A patent-pending headlamp on the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT doubles as a cool air intake for the supercharged 6.2-L "Hellcat" Hemi V8 that produces an SAE-certified 707 hp.
The new muscle car conveys its unique front end style via four round light emitting diode (LED) halo surrounds on the headlamps. On the driver-side inner headlamp, the eye-catching design cleverly integrates an air inlet system—dubbed "Air Catcher"—among the series of amber LEDs for the turn signal and daytime running lamp.
“We used LED technology in the headlamps, and that enabled us to open up a 66-mm (2.6-in) passage through the sealed driver inner headlamp,” Jeff Gale, Senior Manager of Dodge Exterior Design Studio, explained in an Automotive Engineering interview during the new Challenger’s recent media introduction in Portland, OR.
“We then shaped the lens back toward the housing to help with airflow through the headlamp,” he said. “Then we sealed everything up and created an air intake opening that feeds directly to the 8.0-L airbox located right behind the headlight.”
Sports and racing cars historically have used a similar approach to increasing airflow to the engine. “A lot of times they’d take out the high-beams, put a screen over the opening, and ducting would feed directly to the air cleaner or carburetor. That’s the type of thing that racers would do to the cars when they went to the drag strip or road course,” Gale noted.
The new Air Catcher had its genesis in the Dodge Challenger 1320 concept revealed at the 2009 SEMA show, and sporting a hole in one headlight. “That was a one-off concept aimed at a drag racer. But then we thought, ‘Why not try this on a production car?’” said Gale.
Chris Cowland, Director of SRT Powertrain Engineering, estimates the Air Catcher provides a single-digit horsepower bump to the new Challenger SRT Hellcat’s V8.
“The hole in the headlight was actually put there because we required a certain amount of pressure drop across the intake system to generate 707 hp,” Cowland told AE. “Certainly if we took that away and we increased that pressure drop across the intake system, we would lose horsepower. We’ve never measured it by blocking it off or taking it away, but it could well be seven horsepower.” A second inlet point is located underneath the airbox.
Cooling for the 30,000 L (7925 gal) of air that’s gobbled each minute by the big V8 occurs via a pair of integrated charge-air coolers in the supercharger unit. (For more details see http://articles.sae.org/13227).
Tim Kuniskis, President and CEO of Dodge and SRT, jokingly refers to the Challenger SRT Hellcat as a “science project.”
“The Air Catcher headlight is really cool,” he said. “It’s a clever way to get a cold-air intake into the airbox for a car that needed more airflow. But what’s really interesting about this car is how technology has enabled [things] that a couple of years ago would have been impossible to do”—such as run a 10-s quarter mile while serving as a daily commuter car.
That’s because the highest-performance Challenger can be customized in real time. “I can make the transmission shift in 160 ms, or I can dial it back and make it shift like a passenger car,” Kuniskis noted. “I can make the suspension as aggressive as any track car out there, or I can make it as compliant as your average V6 car. I can make the car loud; I can make the car quiet. I can make this car do anything I want it to do.
“That to me is what the real story of this car is,” he said. “It’s not trying to be everything to everybody. But it’s trying to be the car that can be whatever you need it to be on a moment-by-moment basis.”
For more on the 2015 Challenger, see http://articles.sae.org/13100.