Muscle And Tech Give Dodge Hornet R/T Its Sting

Let’s get this out there right now, the 2024 Dodge Hornet R/T doesn’t claim to be an SRT® Hellcat and was not created to be a replacement for these tire-shredding monsters. While the other automotive media sites struggle to define the Hornet R/T’s role in this post-pandemic world of ever-tightening EPA emission standards, this car can stand on its own merits. The Hornet R/T is quick, nimble and very responsive. It has no problem putting a smile on your face when mashing the accelerator pedal when you’re partaking in stoplight shenanigans and shocking unsuspecting motorists in the next lane. Even though the Hornet R/T is launching while the sun sets on the era of 1000-horsepower SRT Challengers and Chargers, it has nothing to be ashamed of competing in the highly lucrative compact utility vehicle (CUV) segment. The Hornet R/T has a blend of brawn and attitude, something Dodge has had in its DNA for over half a century. 

We had a chance to warm up to the Hornet R/T and put it through some real-world driving scenarios on our recent trip from the Motor City to Indianapolis for the annual Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show to see the latest offerings in high-performance parts for a variety street and off-road vehicles competing on drag strips, dirt tracks, paved ovals, and road courses. We put the Hornet R/T through a variety of conditions that would test its acceleration, braking, handling and people-carrying capabilities, including tons of luggage and other essentials for a fun-filled weekend of checking out go-fast parts and hanging with other industry colleagues. There were only three of us on this trip but based on the amount of luggage we all brought, we apparently packed for our moods. That was a non-issue as the Hornet’s generous rear hatch area had no problem swallowing up all of our “stuff.” 

With that, let’s get to the heart of the Hornet R/T, its 1.3-liter turbo I-4 PHEV (that’s Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle for all you hardcore high-octane fuel freaks) powertrain and it makes 288 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque courtesy of two electric motors. (It was recently named a winner of the 2023 Wards 10 Best Engines and Propulsion Systems award.) Those are very respectful numbers and explain the Hornet R/T’s ability to easily pull out into traffic with no issues. As much as we liked the 1.3-liter I-4 Turbo gas engine and its gurgling noises from the dual exhaust outlets, credit must be given to the 15.5-kWh lithium-ion battery that gave a 32-mile all-electric range. Speaking of our teenager pranks, the Hornet R/T, which comes standard with all-wheel drive, had no problem pinning our backs to those supportive and good-looking black Alcantara seats when we hit the “PowerShot” button and the 90kW electric motor mounted on the rear axle gets a jolt of electric juice. With both the gas and electric motors teaming up, the Hornet R/T will hustle from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds that puts it smack dab right in muscle car territory (for perspective, Hot Rod Magazine tested a brand-new 383-powered Plymouth Road Runner back in 1968 and it was a half a second slower at 6.2 seconds). While the Hornet R/T was carrying more weight than its muscle car grandfather (4,140 pounds versus the classic Mopar®’s 3,750 pounds), all that safety, comfort, convenience and technology do come at a weight penalty, but Hornet’s impressive hybrid powertrain makes you forget the car’s two-ton girth. 

Another major factor in the Hornet R/T’s performance is its six-speed automatic transmission that when in Sport mode, acts like an exotic F1 racecar. Upshifts are super firm, tight and at the engine’s redline, and when it’s time to slow down, the R/T’s standard Brembo four-piston brakes with red painted “DODGE” calipers did their job with no complaints. Our Hornet R/T was equipped with the optional “R/T Blacktop and Track Pack Bundle” option that includes many cool exterior ornaments like sinister black badging, along with cool functional items like a dual-mode suspension with Dual mode shocks and sticky 235/40R20 Michelin Pilot Sport All-Season 4 tires mounted on 20-inch x 8.0-inch Aluminum wheels. This combo made the Hornet R/T feel like an SCCA Showroom Stock racer carving corners at Mid-Ohio Raceway as we flashbacked to our youth and Omni GLHS days. But let’s leave the 1980s and their horrible hairstyles in the past and focus on this new pocket rocket that’s currently in the Dodge stable. 

The tight suspension and performance tires did let their presence be known on the patched concrete surface on well-worn sections of Interstate I-75 travelling out of Michigan. There were various road noises resonating through the cabin, but we just cranked up our favorite tunes we downloaded Apple CarPlay® and then cranked them out on the Harman Kardon Premium Audio System. The interior of the Hornet R/T was very attractive and well equipped. It included red accented Alcantara seats with supportive side bolsters, steel door sills to remind us of what we just climbed into, and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel that was great on those cold December mornings and made our shotgun-riding passenger jealous. The 10.25-inch touch display screen provided us with a wealth of settings while we toggled between various layouts on the dash through the thumbwheel on the steering wheel. 

On the road to the “Racing Capitol of the US”, the Hornet R/T never missed a beat as we drove to Indy knocking down some impressive mileage numbers while driving live teenagers heading down to Daytona for Spring Break. Switching drivers at various fuel and food stops, each of us had a chance to drive this car and therefore had varying opinions on the Hornet R/T road manners. At the end of our 600-plus mile round trip, we came to the same conclusion. The 2024 Dodge Hornet is a modern car for modern times but with a little bit of old-school muscle attitude thrown in with plenty of sting!