Hellcat-powered Challenger SRT gets big boost to fight Mustang, Camaro

New engine rated at more than 600 hp

UPDATED: 5/20/14 12:50 pm ET -- adds details

DETROIT -- The 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT unveiled today is Chrysler Group’s first use of a new 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine rated at more than 600 hp to take on the Ford Mustang GT500 and Camaro ZL1.

The motor, known as the Hellcat, is expected to rival that of the 640-hp, 8.4-liter naturally aspirated V-10 that powers the automaker’s halo car, the 2014 SRT Viper.

According to the automaker’s five-year business plan, the supercharged Hellcat is expected to migrate to other SRT vehicles, including the Charger SRT. The Hellcat is undergoing final calibration and does not yet have a specific power rating, a Chrysler spokesman said.

The Challenger SRT goes on sale later this year. Pricing was not announced.

The current 2014 Challenger SRT has a 6.4-liter naturally aspirated V-8 that produces 470 hp and 470 pounds-feet of torque. The Challenger is heavier and larger than either the Mustang or the Camaro, and in head-to-head comparisons usually trails in performance ratings. The 2014 Mustang Shelby GT500 is rated at 662 hp, while the 2014 Camaro ZL1 is rated at 580 hp.

For 2015, Dodge will split its Challenger SRT into two levels -- one with its traditional 6.4-liter Hemi, which has been increased from 470 hp to 485 hp and its torque rating from 470 pounds-feet to 475 pounds-feet -- and the higher-end version with the Hellcat. Either can be mated to a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.

On a Web chat with journalists and others, Dodge engineers and executives said that the Hellcat achieves its peak power levels at 6,000 rpm, and that the Challenger SRT’s front fascia and hood are unique to Hellcat versions.

The Hellcat-powered Challenger will come with two key fobs, Dodge said. A black key fob automatically limits the engine’s output to 500 hp, while a special red key fob unlocks its full power. A separate valet mode that can be unlocked only by a programmable code dramatically limits the output of the Challenger SRT engine to no more than 4,000 rpm and disables launch control.

Dodge is also introducing new electronic drive modes on the 2015 Challenger SRT that uses electronic switches through the coupe’s Uconnect infotainment system to control horsepower, shift speeds, steering, traction and suspension.

Chrysler Group folded its fledgling SRT brand back into Dodge as the company presented its five-year business plan on May 6. It also recast Dodge going forward as its affordable performance brand, and CEO Sergio Marchionne said recently that SRT is a “natural extension” of the Dodge line.

For 2015, Dodge freshened all of its Challenger models, including expansive interior upgrades and minor exterior touches that keep the vehicle’s retro styling mostly intact. The Challenger SRT was noticeably absent from the lineup when the remaining 2015 Challengers were revealed at the New York auto show earlier this year.

“The new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat is the ultimate performance muscle car,” Dodge brand head Tim Kuniskis said in a written statement. He said the Hellcat was “the most powerful V-8 Chrysler has ever produced.”

Kuniskis said pre-ordering for the Challenger SRT and Hellcat-powered versions would open up this summer, and that volumes won’t be limited.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett



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