Pontiac – When Hellcats growl, the Banshee howls.
At least the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Banshee electric muscle car concept does. It is the formal introduction for Stellantis NV brand enthusiasts to the vision for the flagship version of Dodge’s battery-electric muscle car to enter production in 2024 after the Challenger and Charger, as they are known, disappear after 2023.
Muscle has defined Dodge’s performance image. While EVs have proven to be fast and able to provide maximum torque instantly, there is skepticism among muscle fans, especially lovers of the roar of a supercharged V-8. As government regulations demand better fuel economy and cleaner vehicles, Dodge needs to turn it around while finding a way to stay true to what its enthusiasts adore and differentiate itself from the competition.
“We can watch streaming videos at home and say we’re not going to be a part of it,” Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said of the electric shift ahead of the vehicle’s unveiling during the third and final day of the “Speed”. Week” of the brand. festivities at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac. “The party is on. The band is booked. This thing happens, so we said, ‘Okay, if it’s going to happen, let’s go to it like Dodge. Let’s crash this party and do it differently from everyone else.'”
Forget silent EVs. Dodge chose the name Banshee based on the sound of its production patented “Fratzonic” exhaust system, an exhaust system that, instead of expelling pollutants, moves air through an amplifier and tuning chamber like a pipe organ. Through an exhaust pipe, the system projects a sinister growl and buzzing scream at 126 decibels at revs—as loud as the Hellcat’s vroom.
“We think we’re going to be part of the market that people probably don’t see coming,” Kuniskis said, “but they’re definitely going to hear it coming.”
Like the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron, the Banshee has a transmission, a patented “eRupt” multi-speed system with electro-mechanical shifting. And to achieve a 25% improvement in today’s vehicle aerodynamics, Dodge took from the history books the nose cone design of the Charger Daytona, which in 1970 was the first vehicle to break 200 mph on a NASCAR track, making it was banned.
The Banshee adds an “R-Wing” (patent pending) to the front of the vehicle in honor of Gary Romberg, the rocket scientist who designed the ’70s racer, to make it look like a more traditional muscle car.
It’s a long, low two-door Charger – not the four doors of the current Charger – with a new large hatch in a “Greys of Thunder” exterior paint. As previously teased, the Banshee marks the return of Dodge’s ’60s and ’70s Fratzog logo illuminated on the ’68 Charger-inspired grille and taillamp. Carbon fiber intakes at the front and rear at the bottom also help with aerodynamics. There’s no frunk on this EV.
“It looks like a real muscle car, aerodynamically like a full BEV,” Kuniskis said, “but not melted jellybean.”
Lenny Melton, 44, of Charlotte, North Carolina, who’s in town for Roadkill Nights and the Woodward Dream Cruise, agreed: “It’s great,” he said. “It looks like a muscle car should look.”
Dodge is keeping the performance figures a secret, though it says they outperform the Hellcat engine. There were no details on the range or time from 0 to 60 mph, and little information on the battery. The Banshee is an 800-volt propulsion system, though Dodge plans to offer three power levels, including a 400-volt option, Kuniskis said.
Dodge’s Direct Connection aftersales parts catalog offers two more steps for each of those three levels, similar to the tuner and stage kits it launched for the current gas-powered muscle setup.
“When you get to a certain point, your hair splits,” Kuniskis said. “You split hairs about the performance, about what are the songs we’re talking about. We believe there’s more to it than just a single song. We believe it’s the whole experience.”
Some of the upgrades may be available through over-the-air updates in the future, he added, though Dodge is generally looking for customers to purchase and install these Direct Connection tools through its certified Power Broker dealers.
“We’re going to try to make sure we go through a Power Broker dealer,” Kuniskis said, “because we want to make sure we’re matching the customer with the right level of performance.”
In general, with electric powertrains, there isn’t much differentiation, says Sam Abuelsamid, chief e-mobility analyst for market research firm Guidehouse Inc.
“They understand what their customers are and what they want,” he said of Dodge. “They tried to come up with a unique take on an electric powertrain to keep the characteristics of a muscle car while still being electric.”
Having that performance focus is already an advantage for the brand as it introduces EVs, says Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for automotive information website Edmunds.com Inc.
“Other companies haven’t had the chance to fully define their EV verticals,” she said. “The EV perspective defines them more broadly.”
The four-wheel drive vehicle has four driving modes – auto, sport, track and drag – which affect the vehicle’s performance and the interior experience. The PowerShot push-to-pull feature debuted on the new Dodge Hornet crossover that provides extra on-demand horsepower and makes its way into the Banshee by pressing a button on the steering wheel with a flat top and bottom.
The vehicle itself is built with 21-inch wheels on the Auburn Hills-designed STLA Large platform. Stellantis has said the unibody platform can provide a range of 500 miles, though Kuniskis says you shouldn’t bet on that with this design.
“Please don’t try to feed that back because the things we’re doing with this car are not range,” he said. “The front end, the transmission, the sound system, they’re not range enablers.”
However, the different power levels will ensure a range that is in line with that of the competition. He said, “I’m not going to worry about the actual number. The Hellcat Redeye has 170 miles. Sure you can stop, fill up, but range is not a reason to buy for that customer. As long as I have competitive range, I’m going it’s good. You’re never gonna hear me brag, ‘I’ve got the best range.'”
Kuniskis added that Stellantis’ $35.5 billion investment in electric vehicles and software includes efforts around addressing charging challenges, including charging speed.
In the Banshee, passengers experience an open-air feeling with a panoramic glass roof. The driver-facing cockpit features a fighter-jet-inspired hood that flips up to reveal the starter button. In terms of technology, a 12.3-inch center screen, the largest on a Dodge to date, tilts 10 degrees toward the driver, who also has access to a 16-inch instrument cluster and an 8-by-3-inch head- projected up onto the windshield. A throwback pistol-grip shifter gets a modern twist. The rear seat can be folded down for extra space.
“The Charger Daytona will redefine American muscle,” Kuniskis said. “He’ll run to the auto shows, he’ll run the quarter mile, he’ll drive to Costco because of the tailgate and completely flat seats. It’s got UV functionality inside. It’s four-wheel drive, so it can handle the weather.”
Despite the explosive demand for larger vehicles such as SUVs and trucks, there remains a market for muscle cars, Kuniskis said. Dodge sold more than 215,000 vehicles in the United States last year, including nearly 133,000 Challengers and Chargers. The Challenger was the best muscle car in the country in 2021.
“No one wants a car, but within that segment of cars, muscle cars have endured,” he said. “Why? Because they weren’t just any cars. They were what Dodge was and what muscle cars do. They had the style, they had the performance, they had the attitude, they had the agility, they had something that made that person feel have that they were part of something other than just the purchase of a vehicle.”
The sound system, transmission and R-Wing are all efforts to preserve the emotion and attachment that make Dodge cars the cars buyers want but don’t necessarily need.
“It doesn’t replace Hellcat,” Kuniskis said. “It’s not a Hellcat. It’s not trying to be a Hellcat.”
He confirmed there will be no EV Hellcat as Kuniskis says Dodge will not use internal combustion engine names for battery electric offerings. But the references to that heritage help create a connection with the public, noted Stephanie Brinley, chief automotive analyst for S&P Global Mobility.
“All of that adds up to creating an experience that’s more emotional and intuitive than many electric vehicles to date,” she said. “We’ll have to see how it executes. The potential is there.”
After a first look at the vehicle, the only thing Pete Seguin, 62, of Ottawa, Ontario, could think of to criticize was the flat, Tesla-style door handles. Overall, he said, “It’s pretty tough. It’s got real sound. Everything else just has a speaker to warn pedestrians. It’s very impressive.”
Justin Palmer, 14, of Clarkston also raved about the room’s exhaust system: “It could meet what the people wanted compared to the Hellcats.”
Kuniskis declined to say where the future production electric muscle car will be built. The current Challenger and Charger are assembled in Brampton, Ontario, outside of Toronto. Brampton will be retrofitted for an electric platform in 2024, but production is not expected to resume until 2025. Industry forecasters have suggested the muscle car will be built in Belvidere, Illinois, where the Jeep Cherokee crossover currently resides.
On how close the concept is to that production model, Kuniskis is adamant: “This is not a science project.”