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Dodge Electric Muscle Car Debuting Next Month

“Electric muscle car.” The phrase earns more comments and emails than almost any other we routinely write about.

To purists, it’s a contradiction — muscle cars smell like gasoline and sound like rage. They can’t be electric.

To others, it’s a promise — electric cars are better at the kind of monstrous-torque, drag-strip performance that muscle cars are made for. They can be muscle cars.

The debate will intensify in one month. Dodge will debut the production version of its upcoming electric muscle car, the Charger Daytona, on March 5. Dodge revealed the news at last week’s J.D. Power Auto Summit in Las Vegas.

It Looks the Part

What, exactly, is an electric muscle car?

Matt McAlear, senior vice president of Dodge/SRT sales and marketing, told trade publication Automotive News that for Dodge it’s about aesthetics and speed. “We’re not going for the lowest drag coefficient. We’re not going for the highest mileage,” he said.

Dodge revealed the Charger Daytona more than a year ago as a concept car. Recent shots released to the media reveal little has changed since that first unveiling.

It has the proportions of a classic Dodge muscle car, with a blunt front end and broad rear fenders. But that’s partly an illusion, and McAlear’s statements are partly marketing-speak. The car actually has a sleek nose (as if Dodge was going for the lowest drag coefficient), hidden by a faux-boxy front fascia that conceals a front wing.

It also uses a mock exhaust sound. McAlear promises it’s “just as loud as today’s Hellcat.” But electric motors are nearly silent. The noise comes from air pumped through organ-like pipes sculpted to create a snarling sound.

But Is “Electric Muscle” Possible?

It may seem like a costume, but the car will likely have the performance to back up its muscled looks. Electric vehicles (EVs) are capable of raw speed that shocks (pun kind of intended) gasoline purists. There are 5-seater electric sedans with sub-2-second zero-to-60 times.

How is that possible? Because of the nature of electric motors.

Gasoline engines build torque over time. Engineers work to cut that time as short as possible. But the torque curve governed muscle car engineering for decades.

Electric engines start at peak torque. That enables faster acceleration and is the reason Kia can sell you an electric family SUV with a quarter-mile-time that rivals those of supercars in earlier eras.

The pistol-grip shifter of the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept

Some Automakers Sell Cars. Dodge Also Sells an Image.

Can Dodge sell the fans it calls “the brotherhood of muscle” on the electric era? McAlear is betting on it. Dodge understands it sells a lifestyle more than a thing made of metal.

“We’re not building a commodity, we’re building personas,” he said.

Convincing the faithful that persona can exist in a high-tech, electric form may be one of the automotive industry’s toughest challenges. But Dodge will begin trying in 30 days.

The company may have a backup plan if the brotherhood isn’t ready immediately. Rumors suggest the Charger Daytona may also be available with a turbocharged 6-cylinder engine, though no one seems sure whether Dodge will reveal it that way at first.

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