Dodge’s Direct Connection after-sales program boosts horsepower for its traditional muscle cars—as well as future all-electric models.
Performance brand Stellantis NV unveiled six of the nine performance levels it will be offering for its battery-electric muscle car, due out in 2024, and unveiled the new Hellephant and HurriCrate engine series at the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show that takes place Tuesday through Friday in Las Vegas. The display is a collision of heritage and future as Dodge seeks to excite enthusiasts while embracing its electrified vision.
Dodge unveiled a look at that target in August: the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Banshee concept. At the time, Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis said the production muscle car would have three base models, each with two available eStage kits to boost performance.
The vehicle is based on the STLA Large platform, which can support multiple powertrains. The first two base models will have a 400 volt system. The basic equipment with 340 kilowatts offers 455 hp. The Direction Connection kits would boost this to 370 kilowatts with 495 hp and 400 kilowatts with 535 hp.
“Where some stop,” said Kuniskis, “we begin.”
The next trim-up starts at 440 kilowatts with 590 hp. This increases in the first stage to 470 kilowatts with 630 hp and in the second to 500 kilowatts with 670 hp. Top equipment will be an 800-volt Banshee system and the company is waiting to share details on its performance.
“It’s not linear,” Kuniskis said of the Banshee system. “It’s a completely different system. Don’t try to calculate. Trust me: it’s a lot different. Much more.”
A radio frequency controlled “crystal” key is inserted into the dash for each of the stage kits to unlock the higher power levels. The crystals will bind to each vehicle identification number. Kuniskis compared the crystals to the Hellcat’s black and red keychains.
For comparison: The Tesla Model S offers from 670 hp and up to 1,020 hp with the Plaid.
Dodge launched Direct Connection last year, parts for which are sold exclusively through its 100 or so certified “Power Broker” dealers and are available online. It creates an additional revenue stream for dealers who will see a drop in income from electric vehicles as they require less maintenance. Half of Dodge owners also modify their vehicles, and having a power broker install Direct Connection parts allows owners to retain their factory warranty.
That’s especially important for electric vehicles and connected vehicles that update over the air, where improper changes could create cybersecurity risks, Kuniskis said.
“We want to channel it through our Direct Connection and Power Brokers program to support that group of people to make sure we control everything that happens to these cars,” he said. “Now we don’t want to lock the cars and say, ‘You can’t modify them.’ We just want to block them and say, ‘Change them through us so we know it’s done right.’ … We’d rather spend our time dreaming up more mods for you than literally trying to beat up the hackers, because over-the-air updates, these things get hacked, and you can just keep chasing your tail be on it.We want to try to close that door before that door even opens and still give you the ability to modify your car.
SEMA attendees can see – and hear – the concept of Dodge. Company representatives will quiz attendees about its patent-pending Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust, a system that attempts to replicate the air movement in an internal combustion engine that creates its roar to create a similar experience in a near-silent electric vehicle. Dodge uses these results to fine-tune the sound the system produces for production.
“They say, ‘It’s a little too high,'” Kuniskis said, “and we temper that.”
He added that consumer market research has shown that half of consumers are more willing to consider an electric vehicle because of the Fratzonic plenum exhaust.
“We knew it would take time for people to switch to electrification,” Kuniskis said. “And so far, knock on wood, it looks like we’re making a little bit of progress and breaking away some of those preconceived notions of what electric cars can be.”
Dodge is also bringing a variant of the Charger Daytona concept to SEMA in Stryker Red with 18-inch direct-connect lightweight carbon concept wheels and 305mm drag radials. The wheels are from Lacks Enterprises Inc. of Grand Rapids, and it probably won’t be the last time Dodge enthusiasts will see them.
“Yes, it’s expensive, but,” said Kuniskis, “we’ve seen an increase in performance that goes far beyond the weight savings.”
On the gas-powered side, Direct Connection’s supercharged Hellephant line of crate engines features the most powerful lineup of third-generation Hemi-powered cast-iron and aluminum engines to date, ranging from 900 to over 1,100 hp according to preliminary estimates. There are premium and ethanol fuel options.
The program also features Stellantis’ new Mexican-built Hurricane Twin Turbo for the HurriCrate series, with a Cat 1 version delivering up to 420hp and a Cat 3 version reaching up to 550hp, according to preliminary estimates . But Kuniskis stressed his high hopes for the HurriCrate, noting that it will feature the next-gen Drag Pack with a mid-1000 horsepower target.
“That will tell you the kind of confidence we have in the performance potential of this engine,” said Kuniskis, “and some of the things we’re about to do with it.”
Kuniskis also confirmed the return of Dodge’s Roadkill Nights with MotorTrend in 2023, an event bringing legal street racing to Woodward Avenue at Pontiac’s M1 Concourse in August, a week before the Woodward Dream Cruise. The event’s special Grudge Match brings together an experienced drag racer and an online car builder to mentor a “rookie” online designer to build any type of Dodge or Plymouth vehicle with a HurriCrate engine the protégé can race.
Direct Connection is also expanding its line of licensed parts to include the 1500 Hemi crate engine with 1,500 horsepower and 1,000 pound-feet of torque from longtime partner DSR Performance.
Stellantis aftersales brand Mopar is showing an “Elektromod” Jeep with an all-electric powertrain at SEMA this week to explore the possibility of a kit to convert classic and current vehicles into electric vehicles. Kuniskis said there is interest in retrofitting but the focus is on ensuring the best start for the new electric vehicles.
“Motors for EV crates are in such an early stage that I don’t think you’re investing your time, money and effort wisely if you’re venturing into this space now because the number of people actually making the transition can perform is tiny. ‘ said Kuniskis. “It’s so tiny, in fact, that given the hundreds of hours of labor and huge capital expenditures I expended to build these crate engines, they could probably do it just as easily with the production material from a junk car. We’ll get there eventually, but I think it’s premature at this point.”