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Dodge fans may have mixed feelings about the new Charger Daytona EV. Not necessarily because it’s electric, and certainly not because its 800-volt SRT Banshee trim promises to trounce Hellcat performance. But some may be upset that the brand-new car will ship in a sort of high horsepower limp mode. You will need to purchase an aftermarket “upgrade” key from a Dodge dealership to unlock this eMuscle car’s full horsepower.

Direct Connection Charger Daytona keys cost extra

The way Dodge tells it, the company is taking a “stair step” approach to eMuscle performance. This means that you will be able to purchase the regular Charger Daytona EV with a horsepower rating anywhere from 455 to 670, or SRT trims with even more giddy-up. And while not all Charger Daytonas will possess the hardware for 700+ horsepower, they will all be limited by software–software that you must pay to remove.

The fender and SRT Banshee badge of a red Dodge Charger Daytona eMuscle EV.
Dodge Daytona SRT Banshee concept | Stellantis

The most basic Charger Daytona will ship from the factory making 455 horsepower (that’s 340 kW if you speak EV). If you take your car into a Direct Connection licensed Dodge dealership, you can purchase an “eStage 1” upgrade to bump it to 495 horsepower or an “eStage 1” upgrade to bump it to 535 horsepower.

Likewise, the next trim Charger makes 590 horsepower stock. Upgrade kits endow it with 630 or even 670 ponies.

This sounds a lot like the “Stage 1” and “Stage 2” upgrades the same dealers offer for the Hellcat. But with the V8 Dodges, these kits include serious new hardware to improve the vehicle’s performance. What does the official Dodge Direct Connection dealership “eStage 1” and “eStage 2” upgrade kit for the Charge Daytona include? A dashboard key.

The Hellcat pioneered multiple key fobs

The Charger Daytona is far from the first Dodge with a special, high-horsepower key. When Dodge first rolled out the SRT Hellcat engine for the internal combustion Charger and Challenger, it gave owners two keys.

Detail shot of the Direct Connection Stage 2 badge insise a new Dodge Charger Daytona eMuscle EV.
Direct Conneciton badge | Stellantis

The standard key unlocked the supercharged V8’s full 707 horsepower. A second “valet” key fob could start the Hellcat but knocked a couple of hundred horsepower off its output. It was a pretty handy option for when your teenager begged to borrow the Hellcat.

There is a major difference between the Hellcat’s key fobs and the “Crystal” key that unlocks the full power of the Charger Daytona and Charger Daytona SRT Banshee: Dodge is charging extra for the EV’s full power key. Did Dodge suddenly get greedy? Why does it think EV buyers will bother with an eMuscle car that only comes with a lackluster “valet” key? The real reason may have more to do with the dealerships than Dodge itself.

Dealers are concerned about how little EV maintenance costs

The MOPAR Insiders blog has an interesting theory as to why Dodge is charging extra to unlock the Charger Daytona’s full potential. It reports that Dodge dealerships are very concerned about electrification. Not because of the cultural impact of the death of the V8 or the mining of lithium. Dealerships are worried about their bottom line. They are worried because EVs are proving to need a lot less maintenance than traditional, internal combustion cars.

Red Dodge Charger SRT Banshee concept EV on stage at an auto show, an advertisement playing in the background.
Dodge Daytona SRT Banshee concept | Stellantis

Dodge’s dealership association is scared less dealer service will put them, partially, out of business. It seems that it has been leaning on Dodge itself to ensure higher dealer profits.

When Dodge first announced it would be phasing out the current Challenger and Charger and promised an eMuscle lineup, it made a second, seemingly unrelated announcement. Dodge brought back its “Direct Connection” aftermarket performance line. Direct Connection parts are advertised as Dodge-engineered, track-ready performance upgrades. And they are only available from licensed Dodge dealerships.

To pull off this Direct Connection revival, Dodge trained many of its dealer techs to upgrade its V8 muscle cars with approved parts. And it could have continued this tradition into the eMuscle era: there are some legitimate ways to upgrade and tune an EV. But it appears that instead, Dodge dealerships will be charging extra to unlock horsepower your car is already physically capable of making.

Next, find out if you will someday have to pay a reoccurring fee to unlock horsepower or watch the Dodge Daytona unveiled in the video below:


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