2011 Chrysler 200 review: 2011 Chrysler 200
Chrysler has emerged from the land of recession and bailouts with a new model, the Chrysler 200. However, things aren't exactly as they seem. You see, the 200 isn't exactly all-new. Underneath its new grille, resculpted sheet metal, and numeric moniker is, essentially, the 2010 Chrysler Sebring--a vehicle that mostly filled rental car fleets and was almost universally considered overstyled and underdesigned. So has the Sebring (and, by extension, Chrysler itself) come through the fire and emerged stronger and better, or is the automaker just putting a lipstick on a pig? We took a look at a 2011 Chrysler 200 Touring to find out.
Styling and performance
Externally, the 200 doesn't show many changes. The rough details have been smoothed out: the headlamps have been shrunk and now feature LED accents, the grill has been enlarged and redesigned, and--more subtly--a new Chrysler badge adorns both ends. On the rear, the shape of the taillights is less generic and they are tied together with a handsome chrome bar. Of course, the broad strokes and proportions of the Sebring are still in place--this is a face-lift, not a redesign--but, overall, the 200 is not a bad-looking vehicle.
Beneath this plastic shroud is the 200's Pentastar V-6 engine.
The 200 comes standard with the same 173-horsepower, 2.4-liter gasoline engine that graced the Sebring, but our Touring was equipped with the optional 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that, at 283 horsepower, is more powerful than last year's 3.5-liter engine and, at 19 city and 29 highway mpg, is more efficient as well. The engine's 260 pound-feet of torque is transmitted through a six-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick manual shift mode. The Pentastar seems to output more than enough power to motivate the 200 at a reasonable clip. However, the weak link in the power-train chain is the automatic transmission. With six speeds, you can accelerate fairly well from a stop and hum along happily at highway speeds. However, somewhere between initial acceleration and cruising things go a bit wrong. The 200's gearbox seems reluctant to downshift when power is needed for midrange bursts of speed--such as when we needed to pass another driver at city speeds. The performance isn't what we'd call bad, but we couldn't help but think that the sluggish gearbox was keeping the Pentastar from offering really good performance.
Handling, on the other hand, is a more cut-and-dried affair. The 200 fails to impress and the blame can fall nowhere other than the chassis and suspension. Chrysler has softened the ride of the already mushy Sebring in an attempt to give the 200 a luxury sedan's soft ride. Simply put, the 200 Touring rolls and leans out of turns and pushes back when pushed. We found it best to simply not try to drive the 200 with anything resembling joie de vivre if we didn't want to be too sorely disappointed. As a boulevard cruiser, the 200 fares slightly better, but it's nowhere near what one would expect from a luxury vehicle. That left us with a car that wasn't fun to drive, not overly comfortable, and decidedly "meh."
Cabin tech and comfort
In the cabin, the 200 has a hard time living up to its $20,000 price tag ($20,950 for the Touring trim level), not to mention the luxury badge that adorns its hood. The plasticky, dull dashboard materials and bland instrument cluster seem to shout "Dodge" much more loudly than "Chrysler." Louder still, the cabin electronics package of our Touring model shouts, "I'm a rental!" with its lack of standard features and options.
Even if you don't get Bluetooth, the stereo's faceplate will still show the system's useless buttons.
Our tester came equipped with an AM/FM radio, a single-disc CD player with MP3 decoding capability, and a dashboard-mounted analog auxiliary input. The receiver itself is a chintzy-looking unit with hollow plastic buttons and an analog clock that we reckon is supposed to evoke an air of luxury, but--thanks to the sickly greenish-blue backlight that it shares with the rest of the dashboard--ends up looking more like a cheap Indiglo wristwatch. Sound is sent to the listeners' ears through a six-speaker audio system that is seriously stretching the definition of the word "premium." Bass response is, upon first listen, fairly good at moderate volume levels. However, continue to listen and you'll begin to notice that muddy highs and midrange tones are the price you'll pay for that low end. Crank the volume a bit more and even the bass begins to distort slightly. No better audio option is available.
At the top of the center stack is this cheap-looking analog clock.
Although available as options at this trim level, Bluetooth connectivity and voice command didn't come with the system we tested. But if these features are not equipped, Chrysler doesn't bother deleting the buttons for them from the stereo's faceplate. So not only are you missing features that are standard on a Hyundai these days, but you have a pair of useless buttons to remind you every time you accidentally tap one. Save yourself the trouble and just pay for the Uconnect Bluetooth option.
The 2011 Chrysler 200 is an improvement on the Sebring, but there's still a long way for it to go.
Our 2011 Chrysler 200 Touring starts at $20,950, but quickly adds $1,795 to upgrade to the Pentastar V-6 engine--money well spent in our opinion. Add a $750 destination charge to reach our as-tested price of $23,495.
Stepping up to the Limited model nets you standard Bluetooth with Chyrsler's Uconnect voice command system and adds a touch-screen receiver for the audio rig that features a 30GB hard drive for ripping audio tracks and USB connectivity--these options can also be added a la carte to the Touring model, but if you're thinking of doing so, go ahead and step up to the Limited to unlock the navigation option and add standard leather trim and larger chrome wheels. If you're going to drive a dull car, you may as well roll comfortably.
So, should you buy the Chrysler 200? The answer depends on where on the option scale you're planning on getting in. If you're looking at the low end of the scale for a four-cylinder import from Detroit, perhaps you'd be more interested in the Ford Fusion (non-hybrid) which offers better economy and technology. If you're looking for a V-6 with all of the tech bells and gadget whistles (perhaps that 200 Limited we mentioned earlier), the Chrysler becomes more appealing, giving the Ford a run for its money by offering similar performance and nearly matching the Fusion's available cabin tech but at a much lower price.
|Model||2011 Chrysler 200|
|Power train||optional 3.6-liter V-6|
|EPA fuel economy||19 city/29 highway mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||24.4 mpg|
|Navigation||optional at Limited trim level|
|Bluetooth phone support||optional, not equipped|
|Disc player||single-disc CD/MP3|
|MP3 player support||analog 3.5mm auxiliary input|
|Other digital audio||standard Sirius satellite radio|
|Price as tested||$23,495|
Although we may rhapsodize over the beauty of our favorite cars, precious few of them could be considered art. Whistler didn’t refresh his painting of his mom four years after completing it. Nor did he completely redo it every seven years for the rest of his life. And as much as the 300 might have looked like Chrysler’s chef-d’oeuvre in 2004, the company couldn’t just sit back and let it be. For 2011, the 300 receives a refresh rather than the redesign for which it is due, but the update addresses the most important things.
Much of the money allotted to the 300 rework went to the interior. Like the rejuvenated interiors in other recent Chrysler redesigns, virtually everything you can see or touch inside is improved by an order of magnitude: the dash, the center stack, the steering wheel, the door panels and seats—the list goes on. And the materials are light-years better, too. The dash is soft, the buttons on the new steering wheel actuate with a satisfying click, and the HVAC knobs slip from detent to detent as if lubricated by a film of oil.
Nestled in that updated dash, the new tach and speedometer are stunning, highly readable, and not overly ornamental. A new touchscreen navigation/infotainment display rides atop the center stack, beneath the classy trapezoidal clock that is emerging as a signature of Chrysler interiors. The optional Garmin-based nav system’s bold colors and large graphics make it easy to use, but they lend it an almost juvenile appearance. Still, we prefer basic and useful to elegant and stupefying.
The Importance of Being Consistent
Our only complaint about the 300’s new interior is that it is a strong testimony to the importance of matching material qualities. In a space that is among the best executed in its class, the 300’s few remaining dull spots—the window switch panels and the plain black plastic surrounds for the HVAC controls and nav screen are a few examples—call an inordinate amount of attention to themselves. The seatbacks offer enough support to keep occupants in place during extreme maneuvers, but the bottom cushion offers so little support it might as well be crowned.
Chrysler also refined the exterior styling. Although more elegant and mature than the brash shape of the designed-with-a-T-square original, the 2011 car nonetheless looks a bit less cohesive. Still, it doesn’t take a sharp eye to recognize the silhouette, and the softer detailing hides the 300’s musculature about as well as a tuxedo disguises a buffalo. Naturally, Chrysler has added LEDs to the headlight clusters as is required by current styling convention.
114 Additional HP? Well, Certainly!
Underhood, the headlining 5.7-liter Hemi is only slightly changed (it carries over with modest upgrades of 3 hp and 5 lb-ft of torque), but the new base 3.6-liter six-cylinder effectively replaces two V-6s (an anemic 2.7-liter and a more capable 3.5) and betters the old 3.5’s 250 hp by 42. (It tops the 2.7 by 114 hp.) Along with its 292 horses, the Pentastar V-6 offers 260 lb-ft of torque. Both hp and torque peak late (6350 and 4800 rpm, respectively), so downshifts are necessary for meaningful acceleration while rolling. It sounds a bit coarse at idle, but the Pentastar finds its voice as the revs—and output—climb. Although not the thrill ride of the V-8, the six is more than competent, something we could almost say about the old 3.5 but never about the 2.7.
The same five-speed automatic pulls duty behind both engines, but an eight-speed will begin to spread across the lineup later this year. Chrysler is aiming for a 30-mpg highway rating with the new transmission, which is a ZF design (the best the Pentastar manages with the old five-speed is 27 mpg). Although the five-speed automatic does allow for manual shifting, it has no dedicated manual shift gate. As in the previous-generation 300, the driver taps the lever left and right from its resting place in D to shift, but the new 300’s taller center console gets in the way—not that using the function is particularly satisfying anyhow.
With most of the redesign budget invested in the interior, chassis changes are limited—mostly tweaks to spring and damper rates and alignment adjustments. Once again, there are two available suspension tunes: base (or “Comfort”) and Touring. Both provide exceptionally smooth rides and switchback competence, although the base suspenders allow a bit more body roll than the Touring setup does. Opt for the 20-inch wheels or all-wheel drive, and the upgrade to Touring is included. Caution is recommended, though, as pairing the stiffer legs with 20-inch wheels results in untoward crashing over large pavement pocks.
The new electrohydraulic steering possesses only slightly more feeling than an ant-burning adolescent sociopath, but it has a satisfying heft and precision and an unwavering sense of straight-ahead. At triple-digit speeds, the 300 is superbly steady and surprisingly serene, thanks to increased sound insulation throughout the car.
The base car, with its greatly improved interior and V-6, starts at $27,995, $15 less than last year’s base model. A high level of equipment is standard, including Chrysler’s Uconnect Touch entertainment system—with Sirius satellite radio as well as iPod and SD-card inputs—a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, and keyless entry and ignition. The 300 Limited tacks four grand onto the sticker, starting at $31,995, and adds leather upholstery with heated front seats, Bluetooth, a backup camera, a 276-watt amp for the audio system, 18-inch wheels, and chrome trim for the mirror caps and door handles.
For another $7000, the 300C adds the 363-hp Hemi V-8, the Touring suspension, navigation, and bigger brakes, as well as the Luxury package, which includes nappa leather, real wood trim, auto-dimming mirrors, heated rear seats, and heated and cooled cup holders. On the 300 Limited, this bundle costs $3250. All-wheel drive, once available on some V-6 and V-8 300 models, is now reserved for the top-of-the-line 300C AWD, which starts at $41,145. Chrysler says an all-wheel-drive option could return to the V-6 model down the road. In either case, the tippy-toes stance of the all-wheel-drive car is lessened a bit by a 0.2-inch ride-height reduction and a tire-to-fender gap that is tighter by 0.5 inch compared with last year’s car, but the all-wheel-driver still sits higher than the rear-drive cars.
Some fans might have been hoping for something more thorough than this update, but Chrysler spent its money in the right places. The new interior improves on the old one to a degree that is nearly impossible to overstate, and the new V-6 does something similar for the engine lineup. The refreshed 300 may not be a work of art, but it is considerably less dour than Whistler’s mom.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, rear- or 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
BASE PRICE: 300, $27,995; Limited, $31,995; 300C, $38,995; 300C AWD, $41,145
ENGINE TYPES: DOHC 24-valve 3.6-liter V-6, 292 hp, 260 lb-ft; pushrod 16-valve 5.7-liter V-8, 363 hp, 394 lb-ft
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 120.2 in
Length: 198.6 in
Width: 75.0 in Height: 58.4-59.2 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 4000-4550 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D est):
Zero to 60 mph: 5.8-7.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.3-15.6 sec
Top speed (governor limited): 118-130 mph
EPA city/highway driving: 15-18/23-27 mpg
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First Drive: 2011 Chrysler/Dodge Lineup
All in the Family: We Drive Chrysler's Newly Refreshed Offerings
The first decade of the new century has not been kind to the Chrysler Corporation. Left bloodied and beaten first by a laughable "merger" with Daimler, then forced into bankruptcy by an abrupt and ill-played takeover by Cerberus Capital, a Federal bailout was only offered because of an eleventh hour lifeline from Italy's Fiat. Fast forward two years and for the first time Auburn Hills is starting to show signs of life.
Chrysler called the nation's automotive journalists up to the San Francisco Bay Area for what can be best described as a Valley Forge moment. In a remarkable flurry of new metal, Chrysler introduced no less than eight either all new or severely reengineered models. The effort is nothing short of astonishing; an overtime, last second Hail Mary if there ever was one. As the very fit looking Dodge president Ralph Gilles told us at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, "Our reputation dies today."
But does it? Are the new Dodge and Chrysler cars good enough to lift both brands up from also-ran status, justify the bailout and most crucially sell some product? Did they reinvent and transform their ailing product line enough to warrant such a late in the game bivouac against all the forces conspiring to pull them asunder? We think so.
Certain products are absolute winners. Namely the surprisingly reworked Charger, the bold new Durango and the aggressively refreshed Grand Caravan/Town & Country. These are the cars that are going to carry Dodge and Chrysler's flags forward, not just in terms of sales but also via the positive halo effect they'll generate. These vehicles are for real, and frankly undismissible. Then of course there's the Challenger, a vehicle already loved by many that basically gets nothing but more power - the right thing to do with the last of the pure muscle cars.
As for the rest of the new soldiers, they're mostly pretty good. Of course, the products they're replacing were so bad (the Sebring, Avenger and Journey, specifically) that almost anything would be an improvement. But are they good enough to back up Mr. Gilles's claim? Read on and see.
2011 DODGE CHARGER
Just a Tranny Away
Let me say this now and get it over with: If Dodge gives the new Charger a proper transmission, it will be spoken about in the same lofty platitudes as the BMW E39 M5. This car is that close to being a performance legend. By proper I mean either a manual (like, say, the one in the Challenger, since it will bolt right in) or a dual clutch. All the 2011 Charger needs is the ability to quickly shift gears. As it sits, the car's biggest shortcoming is the major component Dodge didn't bother to swap out: the slow-reacting five-speed slushbox from the last car. But fear not, as an eight-speed unit is on the way, probably for the 2012 model year. Talk about an improvement...
So let's talk about what Dodge did change. Namely, everything, save the transmission. While Charger still sorta rides around on the Mercedes W210 platform, you would never in a million years guess that by looking. The look is an evolution of the previous Charger, with some bits from Dodge's past thrown in. The most controversial element to my eyes are the door scallops, inspired by the 1968-1970 Charger. A good idea in theory (why not?), the huge indents just don't work in execution.
They're too... forced. Each scallop's top line resolves itself rather well along the rear fender, especially on the driver's side where it bisects the fuel door. But they just don't work. Regardless, Dodge kept going on and on about the Coke bottle shape of the new car, even whipping out a Coke bottle for comparison's sake. I suppose if you squint hard enough you can see the similarities. After all, they both are red. But hey, I dig the mini-flying buttresses that form the C pillars, as well as the new diffuser and geometric exhaust tips.
I only have one other gripe about the Charger's new metal. This is the first car in recent memory that looks much better with a wing. It's almost as if the complicated taillights (which are not only derived from Chargers of yore but contain 164 LEDs that resemble a "race track") overwhelm the simpler rear surfaces without the hat. As for the front of the new Charger, Dodge started with what was good about the last car and somehow made it more aggressive. The twin scallops on the hood look good, as does the new corporate crossfire grille.
While I'd give the exterior a B-, the interior is a solid A. Talk about a turnaround. If you spent time with the last Charger, you know this following statement is true: hell of a fine RWD sedan for the money, but to keep those costs down the interior is dreck. No more. Inspired, says Dodge, by the 1971 Charger, the now driver-centric center stack (meaning it's slightly angled to the left) is phenomenal. It's possibly the most improved aspect of the car, if not of any new Chrysler product.
The greasy, hard and cheap plastic that filled the old Charger's cabin has been banished in place of excellent soft-touch stuff. The metal surrounding the vents and navigation screen is actually metal (aluminum). The gauges look better, the leather feels better -- even the steering wheel is a big step in the right direction. The only standout carryover is the shift lever, but we've already talked about the transmission. Of special note is the new quick-thinking, Garman-based 8.4-inch navigation screen, a vast improvement over the nasty old unit with its Civil War color scheme (gray on blue) and s...l...o...w... operation. Should Dodge have gone with a Google-based navigation solution? Of course, as Google is dominant, but the Garmin system will be such a pleasant surprise for existing Charger owners that it doesn't matter. Those same returning customers will also be stunned at how much quieter the new car is.
Now we'll talk driving, specifically the R/T. I'm bowled over. From the throaty rasp on startup to the smooth, solid feel of the Charger as you cruise down the highway, Dodge has brought to life what's best about muscle cars. And let's face it, when Dodge dusted off the Charger nameplate in 2006, the car has been little but a four-door muscle car. Yeah, well, welcome to 2011, where things have sure changed.
The steering is much quicker and much more accurate. Credit a host of changes, including a 70% more rigid steering rack and increased front and rear tracks, as well as a degree or so of negative camber. The front suspension cradle is all new, as are the monotube shocks at all four corners, which are tuned differently depending on the car, with the rates of compression and rebound getting more aggressive as you climb from SE to R/T to Super Track Pak. The way they set up the shocks for R/T duty is fabulous.
Even with the ESC fully engaged, you can provoke the tail to kick out when you're roaring out of a turn. That highlights not just how brawny the updated 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is -- now rated at 370 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque -- but helps illustrate the inherent goodness of front-engine/rear-wheel drive layouts. Even the SE car with "just" 292 horses and 260 pound-feet of torque is capable of making an enthusiastic driver smile. That's quite a change from the last generation Charger.
But the big news for those of us who like spirited driving is the Super Track Pak. So you know, the STP Charger has an even stiffer steering rack, high performance brake lines, stiffer front and rear sway bars, and the ability to turn the ESC all the way off. Finishing off the list of upgrades is a lovely set of 20-inch Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar summer tires.
After a bit of lead/follow, Dodge turned us loose on the NASCAR configuration of Infinion. At first we were driving the new Challenger SRT8 392, a fine, fast car but really one that's more at home on a drag strip than a road course. Then, having no expectations of track day glory, I climbed into the Super Track Pak Charger and set off. By the end of Turn 2 (making it one left- and one right-hander) I suspected I was behind the wheel of something pretty special. After five laps of Sears Point I was convinced of it.
Starting at just $25,995 (including destination) for the SE model, the Charger still represents great value for the money. However this time around the vehicle is largely free from compromise. If you opt up for the R/T model, especially with the Super Track Pak, you will have a truly excellent performance car on your hands. One that's a decent transmission away from entering the pantheon of automotive greats. -BY Jonny Lieberman
|2011 Dodge Charger|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, AWD/RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|Engines||3.6L/292-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6, 5.7L/370-hp/395-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8|
|Curb weight||3950-4450 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||199.9 x 75.0 x 58.4 in|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||N/A|
|On sale in U.S.||December 2010|
2011 DODGE DURANGO
The Song Does Not Remain The Same
In this crossover-crazy world, makers of old-school SUVs are feeling the pinch to get with the 21st century and class 'em up. Ditch the truck frames, polish up the interior, and make it ride nicer. Give it a shave and a haircut, and perhaps even some "man-scaping."
Even a bad boy can clean up occasionally, and Dodge has taken this middle-ground approach with the new 2011 Dodge Durango. Yes, the ladder frame is gone in favor of a unibody borrowed from the Jeep Grand Cherokee that's been stretched out a bit. Sure, the suspension is now fully independent, and the four-wheel drive is actually all wheel-drive, but there's still plenty of traditional SUV DNA under the new makeup.
For example, in this strange new world where the Ford Explorer has morphed into a front wheel-drive-based crossover with a turbo-four for a premium engine, the Durango remains unabashedly rear drive and still comes with optional V-8 power. The big, 360 horse 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 puts 390 lb-ft through a five-speed automatic transmission (an eight-speed auto is coming), then either straight to the rear wheels or to a dual-range transfer case offering full-time all-wheel-drive with a low-range gear for serious pulling power. Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, meanwhile, delivers 290 horsepower and 260 lb-ft to the same automatic transmission and either the rear wheels only or full-time all-wheel drive (sans low-range).
Spend a few moments with your right foot buried in the Pentastar's throttle and you begin to question why they even offer a V-8 variant. This V-6 is not only more engine than most seven-passenger SUV buyers will ever need, but will obviously be the volume motor. Towing is one reason why you might opt for the V-8, as the bigger engine can tow 7,400 pounds. Though Dodge was quick to point out that the V-6 is capable of lugging 6,200 pounds around -- not bad at all.
By now, you may be wondering what makes the Durango different than its fraternal twin, the Jeep Grand Cherokee. So far, the drivetrain capabilities are the same and they even share the same 8.1 inches of ground clearance. But while the Durango does get load-leveling rear shocks, it doesn't get the Jeep's fancy air suspension. What it does get are shocks and springs up to 10-percent stiffer than the Jeep's for better on-road handling, not to mention a performance-oriented R/T model. In addition to being 10 inches longer than the Jeep and riding on a 5-inch-longer wheelbase, the Durango also features a number of electronic tricks to help its handling. They include electro-hydraulic power steering on V-6 models, an electronic limited-slip differential on the rear axle, trailer sway control, adaptive cruise control, and electronic roll mitigation for flatter handling.
The stretched wheelbase pays huge dividends for third row passengers. A pair of six-foot, 200-pounders could easily spend a couple of hours in the way-back without much discomfort. In fact, the second row seats offer only an inch or two more legroom.
Most impressive though, especially when compared to the last generation Durango, is the new SUV's ride and handling. The added length (when compared to the Grand Cherokee) improves the straight-line feel -- there's very little wobble and almost nothing to give away the fact that you're in such a large, heavy vehicle. Additionally, there's very little brake dive, even when you panic stop. And the brakes feel solid. Turn the wheel, and not only are you treated to a properly weighted tiller, but the Durango is almost happy about going around corners. You know what? Let's drop the word "almost." This Durango is one impressive truck.
While the mechanical work is all well and good, if there's any place the old Durango needed polishing, it was inside the cabin. You know it, we know it, and Dodge knows it. That's why it's been completely redesigned with higher-quality materials, tighter panel gaps, and fewer seams. Dodge even goes so far as to claim that the Durango doesn't have a base model, suggesting that the entry-level Express trim is equal to or better than other brands' mid-range trims. To make the point, Dodge loaded the Durango with optional Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, hands-free calling, rear-seat entertainment and TV, and even mobile Internet. On top of that, it seats seven yet can hold up to 84.5 cubic-feet of cargo with all the seats down. That's big enough to carry both a 6-foot couch and a coffee table inside the vehicle, Dodge claims.
Sticking with the interior, the Durango is quiet. Blame the vastly improved aerodynamics as well as the largely NVH-free yet loaded with high-strength steel frame. There's very little wind noise and a medium amount of roar from the 20-inch wheels and their accompanying rubber. The way Dodge tells it, the new Durango is a healthy compromise between less capable crossovers and luxury SUVs. Durango combines luxury vehicle quality and ride with SUV capability and crossover fuel economy, all at a price you can afford. Specifically, that price will start at $30,045 for the V-6 only Express, and climbs to $34,045 for the mid-level Crew. A CrewLux package is available for an extra $5000 with more options, or you can go all-out on a top-shelf Citadel for $42,645. Adding all-wheel drive to any model requires a $2000 upcharge. Pricing for the sporty R/T hasn't been announced.
While the Fords and Chevys of the world have gone full metro with their car-like crossovers and their limited off-road and towing capabilities, Dodge reckons there's still a market for blue-collar types looking to clean up a bit without going all high fashion. Are there enough buyers left who wear cowboy boots with a three-piece suit? We'll see. -BY Scott Evans and Jonny Lieberman
|2011 Dodge Durango|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, AWD/RWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engines||3.6L/290-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6; 5.7L/360-hp/390-lb-ft pushrod 16-valve V-8|
|Curb weight||4750-5400 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||199.8 x 85.5 x 70.9 in|
|0-60 mph||7.5-8.5 sec (MT est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||13-16 / 20-23 mpg (est)|
|CO2 emissions||1.05-1.26 lb/mile (est)|
|On sale in U.S.||January 2011|
2011 CHRYSLER 200
A Step in the Right Direction
We don't get the point of the Chrysler 200. Chrysler claims that the car is supposed to compete with the Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu. Which means it's also competing against the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Hyundai Sonata, something the gone for good Sebring simply could not accomplish. The new 200, while better looking, just isn't good enough to play with the big boys.
Case in point: after just a couple of miles in the 200 Limited, it became obvious just how limited the car is. Priced at over $28,000, this top spec model did not have dual zone climate control, a powered passenger seat or any sort of grab handle. The latter became a real issue when my co-driver began playing around with the 200's new V-6. Despite Chrysler's best efforts, some of the badness from the Sebring carried over, like the toy-feeling HVAC controls and the incredibly cheap sun visors. And the seats are still pizza box thin, despite the fancy new leather.
While there are clearly some issues Chrysler couldn't address fully with this car, the 200 does get LED light pipes (like the ones on the Cadillac CTS) standard on every model from the base 200 LX to the highest trim, the S. A completely new grille, new headlights, and different taillights (LEDs on all but the LX) help distinguish the 200 from the Sebring.
Unfortunately, the Sebring's four-speed automatic stayed. The $19,995 200 LX gets the four-speed mated to a revised version of Chrysler's 173-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Other trims get a six-speed automatic, whether you take your time with the four-cylinder or try the 283-horsepower Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 available on the Touring and Limited, and standard on the S.
The Pentastar V-6 -- along with its exterior styling -- is the 200's main selling point. So yes, if you want an incredibly quick front-wheel drive sedan, Chyrsler has the car for you for cheap (the V-6 starts at under $25,000). Caveat emptor: That much power (did we mention the 260 pound-feet of torque) leads to some pretty severe torque steer. We're not talking Saab-like levels, but rather similar to the Nissan Maxima. Still, most 200 customers will appreciate the power where they need it -- getting the jump on freeway onramp situations.
Chrysler left few details of the Sebring-to-200 transition untouched. The automaker is so proud of its NVH improvements, it says the 200 boasts "unsurpassed speech intelligibility performance." Despite the torque steer issues in the V-6 powered model we drove, Chrysler says almost every system in the suspension was redesigned or retuned. This isn't a sport sedan, but improvements like a retuned suspension, retuned steering gear and steering pump, and increased diameters for the front and rear stabilizer bars don't hurt the 200's cause.
As for safety, Chrysler had a good start with the Sebring. Both the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring were rated Top Safety Picks for 2010 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, provided the cars had ESC (now standard equipment). For 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Sebring four- and five-star ratings across the board. All 200s have multi-stage front driver and passenger air bags, side curtain air bags, and front seat-mounted air bags. The only safety feature not standard among all 200s is the tire pressure monitoring system; the LX model gets by with a tire pressure monitoring warning lamp.
Even so, Chrysler 200 LX owners aren't likely to complain: The interior is two generations of improvement packed into one. More soft-touch materials have been incorporated, and Chrysler swears the seats have increased cushioning, although we weren't really feeling it. The newfound comfort, Chrysler says, is perfect for a leisurely Sunday drive.
If you overlook the outgoing Sebring's less-than-sterling reputation for reliability, then the 200 could be seen as a something of a value in the midsize sedan segment. Pay the extra two grand for the Touring model over the LX and you'll get automatic headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels instead of steel wheels with wheel covers, automatic temperature control, Homelink universal garage door opener, LED lamps front and rear, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a power 8-way driver's seat. The 200 S comes with 18-inch wheels and leather seats with Alcantara inserts. Sales of the 200 begin in December.
When the Dodge boys introduced the new Durango, they kept explaining that they were able to make such a compelling product because they had "good bones" to work with, namely the Mercedes-Benz M-Class platform Chrysler snatched from Daimler. The main problem with the 200 then, are its bad bones, namely the JS platform, an adaptation of Mitsubishi's GS "Project Global" platform that underpins stuff like the Lancer and Jeep Compass. All that said, as a stopgap product, the new 200 is a step in the right direction, but only that. -BY Zach Gale and Jonny Lieberman
|2011 Chrysler 200|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|Engines||2.4L/173-hp/166-lb-ft DOHC I-4; 3.6L/283-hp/266-lb-ft DOHC V-6|
|Transmissions||4-speed auto; 6-speed auto|
|Curb weight||3400-3550 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||191.7 x 72.5 x 58.4 in|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||18-21/28-30 mpg (est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.80-0.90 lb/mile (est)|
|On sale in U.S.||December 2010|
2011 CHRYSLER TOWN & COUNTRY
Going Upscale, Where it Belongs
The new 2011 Chrysler Town & Country is coming to market just in time. With Toyota getting its Sienna swagger on, Honda continuing the Odyssey's odyssey, and Nissan about to embark on another Quest, the crew in Auburn Hills had better make sure every town in the country knows how much it's improved the Town & Country.
The improvements start out front with "the new face of Chrysler," featuring a shiny new five-bar grille and winged badge that's spidering its way through the brand's lineup. There's also a new hood and foglight setup adorning the T&C's mug. Changes at the hindquarters include a new liftgate with curved back glass, a body-colored spoiler, and refreshed lighting. If you like chrome, you're gonna love the abundant strips of gleaming trim encompassing this minivan.
While still a minivan, the Town & Country is a good-looking one. Chrysler stressed that its new design language is "architectural" in nature, and while we don't quite buy (or get) that, the refreshed metal is a welcome change from the plain, two-boxness of what came before.
Underneath the Town & Country's new hood, there's addition by subtraction. Gone and not likely to be missed are the outgoing model's antiquated 3.3-liter V-6, the 3.8-liter V-6, and the 4.0-liter V-6s. In their place is-you guessed it-Chrysler's new Pentastar V-6 rated at 283 horsepower (86 more horses than the 3.8-liter) and 260 lb-ft of torque, matched to a six-speed automatic. Fuel economy, a big factor for minivan buyers, is expected to roughly match the outgoing model's top 17 city/25 highway mpg number. Helping the powertrain maximize mpgs are updates including a fuel economizer mode and lower-rolling resistance tires said to provide better overall grip.
Chrysler says it went to work on the Town & Country's suspension in order to deliver an "agile, confident and exhilarating" experience. We're having a hard time wrapping our head around seeing the words "exhilarating" and "minivan" in the same sentence, but we applaud the effort to upgrade the T&C's ride. Improvements abound, including a quicker-ratio steering gear setup, retuned shocks front and rear, and upgrades to the minivan's solid twist beam rear axle. Engineers were also tasked with improving the vehicle's stability during emergency maneuvers.
Driving wise, the new Pentastar V-6 is more than adequate to lug the 2.5 ton minivan around. Coupled with the suspension upgrades, we were able to keep up with a BMW motorcycle on top of Mt. Tamapalis for a couple of corners. Hey, it felt heroic to do so in a minivan.
If you do happen to get yourself into one of those emergency jams in the Town & Country, there are three kitchen sinks full of safety options, most of which come standard. You want airbags? They're blowing up all over the cabin, including a driver side knee blocker and side curtain airbags for all three rows. When things get unstable, there's the usual suite of nannies, including stability control, traction control, and a brake assist feature. Chrysler has ginned up some fancy new names for its available rear park assist system (ParkSense) and rear backup camera (ParkView), and has added blind spot monitoring and rear cross-path detection features, good stuff to have for a boxy minivan.
So it has more power, it's safer, and it's exhilarating (!) to drive. But more than anything, a minivan's main mission is about moving human cargo in a comfortable, feature-rich, and well-executed cabin. It's here where Chrysler really stepped up.
The interior is lovely, including a totally redesigned center console that should help erase memories of the unattractive, hard silver plastic one found in the old Town & Country. First and foremost are the squishy, soft touch plastics that now make up the majority of the dashboard. It's difficult to over emphasize what a huge step in the right direction these new materials are. The seats are made of finer leather, and even the buttons seen nicer. Even if they aren't, the entire interior looks so much better that you'd never notice any carry over parts. Also of note: the T&C (finally) features push button start, meaning you can leave the keys in your purse. Speaking of which, there's an enormous bin to store said purse in.
Seating options have been upgraded, including the much-lauded Stow 'n Go, which now comes with a one-touch fold-down feature and more comfortable seats. A new Quad seating option is now available, which further ups the lux factor. You want entertainment? Internet? TV? You got it, through Chrysler's available dual DVD entertainment system, UConnect Web, and Sirius Backseat TV. UConnect also helps manage hands-free phone, navigation, and other media.
The 2011 Chrysler Town & Country comes in three flavors: Touring ($30,995), Touring L ($32,995), and Limited ($39,495). With the minivan wars flaring back up, the T&C is a double-barreled blast across the bow of its Japanese competition. We'll see if the changes are enough (they had better be, as the base price is some five grand more than the outgoing model) to get the people-moving masses en masse into Chrysler showrooms. -BY Mike Floyd and Jonny Lieberman
2010 Dodge Grand CaravanBreaking the Minivan Glass Ceiling
When we did our last minivan comparison test -- Family (Hauler) Feud -- much outrage came our way because we didn't wait to compare the new Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna to the new Dodge Grand Caravan. Instead, the 2010 Dodge took home third place. Well guess what? Y'all were right.
With the exception of the new Charger, the Grand Caravan is the most improved product on Dodge's portfolio. It looks better, the engine is more powerful and yet mpgs are up, and the interior is totally improved. Even the still-best-in-class Stow'N'Go seats are larger. Long story short, Dodge improved every single area we dinged in the comparo. Er, except for the lousy navigation unit. But hey -- the junky shifter is no more, instead replaced by an almost retro and quite stylish lever.
Most noticeably of all, Dodge might have just finally cracked the minivan glass ceiling. The one that prevents enthusiasts from cozying up to family schleppers. Case in point: the engineer responsible for revitalizing the Journey told us, "Even though I have two young children, I'm not ready for a minivan." Presumably, he hasn't driven the new Grand Caravan. We have to give props where they are due. And can you believe it's already time for another minivan comparo? -BY Jonny Lieberman
|2011 Chrysler Town & Country|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD, 7-pass, 4-door minivan|
|Engine(s)||3.6L/283-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC V-6|
|Curb weight||4650 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||202.8 x 78.7 x 67.9 in|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||17/25 mpg (MT est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.98 lb/mile (est)|
2011 DODGE AVENGER
Avenging it's Father
How's this for apropos? In a weird twist of ironic nomenclature, the 2011 Dodge Avenger is in fact avenging its father. Let's face facts: the last Avenger was terrible. Built as an afterthought along with the Sebring, the Avenger was the Ford Tempo of 2008. But as Ralph Gilles said at the launch of the new Avenger, "Our past dies today."
No, your eyes aren't deceiving you. The refreshed Avenger looks much the same as the current 2010 edition, but get out the magnifying glass and you'll notice the differences. Dodge's split crosshair grille remains front and center on the slightly modified nose, and its lower fascia flares at the sides for a slightly more aggressive posture.
Express, Mainstreet, Heat, and Lux trim levels get 17-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin, Continental, or Goodyear rubber, but 18-inchers are available with the right box checked. The top level R/T differentiates itself with a body-colored grille, 18-inch "Spider Monkey" wheels (no, we're not joking), fog lights, chrome exhaust tips, and darkened headlight surrounds.
The worst attribute (besides the seats) of the previous Avenger was the handling. Pick a direction and the little sedan would nearly flop over on its side before harshly rebounding back the other way right around the time you found the apex. Not good.
Dodge engineers got the memo and completely overhauled the D-platform's suspension to provide a comfortable, athletic, and fun ride. For better road holding, track widths are up 1 inch to 62.8 inches; ride height is cut (by 0.47 inches in front, 0.24 inches rear); and standard tires widened (225 mm vs. 215 mm). R/T versions get unique spring, damper, and torsion bar settings. Twenty-six of the suspension's 30 bushings have been replaced with improved variants in order to improve handling, reduce roll, and enhance steering communication.
By way of stark contrast, the new Avenger actually seems to eat up corners. The suspension has been thoroughly reworked and Dodge's effort shows in the way the Avenger now handles. Across cracked and pot-holed pavement the new car just soaks it up, something the older car was pitiful at. The steering, brakes and interior are all also radically improved. We're genuinely shocked -- considering just how terrible the last Avenger was -- at how much we enjoyed driving the new one.
Express, Mainstreet, and Lux Avengers arrive standard with Chrysler's 2.4-liter World Gas Engine four-cylinder creating 173 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque. It's the same engine as last year, but now mates to a 62TE six-speed automatic (the previous four-speed auto remains on the base Express trim). Heat and R/T models get the all-new, way potent 283-horsepower, 260 lb-ft 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 as standard fare, while Express, Mainstreet, and Lux owners can specify it optionally. The bigger mill is matched to the 62TE as well.
Interestingly, a Fiat-derived six-speed dual dry clutch transmission (DDCT) comes later in 2011 and can be specified with any Avenger powered by the World Gas Engine. It is the first shared powertrain application from the newly formed conglomerate and is expected to boost the sedan's fuel economy and sportiness.
Gone is the drab, rock-hard gray interior of yesteryear. In its place resides an environment wrapped in higher-grade materials and available leather. Brighter, more colorful gauges and the updated three-spoke multi-function steering wheel are eye-catching details. Vents, center console, dash, and door panels are modernly styled.
There are 45 improved sound-dampening treatments, among them an acoustic windshield and three-point engine mount for the 2.4-liter engine. Buy a base Express and you'll get standard keyless entry, premium cloth seats, tilt/telescoping steering wheels, air conditioning, and a four-speaker audio setup. Up the ante to higher trims, and amenities like power seats, Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC), auto climate control, and a six-speaker stereo (or Media Center 430 radio/CD/DVD/HDD/USB) are included.
The refreshed Avenger arrives at dealers this winter with an as yet undisclosed price tag. Feature-hungry buyers will have to wait until next spring for the R/T. So is it a class leader? Only a good old-fashioned comparison test will answer that question.
We'd bet though that if you stuck a driver into a debadged version and let them go drive around for an hour, they'd never guess Avenger. Nicely done Dodge, and way to live up to a name. - BY Nate Martinez and Jonny Lieberman
|2011 Dodge Avenger|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|Engines||2.4L/173-hp/166-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 3.6L/283-hp/266-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Transmissions||4-speed auto; 6-speed auto|
|Curb weight||3400-3600 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||192.6 x 72.8 x 58.4 in|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||18-21/28-30 mpg (est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.80-0.90 lb/mile (est)|
2011 Dodge Challenger SE
Will A New Engine And Suspension Setup Save The Best-Selling Challenger?
The last time we compared a Challenger SE to the competition, it came in last. It had a lack of features, a surplus in weight, and a performance worthy only of a disappointed headshake. It's a different story with the SRT model, rich with character and bravado, yet the V-6 SE model outsells it by a healthy margin -- Dodge anticipates the 2011 model to account for 50% of Challenger volume.
It would make sense, then, to unload a salvo of updates during the Challenger's mid-cycle refresh, and that's exactly what Dodge has done. The 2011 volume-selling model gains a new engine, redesigned suspension, reworked interior, and new standard features.
The biggest transformation happens in the engine bay. Gone is the underperforming 250-horse 3.5-liter V-6 from the last year, and in its place is technology you'd rightfully expect from a modern car. Now routing power through the five-speed automatic is Chrysler's new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with its double overhead cams, polymer-coated piston skirts, and forged connecting rods. In this application, the package uses hydraulic powertrain mounts, and it boasts cold-air induction and true dual exhaust from the integrated headers to the exhaust tips.
The improvements? First, more power. Total output now reaches a class-competitive 305 horsepower at 6350 rpm and 268 lb-ft of torque at 4800 rpm, with more than 90 percent of the latter available from 1800 to 6400 rpm. Secondly, the engine is 45 pounds lighter, which changes the front/rear weight distribution to 52/48% (the last generation was 53.5/46.5%). Unfortunately, this is the only mention of weight loss; Dodge says the SE weighs 3834 pounds, which incidentally is the exact same weight as the last Challenger SE we tested.
Carrying that heft are the next improved components-the suspension. Much of the front and rear geometry has changed, and Dodge has added new monotube shocks, bushings, stabilizer bars, springs, and isolated suspension cradles all around. Out back, the multi-link has new roll-steer geometry, which gives control of camber and toe. The engineers went aggressive with the front and rear camber, setting it to -1.0 degrees in the front and -1.75 degrees in the rear. Standard rolling stock are 18-inch wheels shod with 235/55 Michelin MXM4 all-season rubber.
Acceleration is brisk, insomuch as the SE no longer feels like it's stuck in a tractor beam when you clobber the throttle. Instrumented testing is coming, but the seat of our pants indicates 0-60 mph time is down considerably. The low 6-second range feels like an accurate guess. The Challenger still feels like a large car, and Dodge didn't figure out a way to bake in any nimbleness even though the suspension has been tweaked. But fret not, as good, old fashioned cruising -- be it on the freeway or a gently winding back road - is still the V-6 Challenger's raison d'etre. And it carries out this prescribed duty admirably well.
Exterior changes are slight, consisting of a restyled fascia with a larger inlet and a black front "duck bill" spoiler. Inside, owners will find hand-stitched leather on the new thick-rimmed steering wheel and the shift knob. They'll be more comfortable, too, thanks to redesigned seat structures. Passengers will have easier access to the rear seats, courtesy of the addition of tilt with memory and a release handle on the driver's seat and tilt-and-slide with memory on the passenger seat. The whole crew will benefit from additional standard equipment: a power driver's seat with lumbar, keyless entry and start, automatic climate control, and seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax air bags.
Looking for more features? Check the Rallye package. It adds Uconnect voice control, Bluetooth streaming audio, iPod integration, auxiliary input, Sirius satellite radio, automatic dimming rear-view mirror, Nappa leather seats, heated front seats, six-speaker Boston Acoustics audio with 276-watt amplifier, automatic headlamps, and fog lamps.
The Rallye package also makes available the Super Sport Group, a performance-oriented package that adds 20-inch wheels with low-profile tires, performance-tuned suspension, and upgraded brakes. Stick with the standard brakes and you'll still get stronger braking feel through a revised brake pedal ratio and brake booster.
Steering feel is improved, too. The belt-driven power steering system and its parasitic losses are gone. In its place is an electro-hydraulic setup capable of applying variable steering effort depending on driving conditions. By looking at the steering angle, vehicle and engine speed, and chassis control systems, the system adjusts steering feel to match driving circumstances. When stopped or at low speeds, power assistance is increased for a lighter feel. At freeway speeds, the pump reduces assistance.
Dodge has added a bevy of updates to the best-selling version of its rekindled musclecar. But will the changes be enough to redeem the Challenger from its last-place finish? We're eager to find out. -BY Carlos Lago and Jonny Lieberman
|2011 Dodge Challenger SE|
|Vehicle layout||Front engine, RWD, 5-pass, 2-door, coupe|
|Engine(s)||3.6L/305-hp/268-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Curb weight||3850 (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||197.7 x 75.7 x 57.1 in|
|0-60 mph||6.3 sec (MT est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||18/26 mpg (est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.93 lb/mile (est)|
2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392
Mustang Hunter: SRT8 392 is Armed and Ready
In a July 2010 comparison test in which we pitted the new 5.0-liter 412-horsepower 2011 Ford Mustang GT against the more senior (and more powerful) 426-horse 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS and 425-horse 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8, the final results were quite unexpected. The least powerful car won and the most powerful came in last -- a finishing order that inverted the power rankings. In comparison tests, that's rarely the case. After all, who doesn't like more power? But our reasoning was justified. We deemed the Ford, "The no-excuses pony;" the Dodge, "A profligate performer" but "not the quickest or best handling;" and the Chevy, "a hammer" that's "not as much fun to drive as it should be." The Dodge folks, surely thrilled that their car beat the Camaro and avoided the dreaded last place, still had to deal with losing to the Mustang. And let's face it: second place equals first loser. As you'll soon find out, Dodge is not cool with being first loser.
With an all-new Challenger another couple years out, the next-best strategy for Dodge was to significantly revise the current car. So for 2011 that's exactly the approach Chrysler's sporty brand is taking. And the strategy for the '11 SRT8 is simple: bigger power. Whereas the '10 SRT8 smoked tires with a 6.1-liter 425-horse 420-pound-feet Hemi, the new '11 smokes -- and now obliterates -- rubber with a 6.4-liter Hemi that ups the ante with 470 horses and 470 pound feet. No longer is the 426-horse Camaro SS the biggest bicep at muscle beach.
Dodge aficionados will recognize that the new SRT8's engine displacement measures 6424cc, or 392 cubic inches on the dot. Coincidence? Hardly. Some 54 years ago, for the 1957 model year, several Chrysler and Imperial cars received the original 392 as a replacement for the 354 Hemi that had launched in '51. The 392, in production for only a couple years, quickly amassed an enthusiastic following, notably from drag racers who tweaked the Hemi's camshafts and bolted on six or eight carburetors to bump power. One such drag racer was Don "Big Daddy" Garlits, who used a 392 to break the 200-mph barrier in his Swamp Rat racecar.
Today's non-Swamp Rat 392 is mated to either a standard five-speed automatic or an optional Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual with a ZF-Sachs twin-disc clutch. Viper nuts will notice that that Tremec is the same tranny that debuted in the 2008 Viper SRT10, so no need to worry about its durability. For those muscle-car fanatics who want to go green, the 392/automatic combo boasts "Fuel Saver" technology, which deactivates four cylinders when all eight are not needed. Highway fuel economy with the automatic should fall around 23 mpg. Chassis enhancements include new monotube Bilstein dampers, recalibrated suspension geometry, revised negative camber settings, and a quicker steering ratio (14.4:1 versus 16.1:1)
Inside, the new SRT8 receives myriad enhancements, the most welcome of which is a smaller, three-spoke steering wheel that replaces the previous car's bulkier, four-spoke helm. Moreover, gauge graphics are new, power lumbar-adjustment front seats are standard, and an SRT-exclusive Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC) displays trip and multimedia info as well as instant access to 0-60 accel, 60-0 braking, lateral g, and quarter-mile times. On the outside, the SRT8 hasn't changed much, but there are some alterations worth noting: a bigger front splitter and integrated front fender spats aid high-speed aero and balance, and help bump top speed to more than 180 mph (manual) or 173 (automatic).
If you're a sucker for special editions or limited runs (really, who isn't?), then you'll want to get your checkbook ready for the SRT8 392 "Inaugural Edition," of which 1492 will be available in the U.S. (1000 in Canada). Available in blue with white strips or white with blue stripes, the IE sports a body-color grille surround, special fender badges and dash plaque, exclusive polished wheels with black-painted pockets, and white leather seats with blue stitching.
So how does the new SRT8 392 perform? Luckily, senior editor Jonny Lieberman recently got some valuable seat time and had the following to report:
Dodge turned us loose in the new Challenger SRT8 392 on the NASCAR configuration of Sonoma's Infineon Raceway -- how fitting. After all, with well over two tons of car for the new 6.4-liter Hemi to push around, the SRT8 392 resembles the kinds of showroom-stock specials NASCAR used to be about in its heyday.
News that will shock no one: this car is fast. Dodge is claiming that the 470 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque 392-incher can lay down a quarter-mile time of 12.4 seconds at 110.0 mph (the last 2010 we tested did 13.3 at 106.1). After half a lap behind the wheel, we see no reason to quarrel with those numbers. In fact, we bet 0-60 mph times will fall somewhere around 4.6 seconds (4.8 for the old car). Whatever the numbers turn out to be, the newest big-dog Challenger feels like a rocket sled. And we'd like to tip our hats to Dodge for keeping her naturally aspirated, proving once again that there's no replacement for displacement -- even when facing the reality of 35-mpg CAFE standards.
The big, sticky Goodyear F1 Supercar tires (245/45R20 front, 255/45R20 rear) provide copious amounts of grip, while the SRT8's retuned suspension does what it can with all that weight. The reality is that while we drove the Challenger 392 on the track, it's just too big to be a track car. There's too much weight (about 4200 pounds), the steering seems too slow (despite the quicker ratio), and the 14.2-inch front/13.8-inch rear Brembo brakes grow tired of hauling in all those pounds. But who takes a Challenger on a road course? It's the drag strip that matters, and we think SRT8 owners will be very happy with their purchases. Especially when faced with a stoplight.
Be sure to check back for our first test of the SRT8 392, in which we'll verify if the newfound 45 horses and 50 pound-feet can indeed deliver a quarter-mile time of 12.4 seconds at 110.0 mph. -BY Ron Kiino and Jonny Lieberman
|2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 2-door coupe|
|Engine||6.4L/470-hp/470-lb-ft OHV 16-valve V-8|
|Transmissions||5-speed automatic, 6-speed manual|
|Curb weight||4200 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||197.7 x 75.7 x 57.1 in|
|0-60 mph||4.6 sec (est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||14-15/22-23 mpg (est)|
|CO2 emissions||1.09-1.16 lb/mile (est)|
|On sale in U.S.||December 2010|
2011 DODGE JOURNEYSoldiering On
It ain't easy being the Dodge Journey. It's the fourth-best-selling Dodge-branded vehicle so far this year, and since its debut back in 2008, it has toiled away in the shadow of its more illustrious stablemates, including Challenger and Charger, and this, um, people-carrier, has endured more than its share of criticism. Is there anything to be salvaged? Let's see how this 2011 Journey plays out.
Dodge, convinced that actual trim names and not alphabet soup are necessary to convey the company's new outlook, has designated the following monikers for the Journey: Express, Mainstreet, Crew, R/T, and Lux. Each comes with different equipment and options packages, including the choice of five or seven seats and all-wheel drive (V-6 only).
The new Dodge playbook dictates that the brand's split-crosshair front grille with honeycomb pattern must be applied for maximum effect. The front fascia has been slightly retouched and the foglight bezels have been enlarged, but Journey's overall look is still mostly intact. The new rear fascia is a bit smoother, and a sportier-looking bumper cover with honeycomb inserts is on the way as an option if you want a Journey with a slightly more aggressive appearance.
Dodge didn't disturb the Journey's base 2.4-liter inline-four with 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque specific to the Express trim, but did attach the mill to a new three-point mount system to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness. To keep the price down, the four-speed automatic transmission carries over.
It'd be strange if the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 didn't come along for the ride, so it does. The Journey's old 3.5-liter V-6 is replaced with the 283 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque of the Pentastar model, and 90 percent of that torque is available from 1600 to 6400 rpm. The six-speed auto is tapped for service and helps return 17 city/25 highway and 16 city/24 highway mpg with front- and all-wheel drive, respectively.
There was a time when we could say without hesitation, irony or (much) hyperbole that the Dodge Journey was one of the worst cars on the road. The steering was not only numb, but clumsy. The suspension, with its harsh yet sloppy ride, was laughable. And the interior was the punch line to the sick joke that Daimler perpetrated on Chrysler. Well guess what?
The sins of Journeys past are largely relegated to a bygone era. First of all, the steering is a world or two better. Ralph Gilles stressed to us that a Dodge characteristic (starting now and going forward) is a sporting feel. While still a hydraulic system -- most of the new Dodge products use electric power steering -- turning left and right are no longer an exercise in frustration. All the stuff you want is there, from proper weight to linearity to a solid on center feel. Bravo.
The suspension has been gone over with a fine tooth comb, and according to engineers we talked to, no bushing was left unfussed with. The Journey no longer flops and flails all over the place. We found the ride to be firm, perhaps too firm for the Journey's intended demographic but sometimes that's the price you pay for sportiness. The new Journey could use a retweak or two in terms of going down the road in a straight line above 65 mph - a characteristic shared with its platform mate, the Avenger. There's a side-to-side wobble that while not horrible, feels cheap. Below 65 mph, things feel fine.
One thing that no longer feels cheap is the Journey's interior. Soft touch materials abound. Not only that, but gray has been stricken from Dodge's color palate. We drove a black and tan example with Dodge's excellent new 8.4-inch touch screen navigation/infotainment system. Long story short -- we never thought we would ever be typing this -- the Journey's insides are the class of the segment.
The driver will immediately hone in on the new steering wheel design and seats. The new center stack design is cleaner and less cluttered than its predecessor, while the new gauge cluster incorporates a full-color Electronic Vehicle Information Center LCD display. Further available technologies include the Uconnect Touch media center, navigation, ParkView backup camera, and the Parksense parking assist system. And of course, Dodge has laid out the usual spread of safety amenities so the entire family can travel with peace of mind.
All these improvements are going to cost prospective buyers some extra cash. with the base Journey now sitting at $22,995 and the V-6-powered Journey Mainstreet starting at $24,995.
Is the new Journey perfect? No, it's not. But generations better than what came before? Oh, absolutely. Throw in the 283 horsepower Pentastar V-6 and you've got yourself a compelling 7-seat crossover, especially if you never try and wedge yourself into seats six and seven. -BY Benson Kong and Jonny Lieberman
|2011 Dodge Journey|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5/7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engines||2.4L/173-hp/166-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4, 3.6L/283-hp/260-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Transmissions||4-speed automatic, 6-speed automatic|
|Curb weight||3800-4200 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||192.4 x 72.2 x 66.6 in|
|0-60 mph||7.5-10.0 sec (MT est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||16-19/24-25 mpg (est)|
|CO2 emissions||0.91-1.03 lb/mile (est)|
|On sale in U.S.||December 2010|
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Be Smart, Check in Advance. CARFAX — Your Vehicle History.
CARFAX — Your Vehicle History Expert
Sometimes what you don't know can't hurt you, but that's not the case when buying a used car. As an independent vehicle history provider, at CARFAX we've made it our mission to tell you everything you need to know by uncovering as many events as possible from the previous life of a used car. Our primary goal is to help you get to know your next car from the inside out before deciding to make an investment that will be part of you and your family's everyday life. We believe your next car shouldn't be hiding anything from you.
CARFAX Vehicle History Reports contain over 28 billion historical records from 20 European countries, the US and Canada, which are updated daily with new information.
Even if you live in a country we don't collect vehicle data from, it's still always worth checking the Vehicle Identification Number without obligation. The used car import and export market is booming and many owners would be surprised to find out exactly what happened to their vehicle during its previous life abroad.
Privacy for Customers — Transparency over Vehicles
Let's be clear: Although we strive to find every detail of a vehicle's life so far, we are focused only on the vehicle's history, and do not collect any information on previous owners. The information we provide relates solely to the vehicle, its odometer reading, any accidents that have been covered up, where the vehicle comes from and much more — it never gets personal. We've uncovered irreparable damage several times in the past, but other times our vehicle history checks draw a blank — and sometimes that's actually a good thing.
Second Hand — Not Second Best
Did you know that considerably more used cars are sold than new cars? We think this second-hand system is nothing short of fantastic. However, it goes without saying that it gives rise to different methods and tactics: Some sellers will disguise a car that's been in an accident under a fresh coat of paint, tamper with the odometer or conceal theft. This is one of the less appealing aspects of buying second hand. Our goal is to establish trusting relationships between buyers and sellers, since this is the best way to help customers make the right decision. Your new car should be reliable and make you feel safe, as well as make you feel like you haven't paid too much.
But more than anything else, we don't want you or your family unknowingly sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle that isn't 100% safe. This is why we strive to take these vehicles off the road, which not only makes the used car market safer but our streets safer too.
CARFAX — 35+ Years of Experience in Vehicle Histories
CARFAX was founded in the US in 1984 and expanded into Europe in 2007. Around 100 team members spread across six European offices process vehicle information from 22 countries.
Fostering strategic partnerships with registration authorities, law enforcement agencies, government departments, insurance companies, inspection centers and numerous other leading companies around the world has enabled us to compile a unique international database for vehicle histories. We use this database to help make the used car market more transparent. We give everyone in the process of buying a used car access to what is currently the world's most comprehensive source for vehicle history reports, and is growing day by day.
We remain neutral and independent despite our partnerships — our sole purpose is help customers make an informed choice and ensure their safety and the safety of their family. This includes never collecting any personal details — we do not accept any PII from data sources amongst the information we provide about a vehicle. We ensure that data protection laws are observed at all times. Furthermore, we always collect our data in compliance with legal and regulatory frameworks — in all the countries in which we are active. We expressly distance ourselves from illegal activities such as data theft, scraping and hacking.
Chrysler models 2011
2011 Chrysler 200
$19,245 - $31,940MSRP / Window Sticker Price
|MPG||21 City / 30 Hwy|
|Transmission||4-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||173 @ 6000 rpm|
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2011 Chrysler 300
The Chrysler 300 has been redesigned for 2011, and the new model offers improved ride and handling, and it comes with a new V6 engine that's smooth and powerful. The result is an American luxury car with room, comfort, power and presence.
The 2011 Chrysler 300 succeeds a model that was enormously successful, a big sedan with rear-wheel drive that served as the brand's flagship. The outgoing Chrysler 300 was the most awarded, most recognized car in the history of the industry, and the most customized Chrysler model ever, the first Chrysler to adapt oversize wheels and tires, custom grilles, and other aftermarket custom touches. Replacing it during a period of grave uncertainty at Chrysler was a three-and-a-half-year program during which ownership changed three times, from Cerberus to the federal government, through bankruptcy and then to Fiat's control. Under those circumstances, it's something of a miracle that the replacement for the 300 came out as well as it did.
For 2011, Chrysler 300 looks much slicker. Aided by a new windshield design laid back three inches farther than the windshield on the original model, the 2011 Chrysler 300 achieves a drag coefficient of only 0.32. It looks bolder and classier than the previous version. Every body and underbody panel has been changed from the ground up to the roof, with a smoother, rounder front end, new headlamps, a new, rounder grille, a new hoodline and aluminum hood, new bumpers, larger windows with bright trim around them, more heavily sculpted fenders, a completely new treatment at the rear, with new Chrysler winged badges, and beautiful new LED lamps front and rear.
Underneath, nearly everything has been changed, stiffened, reinforced, or otherwise made stronger so that the four corner suspension systems can operate independently and accurately and provide a much better ride, quicker steering, and more responsive handling.
The Chrysler 300 competes with the Cadillac CTS, Lincoln MKS, Lexus GS, and Infiniti M. The Lexus LS 460, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 5 Series, and Hyundai Genesis were aspirational targets during development.
The Chrysler 300 and 300 Limited come with a V6 engine and 5-speed automatic.
The Chrysler 300C features a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine and 5-speed automatic.
The 2011 Chrysler 300C AWD model features a new, more effective and more efficient part-time, computer-controlled all-wheel-drive system with modified suspension pieces that allow the AWD version to ride much lower than earlier versions, at about the same ride height as rear-wheel-drive 300C models.
The 2011 Chrysler 300 ($27,170) comes standard with cloth upholstery, automatic air conditioning with rear outlets, humidity sensor and air filtration, multi-function steering wheel, driver information center, keyless entry, automatic halogen lamps, power windows, mirrors, and locks, cruise control, Uconnect dashboard display and control system for audio, Sirius satellite radio, USB port with iPod control, and a pair of 12-volt outlets.
Chrysler 300 Limited ($31,170) upgrades with leather upholstery, eight-way power driver seat, more exterior brightwork, halogen fog lamps, remote starting, 18-inch wheels and tires, heated front seats, rear seats with lighted cupholders, a premium Alpine AM/FM/CD satellite radio with eight channels, six speakers, and 276 watts of power, plus Uconnect voice command with Bluetooth. The Luxury Group ($3,250) includes luxury leather trimmed bucket seats, climate controlled front seats, heated rear seats, wood and leather wrapped heated steering wheel, power adjustable pedals, trunk mat, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power rear sunshade, 160-amp alternator, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, heated/cooled cupholder, driver memory for radio, seat, mirrors, pedals.
Chrysler 300C ($38,170) and Chrysler 300C AWD ($40,320) add Garmin navigation, Sirius Travel Link, power adjustable pedals, 12-way power front seats, heated front and rear seats, power tilt and telescope steering column, a performance brake package, and other features.
Options include the Safety Tec Package ($2,795) with adaptive HID headlights, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, park assist, HomeLink, rear foglight. The Sound Group ($650) includes the Alpine stereo system with 506 watts of power, nine speakers, 12 channels, and 7.1 matrix surround sound.
Safety equipment on the Chrysler 300 includes front, side and roof curtain air bags, and ABS disc brakes with both EBD and Brake Assist, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system and stability control. All-wheel drive is available for more stable handling in slippery conditions. The Safety Tec Package adds several safety features.
The new, 2011 Chrysler 300 looks like a large sedan version of the Chrysler 200 midsize sedan and Town & Country minivan, with many of the same visual cues in the grille, headlamps, air intakes and front bumper. It's much sleeker and more rounded at the nose, but carries a much lower aerodynamic drag coefficient because of the rounded elements and the very laid-back windshield angle. Neither the windshield nor the rear window carries any bright moldings at all, unusual for a luxury car, but it works on the 300.
The profile view of the new Chrysler 300 shows much more pronounced wheel lips front and rear, and they are connected by a sharp new body line that starts at the trailing edge of the front wheel well and rises continuously to finish at the side of the tail lamps. That line, coupled with the larger side windows, narrower pillars, and a new sculpted line at the bottom of the doors, does wonders to slim down and muscle up the new look of the 300.
At the rear, there's a cross-car chrome bar running across the bottom edge of the decklid between the new vertical LED taillamps and a tall, flat rear bumper between the exhaust outlets that widens the look of the car at the rear. The execution of the LED daytime running lights at the front and the LED rear lamps is excellent.
The 2011 Chrysler 300 instrument panel, seat trims, door panels and door pockets have all been redesigned for more comfort and utility. The instrument panel, center stack, switches and controls have all been redone for the 2011 models.
One of the more pleasant surprises in the new Chrysler 300 is the amount of light entering the car through the larger windows and their thinner pillars. Chrysler says outward vision has been improved by 15 percent over the gun-slit side window design of the last 300, and that makes a huge difference in the enjoyment of just driving or riding in the car. This is a big car, and the interior roominess and dimensions front and rear are generous, to say the least. The interior environment is classy without being chromy, and the lighting and instrumentation are spot-on.
Although the seats and seat coverings have been redesigned for a more luxurious feel and appearance, the interior cube is the same as the outgoing 300, just over 122 cubic feet, making it a large car under EPA rules. As for storage, the rated trunk capacity of the Chrysler 300 is 16.3 cubic feet.
The instrument panel contains a bright new two-round-gauge package, and is much more pleasing to the eye after the redesign, with much-improved graphics and ice-blue accent lighting that is brilliantly legible day or night. The center portion of the instrument panel is dominated by the industry's largest touch-screen control system, an 8.4-inch screen that comes in base and Limited versions with audio and climate functions, but in 300C and 300C AWD versions comes with a brilliantly colorful, large-icon Garmin navigation system (optional on Limited versions, not available on 300). This system, because of its size, graphics, and capabilities, may be the best all-around nav system currently available, easy to read, easy to use, and readable from the back seat.
The 300's new four-spoke padded steering wheel has a nice, thick leather-wrapped rim and a thickly padded hub flanked by redundant switches for the voice-activated telephone, cruise control, sound system, and driver information center.
All the materials in the seats, door trim panels, headliner and instrument panel are softer, more luxurious and more pleasing to the eye, and the seats feel much more luxurious, supportive and long-drive comfortable than before.
The standard engine in the Chrysler 300 and Limited models is the new 292-horsepower, 260-foot-pound, 3.6-liter double-overhead-cam 24-valve Pentastar V6 engine with variable valve timing that gives it more flexibility in delivering low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower while delivering good fuel economy. The Chrysler 300 with the 3.6-liter V6 is rated 18/27 mpg City/Highway by the federal government on Regular gas.
The Chrysler 300C comes with the 5.7-liter Hemi V8 engine, generating 363 horsepower and 394 foot-pounds of torque, with a 5-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 16/25 mpg; Midgrade gasoline is specified.
We concentrated our driving efforts on a 300 Limited V6 model, but we also drove the cloth-upholstered base model briefly and both the rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions of the 300C, with the muted but brutally torquey Hemi V8 on board.
Most drivers will find the V6 more than adequate even in this heavy car. It's long on horsepower and high on torque for its size, very flexible and driveable in town and out on the highway with none of the roughness or graunchiness formerly associated with V6 engines. The V6 delivers 63 percent more power and 36 percent more torque than the old 2.7-liter V6, and 42 more horsepower and 10 foot-pounds more torque than the old 3.5-liter V6. Plus it sounds good at wide-open-throttle.
We exercised, pushed and stressed a Chrysler 300 Limited in the hills and valleys east of San Diego and found it to be a wonderful traveling companion. The new variable-ratio electro-hydraulic power steering system has a lovely, heavy feel to it, as though it's actually connected to and directing something down there on the road surface, and the car turns in with authority and without objectionable body roll.
The ride delivered by the new suspension system is smooth, comfortable and quiet, and the cabin itself has been quieted down considerably with the addition of an acoustic bellypan under the car, acoustic material in the wheel wells and pillars, and an acoustic wrap around the complete interior to block out noise from the mechanical systems, the wind and the tires.
The anti-lock brake package with electronic brake-force distribution has everything you could ask for in terms of power, pedal modulation, and emergency capabilities, and is the largest component of a very complete safety package that includes traction control, stability control, and front, side, roof and driver knee air bags.
We think the new Chrysler 300 is the finest sedan that Chrysler Corporation has ever built. There is a model here for every purse and purpose, from base car to 300C Hemi AWD, and the list of options and option packages is very generous. This is an American luxury car with room, comfort, power and presence that you might think seriously about adding to your shopping list.
Jim McCraw filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report from San Diego, California.
|Model Line Overview|
|Model lineup:||Chrysler 300 ($27,170), Limited ($31,170); 300C ($38,170), 300C AWD ($40,320)|
|Engines:||291-hp 3.6-liter V6; 363-hp 5.7-liter V8|
|Transmissions:||5-speed automatic overdrive|
|Safety equipment (standard):||front and side airbags, side air curtain, ABS, traction control, yaw control|
|Safety equipment (optional):||all-wheel drive|
|Basic warranty:||4 years/50,000 miles|
|Assembled in:||Brampton, Ontario, Canada|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSPR):||Chrysler 300 Limited ($31,170)|
|Standard equipment:||leather upholstery, automatic dual-zone climate control, power windows, power mirrors, power locks, heated seats, eight-way power driver seat, tilt telescoping steering wheel, AM/FM/CD MP3 with six speakers, USB port, auxiliary jack, UConnect Bluetooth hands-free, auto-dimming rearview mirror, accessory delay|
|Options as tested (MSPR):||N/A|
|Gas guzzler tax:||N/A|
|Price as tested (MSPR):||$31995|
|Engine:||3.6-liter dohc 24-valve V6|
|Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):||292 @ 6350|
|Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):||260 @ 4800|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:||18/27 mpg|
|Track, f/r:||61.7/62.7 in.|
|Turning circle:||37.7 ft.|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:||38.6/59.5/41.8 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:||N/A|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:||37.9/57.7/40.1 in.|
|Cargo volume:||16.3 cu. ft.|
|Towing capacity:||1000 Lbs.|
|Suspension, f:||independent, coil spring gas shocks, stabilizer bar|
|Suspension, r:||independent, multi-link, coil springs, gas shocks, stabilizer bar|
|Ground clearance:||4.7 in.|
|Curb weigth:||4006 lbs.|
|Tires:||P225/60R18 Firestone FR710|
|Brakes, f/r:||vented disc/solid disc with ABS, EBD|
|Fuel capacity:||19.1 gal.|
|Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of March 14, 2011.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 800-CHRYSLER - www.Chrysler.com|
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