2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus Review: Sensible Platform-Sharing That (Mostly) Works

The phrase platform sharing often carries negative connotations among the enthusiast world. How good can any one car be when it’s just a re-hash of something else? To the contrary, platform sharing has produced some of the best cars of recent and bygone eras. Badge engineering, however, is a bit more unscrupulous. I recently spent a week with the 2024 Dodge Hornet and discovered it’s a bit of both.

Shared platforms go back decades. In 1984, Chrysler took the humble K-Car sedan and turned it into the wildly successful Dodge Caravan. Ford’s Aerostar and Explorer have their roots in the Ranger pickup truck. Modern-day Toyota uses the same platform to underpin the Camry, Sienna, and Lexus RX crossover. Know someone with a “WK2” Jeep Grand Cherokee? Thank the W166 Mercedes-Benz ML for donating the platform.

In all of those cases, the platform donates a few key items called “hard points.” Those points are fixed and determine roughly where certain body panels and interior bits have to mount. Wheelbase, track width, and ride height are generally adjustable to some extent. Manufacturers can easily adapt one platform to serve multiple purposes, and they have.

Fortune Magazine GM A-Bodies

Badge engineering, by comparison, is the practice of building one vehicle, making minimal changes, and selling it under several marques. American brands are famous for this – Fortune magazine called it out in the 1980s with the then-new General Motors A-Bodies. Chrysler sold the Neon as a Dodge and Plymouth. Ford tweaked a few body panels on the Taurus to get the Mercury Sable. Even now, Toyota’s GR86 and Subaru’s BRZ are indeed badge engineered.

Sure, you’ll get suspension tweaks and different paint colors and different wheel designs. Maybe even a different engine. But one method is decidedly more fast-track-y than the other. Both serve the same purpose – to spread the development cost of the vehicle out in a way that allows for maximum sales and thus, profit.

2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus rear

Understanding the 2024 Dodge Hornet

To understand the 2024 Dodge Hornet, we must first understand the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Alfa’s positioning in the United States is that of performance, style, and attainable-ish luxury. Their Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover are lovely cars but only appeal to so many buyers given what they are and how they’re priced. The Italian brand – part of Stellantis, who also owns Dodge – needed something smaller and cheaper. Tonale was born.

Now look, I don’t know the actual story of the Tonale’s development. For all I know, they could’ve planned a Dodge variant from the get-go. What I do know is that the Tonale was announced, to the media and the world, as its own model for quite some time. And then in a move that felt somewhat last-minute, Dodge dropped the Hornet.

The 2024 Dodge Hornet is, at its core, an Alfa Romeo Tonale. It shares nearly every body panel, with a different front fascia. Interior? Identical, though the drive mode and start/stop buttons have been flipped. Drivetrain? Suspension? Tech? The same.

2024 Dodge Hornet Basics

Where every Tonale is a plug-in hybrid, Dodge offers the Hornet GT with a turbocharged four-cylinder. The cost of entry is far lower than the most basic Tonale, at $31,400. My 2024 Dodge Hornet, however, was a fully-loaded R/T Plus model. This meant I got the Tonale’s plug-in powertrain, a 1.3-liter turbocharged three-cylinder paired to a 15.5 kWh battery pack. Total output of the plug-in hybrid setup is 288 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. The Hornet can travel up to 30 miles on a charge, says Dodge.

“All-wheel drive” comes from the combustion engine driving the front wheels and the electric motor driving the rear. Front-axle power is fed through a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission and open differential, the latter of which makes itself known if you engage Sport mode, pull both paddles for the PowerShot 30-horsepower bump, and floor it.

Engaging PowerShot produces a 0-to-60 time of 5.6 seconds, which Dodge says is the fastest of any PHEV in the Hornet’s class.

2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus steering wheel paddle shifters

Suspension on offer again matches the Alfa, with Koni FSD dampers on the more basic Hornet GT and optional two-stage adaptive dampers on the Hornet R/T. My test car was equipped with the Blacktop and Track Pack Bundle, which added those dampers alongside 20-inch wheels, Alcantara seats and other appearance tweaks. Brembo four-piston front brake calipers are standard on the R/T.

Inside, the 2024 Dodge Hornet is a nice place to sit. Seats are bolstered enough to feel supportive without being obnoxious. A three-spoke steering wheel of appropriate thickness  (barely) hides the gigantic metal shift paddles, an Alfa Romeo staple. Nobody tried to reinvent the shifter, either – it’s a traditional “PRNDL” sort of setup on the console.

Stellantis’ Uconnect 5 infotainment sits front and center and works well, if a touch slowly at times, paired to a just-fine Harman/Kardon sound system. My Hornet R/T Plus featured a fully-digital gauge cluster that provided plenty of information without being too overwhelming.

The price for this Dodge-branded Alfa-designed compact crossover? An eye-watering $54,000-and-change. My local dealers are offering rebates, though, and the plug-in R/T models qualify for at least $6,000 in tax credits from Chrysler Capital if you lease. That lessens the sting, but only somewhat. This is still, loaded-up, an expensive car.

2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus dashboard

Driving the 2024 Dodge Hornet

Blindfolded, you’d believe you were in a Tonale. The startup chime and every other noise the Hornet makes is identical to that of the Tonale. And indeed, the driving experience is identical as well.

When charged and driving on full electric power, the Hornet will scoot around easily enough. It feels plenty punchy at city speeds, and feels fine on the highway until it’s time to pass. Then, the electric motor’s 121 horsepower and 184 lb-ft output shows its limits against the Hornet’s 4,140-pound curb weight. Bury your foot in the kickdown, though, and the turbo three joins the party. It’s a seamless integration and with both power sources contributing, the Hornet R/T is indeed quick for what it is.

Operating in hybrid mode, there is plenty of power on tap no matter where you are in the revs. The two power sources work well together, though you’ll get marked torque steer out of the front end if you, for some reason, drag race your Hornet R/T away from a light. On the move, the paddle shifters work as intended, though power falls flat well before redline thanks to a tiny turbo that spools early for city driving.

2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus gauges

If you do get a wild hair and huck the Hornet into an off-ramp, it’ll stick and take the cornering forces with respectable grace. Steering is a bit lighter than I’d prefer, with a quickness to the turn-in – an Alfa hallmark. Body movement is well-controlled and the ride from the adaptive dampers is generally good in both city and highway driving.

Braking is also well-executed, with a pedal that offers confidence between the initial bite and the rest of its travel. Interestingly, there’s more regenerative braking on tap if you engage Sport mode. 

The 2024 Dodge Hornet R/T is competent, but it never encourages you to drive especially hard – there’s just not much theatre here.

2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus steering wheel

Dodge Needs This to Work

There’s no denying the Dodge brand is in a bit of a pickle right now. The Charger and Challenger, staples for decades, are just about dead. The Durango SUV is on its way out, having outlived its WK2 Jeep and W166 Mercedes platform-mates. The Grand Caravan died in 2020. Ram trucks are their own thing, on paper, thanks to Cerberus-era decision making that consumers still don’t quite understand.

A new Charger is on the way, but until then, this Hornet is what’s carrying the Dodge brand within Stellantis. And I think it’s an appealing enough car, but only if it’s priced right. Based on window stickers, my loaded Hornet R/T Plus is within spitting distance – three grand – of its Tonale twin. Given incentives, the gap widens. Look at a gas-only Hornet GT, and the gap is suddenly massive, and the Hornet’s badge-engineered existence makes much more sense.

2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus infotainment UConnect screen

Enthusiasts like us will look at the Hornet and scoff. And we’re probably right, on principle. But caring about minutia like this doesn’t sell cars. The 2024 Dodge Hornet is a fine crossover that’s a little hotter than, say, a Corolla Cross. It’s got more attitude – by way of marketing and design – than something like a Kia Seltos. And it’s got plenty of tech inside, from driver assistance to infotainment, all of which feels modern and thought-out.

And for the likely buyer, that’s all it needs to be.

2024 Dodge Hornet R/T Plus nose

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