The Truth About Cars » Chrysler The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Chrysler Fiat Sets Date Of Shareholder Meeting For August 1 Fri, 04 Jul 2014 13:00:38 +0000 A new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sign is pictured after being unveiled at Chrysler Group World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan

Own any shares in Fiat S.p.A.? The automaker just announced it will hold its next general assembly of all shareholders August 1, where the topic of discussion will be the approval of the merger of Fiat with Chrysler Group to become Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Reuters reports shareholders will also be asked to approve the merger of Fiat with its wholly owned subsidiary Netherlands Fiat Investments N.V. prior to the FCA vote. The meeting would allow CEO Sergio Marchionne to list FCA on the New York Stock Exchange by October at the earliest.

Those who approve FCA’s existence will receive one FCA common share for every Fiat share they hold, while those against will have the right of withdrawal for the next 15 days, with the redemption price set to €7.727 ($10.51 USD) per Fiat share.

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Select 2015 Chrysler 200, Jeep Cherokee Models To Receive Stop-Start Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:00:40 +0000 2015-chrysler-2001

A select group of 2015 Chrysler 200s and Jeep Cherokees will enter showrooms with stop-start technology on-board later this year.

Automotive News reports Chrysler Group will install the tech in Cherokees equipped with its 3.2-liter V6 in Q3 2014, while 200s with the 2.4-liter I4 will receive it in Q4 2014. Cherokees with the 2.4 and 200s with the 3.6 V6 will not have stop-start aboard.

With stop-start, the Cherokee will net 19 mpg in the city at its most fuel-efficient configuration. The 200 fares slightly better at 23 mpg for its most efficient model.

Both the sedan and crossover share the same platform and a number of components, including Chrysler’s new nine-speed automatic transmission.

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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

J.D. Power has released their U.S. Initial Quality Study for 2014, where General Motors, Hyundai and Porsche earned top marks despite consumers still struggling with the gizmology taking over their vehicles.

Autoblog reports GM’s Buick, Chevrolet and GMC captured more awards than anyone else in the 2014 IQS, with six vehicles winning in their segments. Meanwhile, Hyundai and Porsche were ranked best overall mass-market and premium brand, respectively, where the former reported 94 issues per 100 vehicles reported in the first 90 days, 74/100 for the latter. Porsche also dominated the IQS, having the best score of all brands surveyed.

On the other end of the scale, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ranked poorly in the study, with Fiat holding dead last at 206 problems per 100 vehicles reported in the survey period. Jeep came second-to-last with 146/100, while Dodge was just below the industry average at 124/100. Only Ram and Chrysler fared the best, matching or just exceeding the average of 116/100.

Part of the results may be due to automakers pushing the envelope on technology and new features to make consumers’ lives easier. J.D. Power Vice President of Global Automotive David Sargent says “almost all automakers are struggling” to introduce these pieces “without introducing additional quality problems.” In turn, some consumers are noting the technologies involved are “hard to understand, difficult to use, or [do] not always work as designed.”

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NHTSA Investigates Chrysler Group Air Bag, Ignition Issues Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:00:10 +0000 2010-dodge-grand-caravan

General Motors no longer has the monopoly on ignition and air bag problems, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler Group over those very issues.

Detroit Free Press reports the agency has opened two investigations into 1.2 million vehicles as follows:

  • 2005 – 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee; 2006 – 2007 Jeep Commander: Faulty air bags; 700,000 under preliminary investigation
  • 2008 – 2010 Dodge Journey; 2010 Chrysler Town & Country; 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan: Ignition switches shifting out of “on” position; 525,000 under recall query

The NHTSA received 23 complaints over air bags problems, though none involved non-deployment, and 32 complaints about the ignition switch. Both parties are working to find any links to the problems, though no more information has been made available thus far.

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ London Headquarters To Focus On Corporate Finance Wed, 21 May 2014 11:00:08 +0000 Fiat 500 in London

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ new headquarters in London, England will be as small as many Silicon Valley startups, with a staff of 50 mostly focused on finance.

Automotive News Europe reports FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne and Fiat Group chairman John Elkann will have a home in London, with FCA COO Richard Palmer possibly having a place there as well. Though no new hiring is planned, the automaker hopes to pull more finance employees from its Asia Pacific and Latin American regions to its headquarters, where most of the work will involve treasury operations.

The move to London also means tax savings for FCA; whereas Fiat paid 31.4 percent in corporate taxes to Italy while Chrysler paid 35 percent to the United States, the Italo-American company will pay only 20 percent for its part of filling the Queen’s coffers. This strategy has come under fire from both sides of the Atlantic, with feelings of betrayal on the part of Italians due to history, and on Americans due to tax dollars used to rescue Chrysler in 2009.

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Chrysler Capital Waxes, Ally Wanes On Q1 2014 Auto Financing Originations Thu, 15 May 2014 12:00:26 +0000 Chrysler Capital Booth

Doing business with Chrysler proved to be a boom for Santander Consumer USA’s Chrysler Capital during Q1 2014, while former lending partner Ally Financial experienced a painful bust on its Pentastar originations.

Automotive News says Ally’s volume was at zero for incentivized new-vehicle loans with Chrysler, down from $231 million a year earlier. Standard-rate loans fell 32 percent to $708 million, and leases dove 67 percent to $257 million in relation to Q1 2013, as well.

Meanwhile, Santander’s Chrysler Capital raked in $3.5 billion loans and $1.2 billion in leases as part of an overall $6.9 billion in consumer lending for the outgoing quarter, having made only $2.8 billion in total originations in the previous year.

Santander launched the new lending division after Ally’s agreement with Chrysler Group ended last year after a four-year run, a relationship the latter may take a while to get over; Ally filed a lawsuit last September against Santander Consumer USA, citing copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets in the launch of Chrysler Capital. Santander proclaimed in its SEC filing that it will fight the suit.

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Marchionne: Hybrids Will Help Chrysler Group Meet 2025 54.5 MPG Mandate Wed, 14 May 2014 11:00:21 +0000 2015-chrysler-2001

With the 2025 industry-wide fuel economy target of 54.5 mpg a decade away, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne believes “the house will make it” as far as all under the Chrysler Group umbrella are concerned, with a little help from hybridization of a number of models.

Automotive News reports Marchionne believes hybrids will “become a very large component” of the fleet going forward, stating that without them, meeting the mandate would be “impossible” for FCA’s Pentastar offerings.

Part of that plan may come through Chrysler Group’s new nine-speed automatic transmission, which will be used throughout the division’s line of FWD vehicles, starting with the 2014 Jeep Cherokee and 2015 Chrysler 200; the latter, released to dealers earlier this month, provides up to 36 mpg on the highway with the transmission delivering power to the front wheels.

Licensed from ZF Friedrichshafen and manufactured in FCA’s Kokomo, Ind. plant, the nine-speed transmission will see additional production at the formerly idle Tipton County, Ind. transmission factory. The $162 million refurbished plant will employ 850 by 2015, and will produce 800,000 transmissions annually at full capacity.

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Marchionne’s Grand Vision For FCA Faces Hard Financial Road To Success Thu, 08 May 2014 12:00:11 +0000 Sergio Marchionne - FCA

Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision.

Automotive News Europe reports a large part of the problem for the plan, according to Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton, is debt:

Much as we admire the ambition and think elements are achievable… it is hard to find conviction on the financing of the plan. Fiat is weighed down with huge debt, burdened by financing costs and is only thinly profitable. It’s (sic) cost of capital is huge.

Warburton adds FCA’s grand plan and its potential capital expenditure and R&D appear to be unaffordable and not prudent for investors, stating the company would need “a capital raise” for any part of the plan to pan out.

Aside from its debt, FCA also faces sales challenges from markets that are peaking or slowing down, with the European market being the biggest drag upon the automaker. However, independent analyst Marianne Keller said that with the recovery now taking place in Europe, paired with North American profits and a strong Jeep brand, Marchionne could “pull it off”; Marchionne himself announced during the five-year plan’s unveiling that he was considering a mandatory convertible bond to bring the needed financing for the plan.

Finally, FCA’s Q1 2014 results — a net loss of 319 million euros compared to a net profit of 31 million euros the year before — serve as a sign for both the company and its investors that FCA has more hard road ahead, a view best summed up by Macquarie Group analyst Jens Schattner:

If it was so easy just to launch new products to be successful in this industry, why wouldn’t everybody do exactly the same.

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Shudder To Think: New Transmissions, Bad Friends and the DaimlerChrysler Merger Wed, 07 May 2014 20:38:07 +0000 Dodge Challenger chromed T-shifter automatic transmission knob

I never would’ve known about the WA850/NAG1 transmission if it weren’t for that dead-beat roommate I had in Miami. It was desperate times for Chrysler and myself —we both just needed a friend.

16 years ago today, the Chrysler Group found an abusively negligent partner in Daimler AG. The “merger of equals” proved to be anything but, as the German camp rapidly oscillated between ignoring the American’s input and engaging in full-blown Teutonic pedantry. Rumor has it they even insulted the American’s taste in typeface by forcing them to get new business cards.

My friendship wasn’t nearly as toxic. I had been living in Miami for a few months, but had failed to adapt to the social scene. He was also a transplant from the North Atlantic so he understood my pain. He had friends that I admired, so I stuck by him. Despite his professed love for the BMX bike and only the BMX bike, he was in possession of a hand-me-down 2003 Mercedes-Benz E500. This example was a former Enron fleet-car his mother had purchased at auction in late 2006, just months before Daimler offloaded their American bedfellow. He didn’t keep up with the maintenance; it was in poor shape but I loved it. It was everything my Miata wasn’t: heavy, powerful and smooth.

It was equipped with the WA850 transmission, or as it is more commonly known, the 5G-Tronic. A five-speed automatic of Mercedes design, one of Daimler’s first acts after the merger was to force this part on Chrysler. It was clearly a superior gearbox than Chrysler’s ubiquitous 545RFE, but it was the principle of the matter. Chrysler was saddled with what they perceived to be needless logistical complications. The official Chrysler designation for the part was “New Automatic Gearbox Version 1” or NAG1. Very funny Chrysler.

In theory it was an excellent transmission, but there were serious qualms about its reliability on American roads. It wasn’t about road quality; rather it was its needy maintenance schedule and complex service that was out of line with American ownership habits. Anything less than perfectly precise handling by a tech and the thing would shudder and shake for the rest of its days.

Like Chrysler, My friend had forced something on me as well: the pointless pursuit of fun at a time in my life when I should have been saving money, exercising, and improving my craft. An apt comparison because like the WA580, a life of partying works on paper, but without the discipline to perform proper maintenance you are end up shuddering and leaking fluid in public.

The Daimler-Chrysler merger was a clear failure, and so was my friendship. Both partnerships could’ve been successful, but they required more compromise and hard work than either party was prepared for. That’s not to say the respective mergers were complete failures. Chrysler walked away with an excellent transmission that’s still in use today, and I learned how to have fun and not take myself so seriously. What we both learned was that in business like life, you can only rely on yourself for meaningful improvement.


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Detroit Three Lead The Charge In Chinese SUV Boom Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:00:50 +0000 2014 Lincoln MKX Concept

Long after the first SUV gold rush in the United States, the Detroit Three are gearing up for a second gold rush, this time in China.

Automotive News reports SUVs and crossovers have snagged 19 percent of the local market in 2013 as the once-dominant luxury sedan market fell from 47 percent in 2000 to 15 percent. General Motors forecasts as many as 7 million SUVs will leave the showroom by 2020, with president Dan Ammann noting that 60 percent of first-time buyers in China bought an SUV last year. Further, Ford credits crossovers for a sales surge of 49 percent in 2013, pushing Toyota out of the No. 5 slot in a local market that views SUVs and crossovers as being, in the words of Chevrolet dealer He Sei, “sportier, more fashionable and more youthful” than other vehicles.

To capitalize upon the upcoming boom, GM brought the Chevrolet Trax to last week’s Beijing Motor Show with plans to add 10 SUVs during the next five years, while Ford introduced concept versions of the body-on-frame Everest and Lincoln MKX crossover, both of which will soon see production. Finally, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will resume Jeep production in China through a joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Company, with three models due in 2015.

Meanwhile, Lexus, Audi, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Citroen are following the Detroit Three’s lead into the Chinese SUV/crossover market, bringing a number of concepts and production-ready vehicles to Beijing. That said, they will have a hard battle against the three U.S. automakers, as SUVs and crossovers have been their bread and butter since the first rush in the early 1990s through the late 2000s.

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Rental Car Review: A Tale of Two Econoboxes Mon, 28 Apr 2014 17:54:47 +0000 sentra-exterior

Last month, I took two business trips where I had to rent a car: one to Boston and one to Los Angeles. I rolled the Hertz dice and ended up with a Chrysler 200 in Boston and a Nissan Versa SV at LAX. Each was a 24-hour rental, but the prices were remarkably different. The Chrysler: $61.59 for one day. The Nissan? $116.31 for one day. If the street price to buy one of these cars was anything in relation to the difference in rental price, everybody would be buying the Chrysler. Boston Strong!


Both cars were as un-optioned as they’re made. Bluetooth? Nope. The Nissan curiously had a third-party Bluetooth system hacked into the car, but it didn’t work. The Nissan also had a bunch of things glued to the windshield, which I presume include a GPS tracking feature as well as an annoying multicolored LED that faces out and blinks random colors as you’re driving down the street. Most likely, this Versa served in an earlier life as part of some ZipCar-esque car sharing service.

Mysterious blinky light on a Nissan Sentra SV rental
Mysterious blinky light on the Nissan Versa SV rental
Inside view of the mysterious blinky on a rental Nissan Sentra SV. Also visible is an aftermarket Bluetooth microphone (non-functional).
Inside view of the mysterious blinky on a rental Nissan Versa SV. Also visible is the aftermarket Bluetooth microphone (non-functional)

Anyway, before we get into the driving impressions, a Chrysler 200 base model seems to cost $21,540 ($495 more if you want Bluetooth). The Versa SV is $15,240 ($760 more if you want Bluetooth, navigation, and other electronic gadgets). The Chrysler has a 2.4 liter engine versus the Versa’s 1.5 liter. The Chrysler has a 4-speed auto, versus the Nissan’s CVT; pricier Chrysler 200′s have a 6-speed auto, but not this one. Overall performance was probably about the same, but neither car inspires you to push it. I will give credit to the Chrysler for being a noticeable step up with interior quality (e.g., having a leather-wrapped steering wheel). Road noise was reasonably muffled, and the car felt generally solid over bumps and other road indignities. The Nissan was just a cheap, unapologetic econobox.



Before I go on, I must digress. I drove through Cambridge and Boston, on my way out to the ‘burbs and back again to Logan Airport. I even drove right past Fenway Park, a side effect of an epic digression to pick up a pack of America’s only domestically brewed Trappist beer. (Highly recommended!) Not once, not a single time, did somebody honk at me. Nobody cut me off. When I signaled, people let me in. Boston, what’s wrong with you? Where are your passive aggressive moronic idiot nutjob drivers? Have you gone soft on me? (Do Boston drivers feel sorry for you if you’re driving a Chrysler 200?!)

Anyway, back to the cars. The Chrysler is rated for 20 city / 31 highway mpg. I figured out the reset button once I got on the highway, so I managed to get 32 mpg (indicated) on the remarkably traffic-free Saturday morning drive. Once I got caught up in Boston traffic, using Google’s truly impressive routing skills to follow one obscure side street into the next whilst cutting from Quincy to Braintree (kids: don’t try this at home), my indicated mileage dropped, bringing me in at 22 mpg combined. Still, not a bad performance. The Nissan, though, was stunning in the mileage department. LA traffic being what it is, there’s no such thing as freeway driving. It’s all about “combined” driving, and my final tally was 33.8 mpg (indicated), splitting the difference between the 31 city / 40 highway rating. (Overall, I’d say that I put both cars through similar drives, so the mileage difference here is representative of what happens with bigger engines in heavier cars: roughly 1000 pounds different.)

But CVTs! They bore us! There is much mileage to be gained when you can run the engine at arbitrarily chosen speeds. Want to go fast? High RPM. Want to save gas? Low RPM. This is great if you care about efficiency, but it’s a nightmare if you’re used to using engine noise as a proxy for looking at the speedometer. If you put your foot down just a little bit, the car might well be accelerating, but the engine noise is holding constant. You just never know, so your best bet is to set the cruise control and forget trying to enjoy your drive. The Nissan, trying to squeeze all the juice out of its tiny engine, does precisely this. The engine’s noise, and the tachometer’s readout, are nothing other than a direct measure of where your foot happens to be on the gas. Consequently, the Versa is as boring as a lecture about how CVT transmissions can optimize engine power output and improve mileage, but at least it’s honest. What about the Chrysler? Despite having a bit of traditional engine rev and gear changing, it’s every bit as dull. You can option up for a big V6 but then you’re competing in a whole other segment.


Recommendations: if you’re trying to get a cheap car, get the cheaper Nissan Versa with the 6-speed manual. You can at least pretend you’re not driving a cheap econobox, and you won’t care that you’re getting 10% worse gas mileage. On the other hand, the base-model Chrysler 200, for the extra few bucks, and with discounts maybe not that many extra, gives you something resembling a luxury car experience. Sure, the drivetrain is nothing more than a high-achieving econobox, but the rest of the car is a step up. The quiet ride, all by itself, would make the Chrysler 200 a much better car if you spent a lot of time doing your daily soul sucking commute. When the 2nd-generation Fiat-enhanced version comes out next year, with a base price of $21,700, I expect it to be a very competitive car. Not only will it have more gear ratios (9 speeds!) and better mileage (36 mpg freeway!), but it will also be decidedly not ugly. It might even have some excitement. Maybe.

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FCA, Daimler Buy Greenhouse Credits To Meet EPA Emission Limits Mon, 28 Apr 2014 11:30:15 +0000 Ferrari_458_Speciale

The Environmental Protection Agency said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler and Ferrari divisions, as well as Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz unit, bought greenhouse gas (GHG) credits to remain in compliance with the agency’s 2025 twin goals of 54.5 mpg and halved greenhouse gas emissions.

The Detroit News reports Honda and Tesla sold 90,000 and 35,580 greenhouse credits — each one measured in 1 metric ton of emissions, or megagram — to Ferrari and Mercedes respectively for the 2010 model year, while Chrysler bought 500,000 such credits from Nissan for 2011. In addition, Mercedes purchased 250,000 credits from Nissan and 177,941 credits from Tesla for 2012; the EPA does not disclose how much the automakers paid for the compliance credits.

As for what the three divisions are doing to come into compliance with EPA and CAFE standards outside of the credit market, Ferrari — which FCA petitioned the agency to classify as an independent automaker, allowing the brand to enjoy the same conditional exemptions as Aston Martin, Lotus and McLaren due to its low production output — “is working to boost fuel efficiency while improving performance,” while Mercedes is looking into stop-start and other fuel-saving technology. Chrysler, for its part, is experimenting with flex fuels and using turbocharged four-cylinders in some of its offerings.

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Town And Country Update: Road Trip Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:00:13 +0000 bugs

I last wrote about my 2013 Town and Country S at the end of November when it was just three months old and had only 1500 miles on the clock. At that point the big van had yet to be used for anything more than ‘round the town mommy duties and a single jaunt up to Toronto in search of a Japanese supermarket, but I reported then that the van was performing flawlessly. Today, eight months later, and thanks in part to a whirlwind road trip that added slightly more than 2000 miles in just four full days of driving, the T&C’s odometer shows 6400 miles and I have greater insight into the vehicle’s true nature. Naturally, it’s time for an update.

I am a veteran road-tripper. I began as a child, riding in the back seat of one my father’s many Oldsmobiles and I can tell you from brutal experience what it is like to be locked in a car with your brothers and sisters for days on end. Fortunately, my Kodachrome-colored memories of the ‘70s have little in common with the way families travel today and the Town & Country S is a true product of a better, brighter era. Chrysler offers a great deal of technology on all their vans, sometimes standard and sometimes at an additional cost, and one of the particular advantages of the S model is that, among other things, it already comes equipped with a Blue Ray DVD player and two overhead flat screen monitors. To be honest, had the video system not been included as a part of the package that netted me a swankier interior and better looking wheels, it is not something I would have paid extra to purchase at the time, but now that I have it I can’t imagine living without it.


DVD players in cars rival sliced bread for the title of the greatest thing ever invented. Unlike my childhood road trips where, other than fighting with my siblings, the sole form of entertainment consisted entirely of a game where you tried to make the alphabet out of the letters on other cars’ license plates, my kids were treated to a non-stop, four day long Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks animation film festival. Because I don’t mind listening to movies while I drive, I usually play the DVD audio tracks over the stereo system, but for those times I would rather listen to something else Chrysler was thoughtful enough to include two pairs of nice, wireless headphones that work with the DVD system, something that makes it possible for the kids watch movies in the back while the adults enjoy the radio up front. That to me is a real have your cake and eat it too kind of feature and all I can say is “Hooray for technology!”

While my precious, human cargo rode in comfort and silence, I was able to focus on the overall driving experience and my impressions are mostly positive. On the open road the T&C was strong and smooth and although there were no mountain passes upon which to test the vehicle’s climbing prowess between Buffalo and Kansas City, which we visited last week in preparation for our impending move, I found there was always plenty of power on tap whenever I put my foot down. Fuel mileage too was more than satisfactory thanks to the “Eco” mode and, at the end of our trip, the computer showed I averaged an impressive 28 miles per gallon despite the fact that I paid zero attention to maximizing our mileage.

This is the first time I have used the eco button and although I had read nothing about how the system works, I noticed right away that it affected how the van shifted. This was most noticeable on hills when the vehicle’s speed was being maintained by the the cruise control. Without fail, as we began to ascend any grade longer than a few hundred feet, our speed would fall off by three or four miles per hour and the engine would bog until the RPMs went so low as to force a downshift. Then, when the transmission finally kicked down into a lower gear, the engine would roar to life and send the vehicle charging furiously back up to speed before up-shifting yet again and starting the whole process over. This led to an odd sort of leap frogging effect where I would pass cars on the flat only to end up slowing down in front of them whenever we reached any kind of a hill. Then, when the other cars pulled out to pass, the van would downshift and we would end up tearing away again before they could get around us. Frankly, I found this effect annoying and I could tell by the way that other cars crawled right up my backside every time it happened that the drivers around me did too. Eventually, I solved the problem by using the gas pedal to force the engine to kick down sooner and that worked well enough but, truth be told, I would rather have set the speed and then not had to worry about it at all. It would be nice if Chrysler could adjust this with some sort of software update.

With power, economy and the kids all taken care of, the only other thing I can really report on is how the big van felt from the driver’s seat. The last time I drove west of the Mississippi I was in my 300M and the Town & Country compares more than favorably to Chrysler’s other high end offerings. The seats were comfortable and offered more than enough adjustability to ease the aches and pains that cropped up from time to time and I enjoyed spending time in them. Still essentially brand new, there were no annoying squeaks or rattles I can report and I also found that wind noise was non-existent at any virtually speed. I will say that different pavements introduced different vibrations and different tire noises into the cabin but never at a level that caused any real distraction so, overall, from a comfort standpoint, the T&C is great.


Suspension wise the S model’s sport tuned suspension walks that fine line between firm and jarring in a way the sport tuned suspension on my 300M Special never could. The big van holds the road and inspires confidence without sacrificing comfort. Where the 300M had a tendency to follow tar snakes, ruts and other imperfections in the pavement, the T&C never leaves you fighting for control although, thanks to its higher profile, it is more affected by gusts.

At the end of our second day, with almost 8 full hours of driving behind us and a bare ten miles from our goal, the skies turned dangerously black and it began to rain absolute buckets. The roads turned into rivers and I quickly switched to local radio in order to hear any emergency weather bulletins. The news was not good and there, near the point of exhaustion, on strange roads and with limited visibility, I began to worry just a little for the safety of my family. But the big Chrysler simply shrugged off everything that nature could throw at it and, as the navigation unerringly guided us towards our destination, my fears quickly abated. The vehicle worked so well that there was nothing to take my attention away from the road and, I realized, there was simply nothing to worry about.

In the end, smooth, worry-free operation is what you want from a family vehicle and today, almost eight months after purchasing the Town and Country, I still find the van’s poise and confidence on the road to be utterly remarkable. It is joy to drive and this latest road trip has only strengthened my belief that I have chosen the right vehicle for my family. I simply could not want anything else at this point and, as I tend to keep my vehicles for many years, I am convinced that the T&C will carry us wherever we want, near or far, in style, comfort and safety for a long time to come.


Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Chrysler 200 Earns EPA Rating Of 18 MPG City, 29 MPG Highway Wed, 26 Mar 2014 12:47:49 +0000 2015-chrysler-200-10

While Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has yet to announce fuel economy for the new 2015 Chrysler 200, the Environment Protection Agency inadvertently leaked figures for one configuration, the V6 AWD model.

Autoblog reports the figures — found on the U.S. Department of Energy’s — were obtained through the Pentastar V6/nine-speed automatic/all-wheel drive combination found in the 200C and 200S, which returned 18 mpg in town, 29 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. The figure also matches the outgoing 200, though it was front-drive only and possessed a weaker Pentastar V6 than the current 295 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque the 3.6-liter engine delivers.

As for where the 200 stands in the AWD midsize sedan fuel economy game, it’s ahead of the Subaru Legacy’s 18/25/20 rating from its 256 horsepower, 247 lb-ft torque boxer, yet behind the Ford Fusion’s 22/31/25 rating in spite of the 2-liter EcoBoost’s 240 hp/270 lb-ft torque four-pot.

FCA says the front-drive version of the new 200 may deliver an estimated 35 mpg highway rating through its 2.4-liter Tigershark four cylinder, though the EPA has yet to validate the figure.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Chrysler 200 Wed, 19 Mar 2014 05:06:11 +0000 photo (9)

Calling the 2015 Chrysler 200 an “improvement” would be damning it with faint praise. Rather than condemn it as one of the worst cars to grace our roads, I think it’s safe to say that the outgoing version was rather dated and uncompetitive, even if the 200, and its former Dodge Avenger platform-mate, had a small but vocal following among a subset of TTAC readers.

When the wraps came off the all-new 200 at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, it didn’t look as if Chrysler had gotten their act together. Under the bright lights of Cobo Hall, the 200S that was displayed looked like the gawky,uninspired pastiche that resulted from a Chevrolet Impala had mating with a Dart. The faux-mag wheels and edgy blue color felt like Chrysler was trying a little too hard, and both myself and Juan Barnett were left unimpressed.. If Chrysler botched this, it would be the third consecutive launch gone awry, and strike three for the much touted, Alfa Romeo derived CUSW platform that is set to underpin much of their car and crossover lineup in the future.

Luckily, they didn’t botch it. Far from it. The Dart may have been hampered by its powertrain, and the Cherokee may have been handicapped on-road by its off-road aspirations. The 200 appears to have avoided the kind of fatal compromises present on those cars.

That model you see at the top of the page, dubbed the Limited, is expected to be the volume trim, and I think it looks rather elegant with its muted silver paint and smaller wheels. I still find the added visual drama of the 200S and 200C (which are supposed to be Chrysler’s version of BMW’s Sport and Luxury Line trims, respectively) to be a bit much – mostly the  contrived faux-performance of the 200S. When it comes to family sedans, I like the natural look – give me an Accord EX 6MT over the Sport any day.

photo (10)

Ironically, the 200S and 200C (above, in silver and black) were what was available on the drive event, and the extra helping of sportiness outside didn’t matter much once inside the car. These versions had the best of what Chrysler has to offer, namely the Pentastar V6 engine and the UConnect 8.4 system, which is undoubtedly the best infotainment system on the market. The big UConnect system seems to have best mastered the balance between touch screen capability while still offering large, easy to manipulate tactile controls that can be operated without having to take your eyes off the road. Just aft of the UConnect center stack is a new, Volvo-style floating console, with a Ram-derived rotating shift knob and trick sliding shelf that hides the USB and auxiliary jacks.

2015 Chrysler 200S

Best of all, the examples on hand exhibited none of the sloppy details or questionable interior pieces that were present on the Cherokee. Everything appeared to be well put together, with high quality materials and exemplary fit and finish. A future review of a rental unit will be the true test of how the 200 holds up, but if Chrysler can maintain this level of quality once production ramps up, it could have a shot at the best interior in the segment.

photo 2

This impression was only furthered by the competitive vehicles that Chrysler had on hand – an Accord EX V6 sedan, a 4-cylinder Camry SE, an all-wheel drive Fusion 2.0 EcoBoost SEL and a 2.5L Altima. The last CUSW car I drove got schooled by each of its rivals on the competitive portion of the drive. Not so with the 200.

Back to back with the Camry, Accord and Fusion (there was no time left to drive the Altima), the 200 held its own in most areas. Keen drivers will still prefer the Accord, with its robust VTEC V6, sharp handling and powerful brakes. The 200′s Pentastar motor is similarly sweet, with a melodic growl and torque for days, but the steering suffers from an on-center dead zone and less feedback than the Accord, while exhibiting the soft brake pedal and poor modulation common to the Dart and Cherokee. Chrysler endlessly mentioned the 200′s Alfa-derived platform, but if this is what Alfa is producing these days, no wonder the brand is in the dumps. Against the Camry SE and Fusion, it fared better, though the weak brakes took some of the shine off the car’s otherwise solid dynamics. Any bugs in the 9-speed automatic  that were present on the Cherokee launch appear to be ironed out, and it felt far more advanced than any of the 6-speed units offered on the competitive cars.

Where the 200 truly edges out the Accord – and the rest of the present competition – is the fact that the interior is just a much nicer place to be – if you’re sitting up front. The 200′s modern, easy-to-operate infotainment system and high quality interior is a stark contrast to the Accord’s cabin, which frankly feels cheap and a bit nasty in the way that the 2012 Civic did. Acres of dull plastic and faux wood permeate the cabin, while Honda’s infotainment interface feels stone age next to the slick UConnect system. The story is the same with the Camry SE, which sports similar materials and a slightly toned down driving experience, but nothing nearly as bad as what most enthusiast writers would lead you to believe.

Where the Japanese sedans have the 200 squarely beat is in back seat comfort. Like the “game changer” Fusion, the 200 features a very contemporary roofline that slopes to create a pseudo-coupe profile, cutting rear seat headroom in the process. Combine that with a high rear seat cushion and you have a recipe for compromised headroom in the back, something that won’t sit well with traditional mid-size buyers. On the other hand, Ford moved nearly 300,000 Fusions last year, just behind the Altima, Accord and Camry.

photo 3

Rather than going after the Japanese sedans, with their staid styling (but more generous passenger compartments) and antiquated infotainment systems, Chrysler appears to be matching the Fusion shot for shot. Instead of the maligned MyFord Touch, UConnect is being offered up. In place of the Ecoboost engines, two naturally aspirated engines, a 2.4L Tigershark making 184 horsepower (shared with the Dart, and one we regrettably didn’t sample in the 200) and the 295 horsepower Pentastar V6. All-wheel drive is also an option, and the Fusion’s tech is now trumped by the 200′s – how about perpendicular park assist, along with the usual lane departure warning system, blind spot monitoring and active cruise control?

Remarkably, the 200 is not just a better Fusion, but a sedan that is fully competitive with class leaders. It’s not a perfect mid-size sedan, and it requires you to accept certain trade-offs in the name of style and advanced technology. But Detroit finally has a credible mid-size sedan that is competitive with the best of what the segment has to offer.

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Marchionne Closes Chapter On Canadian Minivan Plant Mon, 17 Mar 2014 13:01:27 +0000 Chrysler Windsor Assembly

While celebrating the successful turnaround for Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Sterling Heights, Mich. plant, CEO Sergio Marchionne proclaimed the issue of upgrades made to the Windsor, Ont. plant with help from Canadian federal and provincial governments one no longer worth discussing.

Automotive News reports FCA pulled out of discussions with Canada over a $2 billion upgrade incentive package that would secure the long-term future of the plant after politicians referred to the request as “ransom” and “corporate welfare,” according to Marchionne:

Chrysler is not in the business of accepting handouts. And if provincial and federal authorities in Canada think that’s the way to attract foreign investment, I think they are in for a big shock.

It doesn’t matter. It’s gone. That chapter is closed. Fiat-Chrysler has moved on. The agenda, from my standpoint, is complete.

Regarding Sterling Heights, where the Chrysler 200 will go into production this week, the plant’s upgrade as “an apt symbol of how far Chrysler has come because of the courage and resilience of [its] people,” Marchionne explained. The plant was due to close in 2010, only to return to life through a $1 billion investment made in light of the success behind the restyled and renamed compact, and the capacity needed to fulfill demand.

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Marichonne Still Seeking Location For New Minivans Fri, 14 Feb 2014 11:00:33 +0000 2013 Chrysler Town and Country

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV boss Sergio Marichonne, in talks with federal and provincial governments in Canada for loans to help prepare their factories in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario for new vehicle production, may come to a decision about moving forward with plans for where new minivans will be built by the end of March 2014.

Bloomberg reports that parent company Fiat is “not even close” to resolving those talks, with Marichonne hinting that he may take his business elsewhere, such as the United States or Mexico, if Canada won’t have them any longer:

“We’ve got to decide whether you want this or not. And if you do, I’ll be more than willing to stay. Global footprints are global footprints. I’m not using this as a threat, but there are some parts of the world that are desperately looking for capacity utilization, where infrastructure exists, is in place and is operational.”

The incentives sought for the new minivan production have been reported by Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail to be around $637 million, which would help Marichonne’s vision of an FCA capable of challenging larger automakers such as General Motors and Volkswagen.

Meanwhile, Canada is bolstering its Automotive Innovation Fund over the next two years by an additional $456 million (USD, or $500 million Canadian) over the $288 million (USD) already invested in six projects since 2008. The money is meant to attract all automakers in Canada beyond Chrysler, such as Ford, whose next-generation Edge will be built in Oakville, Ontario following a $640 million revamp by the automaker, and a $65 million investment by the Canadian government.

Though most of the Fiat-Chrysler merger has been worked out, Marichonne is doing all he can to remove distractions around the decision as to where new minivans will be constructed:

“We’re trying to remove all politics and noise around this issue. It’s a very simple investment call. We’re ready to go. We’re at the table. The car is ready. We’re ready to build minivans. Somewhere.”

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A Long Last Dance With The Chrysler 200 Tue, 04 Feb 2014 15:04:34 +0000 200-5

I was shivering, I think, because I was low on blood. Ten days of internal bleeding, of cauterization, of six vials a day donated to the unworthy cause of redundant testing, of the dark brown surge through the catheter, of the bright red bloom in the water of the toilet bowl. Your blood keeps you warm. You don’t realize it, but it does. Low on blood, low on heat, shivering in my shearling and cashmere Gimo’s coat, backing my walker towards the open door of my rental.

There was an ugly whirr from the starter. A prehistoric noise, one that reminded me of the M-body Gran Fury my boss owned when I worked at a two-screen theater in 1989. The kind of scrape-and-moan that has long since been banished from modern cars. And it didn’t catch. A new car, in the Year Of Our Lord 2014, that doesn’t start. But when it did catch, on the second crank, the temperature display showed a nice round zero. Zero degrees. I can forgive that. I can forgive being a bit hesitant to start after days on the rental lot, at a temperature not so far above that at which Ketel One freezes.

“You and me, little guy,” I said, patting the soft-touch dash, “we have some work to do, so let’s get going.” And we did.

I didn’t want to return to driving. Not for a long time. I had it in mind that I would wait until spring, perhaps. At the very least, I’d wait until the bones stopped grinding in a way that I could hear and feel in my teeth, until I was healed up enough to survive an unlucky second crash, should one arrive. But the rest of the world wasn’t inclined to work at my schedule. I had doctors who insisted that I drive thirty miles to see them, an employer whose actions regarding my crash and the resulting downtime oscillated between simply bizarre and definitely threatening, and a lonely friend suffering in a hospital on the other side of the city. It was time to drive.


What can I tell you about my Chrysler 200? Well, it was a configuration that I can’t make on the Chrysler site, even when I select model year 2013. Four cylinder. Four-speed auto, but much better-behaved than the one in the Avenger SE I tested last year. No automatic headlights. Cloth seats. Oddly bling-tastic wheels. It was clearly some sort of leftover-parts special tossed to the rental fleet. You couldn’t buy a retail 200 this poorly equipped in 2013, and the 2014 transition models appear to either be V6es or loaded fours. Easier to list what the car has than what it doesn’t have: windows, locks, cruise, CD player, A/C. At a dealer, if you found it new, after the incentives, maybe seventeen grand. At an Enterprise Used Car lot for $13,999, more or less. They say the price is no-haggle. I’d haggle, I think.


For two weeks the 200 and I trundled down unplowed roads, through low-visibility snowfall, into crowded parking garages dripping with dirty snow that melted into brown stalagmites to catch a walker or stall a wheelchair. The Eagle LS tires weren’t comfortable at the sub-sub-freezing temperatures and the nose would occasionally slide without warning on the freeway. Not a problem; my son was safe at home and the passenger seat stayed empty. If the Chrysler never gripped with authority, it was also harmless in the way it let go of the road, just continuing along in the same direction until some trustworthy surface appeared beneath its paws.

I have yet to get out of the driver’s seat without significant pain, but I’ll call that an effect of the three cracked lumbar vertebrae. The Avenger’s seat, when I put hundreds of miles on it in a day, was fine, and the seat in the 200 is nominally better, featuring some adjustable support. The interior fabric showed no appreciable wear after 24,000 uncaring miles in random hands. The dashboard, too, looked brand-new. When they did the interior refresh on these cars, they didn’t skimp. Five years from now, these ex-rental cars will impress people with how they’re lasting.

The “World Engine” four-cylinder, on the other hand, is simply depressing. I’m tempted to write a children’s book about it, calling it “The Little Engine That Doesn’t Want To”:

Chug, chug!
Is that a tractor?
Is that a tow truck?
Is that a Tempo?
It’s the World Engine!
Listen to it mooooooaaaaannnn on the hills!
Feel it vibrate at the stoplight!
Chug, chug, World Engine!
You’re so sad and lonely!
Waiting for the red light
We hear you chug, chug!

In the winter, the 2.4 is supremely reluctant to do anything and it shakes the 200 lightly at rest while idling in a most unsteady fashion. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, it sucks in precisely the same way that the Pentastar does not. Earlier this year, I had the chance to drive a V6-powered 200 across Ohio, and it was a genuine pleasure in most respects. But the World Engine? Chug, chug!


Last week, I added an occasional passenger to my trips. She requires a wheelchair, for the same reason I’m leaning on a cane, and we keep her in the back seat for safety’s sake. Nontrivial bravery, to get in a car with someone knowing that you’ve done it before and ended the day taking an eighteen thousand dollar helicopter ride to an emergency CT scan. “What’s it like back there?” I asked.

“Not great… but not terrible, either. The armrest is good.” So, a 5’8″ woman can sit behind a 6’2″ man in this thing. The rap on this generation of Chrysler midsizers has always been that the back seat room is below-par. That’s true if you’re coming from a Camry or Accord, but when you compare it to, say, any of the other sub-twenty-thousand-dollar sedans, the 200 makes a solid case for itself. And there’s room in the trunk for a wheelchair.

Every once in a while, you come up against the fact that this is fundamentally a generation older than the competition. Somehow, today, I locked the keys in the 200 while it was running. However, the trunk was open because I was about to load a wheelchair into said trunk. No problem, right? Just pull the handle in the trunk and drop the rear seat. Except for the fact that the Chrysler doesn’t have those handles, because they weren’t yet popular when the Sebring was released. The solution: use my cane to bash the center pass-through open. Climb into trunk, banging all fractured bones in the course of doing so. Reach through center pass-through, grab fabric loop that releases fold-down seat, unlock rear door, climb back out of trunk, take all remaining Tylenol in the bottle, take a nap, make note not to tell TTAC readers about stupid adventure.

What’s it like at full pace, on a racetrack, at the limit of the tires? I couldn’t tell you. I haven’t exceeded seventy-three miles per hour in the 200. It’s been a lot of poking around in bad weather at low speeds. A lot of drab commutes with the surprisingly excellent heater battling the polar-vortex cold. A fair amount of chug-chug idling in phamarcy drive-thrus.

Under these conditions, the Chrysler has shown virtue. The controls are simple and easy to use. The stereo is weak but clear. Road noise is about what you’d expect from a Camry. As previously noted, the interior materials are definitely up to par, even if they are applied to an interior that is narrower and less exciting than what you’d find in the competition. If the 200 fails to excite, it also fails to annoy or disappoint at the price.

No, it can’t hold its own against a modern Camcord or Sonatoptima. But it isn’t priced against them. It’s priced against Corollas and Civics and Fortes. Hell, I’m pretty sure you can get a run-out 2014 V6 model for twenty grand. That’s not a bad idea, really. It’s more car than the compacts offer and if you are price-conscious it is worth considering.

A week from Thursday I’ll turn this car in and go buy something for myself. That will mark four rental weeks together. Viewed in the context of many of my short-term relationships, it’s been better than most. Frill-free but faithful and fit for purpose, the 200 has been reliable enough, capable enough. Good enough. It’s tempting in this business sometimes to forget that ninety percent of buyers simply want good enough. The new 200 will have more of what people want and none of that awkward turtletop Sebring legacy hanging over its head. But if you want good enough, right now, this will do.

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One-Time Tax Gain Nets Chrysler $1.6 Billion In Q4 2013 Thu, 30 Jan 2014 11:00:04 +0000 FCA - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

The American half of the newly dubbed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a net income of $1.6 billion in Q4 2013, the majority of which came from a one-time tax gain of $962 million.

Automotive News reports that revenue in the fourth quarter for Chrysler advanced 24 percent to $21.4 billion, while total revenue for the outgoing year totaled $72.1 billion, up 10 percent from 2012′s $65.8 billion. Meanwhile, the total adjusted net income in 2013 for the brand came out to $1.8 billion, $2.8 billion unadjusted.

Within the next four to six weeks, Chrysler’s 37,200 unionized hourly employees will receive profit-sharing checks to the tune of $2,500, with an extra $1,000 split into two awards for quality and performance to be distributed in June and December, respectively. Some individual plants will also add to the pot based on their own quality and efficiency goals.

Regarding market share, Chrysler’s home market gained two-tenths of a percentage point to 11.6 percent in 2013 on the backs of 1.8 million units sold in the United States, an increase of 9 percent driven by the brand’s redesigned truck and SUV lines. Globally, 2.6 million vehicles in 2013 were delivered, including those made for parent company Fiat.

As far as cash on-hand and debt are concerned, Chrysler reported a nest egg of $13.3 billion with $12.3 billion in gross industrial debt; in 2012, the brand held $11.6 billion in cash and $12.6 billion in debt. The bottom line marks the first time Chrysler held more cash than debt since the Italo-American marriage was consummated before the U.S. federal government back in 2009.

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The Cold Hard Light Of Reality: Three Months With The Town & Country S Fri, 29 Nov 2013 16:03:31 +0000 back

Buying a new car is exciting and if you are like me, you spend weeks comparing the possible candidates. You start out by looking at photos and reading road tests. You gather sales brochures, pour over the spec sheets and examine the option packages. You compare prices, build fleets of similarly optioned virtual vehicles at the manufacturers’ websites and eventually head to the dealership. You kick the tires, poke, prod and handle the merchandise. You find things you don’t like and things you do. You take a test drive, go home to think and come back to drive again. Eventually you buy.

Signing the papers on a new car is pure euphoria. It’s an orgasm of consumerism. Your signature spills out the end of the pen and onto the paper in the ultimate release after weeks of delicate maneuvering and pent-up anticipation. It is the point where years of scrimping and saving intersect with the idea that the future is a real place and that you are committed to going there. When the act is completed, you are exhausted but happy. You’ve made your choice, are locked into the relationship and have no choice but to be happy with what you’ve done. You have invested too much to admit to making a mistake.

Three months into the relationship that surge of emotion is long gone and you are living with the results. The cold, hard light of reality shines upon the choice you have made and the real assessment begins. I am there now. It has been almost three months and 1500 miles since I spent my own hard-earned money on a 2013 Chrysler Town & Country S. Summer is long gone and autumn is turning to winter, how fares the vehicle?


Pretty damn well, actually. With so few miles on the clock, the engine is just beginning to break-in but so far there have been no problems. The mill is smooth, quiet and makes oodles of power. Those ponies drive the car through a slick shifting transmission that has already learned my wife’s driving habits and connect to the road through a well-sorted chassis. As someone who dislikes revving an engine to make a car go, I’m glad that the 3.6 Pentastar piles on the torque early and the van accelerates smoothly all across the rev range. The suspension, which feels plush and compliant on the rough Buffalo roads, keeps the car solidly planted in the curves and allows spirited drivers to silence cranky babies in the back seat through the miracle of lateral G-force induced blackouts. That’s only slightly facetious by the way, this puppy likes the corners.

Mechanically the T&C is a winner but I am also amazed that an amount of thought that went into its interior. I noticed the well thought out controls and good looking instrument cluster on our initial test drives, but it wasn’t until after I purchased the vehicle that I got the opportunity to see what it looked like at night. When the sun goes down and the lights come up, the already beautiful instrument cluster turns into a 1950’s Wurlitzer Juke-Box and the neon theme runs the length of the passenger compartment in the form of dim blue interior lighting that illuminates the cabin from behind the overhead console. There is even a blue LED band that runs around the drink holder in the console between the front seats. To someone more cultured than yours truly that might seem like a trite little add-on, but to me lighting effects are to the new millennium what tail fins are to the 1950s.


Had I purchased one of the lesser models, my inner cheapskate would not have allowed me to check the box that includes all the electronic gizmos that the S package comes with, but they truly add that extra layer of luxury to an already well composed machine. When my family took a day trip to Toronto a week or two ago the in-dash blue ray DVD player and twin overhead flat screens went into instant operation and kept the kids’ attention the entire ride. The navigation, something I have forgone on every vehicle with the exception of the JDM Mazda MPV we owned in Okinawa, usually runs quietly in the background while I drive, but was used extensively during our trip into the maelstrom that is the Toronto area freeway system. With the single exception of the device steering us into the collector lanes for the last part of our trip rather than directing us into the express lanes, the Navi functioned flawlessly.

The best news is that all this technology is easy to use. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but sometime in the last few years the tech aficionado that once occupied my skin turned into a crotchety old man. The days of me sitting down and reading an owner’s manual are long gone. If I can’t learn how something works in less than 5 minutes of trial and error, I’m unhappy. Chrysler’s technology package is simple enough that I was able to learn how it worked on the fly. I will admit that I had to research how to hook the cell phone into the blue tooth system, but even that was accomplished in just a couple of minutes.

Of course there have been a couple of issues, too. The back up sensors my wife wanted installed as a dealer added option are less than satisfactory. The initial install was fraught with problems and the van went to the dealer four times to have the problems resolved. The end result is a system that is far too sensitive for my taste, sounding the alarm at even minor changes in the pavement behind the van as we back up, and with a chirpy warning alarm that is shrill and cheap-sounding in a van that exudes solidity, quiet and comfort. The good news is that the dealer did their best to make things right by giving us free loaner vehicles every time the van visited their shop and by adding a full rust proofing treatment at no cost to me.

Three months and 1500 miles is not a lot of time with a new vehicle, but it is long enough that the rose colored glasses have come off. The euphoria is gone and the hard, cold light of the day after is here. Day to day life with the T&C is smooth and easy and if I was not totally in love when I rolled the dice and took her home, I have learned over the ensuing weeks of our relationship that there is more to her than meets the eye. Pretty to look at, warm, soft and thoughtful when I am in her embrace and with an amazing combination of practicality and unexpected strength she is, I think, a jewel. If she is durable as well, then our love will be one for the ages.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast, he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Review: 2014 Chrysler Town & Country Touring Tue, 10 Sep 2013 14:15:35 +0000 IMG_3947 (Medium)

Two years ago, your humble author had some very nice things to say about the revised, Pentastar-powered Dodge Grand Caravan. Since then, I’ve put a couple thousand more miles on Caravans, including a fairly harrowing trip to Nashville in a low-spec variant, and, to quote Sean Connery, “I haven’t changed my opinion.”.

I never deliberately rent a minivan. Until this past Friday, when I needed one to cover about 580 miles in a single night so I could play an impromptu gig with a hastily assembled group of people who didn’t quite know each other. So I paid Enterprise their rapacious $94/day rate for an on-purpose Friday-to-Saturday minivan rental, and the green “e” came through with a brand-spanking-new, 46-miles-on-the-odometer Chrysler T&C Touring. So. We know the Caravan is brilliant. Is the Chrysler worth the extra money?

IMG_3945 (Medium)

When my brother and I failed to kill each other during and after an ad-hoc rooftop party gig in Charlotte, NC, we decided to try playing in a few more inconvenient venues. First up on the list was a coffee shop in London, KY owned by a friend of ours who mastered and recorded a couple of platinum records before leaving the music business to sleep on top of a massive pile of cash, or something like that. To make things more interesting, I added two members of my current band, The Original Dirigibles, and a jazz drummer from Cincinnati. Then we revised the set to cut the modal stuff a bit and significantly up the John Mayer content. (Yes, we’re playing “Wildfire” even though the album just came out.)

Those you who care about the gig itself (hi, Nena!) can read about it in mind-numbing, PRS-specific detail here, but the important part is that we had to drive 283 miles each way, starting at 2pm, taking the stage at 7pm, and leaving for home around J.J. Cale’s favorite time*. Our packing list was exhaustive but I’ll reproduce it in part here, just to give you an idea of the weight and space required:

  • Me
  • Patrick the bass player
  • Pemm the rhythm guitarist
  • Vodka McBigbra the photographer and official complainer regarding in-van volume
  • A cooler full of, um, spring water
  • My Roland TD-4KX electronic drum kit
  • A Behringer bass wedge
  • My Roland VGA-5 traveling guitar amp
  • A Taylor T-5 acoustic/electric
  • Patrick’s spalted-maple Carvin SB5000
  • A Baby Taylor acoustic
  • A Samson PA
  • Two PRS guitars in their traveling (non-paisley) cases
  • A dozen-plus cables
  • Fakebooks, recording equipment, three Shure mikes, three mike stands
  • Extra clothes for everybody
  • Music stands
  • I’m not even sure that was all of it. But it all fit and the four leather captain’s chairs were fairly open for seating comfort. This being a T&C Touring with a net price after current rebates of $29,700 or so, it had some stuff the Value Package and base Caravans don’t have: power doors, overhead console with DVD player and extra plug-in places, power doors, power rear vents, a uConnect head unit that had no navigation but seemed to have everything else including a storage hard drive, bigger alloy wheels, serious window tinting, deep, sparkly paint, a leather steering wheel, and a few things I’m probably forgetting.

    IMG_3948 (Medium)

    Every time I drive a $20,000 Caravan, I think that this is all I need. And then I drive the $30,000 Town and Country and realize that I also want this stuff. Start with the seats. They are a genuine improvement and all four of us had no back pain or discomfort during what ended up being, due to traffic, about nine and a half hours in the van over the course of a single day. The stereo is very good for a minivan and handles “The Love Below” and “Speakerboxx” as well as it does “Pursuance: The Music Of John Coltrane”. The upgraded instrument panel and center stack look like they’re worth some extra money, and the LCD screen between the dials on the IP has several additional features. There’s a separate temperature number for the rear air conditioning so certain females could be banned to the rear seats and enjoy the kind of tropical heat that chicks are known to dig year-round while I stayed frosty up front. Pemm enjoyed his window seat so much he Instagrammed it:


    For the record, his wife is smoking and she makes a ton of money. It’s true what they say about holding a guitar, even the guitar is a Baby Taylor and not a PRS Private Stock. It’s also true that practice in the van on the way down, even with a super-tricky iPad holder, is no substitute for learning the songs the week before. Nevertheless, the T&C was quiet enough that we could work on a few vocal things that had eluded us in “rehearsal”, mostly because “rehearsal” is shorthand for “emptying bottles of Ketel One over the course of two hours and arguing about adding ‘Slow Dancing In A Burning Room’ to the set.” Is it quieter than the Caravan? I think so but I’m not willing to go on record there. There was a lot of biomass and plenty of sharp edges in the thing to absorb sound.

    As a band, we all appreciated the looks of the Chrysler, particularly the paint quality. The visual difference between this and the Caravan is plainly apparent — but it also costs more. It should be apparent. After many years of the least convincing badge engineering known to man, the company’s finally cracked the code for creating separate and distinct variants of a vehicle. The downside is that the Chrysler and Dodge no longer share a ZIP code, pricing-wise. And it must be said that, hovering right in this same MSRP range, is the Caravan R/T “Man Van”. Do I want the sophistication of the T&C or the aggression of the R/T? How did I get to be old enough that I’m seriously considering the answer to that question?

    Regardless of which variant you pick, you get the same powertrain. This was long overdue. It’s also the practice followed by Honda, Nissan, and Toyota (with the recent discontinuation of the no longer available four-cylinder sad-van LE 2.7.) The Pentastar continues to shine brightly (ooh! I’m ready to write for Autoblog with stuff like that!) in this application no matter what trim level you choose. It’s fast, it’s quiet, and it’s economical enough. We recorded 22.8 miles per gallon running a steady 85mph down to Kentucky and, after pressing the “Econ” leafy button on the way back, 24.8mpg with seemingly no difference in highway performance. The owners forums report that “Econ” significantly degrades in-town performance, however.

    Bass player Patrick swore that the Chrysler had less room in it than his two-generations-back Sienna. This sounded ridiculous to me and when he proved unable to operate the rear Stow N’ Go seat I resolved to ignore everything he said from then on. That resulted in us accidentally playing “Impressions” three measures apart for a harrowing minute or two, during which I’m pretty sure two members of the audience injured themselves trying to get out the back door. For the record, Edmunds scores it 133 cubic feet to 123 in favor of the Chrysler.

    IMG_3949 (Medium)

    I’ve devoted a lot of time to the idea that the Chrysler minivan makes sense at the $20,000 and $25,000 level. I think it’s safe to say that it makes sense at the $30,000 level as well. For the extra money, you get a verifiable and usable improvement in day-to-day functionality and comfort. It’s not 50% better than the Value Package Caravan but the IWC Big Pilot isn’t 100% better than the IWC Spitfire either. If you have the money, it’s worth the extra cash.

    The ultimate question is: does the same platform make sense at $40K, at the loaded-Limited level? Is the “one with everything” a reasonable proposition? It’s hard to say, but this T&C Touring does the business and, as with its cheaper siblings, continues to be recommended without reservation.

    * After midnight, duh.

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Final Decision: There Can Be Only One Mon, 19 Aug 2013 17:09:59 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

I have learned over the years that is a lot more fun to shop for a car than it is to actually purchase one. In my mind’s eye every vehicle is perfect and every feature, every positive point comes to the fore. Every problem is easily fixed or is otherwise so minor it doesn’t even bear thinking about. Money is never a problem either and I can seriously think about leather, satellite radio and a giant, gas sucking V8 without wondering how I am going to pay for it all. Yes, locked up inside my head, everything is always perfect and so I like to take the time to savor the moment before committing myself. Ultimately, however, the rubber must meet the road.


There was never any real question about what I was going to buy, was there? Although I toyed with some of the foreign competition, I knew what I wanted from the moment I determined we needed to replace our ailing Freestar and we did, in fact, choose exactly that: a Chrysler Town & Country. Of course, I know that some of you are scratching your heads right now, the competition is good and even the T&C’s close cousin, the Dodge Grand Caravan, is a hell of a deal right now, so why step up?

To be honest it was the Dodge Grand Caravan that brought us into the show room. We rented one on a trip home to Seattle last Thanksgiving and found it to be utterly competent in everything it does. The problem is that we wanted a few additional features not offered on the $19,990 American Value Package, things like a powered lift gate and doors, a back-up camera and other interior comfort options, and so, once we really got to looking at what we could buy in a Dodge, I figured we might as well step up to the Town & Country Touring. Then of course, one thing led to another and I ended up taking the next step to a T&C “S” model.


So, what the hell is a “Town & Country S?” Well, Chrysler’s website says that the S Line is a “fusion of edgy design and American grit that defines the Chrysler brand. These are vehicles for the uncompromising and the sophisticated, those who crave aftermarket excitement as much as elegance.” That’s me in a nutshell right there. I am such an edgy, gritty guy that I wanted my wife’s minivan to have extras like a built-in navigation and a good looking set of wheels. The S was the only van on the lot that had those two things together and so I picked that one. As a bonus, the package also added some nice stylistic touches and included some extra technology. With a list price of just $32,050, and with incentives I didn’t pay anywhere near that, it seemed like a good deal so we bought it.

The S line is an option and appearance package offered on the Chrysler 200, 300 and the Town & Country. It comes in just four colors, Brilliant Black, Cherry Red, Billet Silver and Stone White and other than that, as far as Chrysler is concerned, S means “black.” In the T&C, the package adds black trimmed alloy wheels, black chrome grill, blacked out badges and blacked out headlight surrounds. Inside, the seats are black leather with grey stitching and black cloth inserts. A black console sits between the seats, and the dash has piano black trim insterts. The most elegant touch of all, I think, is a black headliner.


The package also includes a fair amount of technology including a Blu-Ray disc player with 9 inch folding screens for both the second and third rows, navigation, satellite radio, UConnect with Bluetooth integration for our cell phones, and a sound system that includes a 40 Gig hard drive and on and on and on. I was born in the 60s and my first car came with an 8 track tape player, which was a big deal at the time, so the amount of technology loaded into the T&C amazes me. Had it not been included in the package, I would not likely have purchased a lot of the tech separately. The sat nav/UConnect is almost $900 on its own and the Blu-Ray would have added another $1000 and would have required us to step up to the T&C “L” which starts at $32,840 so you can see that the S model adds a great deal of real value in addition to the extra style.

inside 2

Under the hood all of Chrysler’s vans offer the 3.6 VVT 24 valve engine backed with a smooth shifting 6 speed transmission and the combination is a good one. Out on the road the van is quite spry off the line and will squeal the tires if I really stomp on the gas. Chrysler says the T&C S comes with a “sport suspension” and I must confess that I don’t really understand all that entails at this point but I do know that there is no way a van this size should handle as well as this one does. The 65 series tires hold the road well and the 17 inch rims allow enough side wall to keep the ride smooth. Grip is great and the T&C hangs in the corners with the best of them. It’s a lot of fun to charge into a cloverleaf interchange just a little hot and slide that big sucker through the curve. Seriously, it does better in a corner than my 300M Special did.


Fit and finish is great. Inside, the grey stitching sets off the black leather on the seats but the embroidered “S” is a detail I may have forgone if I had the choice. The dashboard is a good combination of black and chrome and it looks positively jewel like from behind the wheel. The touch screen is big and easy to read, but changing the radio requires touching the screen which leaves fingerprints. Although a plastic touch screen is state of the art, a glass facing ala the i-phone would have looked and felt better under my fingers. The black headliner makes the van feel darker inside and I thought I would dislike it but the effect is not at all, as I had feared, cave-like. In fact, I think the darker interior helps brighten the view out the front and helps to better focus my attention on the road ahead.


The attention to detail on the van’s interior is matched on the outside. I wasn’t sure how I would like the black chrome effect on the front of the van, but I think now it looks good. Chrysler was smart, however, the leave the chrome strip down the side of the van and although I barely noticed it at first it has become one of my favorite touches. Another detail that Chrysler’s design team got right was where they hid the body gap for rear sliders’ rollers, tucking them smartly beneath the back windows where they blend in well and are easily forgotten about. I opted for the grey and, as you can see in the photos, the T&C wears it well. The photos fail, however, to catch the metallic paint to its best advantage and in-person the effect is amazing as the sun’s rays strike fire from a million different facets.

Right now I am in that special place a man goes to whenever he brings home a new vehicle. It sits now in our garage and the aroma of fresh paint, new leather and curing rubber permeates the whole house. Although it is primarily my wife’s vehicle, I look forward to sliding behind the wheel and even spent most of Saturday afternoon sitting in the driveway loading Japanese MP3s into the audio system’s hard drive just so she would be “more comfortable.” This is the fifth new car I have purchased in thirty years as a licensed driver and, barring incidents and accidents, I know it will be with us for a long, long time. No one can know what the future holds, but right now, firmly in the honeymoon period of new car ownership, I am completely satisfied with our purchase. It is everything I imagined it would be.

rear 2

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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Review: 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8 (Video) Mon, 29 Apr 2013 13:00:28 +0000

There’s a “problem” with the modern performance variant: they are too easy to review. You see, dropping a high-horsepower V8 into anything makes it good. Take the last generation Chrysler 300 SRT8. It’s interior was made from plastics rejected by Lego and Rubbermaid and you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the $9.99 rent-a-car special. The big difference with the SRT versions was that Chrysler stuffed a 425HP 6.1L V8 under the hood and a set of pipes that made the 300 sound like sex. The uncomfortable seats, crappy dash plastics and 1990s stereo were distant memories. If Chrysler had managed to fit the same V8 into the Sebring, it would have been the best convertible ever. This time is different. Before the 2013 300 SRT8 arrived, I decided I would not be seduced by Chrysler’s larger, meaner, sexier, more powerful 6.4L engine and review it like any other car. Can that be done?

Click here to view the embedded video.


Our refrigerator white tester is impossible to confuse with anything else on the road. While there are still some Bentleyesque features, the 300 is solidly Chrysler metal from the long hood to the slim greenhouse. The 300′s tall and blunt nose is entirely functional and the bold sheetmetal is truly function over form. You see, the 6.4L pushrod V8 is very tall and very long, jamming it under a modern sloping hood to a aerodynamic nose simply wouldn’t have worked. That height dictates the beginning of the greenhouse around the front doors and that line continues rearward.

Out back, things have been brought up market with new tail lamps that don’t have the same bargain basement theme as the first generation 300. Despite the improvements there’s something unfinished about the 300′s looks to my eye. Perhaps the original 300 was so bold my expectations for a redesign were unachievable.

For SRT8 duty Chrysler swaps the stock wheels for wide 20-inch aluminum shod with 245/45R20 all-season rubber and the front grille turns black. Nestled inside the larger wheels are larger rotors with four-piston Brembo brakes (14.2-inch up front and 13.8 in the rear.) The rest of the SRT8 changes are subtle enough that they may go unnoticed unless parked next to a lesser 300. The same finlets that sprouted in 2011 are present on the SRT8 and there’s no ridiculous wing or funky chin spoiler to destroy the 300′s luxury lines.

Those luxury lines are important in another way, they help justify the SRT8 Core’s  $44,250 base price. The Core model is a new twist in Chrysler’s SRT8 plot offering a bit more than just a “decontented” ride. In order to get the $4,000 lower starting price the Core ditches the leather seats, HID headlamps and adaptive suspension. Core models can be distinguished by the 6.4L badge on the front fenders, more aggressive wheels and the blacked out halogen headlamps from the 300S.


Nevermore has an automotive interior gone from plastastic to fantastic so rapidly as the 300 and it’s all down to stitched cow. The SRT8 Core model and base SRT8 models make do with a slightly rubbery injection molded dashboard, a $2,500 option on the non-Core SRT8 takes you to a place hitherto the exclusive domain of six-figure luxury cars: the full-leather dashboard.  Trust me, the cash is worth it. Without the upgrade, the Camcord quality interior plastics stick out like a sore thumb, with it your passengers will be fawning over your french seams. While the 300 interior feels less expensive than an M5 or E63, it’s a better place to spend your time than a CTS-V.

SRT8 shoppers need to be prepared for a sea of black or some fairly striking red as they are the only two interior colors offered in the 300 SRT8 and carbon fibre is the only trim available. I’m not usually a fan of black-on-black interiors, but Chrysler thankfully breaks things up a bit with Alcantara faux-suede sections in the seats. SRT8 Core shoppers have less choice being offered only in a black-cloth configuration.

All models get reworked front seats that offer more lateral bolstering but still suffer from Chrysler’s latest seat-oddity: seat cushions you sit on rather than in. While not as pronounced as the seats in the Chrysler 200 Convertible we had, I had the constant feeling I was sitting on a large gumdrop. Despite this, the seats proved reasonably comfortable on my long commute despite the lack of thigh support this design causes. Just keep in mind that Alcantara can be a maintenance bear, so avoid spills and trousers made of rough fabric. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Just Google “Alcantara pilling” to educate yourself.

Thanks to the super-sized proportions, the 300 offers the same amount of rear legroom as the Cadillac XTS. To put that in perspective, that’s several inches more than a BMW M5, Jaguar XFR, Cadillac CTS-V or Mercedes E63, all of which could be considered valid SRT8 competition. The 300 is more closely aligned in terms of size to the next-tier up in vehicles, the short wheelbase 7-Series, Cadillac XTS, short wheelbase XJ, etc.


Chrysler’s 8.4-inch uConnect infotainment system is standard although the Core model cuts the nav software to keep the price of entry low. uConnect is proof that being late to the party has advantages. Chrysler had more time to work out bugs, or maybe they just had better engineers working on the system, whatever the reason uConnect runs circles around MyFord Touch and Cadillac’s CUE in terms of response time and reliability. To date I have not had a Ford, Lincoln or Cadillac test car that didn’t have a total melt-down that required me to pull a fuse to reboot.

The system combines radio, multimedia, climate control, navigation, Bluetooth and other functions into a single screen. While some functions have duplicated hardware buttons, others can only be controlled via the touchscreen. This is both good and bad. It eliminates the button array plaguing Buick and Acura models, but some functions take longer and require more “eyes off the road” time than a hardware button. Stabbing the right button with gloves on is also a challenge.

The latest software adds full voice control of your USB/iDevice and worked very well without the library size limitations Toyota products suffer from. MyFord Touch offers a wider variety of “commandable” items and more natural command syntax, but  uConnect has a more natural voice and faster processing. Sadly the Garmin navigation isn’t well integrated into the system looking as if you’d just cut a hole in the screen and put a portable Garmin behind it. The look isn’t surprising since that’s exactly what Chrysler did, except they did it in software, not with a razor blade. While it makes uConnect’s navigation option inexpensive and easy to update, the graphics and menu structure don’t jive with the rest of the system and nav voice commands are very different from other cars on the market. Chevy’s new MyLink’s interface is just as snappy as uConnect but offers more polished navigation commands and a more seamless interface.

SRT8 models get additional apps tailored to the vehicle (shown above). The SRT apps include a race timer, G-Force displays as well as several screens of additional gauges like oil temperature, incoming air temperature, battery voltage, etc. There is also a custom screen that shows exactly how much power and torque the ginormous engine is cranking out at any moment. If you want the latest in uConnect with 911 asist and 3rd party smartphone apps, you’ll need to wait until Chrysler refreshes the 300 with the same system the new Grand Cherokee and RAMs use. If you want to know more about uConnect, check out the video at the beginning of the review.


OK, this is the section you’ve been waiting for. Chrysler didn’t just tweak the old 6.1L SRT engine from the first generation SRT8 vehicles, and they didn’t just grab the Challenger Drag Pack/Mopar Crate engine either. You heard that right, this is not the “392 Hemi” in the Mopar catalog. Instead, Chrysler went back to the drawing board, cast a new block and built the new 6.4/392 around the design framework of the revised 2009 5.7L Hemi. This means you get variable cam timing to improve power and emissions, and Chrysler’s Multi Displacement System to improve efficiency. The redesigned engine still uses two valves and two spark plugs per cylinder and a heavily modified semi-hemispherical design. With as much engineering time as they undoubtedly spent, I’m somewhat surprised Chrysler didn’t cook up a dual-overhead cam SRT engine. No matter, there’s something primal about owning a car with an enormous push-rod V8.

Chrysler didn’t stop at enlarging the displacement, power is way up as well. The new monster is good for 470 horsepower and a stump-pulling 470 lb-ft of torque. While that may not sound like a huge improvement over the old 425HP 6.1L engine, the new 6.4 produces 90 lb-ft (or one whole Prius) more torque at 2,900 RPM. But that’s not all. Thanks to the trick cam timing, the new engine out powers the old by at least 60lb-ft from idle all the way to 5,600 RPM. The old SRT8 was a stout machine, but back-to-back, it feels like it runs out of breath easily. The improved thrust takes the 300 from 0-60 in a quick 4.5 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 12.87 seconds at a blistering 113 MPH. Those numbers aren’t that far removed from the BMW M5, E63 AMG, or Jaguar XFR-S.

If you were hoping 2013 would bring the new ZF/Chrysler 8-speed transmission to the SRT8, so was I. Sadly, the only cog-swapper offered on the 300 SRT8 is the old Mercedes 5-Speed that the 300 has been using since 2004. I wouldn’t say the Merc tranny is bad, but it’s not exactly a team player either. The shifts are somewhat sluggish, particularly when downshifting, and the ratios are far enough apart that highway passing can be dramatic or anticlimactic depending on how far down the transmission is willing to shift. Driven in a vacuum the WA580 is an acceptable play mate, but drive that Grand Cherokee SRT8 parked next to the 300 on the lot and your eyes will be opened.

If you believe that there is no replacement for displacement, the 300 SRT8 will be your poster boy. Sure, the latest German twin-turbo V8s put down more power, but the American bruiser has something they can’t deliver: a raucous V8 sound track. Proving the point I had the opportunity at a regional media event to drive several Mercedes, BMW and Chrysler models back-to-back on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The M6 blew down the main straight at a blistering pace with a tame, almost muted exhaust note. You can thank the turbos in the exhaust for that. Meanwhile hearing the 300 SRT8, Challenger SRT8 and Grand Cherokee SRT8 blast down the straight at the same time nearly made me pee my pants.

So it sounds good and clears 60 in 4.5. What’s not to love? The tire selection. All 300 SRT8s come standard with 245 width all-season rubber all the way around. Chrysler does offer a summer tire package, but it’s not what you want either. According to the 300 forum fan boys, you can stuff some seriously wide 295 or 305 width rubber in the rear without rubbing and there are a few companies out there making wider replica wheels so you can retain the stock look. Going this route will do a few things for you. The most obvious if the improved grip in the corners which is already good, but a lightly modified 300 proved it has the ability to be excellent and second you’ll get better 0-60 numbers. In our testing the 300 spent so much time spinning the “narrow” all-season rubber, I suspect a 4.3 second sprint to 60 is possible. Of course, that rumored 8-speed auto may provide a similar performance bump, the new cog swapper dropped the Grand Cherokee SRT8′s 0-60 time by a full second.

When the going gets twisty Chrysler’s adaptive suspension (not available in the core model) and regular old hydraulic assist power steering conspire to create a modern Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide. In standard mode the suspension is moderately firm and compliant, soaking up roadway irregularities like a taut German cruiser. In Sport mode the system stiffens the dampers and attempts to counteract tip/dive and sideways motions. In Track Sport the dampers are set to their stiffest mode and the 5-speed auto gets downshift happy. On regular road surfaces the suspension never felt punishing, even on broken pavement, which translates to a slightly soft ride on the track, a worthy trade-off in my book, since few new cars are headed for the track anyway.  The decision to leave electric power steering off the table for the moment makes the enormous and moderately numb Chrysler have perhaps the best steering feel in this coat-closet-sized segment.

As before, the 300 SRT8 represents an incredible value compared to the other high-performance RWD sedans on the market. The difference is, this time around I don’t have any caveats attached to that. Our well-equipped tester rang in at $56,235 with every option except the black roof, up-level paint and tinted chrome bits. That’s about $12,000 less than a comparable CTS-V, and a whopping $40,000 less than a comparable M5 or E63. Of course the SRT8 isn’t going to have the exclusivity or snob value of the Germans and it’s less powerful for sure, but the fact that we can even have this discussion is saying something. While the 6.4L engine is undeniably intoxicating, the 300 SRT8 finally gets better under the harsh light of reality. Chrysler’s new-found ability to craft a desirable interior and competitive infotainment system mean you won’t have to “live with” much other than the 5-speed automatic. Give Chrysler a year or two and even that caveat may be lifted.

Hit it

  • Sexy optional leather dash is a must.
  • Endless torque.
  • Bragging rights: My engine is bigger than yours.

Quit it

  • Ye olde 5-speed should have been swapped for the sweet 8-speed this year. For shame.
  • Rubbery dashboard in the Core model.
  • AWD would make the SRT8 sell easier in the north.

 Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.08 Seconds

0-40: 2.8 Seconds

0-50: 3.66 Seconds

0-60: 4.5 Seconds

0-70: 5.73 Seconds

0-80: 7.0 Seconds

0-90: 8.83 Seconds

0-100: 10.54 Seconds

0-110: 12.5 Secodns

1/4 Mile:  12.87 Seconds @ 113 MPH

Average fuel economy: 17.8 over 566 miles

2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Stitched Dashboard, Premium Leather Group, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Stitched Dashboard, Premium Leather Group, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Stitched Dashboard, Premium Leather Group, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Stitched Dashboard, Premium Leather Group, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Shift Paddles, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Shift Paddles, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, 20-inch Wheels, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Tail Lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Rear Profile, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, uConnect 8.4 and HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, SRT Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Tachometer, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, HVAC knobs, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Center Console Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Door Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Back Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Front Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Back Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Back Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Engine, 470HP 6.4L 392 HEMI, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 79
Slow Dart Sales Cause Elimination of Shift at Dundee Engine Plant, There’s No Replacement For Displacement Fri, 25 Jan 2013 18:09:49 +0000 Sergio and 1.4L Turbo MultiAir in better times at Dundee. Chrysler Photo

The latest sign that the product planners and marketers at Fiat and Chrysler have muffed the launch of the Dodge Dart is the announcement that their Dundee, Michigan engine plant that builds the Dart’s turbocharged 1.4 liter Multiair FIRE engine has fired or reassigned 58 employees and is eliminating a second shift. The shift reduction follows remarks at the 2013 NAIAS media preview by Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne blaming poor Dart sales on the powertrain offerings. “The powertrain solutions we made available to that car, in today’s world, in hindsight, were not the ideal solution,” Mr. Marchionne said. Consumers have been disappointed in sluggish performance of the Dart.  TTAC reviewer Michael Karesh said that 1.4 L turbo motor was “soft south of 3,000 rpm”.

In the critical C segment, where many manufacturers sell 200,000 (or in the case of the Honda Civic >300,000) cars a year in North America, the Dart sold only about 25,000 units since it was introduced in July.

The Dundee plant, originally a joint venture between Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Daimler, is Chrysler’s only American factory that makes four cylinder engines. After the changes, the plant will still employ 750 people. In the personnel moves, fourteen probationary employees were let go (the UAW is appealing their termination) and another 44 were reassigned to other jobs. Chrysler spokesperson Jodi Tinson put a positive face on the plant announcement, since the same factory will soon start building more of the 2.4 liter TigerShark engine that Chrysler hopes will be a better fit for consumers, but her comments more or less acknowledge that product planners made a mistake with the Darts that first hit the showrooms. “We have a new powertrain for the Dart coming online, and so we are rebalancing the mix for the Dart.”

According to Marchionne, another drivetrain improvement for the Dart, a nine-speed automatic transmission supplied by ZF, won’t be ready until 2014.

The Dart is the first new Chrysler product that wasn’t already in the pipeline when Marchionne and his minions were gifted the company by the U.S. government’s task force on restructuring GM and Chrysler. If I’m not mistaken, the production of a MPG small car was part of the government’s conditions on Fiat’s control of the Auburn Hills automaker. The piecemeal way in which the Dart’s powertrain choices are being expanded gives the impression that the car was rushed to market, using whatever they had on the shelf, in this case the 1.4L turbo, originally intended for a smaller car, the Fiat 500.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Review: 2012 Chrysler 200 S Convertible Sat, 08 Sep 2012 13:00:27 +0000

So you want your next car to be a cheap drop top that seats four? If you live in America, your options are strangely limited. By my count, only five convertibles are available on our shores that seat four and cost under $30,000. If you cross the “convertible hatchbacks” (Cooper and 500c) off the list you’re left with three options. The Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, Ford Mustang and the former king of the convertible sales chart: the Chrysler Sebring 200. Does this re-skinned front driver have what it takes to win back the “best-selling convertible in America” crown?

Click here to view the embedded video.


Convertible sales have been on a downward spiral since 1950. At the rate we’re going, only 1.1 percent of new cars sold in America in 2012 will be drop-tops. What’s to blame? Well, the old Sebring certainly didn’t help.

Since a euthanization just wasn’t in the cards, Chrysler opted for a re-skin. Much like a freakish face transplant from your favorite B-grade movie, the Sebring was nip/tucked everywhere except the doors and the roof. I can almost see the mask being peeled off by Sean Connery. Trouble is, as Mythbusters demonstrated, a new face can’t hide what’s underneath. The awkward hood strakes are gone, replaced by smooth sheetmetal and a new nose sporting Chrysler’s wavy corporate grille. Unfortunately nothing could be done to make the enormous trunk lid disappear, so the 200 still has more booty than a Sir Mix-A-Lot music video. Frankenstein touched off the transformation with new wheels, LED running lamps and bling-tastic 17 and 18 inch wheels. The result is a design that is strangely more cohesive than the original, more of a statement of how wrong the original vehicle was than anything else.

As with the Sebring, shoppers can choose between a traditional canvas top or a trendy three-piece folding hard top for an extra $1,995. Top operation is restricted to speeds under 1MPH and takes 27 seconds to complete with the cloth top and 30 with the hard top, essentially precluding stop light top drops.


Inside our 200 S, the Sebring origins are obvious despite the redesign. How so? It’s all in the shapes. The parts are at least as snazzy as anyone’s, but because Chrysler couldn’t afford to change the car’s hard points, the Sebring’s silhouette is unmistakeable in the strange door handle position and the incredibly tall dashboard. Shapes aside, nobody can fault the materials and workmanship. Gone are the made-like-Rubbermaid plastics, gone are the faux-tortoise-shell accents. Thankfully the “fin” that dominated the dashboard like a veruca has been sliced off. Replacing the strangely shaped (and strangely appointed) rubbery steering wheel is Chrysler’s new corporate tiller from the 300. The same soft leather, chunky rim and audio controls hidden on the back of the wheel are also along for the ride.

Seat comfort is something of a mixed bag. The rear seats are unusual for a convertible: they are sized for normal adults and shaped the way you’d expect a seat to be shaped. Why does that sound amazing? Most “four seat” convertibles have rear seat backs that are either strangely upright or angled forward to get them to fit in the vehicle. Meanwhile the 200 has rear thrones suitable for a 2 hour wine tasting excursion. Sadly the front seats aren’t as comfortable suffering from a firm and “over stuffed” bottom cushion that made me feel like I was perched on a large gumdrop. Or a tuffet. This is a seating position only Ms Muffet would appreciate.

Carrying four people with relative ease is something of a marvel, but asking any convertible to carry four people’s luggage is just a pipe dream. At 13.3 cubes, the 200′s bootilicious rump can easily swallow four roller bags and some hand luggage. Drop the top and the space shrinks to 6.6 cubes, good for a garment bag, one roller bag and a purse. A small purse. Don’t think buying the soft top will improve things, Chrysler designed the roof sections in such a way that the hard and soft tops share some common design elements and occupy the same space in the trunk.


The one interior item not touched in the Sebring-to-200 transformation was the infotainment system. We get the same six-speaker base unit in the 200 Touring with the same CD player and Sirius Radio. If you want to pair your Bluetooth phone, that will set you back $360. The limited model comes with a 6.5-inch head unit that adds standard Bluetooth, USB and iDevice love and a 40GB hard drive based music library. A $475 Boston Acoustics speaker package is available on the 200 Limited and standard on the 200 S. Chrysler’s last-generation nav system is also available for an extra $695 in the upper trims of the 200, but honestly you’d be better off going aftermarket.


Perhaps the biggest change during the 200′s metamorphosis is under the hood. The weaksauce 2.7L and aging 3.5L V6s have been replaced with Chrysler’s new 283HP 3.6L V6 mated to their in-house built 6-speed auto. As a mid-year change, the unloved 2.4L four cylinder also gets some 6-speed love. The extra two cogs on the four-banger mean it is finally the economy choice delivering 20/31 MPG vs 19/29 for the V6. Before you discount the V6 in favor of economy, our real-world figures put them on equal footing and with over 4,000lbs to motivate there is a serious penalty for not checking that $1,795 option box.


The Sebring was horrible on the road. The chassis felt like a wet noodle, the cowl shake was so bad you could have churned butter and the whole car was so unresponsive that steering and throttle input were more suggestions than commands. Despite shedding none of the nearly 4,100lb curb weight, the 200 does offer some rather unexpected improvement. While there is no hiding the fact that the 200 is a heavy front-driver, the 200 proved enough fun on the winding Northern California back roads that I found myself wishing for upgraded brakes. Seriously. Who would have thought?

The 200′s suspension tweaks have finally put the kibosh on wheel hop. When equipped with the V6, front-wheel-peel is easy to achieve and fairly amusing. Drive the 200 back to back with a Mustang however and you’ll forget all about the comfier back seats. You’ll also be painfully aware how overweight the 200 has become. There is no question that however improved the 200′s handling is, it will always play second fiddle to Ford’s topless pony.

How it stacks up

If the Sebring and 200 existed in a vacuum, we would laud the 200 for being a substantial change and the best convertible ever. The problem of course is that shoppers have options and pricing is the ever-present bugbear. In my mind, anything can be forgiven for the right price. Is the Nissan Versa cheap and “plasticky”? Damn right. But it’s the cheapest car in America, so who cares? The Chrysler 200? It has a $26,995 problem. Yes it is cheaper than the Mustang, Camaro, Eclipse, and EOS. But is it cheap enough? Let’s do the math.

First off, nobody should be subjected to the four-cylinder 200, so $27,600 becomes the real base price. The Mustang convertible starts at $27,200, toss in the automatic transmission and you’re at $28,395. For the extra $795, the Ford delivers vastly improved handling, more power, less weight and improved fuel economy. Win: Ford

The Camaro convertible is $32,745 (base with the automatic) and delivers at least $3,500 of standard equipment when compared to the 200 making the true cost of 326HP and a better RWD chassis $1,645. Win: Chevy

The 200 gets some relief when pitted against the ancient and expensive Eclipse Spyder with its old 4-speed automatic and haphazard interior. Mitsubishi wants $27,999 for admission to the four-cylinder, four-speed party and a ticket to the 265HP V6 show will run you an eye-popping $32,828. Win: Chrysler

The 200 delivers a bigger trunk than many mid-size sedans, more rear legroom than Mustang, better visibility than Camaro and better “everythings” than an Eclipse. The 200 is certainly not the best convertible in the segment, but at least Chrysler’s changes mean you don’t have to pretend you’re just renting a summer car anymore. Don’t believe me? Rent one yourself and see. TTAC’s last word? If you want a front-driver, save $1,000 and buy the MINI Cooper convertible.

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Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.7 Seconds

0-60: 7.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile:  15.3 Seconds @ 94 MPH

Average fuel economy: 21 over 645 miles

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