Automakers around the world are under the gun to reduce emissions and increase fuel economy. So why does the 2015 Challenger SRT come with a Hellcat V-8 that cranks out 707 hp under the hood?
According to Ward’s Auto, the answer is: Because they can.
Maximum horsepower has become a talisman in the American auto industry. It’s about bragging rights, creating buzz in the showroom and selling more cars. In theory, by finding 650 hp for the latest Corvette ZO6, 662 hp for the Mustang Shelby GT500 or 707 for the Challenger SRT, Detroit’s powertrain engineers are pushing the envelope and learning how to squeeze every last bit of efficiency out of an internal combustion engine. That knowledge will supposedly trickle down to more ordinary engines and make it possible to meet the low emissions/high mpg challenge. Think of it as Reaganomics for powertrain engineers.
And those who build these uber engines think there’s no end in sight. In a survey conducted by Ward’s, the majority believe 800 hp engines will be on the market by 2020.
Here at Gas 2.0, we are on record as predicting all this horsepower madness is a sign that these big V-8 engines are about to go the way of the dinosaurs. In fact, while the engine boys are busy burning the midnight oil looking for even more power, the marketplace is starting to turn a cold shoulder towards these beasts. Viper sales have gone over a cliff and among Chrysler’s SRT offerings, only the Grand Cherokee version is selling in any appreciable numbers.
You might say that the number of vehicles equipped with such hyper motors is negligible and so the impact on the environment is tiny. And there is some truth to the notion that they create excitement among car buyers, which drives sales of the highly efficient cars we normal people drive. But in the end, this latest round of “horsepower wars” is just slightly silly, and will eventually come to an end. It’s not a matter of if, but rather when.
If it floats your boat, enjoy it while you can. Chances are, we are witnessing the end of an era of oil-burning performance, and the birth of a new era of electric-powered performance.