BBC Autos

Dodge tunes in That ‘70s Show in New York

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With its refresh of the boy-racer Challenger muscle car – a bygone nameplate resurrected in 2008 – Dodge split the difference between Mad Men and American Hustle.

Rather than spread collars, wide ties and plaid polyester slacks, the touchstones are a split radiator grille, a high-sill centre console, throwback colour schemes with names like TorRed, B5 Blue and Sublime Green, and period-correct cabin appointments such as Houndstooth fabric upholstery.

It also means a mountain of underhood power from a Hemi V8 engine. Although today's modern aluminium small-block V8s bear no relation to the ancient iron big-blocks, the Dodge’s staggering maximum output of 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque evokes the pre-emissions-control muscle car wars that peaked around 1971.

Those power numbers, mind, are reserved for the magnum force 6.4-litre "392" Hemi Scat Pack engine, while the 5.7-litre Hemi offers a still-muscular 375hp and 410lb-ft, and the base 3.6-litre V6 engine offers a solid 305hp and 268 lb-ft. By comparison, the base six-cylinder engine in 1971 made a paltry 105 net horsepower, according to the car's sales brochure. And the legendary 426 Hemi? Its net rating was 350hp. Heck, today's V6 even tops the horsepower rating of the mighty 383 V8 of 1971.

The 2015-model-year car introduced on 17 April at the New York auto show bears features decidedly of its era, most notably the 7in configurable information screen between the speedometer and tachometer, and the available 8.4in central display for the infotainment and navigation system. A 5in central display is standard equipment.

There's modernised drivetrain hardware too, in the form of eight-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmissions.

Electronic widgets also pack the neo-Challenger, as Dodge adds a forward-scanning radar unit to provide adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning, a rear radar for blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection, and a back-up camera.

Meanwhile, across the aisle at the Dodge store, families looking for a four-door sedan will find the refreshed Charger. Not just a fascias-and-fog-lamps update, the new Charger gets almost entirely new sheet metal for a sleeker design, typified by a rear pillar pushed farther back on the roofline for a more tapered look. This, combined with a pointier nose, helps move the Charger away from the blunt bulldog it has been since arriving in 2005.

The Charger shares its foundation with the Challenger, along with several of its engines and transmissions. That means the base V6 and 5.7-litre V8 have a similar specification of 292hp and 370hp, respectively, and the same eight-speed automatic transmissions are used.

But the new Charger gets to shine with a bit of its own technology, including a mobile phone app that lets drivers start and lock the car from a distance, as well as integration with apps like Pandora, Slacker and iHeartRadio. The Charger can also serve as mobile wi-fi hotspot, letting occupants connect their devices to its wireless router for internet access on the go.

Though numbers have not been released for the Challenger, Dodge has official EPA fuel economy scores for the Charger, with the V6 version of this traditional full-size, rear-wheel-drive American family sedan achieving 31mpg on the highway test and 19mpg in the city portion. The V8 engine returned scores of 25mpg highway and 16mpg city.

However unimpressive those figures may sound, it’s worth remembering that the cars’ forbears rarely returned 16mpg on a windless, pancake-flat highway at a steady 60mph.

Fiat, Dodge’s corporate parent, kept the channel tuned to That '70s Show in New York with the US introduction of the Alfa Romeo 4C two-seat sports car.

Alfa Romeo 4C

(Chrysler Group)

The car’s presence evoked an era when Fiats and Alfa Romeos were common sights in the driveways and repair shops across the country.

To commemorate the arrival, Alfa will offer a run of 500 "Launch Edition" versions of the 4C, loaded down with all available options and features, reported spokesman Jiyan Cadiz. The company will offer the cars through select Fiat and Maserati dealers, but those have not yet been named. The launch car will cost about $70,000, while the base car will start at $54,000, with cloth seats and no options, Cadiz said.

With Alfas, Fiats, Challengers and Chargers all in showrooms, the Fiat-Chrysler Group has clearly turned back the clock. Buyers with ample disposable income and nostalgic dispositions will likely not be far off the pace.

Related coverage: Live, from New York…

2014 New York International Auto Show

2014 New York auto show. (Photo: Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)