© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Track Pack E-AWD review

2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Track Pack E-AWD front right
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Track Pack E-AWD front right

You may not have heard of the Dodge Hornet, so it follows that you likely haven’t considered it if shopping for a compact plug-in hybrid crossover.

Some vehicles fly under the radar and the performance-oriented Hornet is barely a blip at the edge of that screen. Why? Well, Dodge did some TV ads for it when launched in early 2023, but since then it has disappeared from the public eye despite Dodge having virtually nothing else new in its lineup for 2024. Electrics are promised, but not here yet.

Sad, too, as this sort of reminds me of the fate of the late Chevy Volt, a gas-powered electric that was a huge leap forward for technology combining the benefit of gasoline power with cleaner electric propulsion.

Hornet R/T is much the same in that it’s a plug-in hybrid that allows its peppy 1.3-liter I4 turbo engine to help charge the battery when the nimble crossover is in Sport mode. Smart!

And darned if the Hornet isn’t a sharp looker like most Dodge products. The smooth nose with a couple functional hood vents screams Dodge. In fact, a friend at church immediately identified Hornet as a Dodge, just seeing its nose.

The tester was a sporty 8 Ball Black and with red Dodge-branded Brembo brake calipers and bits of red trim. Inside and out, the Hornet was undeniably sporty.

Yet it’s the power, handling and economy of operation that make Hornet special in the crowded compact crossover market. Credit some of that to Stallantis (Dodge’s owner) hooking the Hornet up with the underpinnings of the Alfa Romeo Tonale, a decidedly sporty Italian crossover. Hornet is even assembled in Italy.

What that means is Hornet handles better than many crossovers with quick steering and a sporty feel delivered to the driver via a leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel. Hornet corners well, feels like it can chop off some sharp corners’ apexes and then has plenty of giddy-up to scoot out the other side.

With the turbo I4 and two electric motors this plug-in hybrid (PHEV) delivers a spirited 288 horsepower and monster 383 pound-feet of torque. Major oomph and even a bit of exhaust burble! Granted, to access all that oomph is a bit convoluted. More on that in a sec. Power is power and it’s what the formerly Hemi-heavy Dodge products are famous for.

Hornet’s AWD naturally puts that power down evenly so you’re not wasting a bunch by spinning the 20-inch Michelin ZR-rated tires.

Range is reportedly 32 miles on a charge, although I could net only 31. Still, that power lasted better than some other hybrids. In one 7-mile outing, I used only two miles of electric charge as I had pushed the Sport mode button on the dash, (confusingly close to the ignition button). That allows the engine to further charge Hornet’s batteries as you power up for quick getaways using the turbocharged engine.

Naturally, hybrid systems also use regenerative braking to partially add battery power as the vehicle coasts or brakes to a stop.

Again, as with many PHEVs, an overnight charge on a standard 110-volt household circuit fully charges the battery packs. One 8-hour charge did that for me and I then used mostly hybrid power (3 mode choices, Hybrid, Electric or e-Save) with an occasional Sport zap for quicker acceleration.

Maximum power, or what Dodge calls PowerShot, is much like the Push 2 Pass power boost that Indycar racers use. It allows for a 30-horsepower bump for 15 seconds, with a 15-second recycling period. But here’s the rub. You must have the Hornet in Sport mode, or it won’t work. Also, to engage it, a driver must pull back on the two massive aluminum shift paddles behind the steering wheel simultaneously and then hit the accelerator for the power jolt.

Great that it’ll help the Hornet power around lumbering freeway semis, but it would be much easier to just mash the accelerator as in most vehicles. That’s especially true since many drivers won’t be using Sport mode all the time, especially when cruising the freeway.

Note that if you forget to engage Sport mode a message on the driver’s info screen will warn that PowerShot is only available in Sport mode. You are forewarned.

All that said, I managed a phenomenal 54.8 miles per gallon in a week’s drive. I think the closest I’ve come to that in a standard hybrid was about 48 mpg in a Toyota Camry a couple years back.

The ride is pretty well controlled in Hornet too, but note that when using Sport mode, the suspension is firmed to a very stiff level, so maybe OK on the highway, but not when traversing crumbling Midwestern city or country roads.

I like Hornet’s stylish suede and leather interior, pretty much all black with red and gray stitching in the mostly suede seats but red stitching along the door and dash panels. The interior is an upgrade thanks to the $2,595 Track Pack that also adds a dual-mode suspension, 20-inch tires, aluminum wheels and those red brake calipers.

Yet it’s the power front seats that are part of the deal that’ll make a driver and passenger comfortable. The seats are well-shaped for good lateral support and also have a subtle red dot pattern in the cushions to spiff them up. Trim is matte silver on the console, air ducts, buttons and steering wheel hub, with just a wee bit of black gloss trim around the mid-dash vents.

Dodge goes with a modest 8-inch touchscreen that is wisely mounted below the main windshield sight lines so not intrusive. It is functionality simple too, and below that screen are climate control toggles, also quite simple to use.

Standard are a heated steering wheel and front seats, but sadly, Dodge puts those controls into the touchscreen and they are quite small, so at first hard to find and second hard to touch singly to avoid over adjusting. Please interior designers, just put these on the console or center stack, like other climate controls.

Yet, Dodge includes three power seat memory buttons on the door and the front seats are easily adjusted via controls on their sides and are all part of the Track Pack.

I’ve gotta mention the standard six-speaker premium stereo, too. It’s fabulous for a non-luxury crossover. Rare that I even notice, but sound quality is excellent. A Harmon Kardon upgrade with 14 speakers and 465 watts of power also is available.

Standard too are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, but no sunroof or power hatch. Hornet’s giant A-pillars also restrict side vision and the interior of the driver’s side pillar in the tester had trim that was misfit.

Cargo space is less generous than in many compact crossovers and about four cubic feet less than in the Hornet GT. The cargo floor seems extremely high, albeit with good storage space for the charger and cord beneath the floor. Seats split and fold flat, plus Dodge includes a pass-through in the seat back.

For gasoline lovers the Hornet GT may be your best bet, it packs 268 horses with its turbo I4 creating 295 pound-feet of torque. It also lists at $32,995 and the better-equipped GT Plus begins at $37,995. The tested R/T starts at $42,995, so a $5,000 premium to the GT Plus to move up to the plug-in hybrid. But again, the gas savings are tremendous with R/T.

With the Track Pack, this AWD compact crossover hit $45,590, which certainly is at the high end of compact crossovers. Two other trim packages, Blacktop and Tech Pack also are available, as is an R/T Plus model that includes the fancier stereo.

I’m sure Dodge would argue that pricing is appropriate for R/T, though. First, this is a plug-in hybrid and second, it’s the fastest darned compact crossover on the market.

That’s the Dodge difference, still!

FAST STATS: 2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Track Pack E-AWD

Hits: Plug-in hybrid with Dodge looks, power + PowerShot, precise handling, a firm well-controlled ride, AWD and excellent mpg. Heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, 3-memory driver’s seat, handy climate control toggles, good stereo, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, flat-bottom wheel, and comfy seats.

Misses: No sunroof, no power hatch, tiny on-screen controls for heated/cooled seats and heated wheel, intrusively large A-pillars, odd access to PowerShot, and poor finish inside driver’s side A-pillar.

Made in: Pomigliano, Italy

Engine: 1.3-liter turbo I4 w/2 electric motor PHEV system, 288 hp/383 torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 4,205 lbs.

Wheelbase: 103.8 in.

Length: 178 in.

Cargo: 23.3-51 cu.ft.

MPG: 77/29, 32 combo

e-Range: 32 miles

MPG: 54.8 (tested)

Base Price: $42,995 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $42,581

Major Options:

Track Pack referred pkg. 28B (black Alcantara non-vented seats w/red accents, Inox steel door sills, sport leather steering wheel, dual mode suspension, R20 all-season Michelin tires, 20-inch Abyss finish aluminum wheels, bright pedals, red Dodge brake calipers, 4-way power lumbar adjustable seats, 8-way power front seats, driver seat memory), $2,595

Test vehicle: $45,590

Sources: Dodge, www.kbb.com

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
Related Content