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Auto blogTue, 19 Nov 2013 17:31:00 EST
The fact that the Dart's launch has been a pretty dismal affair isn't what we'd call secret. Judging by its mounting inventories and poor critical reception, Dodge's successor to its unloved Caliber has struggled since it hit the market. And while both of those are difficult problems to address, at least their cause is well known - the powertrain.
Even Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has acknowledged that the powertrain options in the Dart are substandard, admitting at January's Detroit Auto Show that the powertrains are "less than ideal." Leading with the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder found in the Fiat 500 Abarth left a bad taste in the mouths of consumers thanks to the laggy engine and dead throttle response (to say nothing of the manual and dual-clutch gearboxes that needed more refinement). The addition of the 184-horsepower 2.4-liter Tigershark in the Dart GT has helped matters some, but apparently Auburn Hills doesn't think it's quite enough.
If rumors are to be believed - get that salt ready - a possible solution may be in the works. A report from Allpar is claiming that Dodge is considering fitting a Pentastar V6 into the Dart's engine bay. As the Mopar-obsessed website points out, the critically acclaimed Pentastar is available in three different sizes - 3.0 liters, 3.2 liters and the original 3.6 liters. We don't get the 3.0 here in the US, but the 3.2 can be found in the new Jeep Cherokee and the 3.6 has been seemingly fitted to every model Chrysler can shoehorn it into.
Chrysler is adding a third shift at its Warren Truck plant to meet demand for the new 2013 Ram pickup. And with tight supplies of its Pentastar V6, the company is also boosting output at its Mack Engine plant.
The expansions will add 1,250 jobs and are part of a $238 million investment by Chrysler in the Detroit area. Warren's third shift will begin work sometime in the spring, a Chrysler rep told Automotive News. Mack's increased Pentastar production a could include both 3.6 and 3.2-liter engines.
The company says it also plans to invest $40 million in its Trenton Engine plant to allow for production of a 3.2-liter V6 as well as the Tigershark inline-four for the upcoming Jeep Liberty replacement.
One of the prime complaints against the Dodge Challenger is that, even in SRT8 guise, its 470 horsepower is responsible for hauling over 4,200 pounds of vehicle. For comparison, the 420 hp in the Ford Mustang GT only has to deal with 3,618 lbs. Things only get worse from there, as the higher-performance variants of both the Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro are far more powerful than an SRT8 without adding on much heft.
So what is Chrysler to do? The correct answer is add a whole lot more grunt to its hefty two-door and even the odds. That's where the all-new Hellcat engine comes into play. We reported on this engine in May, and suggested that the Hellcat, a supercharged powerplant based on a 6.4-liter V8, would easily generate 500 to 570 hp and could likely arrive boasting more than 600 ponies.
Chrysler's ace in its sleeve has now been spied testing, with a number of Hellcat-equipped Challengers running the potent new engine both in more urbanized areas and under the sun of Death Valley. The hoods on these testers have been raised to accommodate the engine, and that camouflage over the fascias of these prototypes is there to hide a larger air intake. We also note what appears to be a new split grille under wraps. As for power output, our spies are now suggesting a Viper-equalling 640 hp from the Hellcat-equipped cars.