Holy Hellcat, the Horsepower Wars Just Got Real

Dodge Challenger Hellcat

This whole horsepower thing is officially out of control.

Before I really get into things, I’d like to point out a great irony: Automakers across the world are vying to create the most powerful street-legal cars ever available, with horsepower numbers and 0-60 times once reserved for only the most exclusive supercars. Five hundred horsepower was once the realm of fantasy but can now be had in just about any suburban garage across America.

At the same time, automakers are trying to sell the most fuel efficient hybrid and electric cars to econo-loving environmentalists. It’s the very definition of a double standard, yet we all seem to accept it.

Dodge just announced an epic new version of its Challenger, powered by a 600-hp 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat engine. That’s just bonkers. Even the standard Challenger will have a 485-hp V8. Chrysler proudly says in a press release:

New 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat features the all-new supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI® – the most powerful V-8 engine Chrysler Group LLC has ever produced.

At the same time, Chrysler loves to play up its fuel-efficient Dodge Dart as a 40-plus-mpg superstar.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with companies catering to many different kinds of customers. Ford does it with electric cars on one end of the spectrum and the GT500 on the other. BMW does it with the new i3 acting as a counterweight to the heavy and thirsty 7 Series.

The hard thing for a carmaker is convincing your customers you truly care about the environment when you also build gas-guzzling powerhouses. Can you imagine the hit Tesla would take if it came out with a new V8-powered Model S with 600-plus ponies and promoted it as “the most powerful sedan ever produced”?

That would never happen, because Tesla has done such a nice job branding. Rather than building cars to please everyone, Tesla builds cars for a specific niche and is experiencing all kinds of success for doing so.

Which brings me back to Dodge.

Should Dodge forget about fuel efficiency and just build high-horsepower muscle cars and sports cars?

-tgriffith

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