The SRT-badged Challenger will probably go away, although we'd expect the naturally aspirated 6.2L Hemi to stay around as a high-end upgrade for the Challenger R/T. (Factoid: Chevy has already proven that with the right engineering upgrades in the form of direct injection and variable valve timing, fuel economy can improve enough for the 6.2L to become standard. Are you listening Dodge boys?) We don't think a 6.2L Challenger R/T would conflict with the SRT 'Cuda, because the 'Cuda will be far more upscale, with premium content on par with a high-end European luxury car. That includes a unique dash, console, and instrument panel. The price tag will also be a lot more exotic; look for the SRT 'Cuda to have a starting price around $60,000, right in the wheelhouse of the Shelby GT500 and Camaro ZL1. That leaves plenty of room for a naturally aspirated 6.2L Challenger in the $40,000 to $50,000 range (where the SRT8 Challenger was), while making the limited-production SRT 'Cuda look like a downright bargain when parked next to the $100K Viper. Marketing genius we say.

One area where we’re a little sketchy on is the platform. The Dodge Challenger is currently made on the LY architecture—an evolution of the Daimler-era rear-drive LX platform. At one point rumors led us to believe that Fiat would develop a global rear-drive “LA” platform (anyone else find that ironic?) that would satisfy the rear-drive needs corporately for both Fiat and Chrysler. With LA, the wheelbase and track would both shrink, and weight would come down. Those plans appear to have been pushed back or postponed for now, leaving the ’Cuda (and the next Challenger) to be built on the current LY platform. That said, there is still room for the wheelbase to shrink, but not by much, given that the proportions are somewhat dictated by the cowl height. In any event, look for the Challenger’s class-leading independent suspension to undergo further refinement in the SRT ’Cuda. We’re also predicting that the blown Hemi will be backed with a new six-speed automatic with paddle shifters or an optional seven-speed manual—both the cost of entry into that segment now that Chevy has raised the bar with the ’14 Corvette.

The timing of the SRT 'Cuda most likely puts it in the 2015 model year. Much of that will depend on how quickly the fuel-efficient Fiat products can be brought to the U.S. market. Right now, the Fiat 500 is underperforming the sales expectations, and that would need to improve to justify another fuel-thirsty vehicle. (Stricter EPA standards are just around the corner.) If things go according to plan, we could see Chrysler pull the wraps off the SRT 'Cuda as early as 2014. That's still a long way off, and a lot can happen in that time.

We took all of our qualified rumors and intel to artist Kris Horton, and told him to come up with a ’Cuda design based heavily off the current Challenger. We made that decision based on the fact that Chrysler has been pretty conservative with its recent redesigns of the SRT Viper, Chrysler 300, and Dodge Charger. Also, when the ’08 Challenger arrived, it was a near carbon copy of the ’70 model. Combined with the fact that Mopar enthusiasts are obsessively passionate about historical designs, and you see that all the arrows point to a retro-themed ’Cuda. We doubt that SRT will toy too much with the near-perfect design aesthetics of the original, but how much it might blend the E-Body ’Cuda with the more plebeian Plymouth Valiant/Barracuda is impossible to say.

Since we've not seen anything except camouflaged test cars, we're taking a bit of a risk rolling out our version of the '15 SRT 'Cuda ahead of the official product launch, but one thing we can say is that based on spy photos, it will have a "quad" headlight theme. For this reason, we chose to base our fictional 'Cuda off the '71 rather than the '70 or '72-74, all of which had single headlights. As it so happens, the current Challenger uses a quad-style headlight arrangement, and that makes the '15 'Cuda an easy leap to the '71 grille. In fact, it's such an obvious move that several other web artists have beaten us to the punch. One aftermarket company, Mr. Norm's Garage (www.mrnormsgarage.com, 815-636-2784) even offers a very convincing '71 'Cuda grille ($599) and tailpanel ($299) to convert existing Challengers to look very similar to our rendering. Notwithstanding, the '71 Cuda has long since supplanted the '70 as the quintessential 'Cuda, so we instructed Horton to pretty much lift that version's grille, side body line, and tailpanel. It's what you'd want SRT to do, so we did it. There's also a good chance that somewhere there's a Chrysler design guy staring at this, mumbling that it looks nothing like the real thing. We'll find out soon enough-because it's coming before we know it!