The Dodge Hornet R/T has a PowerShot mode that delivers an extra 30 horsepower for 15 seconds. It has functional hood scoops and Koni dampers. Its in-house tuner parts will be branded with the old GLH moniker for “Goes Like Hell.” The first TV spot for the Hornet is based on the premise that its arrival is an apocalyptic event that terrifies the world. This is what happens when the company that builds 700-plus-hp Hellcats is tasked with building a vehicle to compete against, you know, the Honda CR-V. “What else did Dodge do,” you ask, “name one of the paint colors after a strain of weed?” Yes: Acapulco Gold. If Dodge hasn’t yet licensed Beavis and Butt-Head as spokesmen, we don’t know what the advertising team is waiting for.
The base $31,590 Hornet GT arrives first, as a 2023 model. It packs a turbocharged 2.0-liter four that makes 268 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, hooked to a nine-speed automatic transmission and an all-wheel-drive system that can send up to 50 percent of the torque to the rear axle. It hits 60 mph in a claimed 6.5 seconds and tops out at 140 mph, two important facts to remember when you’re making your choice at the Avis counter. A Track Pack is available on any trim and includes 20-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport All Season 4 tires, four-piston fixed Brembo front brake calipers, Alcantara-upholstered seats, and electronically controlled dampers. If you find the “red crust” motif of the Alcantara seats too subtle, red leather upholstery is available in Plus trims.
The R/T, which will debut as a 2024 model, gets a 177-hp turbocharged 1.3-liter inline-four and a six-speed automatic teamed with a 121-hp electric motor driving the rear axle. Pull both steering-column-mounted shift paddles to activate PowerShot, and the combined output rises to 288 horsepower and 383 pound-feet. When PowerShot is available, a white icon that looks like a turbocharger with a lightning bolt shooting through it appears on the instrument cluster. Push down through a detent deep in the accelerator’s travel, and the icon turns green. From that point, the Hornet delivers its extra oomph for 15 seconds, which would be long enough to obliterate the speed limit anywhere in the country. After a 15-second timeout to cool down, the system is ready for another run down the strip.
Dodge claims that PowerShot shaves 1.5 seconds from the 60-mph sprint, dropping it to 5.6 seconds. Under normal circumstances, then, the $41,590 R/T isn’t as quick as the base model—which makes sense, since even with PowerShot engaged, the GT has a better power-to-weight ratio than the R/T. But the R/T does offer surprisingly lively handling despite its claimed 4140-pound curb weight, in part thanks to a favorable front-to-rear weight distribution. Dodge claims that the R/T will generate 0.90 g of grip on the skidpad, compared to 0.87 g for the GT.
Even without PowerShot in effect, the Hornet R/T’s exhaust sounds surprisingly belligerent. In fact, we jotted down, “good attention to detail making the fake exhaust noise come from the rear speakers,” before getting out of the car and realizing that the Hornet’s throaty burble isn’t fake at all. There’s no active muffler bypass, but neither is the R/T exhaust tiresome—it tends to announce itself at around 1600 rpm, which is where it settles on a cold start, and then fade out at idle or higher rpm.
Of course, you can also totally silence the exhaust by selecting EV mode, and the Hornet is certainly viable as an around-town EV, providing around 30 miles of electric range from its 12.0-kWh battery. (Twin to the Alfa Romeo Tonale and built in Italy, the Hornet doesn’t qualify for the federal EV tax credit for buyers, but some customers who lease one may be eligible for a $7500 credit.) Hitting the highway might diminish that range, but the EV-mode Hornet—which, like its SRT Challenger brethren, is rear-wheel drive—can certainly keep up, hitting 84 mph before the gas engine fires up. In Sport mode, the R/T will also quickly replenish the battery. We’re looking forward to lining it up against a Toyota RAV4 Prime.
While the R/T will likely garner most of the attention, we’re guessing the GT will account for most of the sales volume. So it’s nice that Dodge doesn’t hoard the good stuff, like the Track Pack, for the flagship model. At the launch, Dodge also displayed a pair of Hornets outfitted with Direct Connection (read: factory aftermarket) parts, including plenty of GLH graphics that shout out to the old Dodge Omni GLH. The Direct Connection Hornet parts aren’t purely cosmetic—there’ll be a Stage 1 kit for the GT’s engine that increases horsepower and a lowering kit that should improve handling, in keeping with the Dodge GLH spirit. Or, we should say, the Dodge gestalt, since the Dodge Spirit was something else entirely.
So, to the question of, “What will Dodge build when it can’t build supercharged V-8s?” we have our first answer. The Hemis may be on their way out, but the party isn’t over yet.
2023 Dodge Hornet GT/2024 Dodge Hornet R/T
Vehicle Type: front-engine or front-engine and rear-motor; all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base: Trim GT, $31,590; R/T, $41,590
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 268 hp, 295 lb-ft; turbocharged and intercooled SOHC 16-valve 1.3-liter inline-4, 177 hp, 199 lb-ft + 2 AC or motors, 44 and 121 hp, 39 and 184 lb-ft (combined output: 288 hp, 383 lb-ft; 12.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack; 7.4-kW onboard charger)
Transmissions: 9-speed automatic, F/R: 6-speed automatic/direct-drive
Wheelbase: 103.8 in
Length: 178.3 in
Height: 63.0–63.8 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: TK–TK ft3
Cargo Volume, Behind F/R: 51–55/23–27 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 3750–4150 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 5.6–6.5 sec
1/4-Mile: 14.3–15.1 sec
Top Speed: 128–140 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (GT)
Combined/City/Highway: 24/21/29 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (R/T, C/D EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 26/23/29 mpg
Combined Gasoline + Electricity: 60 MPGe
EV Range: 30 mi
Ezra Dyer is a Car and Driver senior editor and columnist. He’s now based in North Carolina but still remembers how to turn right. He owns a 2009 GEM e4 and once drove 206 mph. Those facts are mutually exclusive.
Source: Reviews - aranddriver.com