The Dodge Challenger ACR May Take the Hellcat to the Track

While they make for hilarious fun, the Hellcat variants of Dodge Challenger do give up something to their muscle-car competition. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and Chevy Camaro ZL1 1LE are down on power, true. But their handling upgrades make them better overall. And it seems like Dodge has been taking notes. Recent rumors are saying the Dodge Challenger, like the Viper and Neon before it, is getting the ACR treatment.

ACR moniker history

ACR, Motor1 explains, stands for ‘American Club Racer.’ It was a trim first used on the 1994 Dodge Neon ACR, even before the SRT-4 variant was created. The Neon ACR only had 150 hp, Motor1 reports but offered 4-wheel disc brakes, adjustable dampers, and larger anti-roll bars. 4-door versions had 132 hp, Road & Track reports, but only weighed 2600 pounds. These cars are still competitive in autocross events to this day.

Red 1999 Dodge Viper ACR in front of trees
1999 Dodge Viper ACR | Dodge

But the Dodge most-associated with the ACR trim is the Viper. The first, Hagerty reports, came for the 1999 model year. It had 5-point racing harnesses, front brake vents instead of fog lights, and suspension components from the GTS-R racer. The 1999 Dodge Viper ACR also weighed 60 pounds less than the standard car, thanks to removing the radio and A/C. Plus, its 8.4-liter V10 made 10 more hp, for a total of 460, Autoweek reports.

The Dodge Viper went out of production in 2017. But before it did, Dodge once again offered an ACR. It had a 645-hp 8.4-liter V10, and enough functional aero to drop its top speed from 206 mph to 177, R&T reports. That aero included an adjustable rear wing, dive planes, front splitter, louvers, and stanchions. It also had fully-adjustable suspension architecture and remote-reservoir Bilsteins, stiffer anti-roll bars, and stickier tires.

With all this, the 2016 Viper ACR was it the 2nd-fastest production car at the time in Car and Driver’s Lightning Lap. It’s still in the Top 20. And it appears the Dodge Challenger ACR may be borrowing some of the 2016 Viper’s tricks.

What would the Dodge Challenger ACR be like?

The Dodge Challenger ACR won’t take on the GT500 and ZL1 1LE just by adding power. So no, FCA won’t be making a street-legal version of the 1000-hp Hellephant engine.

Blue 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat in the desert, with the setting sun in the background
2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat | Dodge

That doesn’t mean the rumored Dodge Challenger ACR will be less powerful than the rest of the lineup, R&T reports. Allpar reports the Challenger ACR will offer the 797-hp 6.2-liter supercharged V8 found in the Hellcat Redeye. There will also allegedly be a 485-hp 6.4-liter Hemi V8 available, Motor1 reports.

But the majority of the engineering effort, Allpar reports, will focus on weight and handling. There’s allegedly a goal of keeping the Dodge Challenger ACR’s curb weight under 4000 pounds. Part of the weight-savings strategy will include heavier use of carbon fiber. For comparison, the current RT model, with a 5.7-liter V8, weighs 4182 pounds.

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In terms of handling, Dodge reportedly benchmarked the Challenger ACR against the 2016 Viper ACR. And the Challenger will use some of the Viper’s aero parts. That includes the rear wing, as well as a modified version of the front splitter. The suspension and brakes may also carry over, along with the former’s high degree of adjustability.

Will Dodge make it?

As of this writing, Dodge has neither confirmed nor denied the Challenger ACR rumors. It’s worth point out that these rumors have been circulating since October 2019. It’s possible that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may have derailed the car’s development and release schedule. However, Dodge does have some new incentive to continue it.

White-and-black camouflaged 2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 testing on the racetrack
2021 Ford Mustang Mach 1 testing | Ford

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While the upcoming Mustang Mach 1 isn’t quite a Shelby, it is being marketed as a track-ready sports car. And the current Camaro SS 1LE out-handles the Mustang GT Performance Pack, Car and Driver reports. A Challenger Hellcat ACR would offer more power than either, while the Hemi version might be able to keep up, handling-wise.

Let’s see, then, if the Dodge Challenger Hellcat can be more than a burnout machine.

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