I have had a love affair with Chrysler that defies logic for years. Back in 1988 my parents had one of the [then] new Chrysler minivans. (Yes, I know a love affair that starts with a minivan has to be unhealthy.) When it came time for me to buy my first car, I had my eye on a very lightly used 1997 Eagle Vision TSi, then came a brand new 2000 Chrysler LHS, the very pinnacle of the Iacocca years in many ways.Large, FWD, competitive. Then Mercedes came on the scene promising to “synergize” the product development and lineup. The plan sounded good and had a promising start with the Chrysler Pacifica and the Chrysler 300 HEMI C convertible concept which looked so hot I wanted to have ovaries implanted so I could carry its children. Ultimately however the production 300 turned out to be one of the bigger disappointments due to its plastactular interior. Since then, Chrysler had been trying to see how many vehicles can be built from the Chrysler 300. Chrysler soon created the EU-only Chrysler 300 wagon, Dodge Magnum, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger to join the 300 sedan. Problem was; there was only enough cash around for a few nice interiors or half a dozen chintzy boxes. Guess which Chrysler chose? Read More >
I wasn’t planning to review the Chrysler 200. Renaming a lightly revised car to escape a well-deserved bad reputation always strikes me as a lame tactic. And the Sebring, on which the 200 is based, was so far off in so many ways that I didn’t see the point. We don’t just review cars to trash them around here. But then I drove the revised minivan, and was very pleasantly surprised. Perhaps Chrysler had similarly transformed the Sebring when creating the 200? With a Buick Regal for the week, and a need for some reference points, the time had come to find out.
Behold: the thirty-seven-thousand-dollar minivan. Just to put that in perspective, I’m going to list some of the other whips you could roll (yo) for that kind of money: Infiniti G37. Audi A4. BMW 328i. Those are “entry-luxury” automobiles, and they cost “entry-luxury” money. You could buy two basic Japanese sedans for this kind of scratch.
We’re all rich on the Internet, and we all pay cash for everything, and we all turn up our nose at minor sums like thirty-seven thousand dollars, right? In the real world, however, it’s real money. Figure seven-fifty a month in the typical five-year finance deal. It’s hard to believe that the typical family has the ability to make a payment like that in this economy.
Chrysler states that the Town & Country will now “live” in the $30K-and-up price range. No more budget minivans. If you want one of those, go see your Dodge dealer. The product, they say, justifies the price. Let’s figure out if they’re correct.
The look on my passenger’s face says it all. I’ve just late-braked a fully-prepped BMW M3 on Hoosier race tires and we are about to straight-line the infamous “Climbing Esses” at VIR. At well over one hundred and twenty miles per hour. Listen to the photo. Put your ear up to it. You can hear my passenger, a student of mine who wanted to see “the fast way around”, gritting her teeth. You can hear the 6.1-liter HEMI catapulting us down the track at full throttle, a Sprint Cup racer stuffed beneath a Deep Sea Blue bonnet. And, if you listen very carefully, I think you can hear Sara Watkins, who is to me what Mike Rowe is to “The Booth Babe”, singing “Lord Won’t You Help Me.”
The boss man emeritus, one R. Farago, reviewed the 300C SRT-8 more than five years ago. Has the car changed? Not much. So why review it again? It’s simple. The fact that Robert’s article has a whopping three comments means you probably didn’t see it. And, of course, as the self-appointed bad guy in TTAC’s pro-wrestling pantheon, it seemed appropriate that I would use the big Chrysler to ruin the day of some club racers. Here’s how it went.
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In the autumn of 2003, DaimlerChrysler introduced their first co-developed product: a “segment buster” called the Chrysler Pacifica. According to the official spin, the Pacifica married a minivan’s utility with an SUV’s machismo. In reality, the Pacifica was a six-seat station wagon on stilts, closest in concept to Audi’s slow-selling Allroad Quattro. While the Allroad pulled a Hasselhoff (more popular in Germany than its intended market), the Pacifica was born under a bad sign, raised with great expectations and expired stateside without fanfare or corporate hand-wringing. RIP Pacifica or good riddance to bad rubbish?
Three’s a crowd: an odd grouping where someone or something is always going to stick out. Think Holy Ghost. The third wheel. The Sesame Street “which one of these is not the same as the others” object. In our Yank Tank match-up, the Lincoln Town Car fell by the wayside, pilloried for its utter lack of anythingness. Which is also, strangely enough, it’s strength. We’ll get to the Cadillac DTS tomorrow. But as some of our Best and Brightest have already pointed out, the Chrysler 300C is the one that doesn’t fit.
Review: Yank Tank Comparo: Cadillac DTS vs. Lincoln Town Car vs. Chrysler 300C. 2nd Place: Chrysler 300C Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
Last October, I wrote a series of articles comparing economical family sedans from the Land of the Rising Sun. Numerous readers challenged me to perform a similar comparison of similar cars from American manufacturers. Define “American.” [ED: just step back from the can of worms and walk away.] This time ’round, I’ve tested the Ford Fusion S, Chevrolet Malibu LS, and Chrysler Sebring LX with automatic transmissions and common, entry level features. While I anguished to find positive or negative attributes that would distinguish one Japanese car from another, evaluating the relative virtue of the American’s was a slam dunk piece of cake. In distant third place: the Chrysler Sebring LX.
Yankee Econo-Car Comparo: 3rd Place: Chrysler Sebring Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 1/5 Stars
Not long ago, apropos of I don’t remember what, I posted on this site about a 1960 Imperial and its owner, Jim Byers. Byers had been an impressario of jazz for the Kennedy Center. I met him in the mid-90s while photographing his car. Byers saw my post on TTAC and emailed me. He’d replaced the ’60 with a ’67. Coincidentally, I had fled Boston’s snows for several weeks. We arranged to meet down by the Potomac so that I could test drive the ’67.
Spring: the season of love, flowers and convertibles. As warmer weather approaches, car dealers put away the 4×4 SUV’s and pull the drop-tops from the back of the lots in the hopes of snagging passersby wanting a vehicle to celebrate the (global?) warming weather. Pontiac tempts buyers with the G6 GT Hardtop Convertible while Chrysler lures in the public with the newly-introduced Sebring Limited Hardtop Convertible. As the only American-branded hardtop convertibles, which one truly deserves your hard-earned income? Or should both be tossed into the bonfire of the vanities?
TTAC recently placed Chrysler on suicide watch for the easily correctable fact that vast empty spaces and dealers’ lots are stuffed with Chrysler/Dodge cars, trucks. minivans and SUV's that no one wants to buy. The new Sebring is a far deadlier proposition: a car headed straight for rental car Hell. For a few bills less than our semi-loaded (half cocked?) Sebring tester, you can buy a base Chrysler 300, which, according to Mr. Mehta, has “reinvigorated American car design.” The new Sebring is less invigorating than Vicodin. In fact, I reckon the model only exists because car rental customers are still willin' to take what they get.
Buzzwords like “breakthrough”, “paradigm” and “integration” are management Viagra. They give ignorant execs and clueless PR folk the power to appear talented. But no word sets the flack-talker’s soul afire like “synergy.” And no other word was deployed more often to justify the merger of Daimler-Benz with Chrysler. But what happens when you synergize top-dollar Mercedes underpinnings with Chrysler engineering and sell it for the price of a Camry? I’ll give you 300 guesses.
Why? Why in the world would Chrysler release another gas-guzzling SUV into the domestic market? OK, sure, they probably pulled the trigger on the Aspen before gas crested three bucks a gallon and immolated SUV sales. But why bother? The official website proclaims the Aspen offers “Decadence without shame.” This from a vehicle that gets [an entirely theoretical] 14 mpg in the urban cycle? Whose shame are they referring to? Surely someone should be embarrassed.
When Chrysler unveiled its PT Cruiser in 2001, it was hailed as a fun, versatile retro-mobile. While sales have remained relatively robust, virtually every automaker in the Cruiserweight class has introduced a new or reworked small wagon: the Toyota Matrix/ Pontiac Vibe twins, Mazda 3 and Chevrolet HHR (a.k.a. 'Me-Too Cruiser') among them. Even the Cruiser's parent company has introduced the genre-bending five-door Caliber. Despite the pig pile on PT, Daimler Chrysler has just given the Cruiser its first-ever refresh for 2006. Is this a case of a mortician doing a little touch-up work before closing the casket, or does the PT have longer legs than the fashion police led consumers to believe?
Few would argue that the PT's retrosexual curves haven't held up well– even if fellow Cruisers have long outgrown the whole light-flashing fraternity thing. But up front, DaimlerChrysler's makeover artists have reworked the lower valance to questionable effect. Whereas the original PT's lower reaches looked like an extension of the shield-shaped grille, the new design is at once more conventional and less harmonious; chrome garnishes, scalloped headlamps and new-look fogs creating change for the sake thereof. In our case, the PT's now legendary two-box profile rides on 'chrome clad' nine-spokers (16' alloys with a mirror-finish cap screwed on) and shiny side moldings. Out back, the song remains the same, with new clear-element taillights and a larger chrome (natch) exhaust. The overall effect remains that of a gangster mobile playfully packing cap guns. In the case of our "go for baroque" Electric Blue Limited, chrome ones. (We'll leave the bling-laden '2CK Quick Order Package' unchecked on the order sheet and pocket the $3,200, thanks)
Inside, DCX has given the PT larger, chrome-ringed gauges, round air vents, an 'Oh Shit' towel-bar of a grab-handle and a revamped center stack capped with an analog clock. Our tester's seats were a bit narrower than we recall, though wrapped in upscale cowhide and 'preferred suede' (the best euphemism for "fake leather" we've ever heard). Evidently looking to abandon its cheap n' cheerful reputation, our PT arrived ladled with a bushel's worth of options: power chairs with bun warmers, satellite radio, trip computer, the lot. Some of the Cruiser's middling interior plastics have been retextured, but it's largely the same well-assembled, functional and characterful interior as before. Even if the PT hasn't gotten a Cribs-style makeover, its den is still a fun, funky place to chill, with peerless room, excellent sightlines and a charming, tongue-in-cheek aesthetic unavailable elsewhere at this price point (barring the MINI franchise).
Under its U-shaped clamshell, our PT proffered a 2.4-liter force-fed four-cylinder, yoked to a 4-speed automatic. The PT's 180-horse light-pressure turbo imbues the retromobile with sufficient mid-range power to bob along all day at 80 mph, secreting a little extra in reserve for passing poke. When given Das Boot, the PT's old-skool four-speed slushbox often comes harder and later than a XXX A-lister. As no manual override or DIY option is available with the Limited's powerplant, drivers are encouraged to learn the tranny's tipping point to ensure smooth, swift progress.
We averaged about 22 mpg, an acceptable if uninspiring result given a hooligan's right foot. Either way, there's little wrong here that an up-to-date gearbox couldn't fix. Well, perhaps we'd take a reworked exhaust. As it is, Cruisin' soundtracks are best left to the discs in the six-puck stereo, because the engine's tune isn't nearly as playful as the vehicle it motivates.
Grab the (too thin) pseudo-banjo-spoke wheel, pitch the PT hard into a bend, and the front-driver's Goodyear Eagles wash out with Woolite-like predictability. Given its humble (and elderly) underpinnings — MacPherson strut (front), twist-beam/Watts link (rear) — the Limited acquits itself very well. But like a too-staid 'steady,' our touring-suspended PT proved a companion merely tolerant of questionable behavior. A more aggressive tread pattern than our tester's milquetoast footwear would go a long way towards improving the PT's fun-to-drive quotient, as might a slightly lowered ride height (the Cruiser's stance is a bit 'high-boy' for our tastes). Admittedly, its brakes haul 'er down with repeatable predictability, though we're at a loss as to why anti-lock supervision remains an option box unchecked on a $23k example.
The PT's dynamic pitfall is its epic turning circle. While hardly an issue when lazing along the interstate, it's a remarkably tough sell in tight parking lots. We suspect it's a packaging hurdle brought about by its pointed retro prow. However, given the its small footprint, it bears repeating: turning the PT round about its axis is a little… round about. Let's face it: the Cruiser has always romanced buyers with the curves of its fenders, not those upon which it travels. Yes, the Little Chrysler That Could remains flawed, but improbably enough, well… the kid stays in the picture.
[Chrysler provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance, taxes and a tank of gas]
The Pacifica is the original crossover, launched by Chrysler before sky high gas prices turbocharged the entire genre. The Pacifica combines the utility of a minivan (without the stigma of actually having to drive one), the raised seating position of an SUV (without getting dirty looks from drivers with "Proud To Be Vegan" bumper stickers) and the handling of a sedan (without the fuel efficiency). While it may not have everything it needs to roust suburban schleppers from their SUV's, the station wagon stilts is still the original and best shot over the SUV's bow.
In keeping with its multi-tasking mission, the Pacifica doesn't look like anything else on the market. With its dramatic belt line diving from back to front, the forward-leaning Pacifica's sheet metal has all the style of a Sinatra fedora. The details are equally compelling. Unlike its minivan competitors, the crossover's 17" wheels fit the wheel wells. The door handles aren't refugees from a bottomless parts bin. The bright work is deployed sparingly and with taste. In short, the Pacifica is the first pentastar product in a long time that doesn't look like it was designed by committee.
You can no more assess a PT Cruiser Convertible based on its acceleration, ride and handling than you can rate a Harley Davidson Softail on its ability to keep pace with a Honda Blackbird. As a "cruiser", the PT Convertible can only be judged by one metric: its feel good factor (FGF). Do owners run out of milk at odd intervals? Do they name their cars? Do they lower the lid in winter? Yes, cubed. The PT drop top has all the car-isma cruisers crave– and then some.
First and foremost, it's a four-seater. The rag-top cognoscenti know that a convertible's FGF increases arithmetically with each additional passenger. If the rear seats are spacious, the pleasure generated is almost inconceivable. Try. Imagine stashing a couple of best buds in your Chrysler top-down two-door and heading for the beach; sucking on an ice cold Coke and blissing on Ban de Soleil as your crew sing along with the latest Black Eyed Peas hookfest. If that's not a peak automotive experience (and an example of unpaid product placement), I don't know what is.