Chrysler's Monster Muscle Car Thinks Before It Goes Ballistic

Two keys for the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, one for prudence, another for performance

2 min read
Chrysler's Monster Muscle Car Thinks Before It Goes Ballistic
Illustration: Chrysler Group

Today's muscle car ought to think a little too, because great and terrible power shouldn't be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. Like a teenager's.

So last week, when Chrysler announced the details of the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, which it claims is the most powerful muscle car ever, it included a dual-track engine-control system operated by distinct key fobs: a red one that limits access to just 373 kilowatts (500 horsepower) and a black one that gives the full 527 kW (707 hp). Note that the lower limit beats the upper limit of many a Corvette, Porsche and BMW.

It all roars out of a 6.2 liter, supercharged V-8 engine.

But whether the Hellcat will really be the most muscular muscle car ever is unclear. Today manufacturers claim every last horsepower they can demonstrate, but back in the 1960s they downplayed the numbers to keep the insurance companies from raising premiums too high. Not that the insurance companies were fooled

The dual-key system, however, is clearly not an industry first, following as it does in the wake of the 2012 Ford Mustang Boss. That car came with regular key and a full-power "TracKey," the software for which had to be installed later on at a registered racing dealership. The owner was supposed to go to a racetrack before using the key, an arrangement that Ford noted gave drivers what they wanted "without compromising factory warranty." Earlier still there were dual-key systems that just kept the parking valet out of the trunk and the glove compartment. 

Chrysler hasn't released technical details, but it seems likely that its system also uses an in-key chip that encodes data that lets the car recognize the owner and switch at the owner's command. That would involve scores or even hundreds of settings that govern the engine; who knows, it might even tweak the safety system. That might be a good idea if you're wielding the red key.

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A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

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VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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