Chrysler's Hellcat Supercharged V-8: Time for a New Ram SRT?
Ram's Moment to Build the Ultimate Factory Sport Truck of All Time
When seeing the news of the Google control-less low-speed self-driving car, the throngs of slow-moving Prii clogging the carpool lanes in Southern California, and the looming 54.5 mpg CAFE regulations, it's easy to think that the glory days of big-inch performance are over. But Detroit continues to surprise us with such tasty morsels as the Corvette Z06, the Shelby GT500, and as of yesterday, the flabbergastingly powerful 707-hp Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.
Sure, Chrysler will now have to sell a few more 40-mpg Darts and Fiat 500s to balance out the CAFE scales, but just a small handful of Hellcats will probably be produced in proportion to the commodity compacts. Although the 6.2L supercharged Hellcat is a low-volume, specialized proposition, almost as soon as it was introduced, speculation ran rampant about what other vehicles it might go into. A Charger Hellcat is the natural next step, and by all indications, will happen.
Less clear is other potential applications beyond those two. Marchionne has already gone on-record saying he wants to bring SRT back under the Dodge umbrella specifically, rather than a corporate-wide sub-brand. Of course, not long ago, SRT was positioned as being its own distinct brand, although it only had one model that was truly its own. So the long-term prospects for the outstanding Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT are uncertain, at best. Although about the furthest thing dynamically and philosophically from the Wrangler Rubicon, the Grand SRT is a fantastic high-performance on-road SUV, easily the dynamic peer of European models costing $30,000 more.
With the odds of the critically-acclaimed Grand SRT shaky, any extension of the SRT treatment beyond specifically Dodge products is even hazier. But we're going to go on record here and now that we would like to see the Hellcat under the hood of a Ram 1500. We know it's a long-shot, but then again, Chrysler was ballsy enough to drop the Viper's high-output V-10 under the hood of the Ram SRT10, in both short-bed, regular cab, and Quad Cab configurations.
If Ram were to make a new-generation SRT, it's likely its form would be different than the first-generation SRT. It's almost certain it would be at minimum Quad Cab or Crew Cab only. Although a Ram would be significantly heavier than a Challenger, in the name of vehicle stability, practicality and salability, a two-place Ram SRT is unlikely. It's also likely that it would have full-time all-wheel-drive, to counter pickups' naturally unbalanced front-to-rear weight distribution. Transmission? Count on it being a version of the Challenger's beefed-up 8HP90 eight-speed automatic, with flappy-paddle shifters, of course.
Finally, let's talk price. Whether you want to admit it or not, the days of the dirt-cheap muscle truck are over. About the closest you can get is Ram's own 1500 Express regular-cab short-box Hemi model, which in theory can be had for less than $30,000. Figure a Ram SRT Hellcat going for about $65,000, if not $70,000. If that sounds outrageous, try configuring a Laramie Longhorn, a new Tahoe or Suburban, or a loaded Super Duty Platinum, and suddenly, it doesn't seem so crazy. Sure, we'd love to see a Ram Hellcat for about $40,000, but we're realistic about the cost to build a specialized truck.
Will Chrysler build a Ram Hellcat? While far from a foregone conclusion, it's not impossible. Of the Detroit three, Chrysler has the best track record of bringing wild or far-fetched concepts to the showroom. And trucks in general are major money-makers for the domestic manufacturers, and Chrysler in particular. So plucking a few models off the line in Warren for the hot rod treatment is not altogether irrational or logistically impossible. Ralph? Bob? I know you guys technically work in different departments, but I know you guys could put together an epically bad-ass truck. Let's do it.