Chicago 2023: Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept

The day before the Chicago Auto Show’s media days begin, they hold a “concept & technology garage.” It’s an opportunity for greedy, greasy-fingered journos like me to drive things like a 707 hp Dodge Challenger inside McCormick Place. Or launch the new Mustang Mach-E from a standstill to 60mph inside McCormick Place. This year there wasn’t much to drive, but Stellantis (Chrysler, Fiat, Peugot, Citroen) brought along a few concept vehicles and one happened to be the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT concept. Sweet mother of God. The car stopped me in my tracks and made me consider if I wasn’t having a stroke. It was so achingly gorgeous, I had to check it out. And hopefully drive it.

It turns out that in the mad headlong dash for total EV fleets, Dodge at least is looking over it’s shoulder at its Charger and Challenger models and really struggling with leaving that glorious product behind. And we don’t blame them. The Charger and Challenger have sold well and swelled the number of Dodge enthusiasts to record numbers. The thundering Hellcat engines, whose roar sounds like a NASCAR race in your front yard, are brilliant machines – rowdy, misbehavin’ fun wagons built to flaunt speed laws and scare children and women alike. How to carry that legacy forward?

Well, the Charger Daytona SRT concept is Dodge’s exploration of how to do just that. They started with a better looking body than the current muscle cars in their fleet. Just look at the shape: Solid, big, long. Add some fun details, like the wing built into the leading edge of the hood, or the gorgeous lights front and rear, some ducting around the wheels, and even those delicious wheels themselves.

Then make the interior a more desireable place to hang out than the current cars. Gorgeous, heavily-bolstered seats. Red accent lighting running throughout the cabin. A flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped steering wheel. And a rear hatchback with a voluminous cargo area beneath it.

And for power, a larger-displacement Hellcat engine! Well, that’s what we’d like. But Dodge doesn’t see that in the future. They see a large battery pack and electric motors driving both pairs of wheels. Motors that produce roughly 400v each. Dodge claims the Daytona SRT will be faster than the Hellcat SRT, likely due to the AWD system allowing all that power to get to ground more efficiently. Dodge has already shown videos of it doing 4-wheel burnouts.

While we like this route of electrification, Dodge has added one interesting, if somewhat cheesy, feature to the Charger. Using what they call a Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust, they amplify the sound of the humming electric motors into a 120-db roar that sounds not unlike a big-bore V8 IC engine. Kinda corny but kinda neat too. We’re on the fence as to whether we like it.

C’mon Dodge. We NEED something like this if the world is going EV. Something fun and so damned gorgeous that we can’t help but embrace the new era. But…maybe you could leave just enough room under the hood for a real Hellcat engine. Y’know…in case things don’t work out.



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