pontiac – The new 2023 Dodge Hornet tries to inject its performance DNA into the Compact SUV segment with a starting price of under $30,000 and marks the Stellantis NV brand’s first foray into the electrified space.
Based on the same platform as Alfa Romeo’s new Italian-built Tonale, the Hornet is available in gas-powered or plug-in hybrid versions. It is intended to serve as a gateway to grow Dodge’s “muscle brotherhood” to increase volume and improve the automaker’s ability to meet federal standards for emissions and fuel economy. However, the PHEV will cost $10,000 more at launch. Orders open Wednesday.
Compact SUVs are the segment to meet those goals, said Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis. The compact SUV market is expected to grow from the current 1 million to around 1.5 million vehicles in five years, leading to an explosion in the number of license plates, and customers citing affordability, reliability and fuel economy as some of their top reasons for purchase. Performance, acceleration, driving pleasure and brand image played a subordinate role.
“This seemed like the perfect politically correct segment for us to go in and stir it up and disrupt that segment,” Kuniskis said ahead of the vehicle’s public debut at Pontiac’s M1 Concourse as part of it second day of “Speed Week” reveals.
All-wheel drive is standard. The Hornet features a Charger-style fascia and vehicle-width taillight with a center-lit rhomboid logo with racing slashes, a first for a Dodge vehicle. Inside, all vehicles feature red stitching, and the cockpit features a standard 12.3-inch digital cockpit cluster screen, which is larger than the 10.25-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment center display driver aligned. And the PHEV comes standard with a “PowerShot” feature that provides extra horsepower when needed.
“Never tell a guy his Demon used to be a Chrysler 300,” Kuniskis said of the Hornet’s use of the Tonale platform. “We took a car that was already a fantastic car, a fantastic platform that already had Alfa Romeo DNA in it. The car is already fantastic to drive and we injected it with Dodge DNA.”
With such a large number of buyers looking for a vehicle of this size, “there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be demand for this flavor,” said Stephanie Brinley, senior automotive analyst at S&P Global Mobility. “There’s a wide variety of personalities and tastes.”
Kuniskis is confident the Hornet will sell more than 40,000 vehicles annually to make it one of the top sellers in the segment, although he declined to give an exact production number. The compact SUV market accounts for 18% of all U.S. sales, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at auto information website Edmunds.com Inc.
“It’s a really crowded segment,” Caldwell said, but “it’s a very large segment. It’s a body type that a lot of people look for the volume you want. … At the end of the day, if you sell more cars, you can get a lot more money.
At $29,995, the Hornet GT is only Stellantis’ fifth vehicle in the US with a starting price below $30,000. The 2-liter turbocharged inline-four Hurricane engine produces over 265 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful gas engine in the segment, according to the company. Deliveries of the GT will begin in December in Pomigliano, Italy.
“This car is the fastest, fastest, most powerful UV in the compact segment under $30,000,” said Kuniskis. “That’s going to be a screaming little four-wheel drive hot hatch for that customer.”
The $39,995 electrified R/T’s 1.3-liter turbo with an e-axle boosts output to over 285 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque, according to Dodge.
“This is serious technology,” Kuniskis said. “It shows why Dodge is getting serious about this.”
The R/T has an all-electric range of more than 30 miles from a 15.5-kilowatt-hour, 360-volt lithium-ion battery, whose manufacturer the company declined to disclose. Its PowerShot, activated by steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and pedal kickdown, also delivers an extra 25 horsepower boost for up to 15 seconds, after which the battery needs to cool. PowerShot cuts the Hornet’s normal 6.1-second 0-60 mph time by one second.
“You can obviously use it from the start,” said Brian Del Pup, who works in powertrain and engineering for Dodge. “You can use it on the freeway. You can use it in passing or just show it off to your friends.”
The GT’s “Sport Mode” offers sharper throttle, firmer steering and an electronic limited-slip differential to go from 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds. The R/T also has a sport mode as well as modes for driving in hybrid, fully electric or in e-save, which saves the battery. A level 2 charger will power the battery in 2½ hours. Deliveries of the R/T will begin next spring.
The introduction of the PHEV is coming like President Joe Biden signed into law what is known as the Inflation Reduction Act on Tuesdaywho applies the electric vehicle tax credit as a rebate. However, many available vehicles do not qualify for the full $7,500 subsidy due to assembly and battery manufacturing requirements in North America.
“We have priced the car which we believe is competitive in this segment,” said Kuniskis. “If you look at the segment where it fits into the segment from a PHEV standpoint, I don’t think there’s any concern there.”
Final fuel economy specs aren’t finalized, but Micky Bly, Stellantis chief of propulsion systems, says the equivalent of around 70mpg is expected.
“You can imagine that from a CAFE point of view,” Bly said, referring to it The company’s average fuel economy from Stellantis which takes last place among the major manufacturers, “depending on the volume, this really starts to balance the portfolio. That is a big help.”
The R/T comes standard with 18-inch graphite gray wheels, Dodge-branded Brembo front brake calipers, dual exhaust and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Other driving characteristics are Koni shock absorbers, Brembo four-piston calipers and dynamic torque vectoring. There are seven exterior colors available.
A $2,995 Track Pack package, available for either trim, features 20-inch Abyss wheels, Brembos, and upgraded suspension. The Dodge Hornet GT GLH Concept – a homage to the Dodge Omni “Goes Like Hell” GLH produced in the mid-1980s – also features available Direct Connection parts including stage kits, lowered suspension and 20-inch wheels.
“The GLH exists because of these two cars,” said Kuniskis, referring to the GT and the R/T. “If you have these two cars that carry the weight for compliance, volume and profitability, then I (the GLH) don’t really care. I can have some fun with it.”
The Hornet name itself was first used in the 1950s on the Hudson Hornet, in the 1970s on the AMC Hornet, and again in 2006 on a Dodge concept vehicle.
The 2023 Hornet’s Android-based Uconnect 5 system with Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa voice assistant and TomTom navigation is compatible with Android and Apple CarPlay wireless connectivity. Harman Kardon optionally supplies a premium sound system with 14 loudspeakers and a subwoofer. Level 2 automated features are available with Intelligent Speed Assist with Traffic Sign Recognition, Driver Attention Assist and Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control.
Saturday’s Woodward Dream Cruise attendees can see the Hornet at Dodge’s exhibit in Bloomfield Township near Pontiac. It will also be shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit’s Huntington Place next month.
The marque will be unveiled on Wednesday, the third day of Dodge Speed Week Share his highly anticipated electric muscle car concept.