Why is Dodge trying so hard to make Hornet crossover fun

Dodge doesn’t come close to building cars in the same way as most of its competitors in the industry. As we watched the Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaro become true sports cars of the post-Recession era, Dodge bowed hard to the roots of its powerful cars. Now that Dodge is part of the Stellantis, things are starting to change. The automaker has just revealed the new 2023 Dodge Hornet crossover, which marks its first new product since the irony. R&T They met with Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis to discuss how this compact crossover could be made to fit the spirit of the Brotherhood.

The compact crossover segment is very important in today’s automotive world. More than one million of these machines are sold in the United States each year, backed in large part by one of the smallest customer bases in any sector. Dodge is no stranger to young buyers, as the automaker currently maintains a smaller customer base than any automaker. However, the Dodge recipe is not necessarily what CUV customers are striving for. As Kuniskis explained in an interview with R&T, Purchasing for the crossover segment is centered around factors such as price, value, fuel economy and brand reputation. Things like power, fun behind the wheel, acceleration and vehicle image rank much lower on the list, making them statistical drop-offs according to the CEO. Regardless, the Kuniskis aren’t interested in the Hornet attracting some interest from a different kind of buyer.

“We know that young age group loves what we do,” Kuniskis said. R&T. “They like the way we have our attitude and our personality and the way we go to market. If they like it, there must be a lot of people in this UV segment who would like that kind of vehicle as well, but it hasn’t been shown to them yet. Our bet is that if we put that on the market, we can capitalize on that.”

In order to make this plan work, Kuniskis and his team had to make the Dodge Hornet feel like one of the brand’s products at its core. This starts with a heavily modified version of the previous FCA SCCS platform, which also supports vehicles like the Jeep Compass and Alfa Romeo Tonale. The platform was operated by a group of former SRT engineers, including the former lead engineer and the entire suspension team. Kuniskis went so far as to say that the crossover will behave more like a hot hatchback than a typical commuter from behind the wheel. This is especially true of the Hornet R/T PHEV models, which feature a turbocharged 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor at the rear axle. The powertrain is good for 285 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, with that form of torque being particularly strong in this segment.

“The first thing we said was we weren’t going to sell electricity for the sake of electricity,” Kuniskis said. “We are going to sell electric as a performance enabler, and that will be justified by performance. That’s why we decided to call it the Hornet R/T, because R/T models have always been a step up in performance. Even though we had a smaller gasoline engine, we needed to Making sure we get enough performance from the engine and e-axle to achieve that goal.”

Customers can expand the Hornet’s performance capabilities with the optional track package, which brings upgrades like Brembo brakes, a tuned steering rack, upgraded dual-mode shocks, and 20-inch wheels. The package has been part of Hornet’s idea from the start, as Dodge wants the crossover to take advantage of the Direct Connect catalog. Kuniskis even hinted that some power-up packets might be arriving at Hornet much longer before that.

“When you’re looking to add more power with some direct-connect packages, you need to make sure you have the right suspension and brakes to go with it,” Kuniskis said.

Whether or not the Dodge Hornet can achieve tremendous success in the competitive crossover segment is an important step for Dodge going forward. The brand has experienced somewhat of a slump in recent years with its current product line, even if the products remain pleasing to a section of the enthusiastic community. It’s hard to imagine a crossover becoming a new performance champ, but Dodge is sure to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

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