At a mid-summer media program to reveal its 2017 model lineup, nobody from FiatChrysler Automobiles said anything about some fizzy rumors speculating the company might have engineered a power boost for the already outlandish 707-hp generated by its supercharged 6.4-L “Hellcat” V8. There’s no new power for the thunderous V8, but FCA’s 2017 lineup does include some Hellcat-inspired niche models, continued expansion of the popular Jeep range and a consolidation of the Fiat small-car line as U.S. buyers continue to veer towards crossovers and pickups.
The Dodge brand, FCA’s musclecar specialist, has two special throwback models for 2017: the Charger Daytona and Challenger T/A, both harking to the golden-era originals with special graphics, chassis upgrades and, of course, bawdy V8s—while also paying homage to the modern-classic Hellcat models by borrowing some of their “functional performance styling.”
The Challenger T/A and Charger Daytona offer either the whopping 6.4-L (“392” for the nostalgic) or the 5.7-L version FCA’s Hemi V8; it’s 485 hp for the 392 and as much as 375 hp for the 5.7-L. The big-engine version of the Challenger T/A brings functional hood ducts and special air-grabbing headlights, electronically controlled exhaust active exhaust and chassis tweaks the include unique front-suspension tuning and Brembo 6-piston front brakes.
The 2017 Charger Daytona will sit atop the performance ladder of 5.7-L Chargers with revised intake and exhaust, a cold-air intake, the active-exhaust system and special transmission calibration. The 6.4-L Daytona churns out 475 lb•ft (644 N•m) to accompany its 485-hp rating. Both cars also offer unique High-Impact Paint (HIP) body colors.
For the powerhouse Jeep brand, 2017 brings a variety of detail upgrades and model tweaks, perhaps most notable being the extension of the popular Trailhawk trim to the Grand Cherokee line. The Grand Cherokee wears the off-road-gnarly Trailhawk appearance well and planners have wisely situated it a couple spaces down from the Grand Cherokee’s top trim level. The pre-production model Automotive Engineering briefly drove was motivated by the company’s thrusty-but-refined 3-L turbodiesel V6; the diesel's 420 lb•ft (569 N•m) seemed an ideal companion for the Trailhawk trim.
Meanwhile, the Fiat line, frisky though it is, continues to struggle for relevance in a U.S. market enamored with large models and awash in cheap fuel. Consequently, the 500 2-door and 500L (4-door) lineups have been consolidated from five trim levels to three—and prices have been reduced.
The starting price of the base 500, the Pop, is $14,995, for example, a cut that makes the car more than $1,000 less than the 500’s base price when it was launched in 2011. The top-of-the-line, performance-focused 500 Abarth now has a base price of $19,995—more than $2,500 less than in 2016—a tempting bargain for the throaty 160-hp performance of its 1.4-L turbocharged 4-cylinder and the Abarth's slot-car chassis responses.