Never Stop Driving #93: That Thing Have a Hemi?


The New York Auto show opened last weekend, but I couldn’t be there, which meant I couldn’t park myself next to the new Dodge Charger and hear what people were saying about it.

It’s been about a month since Dodge revealed details of the new model, confirming that its popular muscle car will no longer have a Hemi V-8. Instead, it will be powered by either electric motors or a twin-turbo six-cylinder gasoline engine. The Hemi, and the Charger’s handsome, retro styling, are why the Charger and its two-door Challenger sibling lasted for some 15 years, an incredibly long run in the car biz. The Dodges thrived on ever more outrageous versions of that Hemi V-8, with one that made over 1000 horsepower. How could you not love the nutjobs at Dodge and the brand’s charismatic CEO, Tim Kuniskis? Our kind of people.

Kuniskis, no surprise, is bullish on the Charger Daytona EV, which he bills as a next-generation muscle car. Interesting. I’m certainly open to EVs and love my electric dirt bike, but isn’t an EV muscle car an oxymoron? The outgoing Charger and Challenger have a cupholder in their engine bays, since their owners so often display their cars with the hoods up, the better to show off the Hemi. The V-8 is the point.

2024 Dodge Charger Daytona Scat Pack white LED front light bar and logo

Change is the one constant and often uncomfortable fact of life. The Charger is changing. To make things more confusing, the Challenger name now is parked and both two- and four-door versions are called Chargers. Electric propulsion and the “Charger” name are natural companions, I’ll grant that. The challenge for Kuniskis is to convince the faithful that the new Daytona is a muscle car that’s even better than what came before, rather than a big downer forced by federal regulations and Wall Street’s insistence that automakers go all-in on EVs.

Good luck. Kuniskis and Dodge took at stab at this suicide mission with a fascinating 10-minute promotional video. In it, the CEO positions the EV Charger as its own middle finger to the regulators rather than as the preferred ride for elites who down kale smoothies for lunch. “They told us we couldn’t sell Hemis,” Kuniskis says, so they “used the rules against them to build a muscle car.” The new Charger, he insists, was made for thrills rather than efficiency and is “not the electric car they want the brotherhood to have.”

If we were in normal times, the new Charger would be celebrated as an evolution of a beloved formula. The Challenger was by far the oldest design among the pony-car triumvirate of Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger, yet the Dodge was the bestseller in two of the last three years. But instead, upcoming EPA rules are forcing Dodge, like all car companies, into unknown territory.

Kuniskis has always had the back of traditional car enthusiasts and muscle car fans. I’ve met him a few times and his passion was obvious. In one meeting, I asked for a Hemi engine so we could do a time-lapse assembly video with it. He’d already seen other Redline Rebuilds and quickly agreed. That video now has nearly four million views. I’m inclined to give Kuniskis and the new Charger the benefit of the doubt. I assume, however, that my grace is not so widespread among car enthusiasts. The debate will rage on.

By coincidence, I participated in an industry roundtable that included Micky Bly, senior VP of propulsion systems for Stellantis, the person responsible for the Charger’s powertrain. Bly is a gearhead like us with a view of the future. The discussion is worth a listen.

Speaking of Dodge, we just ran a story about a huge former Dodge dealership building that’s for sale in Butte, Montana. Ring a bell? Butte is the hometown of Evel Knievel, whom we profiled in 2021.

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Have a great weekend!


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    I agree with you 100%. I am truly disappointed. I guess I will be passing my 2016 RAM 5.7 HEMI along as a family heirloom. My son will appreciate it and hopefully my grandson. A great example is the present-day value of the 60’s and 70’s muscle cars.

    To be honest the car will likely be a great car but Americans count cylinders and they like the sound of a V8. Both of these are lacking here and will hurt sales unless people change their thinking.

    This is more a Euro car with an American body. We are not one world.

    That is not the majority. I ran a American 300 HP 4 cylinder at 23 PSI of boost and could run right along with the V8 Mustang. It was of little interest to the most in the American performance segment.

    People with imports are opening minded but so many American buyers count cylinders not total performance.

    You see it now in the truck and SUV segment. GM has a large Turbo 4 that has as much HP and more torque in a wider range and the complaints are still heavy that there are not enough cylinders.

    Will this change? May have to. But most are not open minded. Redditt is not a true representation of what I see daily in customers in the performance market.

    You need to speak to these people in person and at real events.

    Ford did convert a number with the Turbo V6 but even then they still offered a V8.

    Here we are like sheep being lead to the slaughter. No EV should ever be called a muscle car. They will never have the sweet sound of a mean machine unless you are truly into the sound of a sewing machine. I guess Europe does really rule the world. My current ride has a Hemi and my toy has a 440. Never will I let them go .

    I grew up in the times of the “horse power” war. GM family, dad stuck to Oldsmobile products and I idiotically bought a one year old ’68 Z28. I can honestly say that a big block Camaro would have been a much better choice. I was lucky enough to sell the car for the same price I’d paid.
    During my “replacement” search I encountered a fresh off the trailer Challenger. Back then when the snow melted in April the last few inches to go had a production date of October. Why a sales manager would have ordered a Challenger R/T with a 440 and 4speed for stock inventory was beyond belief. It sat on the lot, covered in snow for months, after being booted out of the showroom. It had arrived at the beginning of November, moved to a snow bank in December, and by March the new sales manager was paying interest to Mopar Credit, or whatever the financing arm of Chrysler was called, and tired of cleaning the snow off the car and putting on jumper cables.
    If it was a different colour I probably would have bought it. It was that bright orange which to this day has never looked good on anything other than a traffic cone. In my opinion that is and mine is the only one that matters. Still that street racer vibe lasted till the last one rolled off the line in Brampton and I’ll miss that even though I’ve got too many LS powered car that seem too refined.

    I’m honestly glad it’s gone. They’ve needed a new engine for the longest time, one preferably without 16 spark plugs, along with oiling and water pump issues. Although I’m not committed to this spray-on cylinder liner stuff of the I6.

    I’m not a fan of the way Kuniskis is positioning the car. The language about “they“ told us we couldn’t do this and all that is unnecessarily divisive. He’s trying to appeal to people who are never gonna buy an electric car. And that’s fine if they don’t wanna buy an electric car, but the people who wanna buy an electric car are gonna be off by the way he’s positioning it. Doesn’t make sense in either way. I happen to own a 1971 charger, and I think the new one is just as cool in a different way. I don’t think it needs to be one of the other you can like an old car and you can line EV’s too.

    I can see performance from a EV but I still believe ICE needs to survive. But for it to survive it needs to be done in different ways due to the activist that have been appointed to the EPA.

    I was a V8 till I die guy but my time with a Turbo 4 with 300 HP and 315 FT LBS in a 3200 pound vehicle was a blast. The torque was on tap from just under 2000 RPM to 5300 RPM. I spun the tires at 55 MPH enough on dry pavement to set off the traction control.

    True it does not sound as good. True it was in a FWD vehicle that had a hard time putting the power to the pavement. But the truth is it was a blast to drive.

    The point still is for the average buyer Chrysler or who ever they really are now will have a hard sell on a I6 car. Even when you can get a Camaro with 330 HP in a V6 that is more than many V8 engines that were offered but yet it was never a good seller.

    Cylinder Envy is a real thing and it will be something many will fight.

    Even I went back to a V8 as a Borla never sounds as good as it does behind an LS.

    Some will.

    But yet you will still find Cylinder Envy is a real and major issue. It is partly why sport compact cars are still a small slice of the market.

    Also depending on what parts are available and how afgordable will matter a factory tune could seed the market.

    I learned the Turbo Torque is amazing. I has a 2.0 liter engine that could out run a 60’s muscle car and get 26 mpg mixed hard driving.

    But there will not be as much acceptance as the Hemi had. I expect it will drive demand for the V8 cars more.

    Not out of Immaturity or ignorance just trying to get traction with an inferior FWD.

    There is a difference and if I have to explain it well….

    I bet you never triggered traction control at 55 MPH before on dry pavement.

    Here’s where my lack of interest in Dodge V8’s stems from: Reliability + Fuel Econ + Excessive Weight = No Sale! My first car was a Plymouth Satellite, 2 Dr. HT, Red Interior, AND a 383 4 Brl. Yes! Gas mileage was better than a new Charger, and I had ZERO repair issues for 90K miles. Then a COPO Mustang, followed by 2 Dusters. One was a 340 4 Brl. the other was a six pack. Answer: Develop a small block (300 cu in V8), put the chassis on “Severe Diet” , focus on brakes and handling, offer it with E85. Run a SOHC w/ a 3 valve head, and add Magna Flow pipes just like my Ram Daytona. Weight is the enemy of performance, mileage, handling, and emissions.

    Everything you mentioned is anathema to Dodge. They could have built a Challenger/Charger on the Maserati’s Gran Tourismo/Ghibli platform, and yet…

    6 cylinder hasn’t been a problem for Porsche over the years…

    Yes, much US widely-available and respected horsepower over the decades has been V8. Ford marketing of the 30s stuck hard, that’s why GM doubled-down with the Rocket 88 and all that followed. Helps that the engines were reliable, robust and delivered the goods.

    There’s been some lousy V8 engines too, though.

    As far as Dodge moving forward specifically: If no one offers a V8 in a car over the next 30 years it will become somewhat mythical –kind of like V12 or V16 has been since the 50s. The new Charger is better looking than most designs of the last 40 years (not sure I like it, but it is still better…).

    Cheap speed wins. That’s been the small block and LS formula since 55. If Honda makes a powerplant that atomizes burrito packages (recaptures caterpillar burps or whatever) and produces more power than anything else, while putting it out in their full lineup it won’t be long before burrito-powered 69 Camaros and so on become “the thing”.

    Porsche is not an American Muscle car.

    With enthusiast in the American performance market the sound is as important as the power.

    My customers call Honda’s even with respectable power fart can cars as they may be fast but they sound horrible.

    Borla has made a sound system for the Mach E to simulate a Shelby sound to the driver.

    The sound is a major part of American performance. Pontiac doe TVs ton of money on the 05 GTO exhaust yo get the LS to sound like a 389 Pontiac.

    I really do not expect you will see a burrito powered Camaro anytime soon. Even with 3e0 HP the V6 Camaro was a tough sale.

    The EV is a failed idea from the start. I would be open to the straight 6. But my big issue is actually the size of the vehicle. Why in the hell would they make larger?

    It takes longer cars and taller cars to fit inline 6 engines in them unless you lay them over.

    The 300 SL Benz has a very long hood yo fit the engine. They laid it over to lower the hood. Then oil and other systems become more tricky..

    I care not for the EV and I’ll spare you why. I admire and respect what the Buick Grand National and GNX are. I think of the next Charger with the twin turbo six the same way. I might even buy one.

    Saw this commentary on another site about the Charger EV, but it fits here: “As Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis describes it, EVs are meant to be green and politically correct, but the 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona is not.” This is where Dodge has painted itself into a corner. They’ve spent the last couple decades carefully curating an identity that gives a middle finger to civility and the world in general while making loud noises as their cars do donuts in school zones. Don’t misunderstand, this is a cool car. And I want it to do well. But I think the kind of person attracted to a Tesla or Inoniq or something would cringe at being seen in one of these. Stellantis just didn’t look far enough down the road to reconcile their frat-bro image with their long-term brand strategy. It was always about being a throwback for people who thought the ’60s and ’70s were a better time to be alive. At least their marketing people nailed it reviving the “Six-Pack” name for the ICE 6cyl option.”

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