One of the year’s hottest new engines almost never happened.
In early 2011, as Fiat was developing a strategy for Chrysler and deciding where to spend scarce product development funds, the 707-hp Hellcat Hemi V-8 debuting in the 2015 Dodge Challenger and Charger didn’t make the cut.
The project was shelved and engineers scattered to work on other projects, said Chris Cowland, Chrysler’s director of advanced and SRT powertrain.
Still, the idea for a new and superpowerful Hemi engine wouldn’t die among the SRT team, which continued to lobby for the engine. Four months later, Chrysler’s product development committee reversed its decision.
Even though the first Hellcat-powered Challengers and Chargers have yet to be sold, the payback already has been enormous. The Hellcat Challenger arrives at dealerships in a few weeks, and the Charger version is scheduled for the first quarter of 2015.
Never mind the engine’s incredible power ratings, the highest ever for a regular production engine in a Detroit car. The Hellcat has probably already paid for itself by helping recast the Dodge division as Fiat Chrysler’s performance brand. You can’t buy the kind of publicity the Hellcat has generated.
Chrysler’s PR maestros have played the Hellcat for all it is worth. The engine has been an Internet sensation. Nearly every word, tire-shredding photo and sound bite of the snarling exhaust has been gobbled up by octane junkies.
Cowland recently explained how Chrysler engineers coaxed the 707 hp and 650 pounds-feet of torque out of the Hemi V-8.
It took a lot more, he said, than just dropping a beefy supercharger between the cylinder heads. “Ninety-one percent of the content in the Hellcat is new,” Cowland said. And some of the engine’s new parts are intriguing.
To reach the 700-hp target, Cowland said, Chrysler engineers knew they had to optimize every part and every system in the engine.