Written by Cam Benty
Photography by the Author and courtesy of Vortech Superchargers
The release of the Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcats back in 2016 reset the bar for performance in the last decade. In a horsepower war that was pretty much over before it started, Hellcats were the fastest muscle cars ever built en masse. But they also came with such a hefty price tag that the well heeled—or those looking to mortgage the house—could purchase.
The Vortech supercharger kits for 2015-19 Dodge Challengers and Chargers are slightly different but this is a good representation of what is delivered when you order one regardless of your vehicle. If you are a competent mechanic, you can install one in a weekend—as long as you have received your recalibrated PCM back from Livernois. The turn around from sending to return receipt is usually about a week.
Enter Vortech Superchargers
Lucky for the rest of us, Vortech has created a bolt-on supercharger kit for 2015-2020 Dodge Challenger/Charger that delivers 23 more horsepower than those Hellcat’s 707HP, for a lot less cash! Best of all, with this upgrade you can still retain great around-town drivability and meet the emissions requirements of your state—any US state. That is truly impressive.
Vortech has made a science of building supercharger systems that deliver amazing horsepower and torque figures while retaining all other vehicle systems. Of course, racers can further benefit from this horsepower breakthrough by stripping out the comfort items and making the best of the power-to-weight formula.
The new Vortech supercharger system does not require an engineering degree to install. We dropped our system between the fenderwells of a 2019 Charger in about 10 hours. In addition, Vortech breaks from the supercharger pack with a highly efficient water-to-air intake charge cooler that helps the Vortech system achieve its amazing power output. While the Vortech kit takes a bit more to install, the benefits are well worth the time as the dyno sheets attest.
Vortech offers a pair of supercharger kits for these cars—one for the 6.4-liter Challenger and one for the Charger. Each kit comes complete with a V-3 Si Trim Vortech supercharger and all of the parts necessary for installation. Vortech touts, “in most cases the increase in torque of 30-35 percent and horsepower between 35-40 percent can be expected with the boost levels specified by Vortech Engineering.”
From our seat-of-the-pants, first-person experience, we can tell you that the power comes on hard and smooth with very little supercharger-based noise other than the giddy noises of joy made by the vehicle occupants. It’s really that strong!
Vortech notes that before a customer purchases a kit, they should make sure that the vehicle’s engine is in good working condition with stock compression ratio pistons and fresh spark plugs (non-Platinum advised). In terms of future maintenance, the plugs should be changed every 15,000 miles and engine oil freshened every 3,000 miles to remove the potential for oil contamination. The Vortech V-3 supercharger requires its first oil change at 2,500 miles and then every 7,500 after that. Be sure to use Vortech’s special supercharger lubricant, which is available directly through Vortech or its authorized dealers.
To cut to the chase, this is what your installed Vortech kit will look like when complete. Note that most of the factory systems are left in their original location. The Vortech supercharger housing fits neatly into the front driver’s side corner of the engine compartment as shown here replacing the factory air filter box. Note that this kit is 50-state legal and meets all emissions standards.
Race Ready Design and Durability
In terms of key features that make the Vortech supercharger kit unique, a couple of things stand out.
#1: Engineering: The kit is well engineered and fits nicely into the Charger engine compartment with very little need to alter the various factory components and structures under the hood. While some systems cause you to move components and cut the factory tubing, that’s not the case here. This system is the least invasive of the kits we’ve experienced.
The V-3 Si Trim supercharger is a highly efficient unit that is perfect for high performance street applications like our Charger. Vortech also offers systems for more race-oriented applications to cover a wide variety of customer needs.
#2: Quality: The components delivered in the kit are very high quality. From the bracketing that holds the supercharger belt system to the water-to-air intercooler plumbing system, no step was short changed as these parts are built for the long haul. Not surprisingly, the system is covered by a one-year, unlimited-mile warranty that increases to a three-year, unlimited-mile warranty after you mail in your warranty card information.
#3: Silent operation: In our testing experience, this is the quietest supercharger system we’ve driven. Whether it’s idling with the hood up or driving down the street, this supercharger quietly gets the job done—no roar under load and very little whine. This is because of the well-constructed, helical gear system and high-quality bearings used within the supercharger. For every customer that wants a quiet blower, there is always one who wants a loud one. To address those who require those classic supercharger sounds, Vortech has you covered with the optional Heritage Gear set.
If practice makes perfect, then Vortech’s R & D garage should be on the cutting edge of supercharger development. When we were on site at Vortech’s install lab, several Chargers were being upgraded.
Elephant Power Solutions
Throughout modern Mopar history, Dodge owners know the challenge of recalibrating their vehicle’s Power Control Modules (PCM) unit to make aftermarket upgrades compatible with the highly sophisticated engine computer system. No American manufacturer has protected their vehicles from modification more overtly than Chrysler, making Vortech’s “work around” even more impressive.
Leave it to the engineers at Vortech to come up with the easiest way yet to reprogram the PCM on late model Challengers and Chargers. Simply remove the PCM from your car after unclipping the two wiring loom connections. Next take out the Vortech mailing envelope, insert the PCM into the protective packaging and drop it in the overnight delivery service. From here, Livernois Motorsports & Engineering magically reprograms your car’s PCM and returns it to you ready to go. This whole process usually takes less than a week—including the time needed for shipping it there and back. That means it should not take more than one weekend push your Mopar from average to awesome.
Follow along as we highlight the key features to the installation of the newest Vortech supercharger kit on our 2019 Dodge Charger (Challenger install is very similar). For complete instructions, go online to the www.vortechsuperchargers.com website or call their highly trained tech department at (805) 247-0226.
Step one with this installation is to recalibrate the PCM so that your engine’s computer electronics are compatible with your new supercharged engine. This unit is found near the firewall on the passenger side of the engine compartment. Remember to unhook the battery cables from the battery before touching anything underhood. The battery is located in the trunk.
Carefully unclip the two connectors that attach your PCM to the car. Make sure to ground yourself before this act make sure that there is minimal static electricity present that could aversely affect the unit before contact.
Vortech uses this unique drive system to operate the supercharger. Using a heavy-duty plate that bolts to the front of the block, the engine serpentine belt does not connect to the supercharger directly – instead a secondary idler pulley and belt system connect to the supercharger.
The increased engine power can result in the crankshaft pulley spinning on the crankshaft under power (because the factory pulley is only pressed on the crankshaft snout). To avoid the loss of power, we need to pin the pulley to the crankshaft. We started by drilling through the pulley and into the crankshaft snout using the supplied drill bit.
Once we have drilled the hole and cleared it of debris, we drove a dowel pin – also supplied by Vortech – into the hole. Re-torque the crankshaft pulley bolt to 143 ft. lbs to make sure it is up to spec.
Vortech includes this MaxFlow fuel pump booster that increases fuel flow without having to change out the factory fuel pump. It includes a fuel pump mounting plate and all wiring (already equipped with factory-compatible connectors) required to make it work.
The Vortech MaxFlow mounting plate is shown here along with the wiring. All wiring connector plugs are already mounted on the wiring making it a very simple task to install.
Under the rear seat you will find the access lid to the fuel tank. Pop the black top off the tank access point and locate the wiring that attaches to the pump. You have to poke a hole in the outside cover to feed the wiring through it. The kit features the correct connectors making it a plug-and-play install.
Feed the wiring out through the cover and reinstall the cover on the opening. The kit even comes with a grommet to give the hole you made look factory correct and watertight.
Charger owners might notice this underhood reservoir is not as originally delivered, however it is an OEM Mopar part. This tank serves as the reservoir for the fluid that flows through the Vortech air/water charge cooler system. These same tanks are used for the factory air/water charge cooler found on the Hellcat models. Vortech engineering team thought the OEM fit-and-finish of this tank would fit right in with the rest of their kit, and they were absolutely right.
To draw power to run this additional pump, a 10 AMP fuse connection is included. Drill through the back of the fuse box and thread the wire through and finish with the supplied grommet to seal it up. The fuse connector simply clips in to an open port in the fuse box.
The factory fuel injectors will have to be replaced with higher flow rate injector to feed the supercharged applications. To access them, unbolt the cover, disconnect the retaining clips and unclip the injectors from the wiring harness. They can be pulled from their bosses at this point.
The factory fuel injectors (front /right) are replaced with high flow units to feed the high demands of a supercharged engine.
For this installation, much of the work will happen behind the front fascia where we route the plumbing and mount the intercooler. The Vortech kit is so complete that replacement rivets are included since the plastic factory rivets that connect the fascia to the inner fenderwells will not be reusable.
The Vortech air/water cooler (the large black box located here) mounts right behind the factory fascia in this location using brackets that are supplied with the kit.
Key to making power is having unimpeded air flow. This shows the massive nature of the air flow tubing that is driven through the air/water cooler to drop intake temperatures and generate the most power from dense cool airflow.
The coolant inlet connection for the air/water cooler is visible here just below the horn. The outlet connection is on the other side of the air/water cooler.
Vortech has done a masterful job of routing the airflow tubing around factory systems as shown here. All of this tubing and the connectors fit perfectly in this application.
To protect the system from surges within the intake tubing, this Bypass Valve mounts on the tubing in this manner. The Bypass Valve closes under boost, but opens whenever the vehicle is in a state of vacuum. Therefore, the valve will bypass (or “blow off”) pressurized air between shifts, and also when letting off the throttle after hard acceleration.
To feed the engine with cool, fresh air, this high flow air filter is located behind the driver’s side headlight and avoids hot engine compartment temps.
Out of the vehicle you can get a better view of the elaborate efforts made to achieve the highest flow for maximum power output. This long tube is flattened to fit around other components but widened to achieve the same airflow numbers as the round tubing sections.
The heat exchanger does a magnificent job of working with the air/water cooler to reduce temperatures to deliver a denser air charge entering the engine intake. A denser charge means more air enters the combustion chamber, and when accompanied with more fuel produces a higher power output during the combustion stage. This heat exchanger mounts below the bumper structure using Vortech-designed brackets.
The supercharger housing is mounted to the Vortech brackets that contain the pulleys for the serpentine belts.
The air filter fits over the front of the supercharger housing to provide clean air into the housing—and ultimately the engine.
Of critical importance is checking the oil volume of the supercharger with the integrated dipstick. The oil should be changed after the first 2,500 miles and then every 7,500 miles after that. Use only Vortech Supercharger Oil (PN009035) and do not overfill.
Note that the Vortech tubing system connects to the factory throttle body in the original location. Short of changing the fuel injectors, the bulk of the engine is untouched for this upgrade.
The Intake Air Temperature (IAT) sensor must be inserted through “Discharge Tube E.” Vortech supplies the clips to keep it in place on the flexible tube.
Note that the IAT sensor includes a tube that must face in the direction of the air flow inside the tubing (shown here). Along with the IAT, the Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) sensor must also be exchanged out for a Vortech provided replacement component. This MAP sensor is located at the back of the intake manifold.
This ingenious system separates the engine drive pulleys from the supercharger belt. Slight trimming of the surrounding plastic support is necessary to clear all elements of this install.
Once back on the road, the power increase is amazing. Best of all, drivability is excellent and the power comes on in a very manageable manner. Plus, when its time to smog your car, there won’t be any hassles.
This dyno sheet from Livernois notes that the Vortech supercharger system achieved very close to 600 Rear Wheel Horsepower, which equates to 730 horsepower at the crankshaft—all for a fraction of the price of a new Hellcat!