Dodge’s multi-pronged attempt to dominate the news this week had something for everyone, including an electric future muscle car in the Charger Daytona SRT Concept, a sun-loving swansong for a current muscle car in the shape of a rag-top Challenger, and a modern take on classic muscle courtesy of Finale Speed’s carbon fiber 1970 Charger bodyshell.
But for 14,000 people the biggest news to come out of the Dodge Speed Week event was the launch of the 2023 Hornet. That’s the number of individuals in North America who placed a pre-order for the compact SUV in just 24 hours. The result is particularly impressive given that only the entry-level Hornet GT is available to pre-order; the more powerful, and hybrid-assisted, Hornet R/T isn’t on the menu until spring 2023.
You might assume that the Hornet’s welcome will be heartening news for Alfa Romeo North America. The Hornet and Alfa’s Tonale are, details aside, almost identical, so if Dodge can pull in a bunch of orders for its SUV, why can’t Alfa pull off the same trick with its version of the same car with the same powertrain, particularly since it sports a more distinctive face and a more exotic badge?
Related: 2023 Dodge Hornet Lands With Italian Looks, 285HP Electrified R/T And $29,995 Starting Price
We hope the Tonale does great things for the underperforming Italian brand, but we can think of a few reasons why the Tonale might not be so rapturously received as its brother. The first is that Dodge has much stronger brand recognition in the U.S., particularly among enthusiasts. And you can imagine some potential buyers mistakenly and unfairly putting more trust in the Hornet’s mechanical quality and reliability than the Tonale’s despite both cars being built side by side in the same factory in Naples, Italy, from the same components.
Same cars, but one thinks it’s premium
And then there’s the price per horsepower ratio. The launch version of the Hornet costs $29,995 and comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder Hurricane4 engine that pumps out 265 hp (269 PS) and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque, and drives all four wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. That’s pretty strong value. Alfa Romeo’s Tonale will launch in the U.S. later this year with the exact same drivetrain, though curiously the Italians rate their version at 256 hp (260 PS) and 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque.
Dodge quotes 6.5 seconds to 60 mph (96 km/h) for the base Hornet, and 6.1 seconds for next year’s R/T, which downgrades to a 1.3-liter turbocharged four, but adds an electric motor for 285 hp (289 PS) and 383 lb-ft (519 Nm) of torque, and can travel up to 30 miles (48 km) on electric power alone. The 9 hp (9 PS) discrepancy notwithstanding, the Alfa is likely to turn in very similar performance figures, but because it’ll be aimed at compact SUVs from premium brands it’s likely to cost considerably more than the Dodge.
We can’t be sure how much more, but looking at its rivals gives us a fair idea. The BMW X1 xDrive28i, which also has a turbo’d 2.0-liter and all-wheel drive, but only makes 241 hp (245 PS), starts at $38,600. Audi’s 184 hp (187 PS) Q3 40 TFSi isn’t currently available in the U.S., but the 45 TFSi Quattro that’ll be going head-to-head with the Tonale 2.0 makes even less muscle than the BMW X1 (228 hp / 231 PS) and will set you back $38,700 in its cheapest form.
Related: 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale Lands With Hybrid Options, NFT Tech And The Promise Of U.S. Sales
Alfa’s base car has more standard equipment
Even assuming Alfa Romeo chooses not to try to capitalize on its power advantage over its rivals, and instead decides to undercut them to make up for its weaker brand recognition, the Tonale is still going to cost significantly more than the mechanically identical Hornet, something that will be explained away by the extra equipment on the Alfa. Only the Tonale gets those sexy Trilobo LED headlights, its 18-inch base wheel is an inch bigger than the Hornet’s, and Dodge makes you pay extra for adaptive cruise control.
But the bottom-rung Dodge is still fairly well equipped, a zero-options car arriving with a 12.3-inch digital gauge pack, a 10.25-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Amazon Alexa connectivity, and a full suite of safety gizmos. And all of the tasty tech available on the Alfa, from Brembo brakes to a Harman-Kardon sound system, will also be available on the Dodge. It’ll be interesting to see how close a mid-spec Hornet with an equipment list that matches the base Tonale’s will come to the entry-level Alfa on price.
Both look like strong packages to us, and based on the big order bank Dodge has amassed for the Hornet, buyers think so too. So if the Tonale bombs, it will be the Alfa brand, and not the Tonale itself, that’s to blame.
Stellantis will be hoping that the two cars’ different price positioning and brand appeal mean they don’t cannibalize sales from each other. And maybe most buyers won’t be cross-shopping, but assuming you could buy a Hornet built to the same specification as the Tonale for less money, would you be willing to pay more for the Alfa’s prettier face? Do you even think it’s prettier, or do you prefer the way the Hornet looks? And who did the best job on the subtly different interior designs? Leave a comment and let us know.