According to a report from Motor Authority, Fiat Chrysler will discontinue its Hemi V8 engines and both the Challenger and Charger Hellcats from its lineup in 2019.
While nobody expected the Hellcat twins to last forever, a four-year production run seems too short for cars that have been so well received. Both the Challenger and Charger have quickly become the new darlings of the modern muscle car era with their 707-horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8 engines.
The blown Hemi’s thunderous roar and ability to liquefy tires brings us back to late 1960s and early ‘70s when high-output V8 engines were all the rage. More so than any other other domestic manufacturer, Dodge has capitalized on golden era nostalgia by offering its legendary Hemi V8 under the hood of not only its halo pony car, but also its family friendly sedans, trucks, and SUVs.
While its foreign and domestic competitors are transitioning to turbocharged four-and-six-cylinder engines to meet stricter EPA fuel-efficiency and emissions standards, Dodge has remained steadfast in its “no replacement for displacement” campaign. However, it has come at a steep price.
As we reported earlier, Fiat Chrysler has been hoarding clean air credits in order to side-step environmental restrictions. But even CEO Sergio Marchionne knows this costly practice is far from a long-term solution. Eventually the credits will run out, and he will be forced to comply with EPA standards.
But for now, Marchionne is relishing in the success of the most powerful muscle car and sedan on the planet while it’s still here. After all, why shouldn’t he? Their admiration is so great that it’s hard read a review of either Hellcat that doesn’t conclude in a recital of the Star-Spangled Banner or patriotic chants of “’Merica.” While it’s still just a rumor at this point, the discontinuation of the revered Hemi V8 engine and SRT Hellcats could damage Dodge’s performance image beyond repair.
According to Motor Authority’s report, the SRT’s 392 Hemi and the Hellcat’s supercharged 6.2-liter V8 will be replaced by twin-turbo four or twin-turbo six-cylinder engines. I can already imagine the look of disappointment in buyers’ eyes when the Challenger that once reminded them of their youth fires up for the first time with a hushed exhaust note quieter than a Toyota Prius.
Turbocharged four-cylinder powerplants can already be found in the sixth generation Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. While they are quickly proving to be an excellent entry-level performance option in the pony car segment, they lack the muscular feel of their V8 siblings. It remains to be seen whether the V8-powered Camaro SS and Mustang GT will soon face a similar fate.
The idea of turbocharged V6 under the hood of SRT models is certainly easier to stomach. Both GM and Ford have already started to showcase the incredible performance potential of boosted six-cylinder engines with a 464 horsepower Cadillac ATS-V and a 600-plus horsepower Ford GT set to arrive in 2016.
But cutting the cylinder count would cheapen the feel of Dodge’s premium models once offered exclusively with a V8 engine. During the height of the muscle car era, six-cylinder Mopars were stripped-down models for the fuel-conscious, economy-minded folk. Rebranding the V6 as a premium high-performance powertrain will be no easy task for Dodge’s marketing team, even with the success of other domestic manufacturers to point toward.
If you look at the big picture, it’s not like Dodge has stubbornly ignored EPA demands for better fuel economy. Variable valve timing, cylinder deactivation and new eight-speed automatic transmissions have greatly improved the efficiency of the former gas-guzzling SRT Chargers and Challengers into very respectable 25 mile-per-gallon highway cruisers. If we’re getting technical, that’s two miles per gallon better than the Cadillac ATS-V with its Earth-saving turbo V6.
With the Hemi V8’s poor fuel efficiency claim obviously overblown, it seems preposterous to villainize a car manufacturer that has already made tremendous strides in cleaning up its act. But the EPA will have the final word, and it’s very unlikely they share the same nostalgic longing for America’s darling V8.