FCA goes big on performance for 2018

Written by Lee Bailie on .

CHELSEA, Mich. – Earlier this week, I traveled to the proving grounds of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in Michigan to get an early look at the company’s 2018 models, and while I can’t talk about everything I saw (due to a Sept. 1 embargo), I’m free to spill the beans on all things SRT, which aligns perfectly with the readership of Ignition.

With that in mind, here are the highlights with a few caveats:

  1. Pricing and specific on-sale dates are not yet available – I will update once they are announced.
  2. An updated version of this article will be included in the Fall 2017 issue of Ignition (due out in Sept.).
  3. I wasn’t allowed to drive these three – Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody, Dodge Durango SRT and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk – so no driving impressions. Yet.

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Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody

Basically, this is a Hellcat that borrows its looks from the Demon. The Hellcat Widebody comes with the same fender flares as the Demon, which add 3.5 inches (88.9 mm) to its width, along with 20 x 11-inch ‘Devil’s Rim’ split-five spoke aluminum wheels and wider P305/35ZR20 Pirelli P-Zero tires. A new electric power steering unit with selectable steering tuning is also being added, a first for the Hellcat.

Although I wasn’t allowed to verify these claims personally, FCA is claiming the ’18 Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody delivers faster lap times, more lateral grip, improved acceleration and better handling than the standard Hellcat.

To wit, FCA’s press materials include the following claims:

-          Road course lap time on a 2.74 km (1.7-mile) track lowered by approximately 2 seconds per lap, approximately 13 car lengths after one lap

-          ¼-mile elapsed time (ET) improved by approximately .3 sec (10.9 ET in Widebody vs. 11.2 ET in standard Hellcat)

-          Lateral skid pad grip increased by .04 g (.97 g in Widebody vs. .93 g in standard Hellcat)

-          0-96.6 km/h (0-60 mph) acceleration improved by .1 second (3.4 in Widebody vs. 3.5 in standard Hellcat)

-          Top speed of 314 km/h (195 mph)

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Everything carries over under the hood – the 6.2-litre supercharged HEMI V8 (707 hp / 650 lb-ft.) is available with either a Tremec six-speed manual or a TorqueFlight eight-speed gearbox.

In terms of cosmetics, the Hellcat Widebody will carry many familiar Dodge / SRT design cues, among them a power-bulge aluminum hood with centre intake and dual heat extractors, illuminated Air-Catcher headlights that feed air into the air box through the centre of the parking lights, quad projector headlights, front splitter (from Demon) and rear spoiler (from Hellcat).

On the functional side, Brembo brakes are standard with two-piece 15.4-inch (391 mm) rotors and six-piston calipers.

The Hellcat Widebody will be available in 15 colours. I’ve asked FCA Canada to confirm if there will be any differences for Canada (not sure yet), but the following will be available in the U.S. market: B5 Blue (late availability), Billet Silver, Destroyer Grey, F8 Green (late availability), Go Mango, Granite Crystal, IndiGo Blue (late availability), Maximum Steel, Octane Red, Pitch Black, Plum Crazy (late availability), Redline Tri-Coat, TorRed, White Knuckle and Yellow Jacket.

As mentioned previously, no specific on-sale date has been announced by FCA Canada, but the company did confirm production will begin this summer and deliveries to Dodge / SRT dealers will begin in the fall (Q3).

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Dodge Durango SRT

First revealed at the Chicago Auto Show in February, the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT is the fastest three-row SUV on the market, according to FCA.

Powered by a 6.4L (392 cubic-inch) HEMI V8 that produces 475 horsepower and 470 lb-ft. of torque mated to an eight-speed TorqueFlight automatic transmission, the Durango SRT has a 0-96.6 km/h (0-60 mph) time of 4.4 seconds and can cover a quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds – the latter was certified by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, all that muscle makes the Durango SRT a good hauler – in fact, it’s 8,600-pound tow rating is best-in-class for three-row SUVs.

In terms of mechanical highlights, the Durango SRT receives a new driver-oriented T-shifter (standard on all 2018 Durangos), a seven-mode drive system, which includes a track mode that has 160-millisecond gearbox shifts and transfers 70 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels. SRT models also get stiffer front (three percent) and rear (16 percent) and a stiffer (18 percent) rear sway bar.

Befitting an SRT model, bigger brakes and upgraded rubber are also in store, which means a Brembo brake system with 15-inch (381 mm) front-slotted, 13.8-inch (350.5 mm) rear, with six-piston (front) and four-piston calipers (rear). Five-spoke 20-inch ‘Goliath’ wheels and Pirelli Scorpion Verde (P295/45ZR20) all-seasons are standard, but Pirelli P Zero high-performance tires are also available.

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In terms of aesthetics, the Durango SRT receives a few key updates to set it apart from the rest of the Durango line, such as a widebody design that incorporates wheel flares, body-colour side rocker panels and 392 fender badges. Other design changes include an SRT hood with functional centre air-inlet ducts flanked by heat extractors that cool the engine bay and remove hot air. A new front fascia incorporates a cold-air duct, LED fog lamps and a mesh grille.

The cabin of the Durango SRT also features performances touches such as an SRT flat-bottomed steering wheel, hand-wrapped dashboard, heated and ventilated front and heated second row captain’s chairs with embossed SRT logos. Nappa leather with suede inserts are standard – Demonic Red Laguna leather with embossed SRT logos is optional.

The 7-inch instrument cluster display (thin-film transistor) has been redesigned but still allows the driver to choose from a variety of different information layouts. On the infotainment front, the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen includes SRT Performance Pages in addition to navigation, satellite radio, HD radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The 2018 Durango SRT will be available in 11 colours in the U.S., and likely for Canada as well, although the exact assortment has yet to be confirmed—I will update as needed.

The U.S. colours are as follows: Billet Clear Coat, Blu by Yu Pearl Coat, Bruiser Grey Clear Coat, Dark Black Clear Coat, Granite Clear Coat, Ocean Blue Pearl Coat, Octane Red Pearl Coat, Redline Pearl Coat, Sangria Metallica Clear Coat, White Knuckle Clear Coat and Vice White.  

Production is slated to begin later this summer with deliveries to dealers beginning by the end of the year.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

First unveiled at the New York International Auto Show in April, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is basically an SRT Hellcat wrapped in a Grand Cherokee body. It is, according to FCA, the fastest and most powerful SUV ever built.

At any rate, power is derived from a 6.2L supercharged HEMI V8 that produces 707 horsepower and 645 lb-ft. of torque (vs. 650 in the Hellcat) mated to an eight-speed TorqueFlight automatic transmission.

The performance numbers, as one might expect, are staggering:

-          0-96.6 km/h (0-60 mph) in 3.5 seconds

-          quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds at 187 km/h (116 mph)

-          top speed of 290 km/h (180 mph)

-          96.6-0 km/h (60-0 mph) braking distance in 34.7 metres (114 feet)

-          .88 g capability on the skid pad

Like the Widebody Hellcat and Durango SRT, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk has been tuned for maximum performance, so it receives some special kit as a result. For example, it comes with standard launch control and a five-mode drive system that includes a track mode which, like the Durango SRT, produces 160-millisecond gearbox shifts and channels 70 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels.

Other performance bits include a Brembo brake system with 15.75-inch (400 mm) two-piece vented rotor with yellow six-piston calipers up front, and 13.78-inch (350 mm) vented rotors with four-piston yellow calipers in the rear.

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Aesthetically, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk features some unique design cues that serve as model signifiers, such as body-coloured wheel flares, side sill cladding and a sculpted hood with heat extractors. It also has a 25 mm (one inch) lower ride height than non-Trackhawk models.

The Trackhawk also has some front and rear end differences to further set it apart. These differences include a front fascia with no fog lights to optimize airflow for cooling and a gloss black rear diffuser that houses quad exhaust tips.

On the inside, the Trackhawk comes with a flat-bottomed steering wheel, standard Nappa leather and suede seats with embroidered Trackhawk logos.

Like the Durango SRT, the 7-inch instrument cluster display (thin-film transistor) allows the driver to choose from a variety of different information layouts. On the infotainment front, the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen includes Performance Pages in addition to navigation, satellite radio, HD radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Two audio systems are available, including an 825-watt harman / kardon system with 19 speakers and two subwoofers.

For the U.S. market, the Grand Cherokee Trackhawk will be available in nine colours: Billet Silver, Granite Crystal, Diamond Black, Ivory Tri-coat, Bright White, Velvet Red, Rhino (exclusive), Redline 2 (exclusive) and True Blue. Canada should receive a similar mix, but they have not been officially confirmed. As with the other two vehicles, I will update as needed.

Production will begin later this year with deliveries set to begin by the end of 2017.

Photography by Lee Bailie

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