Giddy Up! Automakers Raise Horsepower, Speed to New Heights

Fred Croatti often drives his silver Dodge Charger Hellcat to the grocery store, turning heads as he rumbles through the parking lot with a supercharged 6.2-Liter 707-horsepower engine.

Although Croatti's car sounds like a NASCAR racer, the retired pilot from Port Orange, Florida, isn't looking for attention. He just loves the power.

"The visceral effect of the air, the sound," he says. "All you've got to do is tickle the gas a little bit and the hairs on the back of your head stand up."

At a time when mainstream and luxury cars look similar inside and out, buyers like Croatti are hungry for sound and speed, and car companies are happy to oblige.

On Tuesday night, Fiat Chrysler's Dodge brand used explosions, burnouts and a small drag strip to ramp up horsepower even more. Ahead of the press days of the New York auto show, Dodge rolled out the 840-horsepower Demon Challenger [pictured above], which FCA says is the fastest and most powerful production car made.

The horsepower craze isn't limited to big cars or domestic automakers. In New York, Honda's 306-horsepower compact Civic Type R will make its U.S. debut. Mercedes will roll out two new AMG high-performance vehicles including the GT R Coupe with a 577-horsepower 4-Liter V-8. Both can go zero-to-60 in under four seconds. Porsche's Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid will make its North American debut with total output of 680 horsepower, the second-most powerful Porsche ever.

With the exploding popularity of SUVs, the craze extends there, too. One of the Mercedes AMGs is an SUV. Last week Chevrolet rolled out the Tahoe RST with a 420-horsepower version of the Corvette V-8 and a zero-to-60 time of 5.7 seconds, unheard of previously for a truck-based vehicle. Not to be outdone, Fiat Chrysler on Sunday unveiled a 707-horsepower Jeep Grand Cherokee, which it...

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