create a similar experience in a near-silent EV. Dodge will use those results to fine-tune the sound the system makes for production.
“They say, ‘It’s a little too high,'” Kuniskis said, “and we soften that.”
He added that consumer market research found that half of consumers said they would be more willing to consider an EV because of the Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust.
“We knew it would take some time for people to switch to electrification,” Kuniskis said. “And so far, knock on wood, it looks like we’re making a little bit of progress by breaking down some of those prejudices about what electric cars could be.”
Dodge is also bringing to SEMA a variant of the Charger Daytona concept in Stryker Red with 18-inch Direct Connection lightweight carbon fiber concept wheels with 305mm drag radial. The wheels come from Grand Rapids’ Lacks Enterprises Inc., and it probably won’t be the last time Dodge enthusiasts see them.
“Yes, it’s expensive, but,” Kuniskis said, “we’ve seen a performance improvement that goes way beyond the weight savings.”
On the gas-powered side, Direct Connection’s Hellephant range of crate engines features the most powerful range of third-generation Hemi-powered cast iron and aluminum engines to date, ranging from 900hp to over 1,100 based on preliminary estimates. There are options for premium and ethanol fuels.
The program also introduces Stellantis’ new Mexican-built Hurricane twin-turbo for the HurriCrate series with a Cat 1 version delivering up to 420 horsepower and Cat 3 up to 550 horsepower, according to preliminary estimates. But Kuniskis emphasized his high hopes for the HurriCrate, noting that it will include the next-generation Drag Pack with a target of horsepower in the mid-1000s.
“That will tell you the kind of confidence we have in the power of this engine,” Kuniskis said, “and some of the things we’re going to do with this are coming up soon.”
Kuniskis also confirmed the 2023 return of Dodge’s Roadkill Nights with MotorTrend, an event that brings legal street racing to Woodward Avenue at Pontiac’s M1 Concourse in August, a week before the Woodward Dream Cruise. The event’s featured grudge match will pair up an experienced drag racer and online car builder to guide a “rookie” online builder to build any type of Dodge or Plymouth vehicle with a HurriCrate engine for the protégé to race.
Direct Connection is also expanding its line of licensed parts with the 1,500 horsepower, 1,000 pound-feet of torque Hemi Crate Engine from longtime partner DSR Performance.
Stellantis’ after-sales brand Mopar is showing an “electromod” Jeep with an all-electric powertrain at SEMA this week to explore the possibility of a kit to convert classic and current vehicles into electric vehicles. Kuniskis said there is interest in retrofitting, but the focus is on the best launch for the new EVs.
“EV crate motors are so in their infancy right now that I don’t think you’re spending your time, money and effort wisely going into that space now because the number of people who can actually do that conversion is miniscule,” said Kuniskis: “It’s so miniscule that they could probably do it just as easily with the production equipment from a scrap car if I spent hundreds of man-hours and huge capital expenditures building these crate engines. We’ll get there at some point, but I think it’s premature at the moment.”