By Eric Peters
Dodge is known to most as the brand that sells V8 performance cars like the Charger and Challenger. And now it’s got a performance crossover for those who need something a little more practical — and a lot less pricey.
What It Is
The Hornet is a compact-size crossover that Dodge has tried hard to infuse with some personality in order to differentiate it from all the other compact-size crossover SUVs literally everyone else is trying to sell.
The main sell here is what Dodge has spent the past 15-plus years selling — that being performance. More of it than others in the same class offer.
It does not come from a V8, however.
The standard engine in the $30,735 GT is a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that boasts 268 horsepower, paired with a standard all-wheel-drive system. It is the strongest small crossover you can get for the price.
You can order more performance, too, in the form of the R/T (this nomenclature has up to now been reserved for V8-powered versions of Dodge performance cars like the Challenger and Charger), which is a performance-oriented plug-in hybrid. It also has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine augmented by a plug-in hybrid system that amps up the output to 288 horsepower and reduces the fuel consumption by enabling this version of the Hornet to power itself using electricity part of the time.
It lists for $40,935.
A top-of-the-line R/T Plus (which gets additional features and amenities) lists for $45,935.
What’s New for 2024
The Hornet is a new addition to the Dodge lineup.
A better performer than other small crossovers.
Costs less to feed than a V8 Charger or Challenger.
More practical than a V8 Charger or Challenger.
What’s Not So Good
Not as practical as other small crossovers in the class.
It’s not a Charger or a Challenger.
Performance costs mileage.
Under The Hood
The GT’s standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four — paired with a standard nine-speed automatic — is the same size as a multitude of other 2.0-liter fours powering what seems to be almost everything — not just small crossovers, either.
But its output is a cut above the rest.
The standard version in the GT makes 268 horsepower, substantially more than the 184 horsepower emanating from the Volkswagen Tiguan’s 2.0-liter four and the BMW X1’s 241 horsepower 2.0 four. There’s no supercharger whine — that’s now a memory of better times — but there is a lot of boost. About 22 psi at full tilt and, if you dial up the Performance Pages app on the LCD touch screen, you can watch the boost ebb and flow as you drive.
Floor it and the Hornet GT can get to 60 in a little over six seconds, which is very quick for the class.
The plug-in hybrid version with 288 horsepower that ought to be available later this fall or by early 2024, the R/T, ought to be a little quicker and according to preliminary reports will be capable of going about 30 miles entirely on battery power, which can be recharged by plugging in rather than gassing up. (In a conventional hybrid, the running engine recharges the battery.) No data is yet available as far as what the gas mileage will be, but it ought to be significantly higher than the non-hybrid GT’s 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway.
Which is the price you pay for being able to get to 60 in a little over six seconds.
On The Road
Dodge tries to make the Hornet different by making it more powerful, which gives it a more forceful feel when you floor it. This will appeal to people who like crossovers for their practicality but miss having more than a passing ability to pass anything.
You can flex your “go” muscle here, whenever the need arises. It does not go like a V8 Charger or Challenger — but then, what does? The point is it goes better than vehicles of its type, and that is what Dodge is hoping will keep people who bought Chargers and Challengers from buying some other brand’s crossover.
It’s more than just “go,” too.
The Hornet is more agile than the usual in this class, probably because it is based on the also-new Alfa Romeo Tonale. (Alfa is part of the Stellantis family, which encompasses Dodge, Chrysler, Ram and Jeep.) Which, being an Alfa, was designed to be something more than just another small crossover.
Regardless, both versions of the same basic thing share the same basic suspension and steering tuning as well as an available upgraded Brembo brake package that includes red powder-coated front calipers (another echo of Challenger/Charger R/Ts past).
At The Curb
Dodge tries (again) to make the case that this is something unlike what everyone else is selling via features such as the Performance Pages app you can use to toggle through various displays that include a readout of torque (but not horsepower) the engine is making in real-time as you drive. Plus, boost, and so on.
More echoes are apparently forthcoming in the form of a Tech Pack (echoing Track Pack) for the pending plug-in hybrid version that focuses on electronic “assistance” such as an “enhanced” version of the standard adaptive cruise control system (which operates like a semi-self-driving feature that can semi-steer the car as well as maintain and adjust speed in relation to the flow of traffic).
And there will be a Track Pack, which includes some performance-upgrade hardware such as a 20-inch wheel/tire package and an adaptive suspension with driver-selectable settings.
It is likely you will be able to haggle yourself a deal on a new Hornet, if you’re interested, precisely because Dodge will need to deal to get people interested. There is a lot of competition out there already, as there never was for the Charger and Challenger.
The Bottom Line
This new Hornet is a prequel of Dodge’s new direction.
Do you like what you see?
Eric’s latest book, “Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong!” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2023 CREATORS.COM