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Let's start with the re-branding itself. This isn't the first time Chrysler has shuffled models around to different brands. The current-generation Viper spent two years as the flagship model under the SRT banner, only to return to Dodge for 2015 when SRT resumed its former role as a sub-brand. Years ago, the Neon was sold as a Plymouth, a Dodge, and a Chrysler model, depending on where you shopped for one. When Plymouth ceased to exist, the last few years of Prowler production got Chrysler badges instead. Then there's the new Jeep Renegade, a model whose name was born out of a trim level.
Further examples of naming liberties taken throughout automotive history could fill a book, but suffice it to say that these days a model's name has very little to do with the vehicle itself or any legacy it might have. The Barracuda name might be a particularly sacred cow with enthusiasts, but to me, a much bigger concern is the fact that the car might not turn out to be a muscle car in the way we currently define them.
The Barracuda might not turn out to be a muscle car in the way we currently define them.
News from the Fiat Chrysler dealer briefing earlier this week indicates that when the next Charger debuts it will share its platform with the Barracuda, much the way the Charger and Challenger are twinned now. One difference is that the Barracuda is tipped to be offered as a convertible, while the modern Challenger is tintop-only. The Charger and Barracuda will use the rear-drive platform developed for Alfa Romeo's new Giulia, itself designed as a BMW M3 fighter both from a dimensional and dynamic standpoint; the Barracuda is expected to be slightly smaller than the current Challenger. That news won't be cause for concern for most, as Alfa has built a reputation for lightweight, nimble vehicles, and the Challenger (which the Barracuda is expected to replace) has taken a lot of heat for its bulky proportions and substantial curb weight.
However, a recent rumor that all of Fiat Chrysler's SRT Hemi V8s – including the 6.2-liter supercharged Hellcat motor – may be killed off entirely in just a few years leaves us wondering if a V8 will be available for the Barracuda at all. The timing for this rumor and the new products in FCA's pipeline seem to match up, and Alfa's top-spec engine for the upcoming Giulia sedan is a twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder mill making 510 horsepower. Solid numbers, but not from the configuration that the Plymouth 'Cuda offered.
With the Mustang and Camaro moving toward sports car territory and the industry's current shift away from naturally aspirated, large-displacement engines in favor of smaller forced-induction motors with fewer cylinders, the modern muscle car as we know it may be going the way of the dodo. And if a Barracuda can't be had with a gurgling eight-cylinder, the severed ties to nostalgia go beyond the lack of a Plymouth badge.