Opinions on the Dodge Challenger have always been divided. For some, the retro-themed coupe is a welcome addition to a resurgent affordable performance market, offering big cubic inches, aggressive styling and surprising day-to-day practicality. To others the Challenger has always been too big and bloated to accurately capture the spirit of the original 70s-era model. Motor Trend is reporting that those in the latter camp might soon have a Mopar muscle machine that better satisfies their criteria for what a modern sports car should have to offer.
It's no secret that there have are no official plans in place to produce a second generation edition of the current Dodge Challenger. Although the vehicle's platform has received numerous updates to coincide with those offered on the Dodge Charger / Chrysler 300 sedans with which it shares its bones, eventually the Challenger will be forced into obsolescence without a major refresh. With both the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro due for substantial upgrades of their own in the near future, Chrysler could be looking at a full replacement of the Challenger with an all-new model dubbed the Barracuda in order to remain competitive in the domestic performance segment.
Any vehicle wearing the equally-hallowed Barracuda nameplate is unlikely to carry over the heft of the 2012 Dodge Challenger. In fact, the Chrysler/Dodge Barracuda would in all probability hit the streets in the form of a new rear-wheel drive platform developed in partnership with corporate overlords Fiat that would move away from the full-size sedan proportions of the Charger. The rear-wheel drive platform could then also be used in Europe and North America to underpin future Alfa Romeo performance vehicles, giving Alfa a complement to its already fun-to-drive core lineup.
Motor Trend remains convinced that any potential Barracuda coupe will not dip as deeply into Chrysler's past design well as the Challenger did and instead offer a more contemporary appearance. The magazine also reports that the Barracuda could join the Viper as an SRT-exclusive vehicle, giving it additional cachet over its competitors but also potentially limiting the ability for Chrysler to market a more affordable, six-cylinder edition of the car.
If the Barracuda does make it to dealerships as an SRT-only model, it may indicate that the future of the Dodge marque itself could be murky. With Ram trucks having been split off into their own sub-brand, the Viper leaving the stable for SRT as well and the Dodge Grand Caravan slated for the dust heap, there are very few iconic Dodge vehicles left to populate showrooms. Could the Barracuda mark the beginning of the end for Dodge as an American institution?