Hornets have lived many lives. The name Hornet, ie.
First used in the Hudson Hornet, it became one of the most famous race cars of the 1950s and was later immortalized in the animated film Cars, voiced by Paul Newman as Doc Hudson.
AMC returned as a compact in the 1970s, Hudson merged with Nash-Kelvinator to form American Motor Corporation in 1954, but the model was discontinued in 1977 and the name was dropped. Chrysler bought AMC in 1987, and Dodge introduced a compact, sporty Hornet show car in 2006, but never put it into production.
There's a new Hornet in showrooms now, but it's a very different vehicle from its predecessors.
The Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 is the dealer's latest V8 muscle car and the most powerful ever.
The Dodge Hornet GT compact SUV shares a platform with the new Alfa Romeo Tonal and will be built alongside it in an Italian factory, making it the country's first imported Dodge.
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The Hornet GT is smaller than most models in its class, like the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V, but Dodge likes to think of it as a class of its own.
A strong injection of brand attitude, inspired by the Dodge Charger and Dodge Durango, is injected with steel headlamps, a slotted-post grille and full-width taillamps.
Starting at $31,590, the Hornet comes with all-wheel drive, a 268-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Despite the rather elevated driving position, it's a useful road vehicle and the most powerful SUV for its price.
Soon there will be a more powerful Hornet R/T model with a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of going 30 miles on pure electric power, but for now we're focusing on the Hornet GT.
The interior is very dodgy. It has a curved dash, lots of chrome and a retro upright seat. The rear seats aren't the roomiest in the segment, but six-footers will fit. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster brings you into the modern age with a 10.3-inch in-dash touchscreen.
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Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration come standard, as do a blind-spot monitor and adaptive cruise control. An optional Technology Package adds an updated 360-degree parking camera and lane-center cruise control.
Stepping on the accelerator is enough to realize that the Hornet GT lives up to its image. The turbocharged engine delivers a strong 295 pound-feet of torque, helping it accelerate to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds.
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The steering is very responsive and the thick steering wheel is meaty. The ride is firm but not harsh, with most of the harshness transferred to the relatively low-profile tires. It's perfect on smooth roads and the cabin is quiet. Fuel economy is 24 mpg combined, which isn't great for this class, but performance is the price you pay.
Along with Track Pack upgrades that add stronger shocks, brakes, wheels and tires, Dodge will offer even more parts through its Direct Connect catalog to make things like the Charger and Challenger muscle-cars even better.
The compact SUV segment is the largest and most competitive today. Dodge was trying to stand out and succeed.
The Hornet may not be the perfect compact SUV for everyone, but it's cutting edge for what it is.