By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN Business
Dodge, famous for offering cars with big and powerful V8 engines, is phasing out some of its iconic gas-powered muscle cars in favor of electric power. To usher fans into this new era, the company has opted to recreate some of the thrills of a muscle car — including shifting gears and a loud exhaust — in an electric concept car it unveiled Wednesday.
It’s part of a general shift from Dodge, the U.S. performance car division of Stellantis, to electrified vehicles. The brand’s current gas-powered muscle cars, the Charger and Challenger, will cease production next year. The concept muscle car, dubbed the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT, resembles a model that executives say will go on sale in 2024. It will join a new small SUV called the Hornet, which will be available as a plug-in hybrid and go on sale later this year.
The Charger Daytona has exhaust pipes that make noise and a transmission that shifts. Of course none of that is necessary in an electric car, but Dodge assumes that the target customer is not looking for what is strictly necessary. These customers are looking for excitement, said Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis, which requires more than just rapid acceleration.
“We think we’re going to bring a car to market that customers didn’t see coming,” he said. “But they’re definitely going to hear this one coming.”
The Charger Daytona makes low, loud booming tones that sound a bit like high voltage electrical equipment. The sounds are not produced by loudspeakers, like the sounds of most electric cars, but by pulses of air forced through pipes with baffles and chambers inside.
The air pulses vary in speed and strength depending on how fast the car is going and how hard the accelerator pedal is pressed, much like the air pulses created by an internal combustion engine. The sounds it produces can reach up to 126 decibels, according to Dodge. That’s about the level at which ears begin to hurt and well above the level at which prolonged exposure can cause hearing loss, according to the National Hearing Conservation Association.
Unlike most electric cars, the Charger Daytona has a transmission with more than one or two gears. Most electric cars only have a single speed transmission because electric motors, unlike gasoline engines, deliver their full torque at even very low speeds and continue to deliver that power at very high revs. Gas engines, on the other hand, have a relatively narrow rpm range where they can deliver full power, so it is necessary to have a multi-speed transmission to keep the engine within that “power range” as the car slows and accelerates.
But Dodge’s designers and engineers felt that EV drivers could miss the sounds and sensations of shifting a transmission, so while it’s not really necessary, the Charger Daytona has a multi-speed transmission. Kuniskis won’t say how many gears the transmission has. The gas-powered 717 horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat has an eight-speed transmission. Classic Dodge Charger muscle cars, like the one the EV is modeled on, had three- or four-speed transmissions.
Dodge has not yet announced how much power the four-wheel-drive car’s electric motors will produce, though the company promised it will be faster than the Dodge Challenger Hellcat “in all major performance metrics.” The supercharged Hellcat, a petrol rear-wheel drive car, can go from standstill to 100 kilometers per hour in 3.7 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
With its narrow rectangular nose and dark color, the Charger Daytona EV resembles a late 1968 Charger. In its dark paint color, it closely resembles the Dodge Charger used in a famous chase scene in the movie “Bullitt”, the one who chases – and being chased by – Steve McQueen’s Ford Mustang.
The front of the Charger Daytona EV hides a wing that runs just above the “grille”. The wing allows air to pass underneath, improving the car’s aerodynamic efficiency. Air vents cut into the sides at the front and rear of the vehicle also help improve the aerodynamics of the generally square body.
Dodge hasn’t said how much the production version of the car could cost when it goes on sale.
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