American Muscle? First New Dodge SUV in a Decade is Italian Underneath
Burning rubber, roaring V8s, aggressive looks: Dodge has leaned into its American muscle car identity over the last decade. But while existing models have received the hot rod treatment, Dodge has quietly kept its lineup the same for a decade. That changes in 2023 with the arrival of the all-new Hornet, Dodge’s first genuinely new vehicle in a decade. However, the new Hornet SUV may not be as pure an American muscle car as Dodge would have us think. There’s a dual identity at work in the Hornet. The new Dodge SUV has Italian DNA from the Alfa Romeo Tonale.
Is the new Dodge Hornet just an Alfa Romeo Tonale?
The 2023 Dodge Hornet may have muscular American styling – but look more closely, and you’ll see the flowing lines of Italian design. According to Car and Driver, the Dodge Hornet is no more than a retooled Alfa Romeo Tonale.
Why would Dodge rebadge an Italian stallion instead of developing its compact SUV? It’s all about corporate relationships and cost savings.
Dodge is one brand underneath a larger corporate automotive umbrella called Stellantis. Stellantis emerged after a merger between the former FCA and PSA brand groups. According to Car and Driver, it’s now the fourth-largest automaker in the world by volume. A slew of American-market brands calls Stellantis home:
- Alfa Romeo
The result? Classic American automakers like Chrysler and Jeep can cross-develop models with the likes of Maserati and Fiat. In the case of the 2023 Hornet, Dodge perused the corporate model development catalog and selected an existing vehicle that suited its needs. After some brand-specific tweaking, the Alfa Romeo Tonale became the 2023 Dodge Hornet.
Similarities and differences between Dodge Hornet, Alfa Romeo Tonale
Look at the two sibling SUVs, and the similarities are evident. The Tonale and Hornet share plenty of body panels, especially in the rear two-thirds of each model. Their body lines and windows follow the same patterns. There’s a difference up front where the Dodge replaces Alfa Romeo’s signature triangular grille with a horizontal design.
The significant differences are in the engine bays. Alfa Romeo offers the Tonale with a standard plug-in hybrid powertrain. The new Dodge SUV opts for a more traditional 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with standard all-wheel drive – though it will get its version of the plug-in hybrid system when the R/T trim arrives later this year.
Is the new Dodge SUV a real American muscle car?
Whether the 2023 Dodge Hornet qualifies as an actual muscle car depends on one’s criteria. On the one hand, it hits some prerequisites. It has an American nameplate, it has a punchy engine, and it has sporty styling. On the other hand, its Italian underpinnings and lack of a V8 option may turn off some drivers.
It all comes down to how you look at it. After all, the current Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger started in the 2000s with help from the old Mercedes-Benz E-Class chassis. If the Dodge flagship muscle cars can get away with having German ancestry, then drivers may forgive a little Italian flare in its new SUV.