The Truth About Cars » Dodge http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 30 Oct 2014 16:24:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (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 » Dodge http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/dodge/ Capsule Review: 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-dodge-charger-hellcat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-dodge-charger-hellcat/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937274 It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not long ago, we were told that gas was going to $6 a gallon, maybe even higher. CAFE, crash safety regulations and government interference would force us all into autonomous, emissions-free transportation pods. How lucky am I to be filling up a 707-horsepower rear-drive sedan with 93 Octane? […]

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not long ago, we were told that gas was going to $6 a gallon, maybe even higher. CAFE, crash safety regulations and government interference would force us all into autonomous, emissions-free transportation pods.

How lucky am I to be filling up a 707-horsepower rear-drive sedan with 93 Octane? More shocking than an auto journalist paying for his own gas is the fact that 13 gallons of the good stuff cost me about $45.

A sudden plummet in the price of crude oil was a lucky break for enthusiasts. The origin of the Dodge Charger Hellcat isn’t quite as serendipitous. For the Hellcat program to exist, there had to be multiple nameplates to help amortize the cost of development. After the Challenger, the Charger was the next logical step. Don’t be surprised to see this engine wind up in another FCA vehicle, even if it’s not the Viper.

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There are few visual differences between the SRT 392 (aka the former SRT8 Charger) and the Hellcat – the most obvious one being the subtle, stylized feline “Hellcat” badge on the front fender. The same wheel and tire package, red Brembo brakes and rear wing can be had on both cars. Inside, the supple leather, UConnect 8.4 infotainment system and sport seats are present as well. With the programmable SRT Performance Pages (read, adjustments for the suspension, traction control, gear changes and access to the full 707 horsepower) set to “Street”, this car is as sedate and docile as the rental-spec V6 Charger SXT we drove earlier that day. On the highway, the blown V8 spins at just a tick over 1200 rpm. At 70 mph, we saw an indicated 22.4 mpg, while the plush, heated seats, XM Radio and solidly soundproofed cabin made the Hellcat an effortless cruiser.

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If you desire a bit of the old ultraviolence, simply go back to the Performance Pages and change everything to “Track” (you did keep it at full power, rather than limiting it to just 500 horsepower, right?). In the same way that the right combination of settings transform the Jaguar F-Type  from Jamie Oliver on wheels into Harry Brown, inputting the proper cheat codes unlocks the full potential of the Hellcat.

Without having driven the Challenger version, it’s tough to draw comparisons between the two Hellcats. Nevertheless, the straight-line performance of the Charger Hellcat is literally violent. Nothing more needs to be said, and even the most floral Dan Neil prose cannot do it justice. At 1200 rpm, the supercharger 6.2L engine makes as much torque as the old 6.4L SRT V8, which led to a rythmic ritual on the damp backroads of West Virginia: gently press the throttle, wait for the rear tires to lose grip, wait for TCS to kick in, rinse and repeat until you are breaching triple digit velocities. In a Nissan GT-R, you have an army of driver aides and all-wheel drive to help keep you on the pavement. On a Suzuki Hayabusa, you have a motorcycle jacket and a pair of Levis (hopefully more than that) to keep the pebbles and broken glass from tattooing themselves into your posterior. In terms of sheer acceleration and wet weather traction, the Hellcat sits between the two.

The ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox is the gold standard for longitudinal automatic gearboxes, but the reworked edition for the Hellcat manages to make even greater improvements. In track mode, gear changes are executed are faster than a Parisian pickpocket, taking just 120 milliseconds. Only the briefest of pauses in the Hellcat’s .50 BMG exhaust note lets you know that an upshift has occurred. In Street and Sport modes, they help keep the car humming along. It has all the best qualities of a dual-clutch, with none of the drawbacks, and I think that it might be the most significant advancements in modern performance cars.

Lacking an ample supply of sunshine, dry roads and extra-absorbent adult diapers, I was unable to properly put the Hellcat to the test on the track or the street, but its dynamic characteristics will be familiar to anyone who has driven prior LX-chassis SRT cars. Steering is heavy but not exactly the last word in communicative. The big Brembos bring the car to a halt with a consistent pedal feel. The ride is firm without being overly punishing. There is room for five adults and all of their stuff. In Jazz Blue with the saddle leather interior and the dark wheels, it looks less like a photo-enlarged Dart, and more like something that will cross the Barrett-Jackson auction block for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $1 million at some future date.

In the grand scheme of things, the Charger Hellcat is an irrelevant, low-volume marketing exercise. Most of them will sit in climate-controlled garages, snapped up by dealer principals, waiting for that financially fruitful day under the big tent in Scottsdale. A few will be wrapped around telephone poles mere weeks after they were presented as 16th birthday presents to select members of America’s overindulged youth.

What I love about it can’t be quantified by sales volume, P&L statements or performance data. I love it because no matter how many times we are told by malcontent motoring writers that cars are lack “soul”, or that profligate performance cars are a dying species, we seem to get yet another crop of American muscle car that is exponentially more belligerent and incrementally more efficient. Underneath it all is a statement, a crass, puerile one at that, for which the Charger Hellcat happens to be a vessel. And that vessel is a very good, very grown up car.

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Dodge Viper Assembly To Resume Mid-November http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dodge-viper-assembly-resume-mid-november/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dodge-viper-assembly-resume-mid-november/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934754 After months of idling, the Dodge Viper will once again roll out of the assembly line to a roped-off display near you. Automotive News reports the Conner Avenue plant will start production of the supercar in mid-November after shutting down July 3. The move follows a sales increase in September, thanks to a $15,000 discount […]

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After months of idling, the Dodge Viper will once again roll out of the assembly line to a roped-off display near you.

Automotive News reports the Conner Avenue plant will start production of the supercar in mid-November after shutting down July 3. The move follows a sales increase in September, thanks to a $15,000 discount to help move unsold 2013 and 2014 stock, as well as an additional $15,000 off via a coupon given to over 1,000 customers that will remain good until January 2, 2018.

In the aforementioned month, 108 Vipers were dusted off and sent to a good home after buyers paid $86,880 for them, besting August 2014’s 38 and September 2013’s 45. Dodge chief Tim Kuniskis said October sales are also turning out to be strong, helping to bring inventory down to appropriate levels.

Speaking of inventory, dealers have ordered 200 2015 Vipers, which will only be assembled once more older stock heads out onto the highway. Once assembly starts, only the GT and base SRT trims will come down the line at first, with the more upscale TA and GTS trims following after inventory becomes reasonable.

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Chrysler Recalls 349K MY 2008 Units Over Ignition Issues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chrysler-recalls-349k-2008-units-ignition-issues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/chrysler-recalls-349k-2008-units-ignition-issues/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 10:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=920002 Owners of a handful of MY 2008 DaimlerChrysler products now have one thing in common with those who own certain General Motors models: An ignition-related recall. Chrysler Group says 349,442 MY 2008 vehicles have ignitions where the switch remains stuck between the “ON” and “START” positions, or slips into “ACCESSORY” or “OFF”; the latter scenario […]

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2008 Chrysler 300 LX With A Hint Of Pimp

Owners of a handful of MY 2008 DaimlerChrysler products now have one thing in common with those who own certain General Motors models: An ignition-related recall.

Chrysler Group says 349,442 MY 2008 vehicles have ignitions where the switch remains stuck between the “ON” and “START” positions, or slips into “ACCESSORY” or “OFF”; the latter scenario cuts power to the engine, steering and air bags.

The affected were assembled before May 12, 2008, and consist of the following:

  • Dodge: Charger, Magnum
  • Chrysler: 300
  • Jeep: Commander, Grand Cherokee

The recall covers 292,224 units in the United States, 18,976 in Canada, 4,947 in Mexico and 33,295 around the globe. Chrysler recommends removing everything from the ignition key, as well as confirming the switch is in the “ON” position after starting their vehicles, until affected owners are able to bring in their vehicle for free servicing.

A similar recall issued earlier this year affected 890,000 vehicles made between January 2007 and June 2010, where the switches also could slip from “ON” to “ACCESSORY.”

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2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat Delivers EPA-Rated 22 MPG Highway http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-challenger-srt-hellcat-delivers-epa-rated-22-mpg-highway/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-challenger-srt-hellcat-delivers-epa-rated-22-mpg-highway/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914234 Most customers purchasing a 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat aren’t likely considering fuel economy as a reason for wanting one of the most brutal machines ever assembled. That said, the pony car is fairly efficient on the highway in comparison to more exotic fare. The lieutenant to the Charger Hellcat’s general, the Challenger Hellcat delivers […]

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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat

Most customers purchasing a 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat aren’t likely considering fuel economy as a reason for wanting one of the most brutal machines ever assembled. That said, the pony car is fairly efficient on the highway in comparison to more exotic fare.

The lieutenant to the Charger Hellcat’s general, the Challenger Hellcat delivers an EPA rating of 22 highway via its eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic, losing only a single mpg for those who opt to row their own boats through a six-speed manual. Chrysler notes the highest rating comes from the auto’s 7.03 gear ratio spread, allowing the elephant to be that efficient on the highway more often.

In comparison, exotic beasts like the Lamborghini Aventador Roadster, Aston Martin Vanquish and Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT deliver similar amounts of firepower to the battlefield, but only manage to put out 18 mpg to 19 mpg in so doing.

Furthermore, unlike the six-figure price tags for said exotics — of which only the Aventador comes closest in matching horsepower with the supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI Hellcat, the others falling just under 600 horses — the Challenger comes in at just under $60,000. Not a bad place to be, one would suppose.

Figures for city and combined mpg were not announced as of this writing.

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Kuniskis: Dealers Must Prove Themselves Worthy Of Selling Hellcat Challenger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/kuniskis-dealers-must-prove-worthy-selling-hellcat-challenger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/kuniskis-dealers-must-prove-worthy-selling-hellcat-challenger/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=910074 Dodge dealers wanting to help their customers destroy wannabes with the 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat will themselves need to prove their worth to the brand before a single car leaves the carrier. Automotive News reports allocations of the 707-horsepower war machine will be based on the total number of all Dodges sold during the past […]

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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat

Dodge dealers wanting to help their customers destroy wannabes with the 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat will themselves need to prove their worth to the brand before a single car leaves the carrier.

Automotive News reports allocations of the 707-horsepower war machine will be based on the total number of all Dodges sold during the past 180 days, according to brand chief Tim Kuniskis, with a second allocation in December will focus on the previous 90 days of such sales and the traditional 30-day inventory turn.

Further, Dodge will measure how many days each Hellcat remains on the lot after the initial allocation, with the goal of moving them off the lot as quickly as possible if more are to be delivered later on. Kuniskis acknowledges this may be a headache for those who opt to make a market adjustment similar to the one performed at a recent Los Angeles Chevrolet dealership, where a Camaro Z/28 was priced to move at $106,165:

If you want to market-adjust the car, that’s your right. But if your days-on-lot goes above what the other guys that are selling them at MSRP is, they will end up earning the allocation because their days-on-lot will be lower. Some dealers are going to have heartburn with that.

Kuniskis adds that he wants to see each Hellcat out there on the road for all to enjoy instead of sitting in a showroom “with a rope around it” like the Viper, and that his brand “worked hard” to price the beast at an attainable $60,990 with shipping included.

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Study: Nine Brands Suffer Loyalty Issues Among Their Customers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/study-nine-brands-suffer-loyalty-issues-among-customers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/study-nine-brands-suffer-loyalty-issues-among-customers/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=896834 Honda, Ford and Toyota all have one thing in common as far as Kelley Blue Book knows: All three inspire brand loyalty among over half of its customer base. Alas, nine other brands wish they could be just as inspirational. In its study of KBB data from 33 brands regarding customer loyalty, 24/7 Wall St. […]

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2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Honda, Ford and Toyota all have one thing in common as far as Kelley Blue Book knows: All three inspire brand loyalty among over half of its customer base. Alas, nine other brands wish they could be just as inspirational.

In its study of KBB data from 33 brands regarding customer loyalty, 24/7 Wall St. says the following nine brands are likely to see their customers jump ship to another brand come trade-in or lease time:

  • Mitsubishi: 21.77 percent average
  • Chrysler: 22.72 percent average
  • Dodge: 22.88 percent average
  • Jaguar: 25.45 percent average
  • Scion: 25.79 percent average
  • Lincoln: 27.49 percent average
  • Infiniti: 28.25 percent average
  • Volvo: 29.41 percent average
  • Buick: 29.45 percent average

The study notes the brands with the highest loyalty averages also move the most units off the lot, while low-loyalty brands have sales to match; six of the nine listed sold less than 100,000 units during H1 2014.

As for what inspires loyalty in the first place, KBB senior manager of marketing intelligence Arthur Henry says price and reliability play the most important roles in whether a customer will stick with a brand. However, luxury makes like Jaguar, Infiniti and Buick suffer not from perceptions of poor reliability, but fierce competition from within the U.S. luxury market.

That said, Arthur notes customers can switch loyalties no matter how a brand is perceived, citing economic conditions and changing consumer preferences as factors in switching.

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Challenger Week Outtake: 2015 Dodge Challenger V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/challenger-week-outtake-2015-dodge-challenger-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/challenger-week-outtake-2015-dodge-challenger-v6/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:44:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874017 Five seconds: that’s the lap time difference between the V6 Challenger Track Pack and the SRT Hellcat around PIR. How much money do you save by being willing to take it a bit slower? Even if you doubt some of Chrysler’s math, there’s no arguing the fact that this year’s V6 Challenger is a much […]

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Five seconds: that’s the lap time difference between the V6 Challenger Track Pack and the SRT Hellcat around PIR. How much money do you save by being willing to take it a bit slower?

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Even if you doubt some of Chrysler’s math, there’s no arguing the fact that this year’s V6 Challenger is a much better proposition than it was previously. Coming straight out of Brampton, ON and featuring an available Super Track Pack with 13-inch front brakes and two-piston calipers, the V6 has 305 horsepower to push 3,834 pounds. That’s not quite an Accord V6 Coupe’s worth of power-to-weight, nor will it trouble the Camaro which is 180 pounds lighter plus offers a manual transmission to hurry things along.

Still, with the eight-speed automatic transmission providing remarkably snappy shifts across an optimized range of gearing, you’d be ill-advised to take the most modest Challenger lightly, particularly if you’re driving something from before the current era of HGH-fueled automobiles. Think of it as an LT1 Z/28’s worth of performance, with the modern telematics and 30mpg capability thrown in as a bonus.

Around PIR, however, the 8AT proved to be a bit of a problem. I rode along with the first journalist to drive the V6 on-track. During his second lap, the transmission decided that manual mode was no longer available. Sliding the shifter to the left produced an immediate upshift-and-hold in sixth gear. This happened when I tried the car approximately half an hour later, as well, and probably cost me a tiny bit of lap time. Left to itself, the Challenger isn’t brilliant at determining how and when to shift, and that slowed it down a fair amount. On the street, you’d be fine; a non-pre-production car would also probably not suffer from the same amount of difficulty.

It would be nice to have a manual-transmission V6 Challenger — but who’d buy it? In this day and age, it’s already a minor miracle that you can get a six-speed manual on all the other variants. Still… it would be a really decent car, the same way the V6 Mustang six-speed is a really decent car.

Chrysler’s careful to emphasize that that the Chally’s size is considered an asset by buyers, who overwhelmingly cite the interior space advantage over the other ponycars as a purchase decider. Still, the weight and the size don’t help it around PIR, where the Super Track Pack brakes simply aren’t up for the challenge, ahem, posed by the V6’s power. It’s a decent handler and it feels well-balanced, but something like a 328i coupe would be more rewarding on-track even if it didn’t offer the same amount of curb appeal.

The interior upgrades that impress in the other trim variants are present here and the cloth seats are surprisingly decent. If this was all the Challenger you could afford, you wouldn’t regret the decision. It’s a good solid personal-luxury-car with a lot of pace, a lot of looks, and a lot of technology on offer. The only real problem is this: you’d wish you’d gotten the HEMI, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Clockwise starting from top: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dod From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dodge Challe From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Front to Back: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Challenger 3

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Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 6MT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-rt-scat-pack-6mt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-rt-scat-pack-6mt/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:08:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873114 This doesn’t feel like something I should admit in public, let alone in the electronic pages of this august publication, but I always had a tiny little problem with the Challenger SRT8, way down in my super soul. If you haven’t seen Vanishing Point, put your laptop down, get out of the bathroom, and go […]

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This doesn’t feel like something I should admit in public, let alone in the electronic pages of this august publication, but I always had a tiny little problem with the Challenger SRT8, way down in my super soul.

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If you haven’t seen Vanishing Point, put your laptop down, get out of the bathroom, and go watch it. While it’s far from flawless, the movie that made the Challenger immortal has much to recommend it. I can imagine that modern filmgoers might have a bit of trouble understanding how it all comes together; were it to be remade today there would probably be fifteen minutes of explanatory voiceover a la Pacific Rim. “My name is Kowalski. I was a cop once, and I became disenchanted with authority, and so on, and so forth…” Thankfully, that isn’t the case with the original.

Of course, the Vanishing Point Chally is a white R/T. Which means that, by definition, the coolest possible Challenger is a white R/T. Unfortunately, until now that meant the coolest possible Challenger wasn’t much use on a track, particularly in the stopping department. Until now.
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Chrysler directly compares this new R/T “Scat Pack” to the old SRT8 Core. As you can see in the graphic above, there’s more equipment for less money. Another valid comparison might be to the old R/T 5.7 Track Pack, which was underpowered and underbraked compared to a 5.0 Mustang. Not so this new car, which has 485 horsepower and four-piston Brembos front and back.

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The track analysis I did earlier this week puts the Scat Pack 6MT neatly between the V6 and the Hellcat, as you’d expect. What’s less clear is that the Scat Pack is a massive, massive improvement over the old R/T as a dynamic proposition. It’s not just that it has more brake and better handling than its predecessor, it’s that it’s better-balanced despite having an additional hundred and fifteen horsepower. Yes, the nose feels heavier than that of the V6, but that’s a lot like saying that dating Monica Bellucci would pose a bit of a language problem compared to dating Lena Dunham. Who cares.

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It’s a decent car on the track, and I’d say it’s at least in the vicinity of the 5.0 Mustang, particularly in the way it sheds speed, but it’s hard to imagine most Scat Packs ever seeing a racetrack. Let’s talk street. In order to get to the rather truncated track time we were offered with the Challengers, I first had to drive and ride for three hours through the rural areas surrounding Portland in a six-speed Scat Pack. Much of that drive took place at 30mph or slower thanks to heavy concentrations of cyclists on the road, but that was a bit of a blessing because it gave me a chance to evaluate the Challenger’s low-speed manners.

The control efforts are absurdly low, and I mean that literally. This car has four hundred and eighty-five horsepower and it’s no more difficult to drive than a Mazda3. The shift action is fingertip-light and the Tremec TR6060 has clearly defined gating. I was never troubled by any skip-shift silliness. Your grandmother could drive this car, as they used to say in the car rags. Plus it’s quiet until you stand on the throttle and then it’s merely stirring, not annoying.

With this round of interior revisions, Chrysler’s finally bringing the Challenger up to the standards of its sedan siblings. I’d say that the brightwork and plastics quality place the Scat Pack about halfway between the dismal Charger and the enchanting 300C. There’s real stamped aluminum scattered throughout the interior and a fashionably thick steering wheel. My driving partner for the event was befuddled that the “shift paddles” didn’t work, but he eventually accepted my explanation that they were to control volume and track selection on the 8.4-inch uConnect.

“Yeah, I guess it makes sense that the shifter on the console would have to move while you’re paddle shifting,” he opined.

“Excuse me,” I said, “there’s something really important on my phone I have to pay attention to for an hour or so.” This latest uConnect is as good as it is elsewhere and I was able to complete a fairly detailed Bluetooth phone call while repeatedly throttling up and down through the gears. The climate-control knobs are a little wobbly, the same way they are in a Fiat 500L, but remember: this is an engine that you’d have to pay a significant tariff to get in a German car. My old Audi S5 was twenty thousand dollars more expensive and brought just three-quarters of the power to the table. The current Audi S5 has that candy-ass supercharged V-6, which is just as fast as the old V8 but that’s like saying that a Double Quarter Pounder weighs the same as a filet mignon from Ruth’s Chris. Who cares.

The car’s a middle finger to every CO2-restricted, low-testosterone, involuntarily-celibate German coupe out there. It will run twelve-second quarter-miles with no trouble and it gets attention everywhere it goes. The modest external changes for 2015 are improvements, particularly the “6.4L” logo. There’s now a set of Bimmer-style angel eyes on the thing, too, which will matter to someone.

You can get it in white and then you’ll have a proper Vanishing Point car. There goes the Challenger… the super-driver of the golden West. My test car was $44,875 including navigation and leather. Yeah, a Mustang five-liter will hang with it most anywhere but it’s not the same thing and we both know it. Go ahead and buy one with my blessing. It’s better than ever, and it’s finally got the right badge.

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Track Analysis: Challenger V6 Track Pack, HEMI Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/track-analysis-challenger-v6-track-pack-hemi-scat-pack-srt-hellcat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/track-analysis-challenger-v6-track-pack-hemi-scat-pack-srt-hellcat/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:45:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871714 Getting decent conclusions from very limited data is the sort of thing of which Nobel Prizes are made. What you’re about to read won’t be Nobel-worthy; however, I believe it will help you understand how fast the Hellcat and how it compares to both the other Challengers and the external competition. I got a total […]

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Getting decent conclusions from very limited data is the sort of thing of which Nobel Prizes are made. What you’re about to read won’t be Nobel-worthy; however, I believe it will help you understand how fast the Hellcat and how it compares to both the other Challengers and the external competition.

I got a total of six flying laps at PIR, a place to which I’d never been, in three different cars. I had traffic in my face for all but two of those laps, and I had no truly clear laps in the Hellcat. But let’s start with the basics. I drove these three cars in this order:

Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack 6MT: lap time of 1:38.9 with a top speed of 122mph on the back straight.
Challenger V6 Super Track Pack 8AT: lap time of 1:38.3 with a top speed of 112.5mph on the back straight.
Challenger SRT Hellcat 6MT: lap time of 1:33.7 with a top speed of 136mph on the back straight.

So let’s start by eliminating some of the variables. The only clean lap I got in the Scat Pack was my first-ever lap of PIR. There’s no way I was going to turn a brilliant lap time first time out. Analysis shows I was 6mph slower going into the turn before the long straight than I was in the average of the other cars. My line in the V6 which I drove afterwards was better. After looking at the data and assuming that the Scat Pack can turn about as well as the V6, I’ve guesstimated a 1:36 at 127mph for the Scat Pack.

How did other people do: This video shows SRT’s Vehicle Dynamics Engineer Marco Diniz de Oliveira running a 1:33.0 with the same spec car that I drove. Compared to my videotaped 1:33.7 lap you can see that he didn’t have to lift for a frightened journo like I did on the front straight, and he also didn’t goatfuck the chicane the way I did. (My excuse: I was so annoyed at being balked that I held throttle too long.) I’m reasonably confident that I got about as much out of the Hellcat as I was going to in two laps. Given ten more laps, I think a 1:31.5 was well within reach. Keeping pinned on the straight is worth half a second, doing the chicane right is worth a second and a half, and I could have shortened the braking zone in back.

Another journalist whom I won’t name was kind enough to let me “run data” with them in the V6 Challenger that I drove. He turned a 1:58.3 with a top speed of 105.5mph on the back straight. That two-minute-ish lap time is approximately representative of what most people were doing out there and it’s why I kept running into traffic.

So those are the caveats. Now let’s look at some stats.

First off, acceleration. The corner before the back straight shows the Hellcat with a low speed of 43.5mph against 41.7mph for the V6. That’s the extra tire you get with the Hellcat which is only partially canceled out by the weight of the engine. As we pass the access road on the back straight, the V6 has accelerated to 87mph and the ScatPack to a corrected 93mph. How fast is the Hellcat going? Survey says: 102mph. That is brutal acceleration. More impressively, the gap widens as speeds increase. Supercharged cars often feel breathless at the top of the rev range because they are optimized to push air at low speeds and unlike turbo-supercharged (to use the old phrase) cars there’s no compound effect as the exhaust gases push the turbo faster. As an example, when I drove the GT500 at VIR I found myself dueling a Porsche GT2 on the back straight. The Shelby had legs on the GT500 in the first half of VIR’s long stretch but the GT2 picked up as speeds increased and it wasn’t all due to frontal area.

Now for braking. A similar push of the brake pedal produced a .78g retarding force in the V6, a .86g one in the four-piston Brembo Scat Pack, and .98g in the Hellcat. These numbers have to be understood in context, not as absolutes, because of the way my phone was mounted in the car and the general issues with Android accelerometers. Only the V6 ever felt underbraked in these short lap situations; it doesn’t have enough thermal capacity as supplied for two hard laps. The others were fine, with the Hellcat having a considerable edge in feel and response. My experience with the Z/28 at Thermal Club for last month’s Road&Track showed me that it’s possible to put enough brake on a ponycar, but you have to be willing to spend a LOT of money on it. As expensive as the Brembo system on the Hellcat must be, it ain’t carbon ceramic and when you’re slowing two tons down from a considerable velocity it’s worth getting the right material for the job.

v6lap

This is the V6 lap.

hellcatlap

This is the Hellcat lap.

Cornering isn’t exactly an open and shut case, which is why the V6 might be a satisfying track car if you could upgrade the brakes a bit via pads and fluid. Data for all three cars shows that they are capable of about the same max cornering g and speed, with a slight edge going to the Hellcat in pretty much all the corners. What the data can’t show you is that the Hellcat feels like it’s from a different class with regards to body roll control and suspension dynamics. Given enough time on a racetrack, you’d feel comfortable pushing the Hellcat harder in quick transitions and in long high-g turns. There’s a superiority of feedback that is no doubt due to better tires and higher-quality suspension. With that said, however, this is primarily a laws-of-physics thing. Big heavy cars are never eager to change direction. Unsurprisingly, the V6 is best in transitions and the Scat Pack has the lowest cornering speeds.

As I stated earlier today, you really do get your money’s worth with the Hellcat’s engine and brake upgrades. It’s also a solid handler for its size and class. Let’s do some subjective rankings as far as track-fitness goes, based on things I’ve driven recently:

Viper ACR (previous gen)
Viper TA (current gen)
Mercedes AMG SLS Black Series
C7 Corvette Z51
C6 Corvette Z06
C6 Corvette Z51
Camaro Z/28
Boss 302-LS
Boss 302
Jack’s raggedy old 2004 Boxster S with 48,000 miles
GT500 (not counting the brakes)
Hellcat
The old SRT8 392
Camaro SS
Mustang 5.0 Track Pack
Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack
Mustang V6 Track Pack
Challenger V6 Track Pack
Challenger R/T 5.7 Track Pack

The higher you go up that list, the more comfortable the car feels on track, but at a cost.

I wish I’d had time to drive the standard SRT8, which has 485hp now and offers the big brakes as an option. I believe that car would feel most “balanced” since you wouldn’t be arriving at corners as quickly and therefore the brakes would hold up even better and it would be easier to select the absolutely perfect corner speed — but I’d choose to spend my own money on the Hellcat, plain and simple. There are no downsides. You can pretty much instantly turn it into an SRT8 6.4L just by laying off the throttle a bit on the long straights.

At this point I normally like to talk about what the cars do when they are “out of shape” on track. The truth is that with this little time on an unfamiliar course I didn’t spend too much effort getting the Challengers past their envelope of tire grip. I can say that the Hellcat and Scat Pack can be reliably turned on the throttle and that no Challenger has ever had bad habits on track with regards to overly quick responses in extreme handling situations. If you’re good to the Challenger, it will be good to you. If you’re bad to it, you will still have plenty of time to get things right.

Ponycars are about compromise. They’re about what you’re willing to give up in order to have the admittedly minimal but occasionally mandatory backseat. With the Hellcat, the answer is simple: you’re giving up Mustang-style direction changes but gaining more power at each trim and spec level than the not-so-small Ford can offer. It would be frankly absurd to buy a Hellcat if you primarily planned on using it at the track. But for the low percentage of owners who will try it there, their experience will be positive — even if their tire bills won’t.

The post Track Analysis: Challenger V6 Track Pack, HEMI Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT “Hellcat” 6MT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-6mt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-6mt/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:21:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870522 To some degree, it’s about the number, right? Seven hundred and seven. The Dodge people certainly made the point again and again about how the Hellcat stacks up to everything from the Z06 to the Murcielago. Mine’s bigger than yours. And that other number — 10.9 seconds with drag radials and 11.2 without. That actually […]

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IMG_7883

To some degree, it’s about the number, right? Seven hundred and seven. The Dodge people certainly made the point again and again about how the Hellcat stacks up to everything from the Z06 to the Murcielago. Mine’s bigger than yours. And that other number — 10.9 seconds with drag radials and 11.2 without. That actually isn’t such a big deal; there are people out there who have put stock C6 Z06es with draggies into the tens. Still, they closed the freaking road course after just ninety minutes so the journalists could line up and try their hand at quarter-miles. I didn’t bother to do that. Nor did I get any street time in the Hellcat. What I got was this: four laps, none of them unimpeded. When you come back in the afternoon, I’ll tell you what my TrackMaster data showed about the Hellcat vis-a-vis the 6.4L. But for now let’s talk about what the Hellcat is and what it does.

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine

Here’s how you make a Hellcat: Start with the 2015 Challenger and it’s improved interior. Add Hellcat-specific visual cues, most of them related to increasing the amount of air coming through the nose. Then drop the bore size a bit, redo the motor with “91 percent new” engineering and parts, and supercharge the hell out of the cat.

Here’s the press release, there’s no sense in rewriting it:

The 2,380cc/rev blower features integral charge coolers and an integrated electronic bypass valve to
regulate boost pressure to a maximum of 80 kPa (11.6 psi). Its twin-screw rotors are specially coated
with:

• a proprietary formula of polyimide and other resins
• nanometer-sized, wear-resistant particles
• solid lubricants, such as PTFE (Teflon)

The coating accommodates tighter tolerances between the rotors. This reduces internal air leakage and
helps deliver improved compressor performance and higher efficiencies. The coating not only can
withstand the temperatures generated by compression, it provides a superior corrosion resistance.
The new supercharged V-8, sealed for life with premium synthetic oil, boasts a drive ratio of 2.36:1 and
a maximum speed of 14,600 rpm. The drive system’s one-way clutch de-coupler improves refinement,
while allowing for precisely the kind of auditory feedback SRT customers find alluring.
The supercharger gulps air through an Air Catcher inlet port, which replaces the driver’s-side inboard
marker light and connects to a patented twin-inlet, eight-liter air box. The blower further benefits from a
92-mm throttle body – the largest ever used in a Chrysler Group vehicle.
The fuel system keeps pace with an in-tank pump that accommodates variable pressures, half-inch fuel
lines and eight injectors each capable of delivering a flow rate of 600cc/min – enough to drain the fuel
tank in approximately 13 minutes at full power.

The transmissions were re-engineered; the eight-speed automatic has bigger clutches and more gear surface throughout, allowing it to bang out 120-millisecond shifts that, on the drag strip, sound close to dual-clutch. The Tremec TR6060 has a bigger clutch, a relatively light flywheel, and stronger gears. I believe, although I cannot say for sure, that this transmission, like the Hellcat’s HEMI, is made in Mexico.

To stop the car, there’s a 15.4-inch rotor Brembo brake package with 20×9.5 inch wheels. It would appear that there are now three Brembo brake packages on these cars: the four-piston setup on the Scat Pack 6.4L with Super Track Pack, the six-piston SRT8 14.2-inch package, and this high-power six-piston setup which is optional on the SRT8 and standard on the Hellcat.

Other fun features: an available flat-black hood, a removable lower grille for track use, (“Seven screws,” we were told, “it will take owners five minutes”) deliberately plain “SRT” badging, and a track key/valet key setup that also features a user-selectable “valet PIN” to limit the car to 4000rpm. A sunroof is optional, as are a couple of different color-coordinated seat packages.

It’s good value for money; the Scat Pack with a few options runs $46k so this Hellcat at $59,995 feels like a screaming bargain. And you’re almost certain to get your money back when you go to sell, assuming you don’t take too much of a beating at the hands of your dealer.

Okay. It’s late at night and you want to know how it drives. I’ll put video up later on today, but the short version is this: It is to the GT500 as the old SRT8 was to the Boss 302. The clutch is low effort, as is the shifting. The thrust is plainly massive but there’s enough tire under it to make it controllable on a racetrack. It’s very quick, but it doesn’t feel noticeably quicker than a GT500. There’s a certain viciousness you get with a ZR1 or GT500 that is blunted by the Chally’s weight here. Big motor, pushing a big car, and as a result things feel under control. It never occurred to me not to give it full throttle in a straight line on an eighty-degree Portland day. Change this to a Kentucky backroad with accumulated oil and grit, and drop the temperature to fifty, and we’ll talk about it again.

All the Challenger SRT8 virtues survive intact to the Hellcat. It really is just an SRT8 plus power. That’s what you really need to know about it. It’s not compromised or changed in any significant manner. It’s just faster, and unlike the naturally aspirated 6.4L it’s hellaciously strong everywhere, not just when the tach sweeps past four. At 1200rpm it has as much torque as the old SRT8 did at peak. So yeah — fast, effortlessly so, like a literbike.

But it also feels long-legged through the gears in a way that the GT500 doesn’t. My impression, which I’d need to check through a bunch of a documentation to confirm, is that it’s geared longer than the Shelby or the Boss or the Z/28. There’s more room to run in each gear, which given the fact that the Ford 5.4L revs higher than this 6.2L means that it’s geared higher.

On the track, the brakes and tires proved sufficient to the task, as I’ll explain later today with numbers. Unlike the Shelby, it’s far from underbraked, for a ponycar. Don’t expect Corvette-level braking performance here. There ain’t a disc brake big enough for that unless it’s on a triple-seven Boeing. This is a big car with good solid damping and big brakes, but it’s not a Corvette.

Neither is it a Z/28, not that you expected it. The Z/28 has better brakes and a lot more tire compound and it’s a bit smaller. I wouldn’t expect the Hellcat to see the nose of a Z/28 on a track, unless you’re on Road America and it’s the first lap.

I realize it’s a disappointment to say that the Hellcat is merely a faster SRT8, but that’s a hell of an accomplishment. Power like this has never been this accessible and the fact that it’s delivered in this big, comfy package is a technical knockout. You literally give up nothing by taking the high-power option, except perhaps your home equity. The Hellcat has no drawbacks except fuel economy and price. It is fully, thoroughly, completely recommended to anyone who wants a faster Challenger. Drivers who want the on-track aplomb of a Mustang or Camaro need not apply.

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 (left) and Dodge Challenger SRT  w 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat (left) and Dod 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat (left) and Dod 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT 392 Sepia Laguna leather 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine - 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Challenger Week: Here’s A Few We Did Earlier http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/challenger-week-heres-a-few-we-did-earlier/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/challenger-week-heres-a-few-we-did-earlier/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 20:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870273 A Challenger on the front page of TTAC is like a blonde on the cover of Maxim: it gets all the nerdy dudes excited. Self included. So here are some of our most exciting Challenger reviews from years past! Derek got his hands on a HEMI R/T Shaker and kind of liked it. Kind of. […]

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MURILEEEEEEE

A Challenger on the front page of TTAC is like a blonde on the cover of Maxim: it gets all the nerdy dudes excited. Self included. So here are some of our most exciting Challenger reviews from years past!

Derek got his hands on a HEMI R/T Shaker and kind of liked it. Kind of.

Murilee Martin checked out the 392 SRT8 and was ironically impressed.

TTAC reader favorite Alex Dykes also reviewed the 392.

Automotive Traveler’s Richard Truesdell went to Willow Springs and ignored his mirrors for a very long time while I swerved and honked behind him. Thus, the one lap review of the 392.

Ed Niedermeyer was in fine Farago-wannabe form when he blasted the pre-Pentastar V6 model.

Last but not least, here’s the five-year-old review from when I took a Challenger R/T to Summit Point. I raced it against a Miata — and won.

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Reader Review: 2014 Challenger R/T 100th Anniversary Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/reader-review-2014-challenger-rt-100th-anniversary-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/reader-review-2014-challenger-rt-100th-anniversary-edition/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:55:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870193 The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines muscle cars as “any group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving.” Wikipedia goes further, and says that “a large engine is fitted in a 2-door, rear wheel drive, family-style mid-size of full-size car designed for 4 or more passengers. Sold at an affordable price, muscle […]

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2014-06-29 07.58.35

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines muscle cars as “any group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving.” Wikipedia goes further, and says that “a large engine is fitted in a 2-door, rear wheel drive, family-style mid-size of full-size car designed for 4 or more passengers. Sold at an affordable price, muscle cars are intended mainly for street use and occasional drag racing, and are distinct from two-seat sports cars.”

I am here to report that my 2014 Dodge Challenger R/T hits those definitions very squarely on the head.

2014-06-29 11.30.11
In fact, you could forget the words and just insert a photo of the Challenger. While other modern pony cars start with the intention of being a sports car and then throw in varying dashes of retro muscle car to ensure Boomer appeal, the Challenger starts out as a muscle car and throws in a heaping handful of American-style GT coupe. Those qualities are precisely why I chose to buy this car, and why I’ve enjoyed it so much in my 3 months and 3000+ miles of ownership to date.

Let’s start with what I bought: Here we have a 2014 Challenger R/T equipped with the 5.7 liter HEMI V8, Tremec TR-6060 6 speed manual transmission, and the 100th Anniversary Edition package. This package was developed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Dodge brand, and includes unique exterior colors and trim, special 20 inch wheels, “cloud print” Napa leather seating, a couple small special edition badges, and a number of other trim pieces and accessories. My car is also equipped with a power sunroof and the Super Track Pack, which for only $595 includes Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar summer tires, a variable displacement power steering pump, heavier-duty brakes, and a “track tuned” suspension with Bilstein shocks.

It doesn’t matter where you go; this car simply cannot be ignored. It has grabbed the attention of countless small children, a gang of giggling Catholic high school girls, large groups of Harley guys, even larger groups of bikers (there is a difference), Sweaty Betty-clad young mothers running behind strollers, South Dakota farm boys, spiky-haired hipster girls, construction workers, elderly people, Cope-spitting cowboys, and every cop I’ve ever encountered. The car-crazy teenager down the block stares jealously as I roll through the alley. It has a presence.

The first factor in that presence is its styling, which to my eyes is as good as or better than the Mustang at presenting a modern car with throwback appeal. It straight up murders GM’s offering in this space, making the hokey, overdone, Camaro look like a cartoon. If you prefer the heritage look, you can get your R/T with more variations of racing and hockey stripes than you can handle. But my car, finished in the unique “High Octane Red Pearl” color with no stripes, sitting on big polished wheels comes across as clean, muscular, and decidedly grounded in 2014.

The more I’ve looked at my car, the more I love the little details. I didn’t always feel this way about the Challenger, and further consideration leads me to conclude that the car’s lines look best in darker colors. The domed hood with two “nostrils” calls back to the original 440 Magnum cars. The aggressive tumblehome recalls the full-sized “Fuselage” Chryslers of yore, and the distinctive swooping cutline is pure retro Challenger. The frameless front windows are big and provide an almost hardtop-like feel when rolled down. The B pillar is well disguised visually and the roofline somehow both flows into the trunk and adds a muscular squareness to the greenhouse. There’s no fussy chrome detailing to distract the eyes, and there are precisely two badges that identify it as a Challenger R/T, both small and applied stealthily on the grill.
2014-06-27 16.05.11
The second factor in the Challenger’s presence is its size. As Derek pointed out in his capsule review, this is not a small car. It looks big and it IS big. It dwarfs my wife’s Volvo S80 visually and dimensionally, and makes my beloved 1994 Camaro Z28 look (and feel) like a toy. The cowl is high, and the front bumper is waaaaay out there past the long hood. Care must be taken when navigating tight garages and parking lots, and the rear proximity sensors are essential when parallel parking. If you’re considering a lower-spec V6 car make sure you get them.

Thankfully, that big exterior does not hide a cramped, compromised cabin. I have many happy memories riding in big, two door American cars growing up and the Challenger’s roominess and interior comfort was one of it’s key selling points for me. This car is wide and airy inside with all-day comfortable seats, and the fact that they are not heavily bolstered suits my 50L frame just fine. There’s a wide range of adjustment offered by the seat and tilting/telescoping wheel and I immediately found an ideal position for my long-legged, short-armed size. The windshield is broad and the though the sills are high you’ll feel none of the bathtub-like claustrophobia that you find in a Camaro. The back seats are perfectly comfortable for even generously proportioned adults, and though their leg room may be a bit tight they won’t be kinking their necks or bumping their heads due to the high roofline. While lift over height is high, the trunk is absolutely huge and the back seats fold down for extra space if needed.
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While the room inside is great, the materials and styling in my 2014 are showing their age and their origins back in the bad, old penny-crushing days of Cerberus-owned Chrysler. The blocky styling, gauges, and monochrome LCD displays are far behind current Chrysler Group standards. Though plastics were upgraded by Fiat to soft-touch materials over the years, there are still some cheap touches here and there that could only have been driven by cost. My car has the older touchscreen UConnect system that includes satellite radio but not navigation, but it sounds great and pairs flawlessly with my MotoX.

In truth I’m picking at details, and aside from the gauges you’re left with an impression of quality and design that is similar to that of the outgoing Mustang. Everything in my car is nicely finished and works well, and overall it’s a very comfortable place to spend time. I knew what I was getting into and I am happy, but the upgrades for 2015 will make the experience even better. My only complaint so far is a recurring rattle somewhere in the driver’s seat. It seems to be a common problem for many Challenger owners, and may be related to the headrest, seat frame, or hinge. I plan on having it addressed by my dealer at the first (4000 mile) service.

The Hemi V8 in my Challenger puts out 375 hp according to Dodge, and it does so with a quality that is all its own. It doesn’t have the classic small block feel of an LS engine, nor does it have the frenetic, electric feeling of the Mustang’s Coyote Five-Point-Oh. It pushes the car around effortlessly with a nicely balanced chorus of hushed mechanical noises, induction sound, and exhaust bass. It’s more than fast enough for me, and it springs away from a stop with an authoritative shove of torque. Tire-shredding burnouts are hilariously easy – just switch off the traction control, dump the clutch, and watch the smoke roll. The clutch is light and easy to modulate, and the shifter has short throws with a smooth, satisfying mechanical engagement in each gear. Subjectively, I think my car has loosened up a bit; it seems both stronger and quicker to rev towards redline than when new. The only potential complaint here is the exhaust note. It’s very subdued, almost too much so. I have not done anything with my car, but if you want the total muscle car experience you’ll want to spring for a Mopar or Magnaflow system to freak out all your neighborhood squares.

Before I get into the driving experience, let’s go back to the defined intent of a muscle car – “muscle cars are intended mainly for street use and occasional drag racing, and are distinct from two-seat sports cars”. I’d tweak that a bit – my Challenger is a car for the road. I’ve owned a number of alleged “road cars” over the years, but this car eats up mileage like nothing I’ve ever driven. It’s comfortable and quiet, and with Chrysler’s excellent automatic climate control and the wide selection of music available on satellite radio you can drive all day, stopping only for gas and bathroom breaks. In cruise mode you can even stretch those breaks out, as it’s possible to average 25-27 mpg in 6th gear at reasonable highway speeds.

The GT part of the equation becomes evident when you exit the Interstate and find yourself on a curvy two lane road. When hustled down the excellent selection of such routes in Eastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, the car seems to shrink around you and drive smaller than it actually is. It likes being driven hard, and controls its size and weight very nicely. For a big girl this car can really move with flat, neutral cornering at illegal (but reasonable) road speeds, huge waves of torque available anywhere on the tach to carry you through the straight sections, and confident braking when a roller or Sunday driver appears. Push harder and you’ll induce gentle understeer; harder still and the stability control (which I have no desire to try to totally defeat) will step in and keep things sane. I’ve never gone further than six or seven tenths on the road, but I’m looking forward to making some progress towards the ultimate limits during an October track day at Brainerd International Raceway. I’ll post an update after that experience.

Compared to the immediate competition, I believe the Challenger provides a unique proposition. It feels like a more complete and less compromised car than the Camaro, with more room for passengers and cargo and styling that is both more cohesive and more mature. It’s more of a GT than the Mustang, which feels like a harder-edged sports car in every way. When it came down to it, the decision was easy for me and I would make it again in a heartbeat. The Challenger was the right car at the right time for me, and my only real regret is that I waited so long to add a modern muscle car to my garage. If you don’t drive one you really don’t know what you’re missing, and we are lucky to live in an era where each of the Detroit 3 offers a unique and compelling choice.

So what’s next? More miles, more experiences, and more fun. For the first time I have a “fun car” that my wife has absolutely no objections to riding and road-ripping in. And though I will freely admit that I’m still in the honeymoon period, my Challenger can make even my short drive to work feel fun and special. No matter how you define the phrase, this particular muscle car has found a very happy place in my life.
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Corvette Stingray Bests Viper, 911 In Sales Through First-Half Of 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/corvette-stingray-bests-viper-911-in-sales-through-first-half-of-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/corvette-stingray-bests-viper-911-in-sales-through-first-half-of-2014/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=867178 The current Corvette is doing well for itself as of late, not only moving off the lot at a greater clip between January and June of this year than last, but also besting the SRT Viper and Porsche 911. GM Authority reports 17,744 Corvette Stingrays made it to the highway during the aforementioned sales period, […]

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The current Corvette is doing well for itself as of late, not only moving off the lot at a greater clip between January and June of this year than last, but also besting the SRT Viper and Porsche 911.

GM Authority reports 17,744 Corvette Stingrays made it to the highway during the aforementioned sales period, over three times what was sold during the first six months of 2013. Meanwhile, only 354 Vipers managed to do the same — thanks to its high price and the velvet rope surrounding the one or two models available in most showrooms — as well as 5,169 of Stuttgart’s finest during those months. Nissan’s 370Z, priced much lower than the Stingray, also fared poorly against the Kentucky-built thoroughbred, 4,114 sold this year thus far.

Within the Chevy dealership, 2,723 convertibles and coupes left the lot in June, down from 3,328 in May. National Automobile Dealers Association forecasts the Corvette Stingray is on pace to hit 35,000 sold by the end of 2014, aided by the improved 2015 model and the introduction of the Z06.

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Capsule Review: Dodge Challenger R/T Hemi Shaker http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-dodge-challenger-hemi-rt-shaker/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-dodge-challenger-hemi-rt-shaker/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848114   Among the TTAC staff, the consensus is clear: the Ford Mustang is the top choice in the pony car segment. For cheap thrills, the Mustang V6 with the Performance Package is the most comprehensive “performance per dollar” option on the market. The 5.0, Boss 302 and Shelby GT500 represent increasing levels of performance that […]

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Among the TTAC staff, the consensus is clear: the Ford Mustang is the top choice in the pony car segment. For cheap thrills, the Mustang V6 with the Performance Package is the most comprehensive “performance per dollar” option on the market. The 5.0, Boss 302 and Shelby GT500 represent increasing levels of performance that rival the best of the sports car world, at prices accessible to the common (or, slightly better off) consumer. The Camaro is not as highly regarded, but of course, what would this site be without a dissenting voice.

So what about the Dodge Challenger?

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Within days of picking up the model you see above (a Challenger R/T “Shaker”, a special edition with some extra Mopar goodies, the “Shaker” hood, a 5.7L Hemi and a 6-speed manual transmission), TTAC was invited to test out the heavily revised 2015 Challenger, including the highly anticipated Hellcat model. The Shaker fell under my jurisdiction, but with the Hellcat being introduced at a race track, those duties were assigned to our EIC pro tem. Frankly, that opportunity would be wasted on anybody else.

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So what of the soon-to-be-obsolete 2014 Challenger? My only experience has been with an SRT8 model, equipped with the venerable 5-speed automatic. The 2015 model will get, among other upgrades, the wonderful new ZF 8-speed, as well as chassi tweaks and an all-new UConnect system. Chrysler PR cautioned not to get my hopes up for the Shaker, suggested it was less “track-focused” than the SRT model. I held out hope that it would be, at the very least, a loud, obnoxious, attention-getting special edition.

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I was in for a disappointment. The “Competition Orange” (not Dodge’s name for the color, but one that’s been ingrained due to repeated viewings of Boogie Nights) Challenger is visually loud, with its orange paint, black hood scoop and alloy wheels. But the 5.7L Hemi could emit little more than a muted bellow. Having heard countless uncorked 5.7L engines in all manner of Rams, 300c’s and Charger R/Ts, I know that the standard Chrysler V8 has aural merit, even if it’s not as glorious as the big 6.1L and 6.4L SRT V8s. If you opt for one of these, make sure you get a Mopar exhaust system baked into the financing deal. It deserves no less.

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On the other hand, the Tremec 6-speed was a pleasant surprise, with tight gates, short throws and a crisp action. The clutch was easy to modulate, and the V8’s torque made it nearly impossible to stall, even with the laziest applications of both clutch and throttle. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that the transmission is not the ideal choice for the Challenger.

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No doubt, this is heresy for most readers, but hear me out. The Challenger is a big car. So are the Mustang and the Camaro, but the Mustang manages to disguise its bulk with a modern, high hood and a tall beltline, while the Camaro lets you forget it because you are too busy cursing how dreadful the overall package is.

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The Challenger is a different beast. The hood is low and long, the beltline is low, the doors are large and forward visibility is excellent. You feel like you’re sitting in a car from a different era, a sensation that is congruent with the car’s styling, which is utterly faithful to the 1970’s version. When piloting something with such immense stature, I tend to prefer a more relaxed driving experience. The 6-speed manual, as nice as it is, feels out of place in a car like this. Rowing gears and pushing clutch pedals doesn’t quite fit with the “one hand on the wheel, one hand resting on the door sill” nature of this car, but that’s just me. Plenty of people have bought large cars with manual gearboxes, otherwise BMW wouldn’t have offered the E38 740iL with a manual, right?

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The generous proportions carry over to the interior too. The  cabin feels large and airy, with lots of room for two up front to lean back, stretch their legs and enjoy the effortless torque of the V8. The long wheelbase and long travel suspension allow for serene highway cruising while the Hemi spins at less than 2,000 RPM in 6th gear, even at 75 mph. Handling is not its strongest suit. You can take corners in aggressive manner, but the Challenger R/T is clearly happier in a straight line, letting you enjoy the view out front, while epoch appropriate music belts out of the stereo (Live at Filmore East is absolutely glorious on this stereo).

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The 2015 model will get the updated UConnect system with the 8.4 inch touch screen, but even the “old” system is pretty damn good, even if the UI is a bit dated. The trunk is enormous for a two door car .A weekend roadtrip for two allowed for one full-size suitcase and one overnight bag with plenty of room to spare. Small wonder that they are so popular with rental fleets.

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Aesthetically, the Challenger isn’t a pastiche of retro cues like the other two cars. But it’s not a pony car like the old Challenger. With a 116 inch wheelbase, it’s a full six inches longer than the original Challenger, and nearly 10 inches longer than the Mustang. Even though it looks like a very faithful modern iteration of an old pony car, I’d argue that it’s more of a modern version of the personal luxury coupe.

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Rather than emphasize outright performance, the Challenger emphasizes style, comfort and cross-country pace rather than road course times or skipad numbers like the hotter Mustangs and Camaros do in their marketing messages. Even the Hellcat’s press photos show emphasize drag strip runs and smoky burnouts over images of Laguna Seca and the Nurburgring.

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And for me, that’s just fine. Not every American car needs to bring the fight to the Europeans. Globalization and changing tastes are forcing American cars to become globalized to the point where body-on-frame trucks are the last truly American vehicles. It’s very likely that the next Camaro will follow the Mustang in adapting for European tastes. Chrysler took the other route, using old Mercedes bones to create something truly American: a big, no-excuses coupe with big V6 and V8 powertrains and the kind of styling that has no hope of meeting European safety and fuel economy standards.

Bring on the Hellcat.

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Car Review: A Tale of Two Darts, Part the Second, 2014 Dodge Dart GT 2.4L http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/car-review-a-tale-of-two-darts-part-the-second-2014-dodge-dart-gt-2-4l/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/car-review-a-tale-of-two-darts-part-the-second-2014-dodge-dart-gt-2-4l/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=839522 Four hundred cubic centimeters. That’s not a whole lot of volume. A cylinder that’s about 3 inches in diameter and 4 inches tall. It’s rather amazing what a difference that about a coffee cup’s worth of displacement will make in the character of an automobile. In my first look at the Dodge Dart, I felt […]

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Four hundred cubic centimeters. That’s not a whole lot of volume. A cylinder that’s about 3 inches in diameter and 4 inches tall. It’s rather amazing what a difference that about a coffee cup’s worth of displacement will make in the character of an automobile. In my first look at the Dodge Dart, I felt that the Dart is a nice compact car, but that it was deeply compromised by a powertrain that combined the 2.0 liter four cylinder with a six speed automatic transmission. In a quest for a calibration that yields impressive EPA fuel economy numbers, Chrysler produced a car that’s a chore to drive. Now that I’ve had a chance to drive the Dart with the 2.4 liter MultiAir Tigershark engine, I’m happy to report that those 400 ccs of displacement make a night and day difference, changing “chore to drive” to “fun to drive”. While it’s not a direct comparison, the 2013 Dart that I reviewed was in Limited trim, pretty much loaded, while the 2014 model that I tested was a Dart GT, with less equipment but with the GT package and the 2.4 liter engine that’s now standard in all Darts but the Aero and base SE models.

While I wouldn’t say that the car is fast, the 184 horsepower four moves it along quickly enough that the GT badge isn’t a joke. Actually, the development team in Auburn Hills seems to have taken their design brief seriously at least in terms of the chassis. While not a continental “grand tourer” in the classic sense, the Dart GT is definitely aimed at an enthusiast crowd. If not the direct spiritual heir to the Neon ACR of lore, it’s certainly in the same lineage.

Most of the differences between the Limited and GT models have to do with the way the cars handle. In my review of the Limited, I said that the Dart wants to handle but that the powertrain’s mapping gets in the way of enthusiastic driving. The Dart GT fulfills that promise, and then some. The chassis is most decidedly tuned towards the handling side of the ride quality / handling trade-off. The GT has a more aggressive stance, more aggressive rubber, trick shock absorbers and much stiffer springs.

How much stiffer? Though I didn’t find the ride as objectionable as some reviewers have, the chassis is stiff enough that once, when I hit the driveway apron as I pulled into a gas station, the tuning knob for the radio was jarred from the Grateful Dead channel to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. While I didn’t personally find the stiff suspension objectionable, I did start getting a bit tired of the rear body structure drumming when the back tires hit irregular pavement.

With Michigan roads in the sorry state they are in, there was ample opportunity to test the ride quality and it was uniformly firm. Though it’s very firm, I didn’t find it harsh. I do think that most American consumers would find it too firm and would probably be happier with the less sporting trim lines.

All that stiffness results in a car that you can hustle through the corners at a rapid pace. There’s a ton of grip and while there’s the modern problem of not a huge amount of steering feel, the Dart’s steering is weighted nicely at all driving speeds. The steering is very quick, 2.5 turns lock-to-lock or maybe even a bit less than that, with a sharp turn in.

The car I tested came with leather seating surfaces, some solid, some perforated with a red tint in the perforations, a bit less fancy than the Limited’s full leather. While the Limited came with more “luxury” features, the final sticker price of both cars was pretty much the same ($25,125 for the GT and $25,180 for the Limited, destination charges included, Monroney sheet here) and I didn’t miss what the GT didn’t have. As long as it has A/C (Chrysler’s very good automatic climate controls are usually “set it at 68 and forget it” for me) and a decent sound system I’m good to go, though this car did have the 8.4 inch UConnect infotainment system, which is nice to have. Like I said, everything I’d need or want, without anything superfluous.

The 2.4 liter engine was backed by the same 6 speed automatic and while the combination wasn’t flawless, it is a solid improvement over the two liter motor with the same gearbox. Unlike with the smaller motor, I didn’t feel the need to autostick it because there was sufficient acceleration letting the car shift itself. Some reviewers have said that the gearbox is busy, but I didn’t notice it. I did notice that when slowing down, the 5 -> 4 downshift is rather dramatic, perhaps because of a big jump in gear ratios. Fuel economy was improved over the two liter Dart. I averaged 28.2 mpg over a tank’s worth of suburban driving, which was better than the ~26 mpg real world mileage I was getting when having to autostick the 2.0L/6AT Dart. The engine does run a bit roughly at startup, but though it’s not the most sophisticated four banger in the world, it does have a pleasant growl when you get on it.

While the Dart GT seems aimed at enthusiasts, at first it’s a bit surprising that there’s no sport mode to electronically activate. Perhaps that’s because someone in Auburn Hills may think that it’s superfluous to give a car with a fair amount of sporting character such a mode. The engine is peppy enough that Car & Driver’s reviewer thought the throttle tip-in off of idle is a bit quick (something that didn’t bother me), the chassis is competent and the car can handle, and the seats have good side bolsters that hold you in front of the wheel as you’re hustling around curves. About the only thing that isn’t sporting about the Dart GT is the braking system. The brakes are perfectly adequate around town and on the highway, but I wouldn’t take the Dart GT out on a track without some attention to improving how the car stops.

Fit and finish was fine and the only quality problem that I noticed was that with a bit more than 5,000 miles on the odometer, the driver’s side power window was making a bit of a rattling noise at the upper end of its travel. One problem that I had with the first Dart, almost burning my hand on the prop rod for the hood, which is stored right above the radiator and gets very hot, was apparently remedied with a small rubber insulating grip. I don’t know if that grip was added for the 2014 model year or if the first example of the Dart that I drove was simply missing it, but I was glad to see it.

My tester came in bright white and with the blacked out grille elements that come with the GT package (and Rallye and Blackout appearance groups too), it looked pretty sharp. While driving both Darts people complimented how they look. While the GT did not have the upgraded sound system that came in the Limited, it sounded perfectly serviceable.

Perhaps as a weight saving effort, the Dart GT, unlike the 2013 Limited, doesn’t come with a spare tire. Instead, nestled in a expanded polystyrene foam carrier that fits in the spare tire well, is an electric pump with a (hopefully replaceable) canister of tire sealant.

My drives of the two Darts sandwiched a ride and drive event for the new 2014 Toyota Corolla. While the Dart, based on Fiat Chrysler’s Compact U.S. Wide platform, is a bit larger than the typical compact car sold in America, and heavier by a few hundred pounds, it’s priced to play in the Corolla’s segment. How does it stack up against the Corolla, which dominates that segment along with the Honda Civic? Combining the two Darts that I drove, I think that a Dart in one of the mid-level trim lines, with the 2.4 L engine and the features most people would want, would make a reasonable alternative for someone not zealous with the Toyonda reliability faith. Is the Corolla more refined than the Dart? Maybe by a little bit, though the Dart handles better, feels quicker, and  is roomier, at least up front. At the very least, if you’re shopping for a new compact car, it’s worth it to at least cross-shop the Dart and talk to owners about their experiences.

In my review of the Dart Limited I mentioned how the Dodge Neon showed promise but that Chrysler let it die on the vine by not giving it continuous upgrades. The fact that Sergio Marchionne and his team acknowledge that they screwed up the initial Dart launch by not getting the powertrain mix correctly and that they’ve remedied it by putting the bigger motor in most Darts bode well. Unfortunately that botched launch may have permanently harmed the Dart’s market chances. The Civic and Corolla both sell 300,000+ units a year. In 2013, Chrysler sold about 83,000 Darts, and halfway through this year they’ve sold fewer than 31,000 units.

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In November of 2014, John and Horace Dodge had this publicity photo taken of them sitting in the first Dodge Brothers automobile in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Detroit’s Boston Blvd. (the same location as used in my photos of the Dart GT). The Dodges started selling cars under their own brand after a decade of being Henry Ford’s primary supplier.

As far as enthusiasts are concerned, if you’re looking for something that’s moderately sporting and can still carry a small family, a Dart GT isn’t a bad idea, providing your spouse doesn’t object to the stiff ride. Still, considering that the new Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee are also based on the CUSW platform and that those two vehicles are offered with Chrysler’s outstanding ~300 hp Pentastar V6, it’s easy to guess that a SRT version of the Dart with that engine (and, I was going to say, the bigger brakes from the 200 but I see that it shares the Dart’s 12″ front rotors) would be even more fun to drive than the GT.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click on the settings icon to select 2D or your choice of 3D formats.

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and a tank of gasoline.

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 get a parallax view 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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JD Power Initial Quality Study Shows GM, Hyundai, Porsche Leading The Pack http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/jd-power-initial-quality-study-shows-gm-hyundai-porsche-leading-the-pack/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846905 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. […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nhtsa-investigates-chrysler-group-air-bag-ignition-issues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nhtsa-investigates-chrysler-group-air-bag-ignition-issues/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846881 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 […]

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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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Car Review: A Tale of Two Darts, Part the First – 2013 Dodge Dart Limited 2.0 L http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/car-review-a-tale-of-two-darts-part-the-first-2013-dodge-dart-limited-2-0-l/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/car-review-a-tale-of-two-darts-part-the-first-2013-dodge-dart-limited-2-0-l/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 20:02:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=839465 A while back Chrysler loaned me a Dodge Dart Limited with the 2.0 liter Tigershark engine and six-speed automatic transmission for the purpose of writing a review. That’s how it works, they loan you the car, you write the review. A social contract, if you will. In this case, however, though I drove the car for […]

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Full gallery here.

A while back Chrysler loaned me a Dodge Dart Limited with the 2.0 liter Tigershark engine and six-speed automatic transmission for the purpose of writing a review. That’s how it works, they loan you the car, you write the review. A social contract, if you will. In this case, however, though I drove the car for a week and took scores of photos and copious notes, I decided not to write the review at the time. That sort of behavior comes with some risk, particularly if the next time you ask for a press car and they ask for a link to your last review. I had my reasons for putting off the review, and now that I’ve driven a Dart with the larger 2.4 liter motor, I’m glad that I waited, and I think Chrysler should be glad that I waited as well.

I’ll explain all that gladness in Part Two, my review of the 2014 Dodge Dart GT 2.4 L, but everything has a backstory.

Why didn’t I write the review? To begin with, I don’t particularly like to say what everyone else is saying, even if I may agree. I don’t need to add my voice to an echo chorus. If I don’t have something original to say, why bother with “me too”?

What everyone else was saying was that the combination of the 2 liter engine with the automatic resulted in rather canine behavior and we’re not talkin’ greyhounds here. The fact that the Dart with the two liter engine and slushbox is a dog has been attested to by most reviewers and it’s hardly any secret with Chrysler folks too. Detroit is a place where you might run into a decision maker in the auto industry at the grocery when out to buy bread and milk for your mom and where the Dart you park next to might very well have been bought by an engineer on an employee discount. Whenever I mention to Chrysler folks about that drivetrain being a slug, they sort of shrug their shoulders and smile sheepishly.

After my week with the Dart Limited 2.0L/6AT, I wanted to check out the Dart with the larger 2.4L engine. Unfortunatley, there weren’t very many of those made in the Dart’s early production mix. That’s another reason why I’ve waited to write this review. I wasn’t sure just how representative the car I tested was of the Darts you’d be able to buy going forward. I knew that months before I got the test car Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne admitted that the 2.0L/6AT and the Fiat 1.4 Multiair Turbo powertrains “were not the ideal solution,” and a company spokesperson said that the production mix would be rebalanced as 2.4 L engine production ramped up at the company’s Dundee, Michigan engine plant. The production mix has indeed changed and the 2.4 liter is now installed in the majority of Darts. The 2.0 liter is now only available in the base SE car and the 1.4 turbo shared with the Fiat 500 is only offered on the Dart Aero. In that sense I was correct, the car that I’m describing to you is not representative of what you can buy. In fact, you can’t even buy a 2014 Dart Limited with the 2.0.

So why write the review now? Well, to begin with the drivetrain is still available on the Dart, if not with the same high trim level. Also, as it turns out, I think the basic car is pretty decent, even better than that, and some buyers, out of a sense of frugality or budget realities, might decide to buy the Dart SE, thinking that they’ll get a nice car, and save money both on the purchase and on gasoline. As you’ll see, though, the 2.0 liter may be a false economy. Finally, reviewing this car puts the upcoming Dart GT review in context and much of this review will also still be relevant to those considering a Dart Limited.

The problem as I see it isn’t how much power that engine has, or doesn’t have. With 160 hp, it’s not going to be a speed demon but under normal circumstances with that much power in a slightly chubby compact car you should be fine in traffic and on the highway. However, every combination of engine and transmission these days seems to be calibrated to yield maximum Ms per G on the EPA test cycle, not maximum driveability. The 2.0L/6AT combination is EPA rated at 25/36 and it seems calibrated to get into the highest gear ratio as quickly as possible, meaning you’re in a higher gear before you ever get to the meaty part of the power curve.

I tend to treat “it was so slow as to be unsafe in traffic” reviews with some skepticism because 20 year old Hondas and Camrys can keep up with traffic just fine, even today when 300+ horsepower cars are commonplace. However, the way the 2.0/6AT combo drove, I genuinely felt nervous when trying to zip into a spot in traffic or when merging onto the freeway. I love a good stick shift, but I’ve never warmed to using paddle shifters or manually shifting with automatic transmissions. I figure that ZF et al know more about shifting than I do. Still, with this Dart I discovered that I had to autostick it to force the car to hold a gear long enough to be able to get on top of it and accelerate safely in traffic.

I also discovered why the transmission and engine are mapped the way they are. Leaving the car to its own devices in mixed suburban driving I was getting an indicated gas mileage in the high twenty-nines, but when I started shifting myself that dropped to about 26.5 mpg.

I really wanted to like the car. Based on the Compact U.S. Wide platform that Chrysler’s engineers in Auburn Hills derived from Fiat’s C-Evo platform first seen under the current Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dart feels spacious, at least for front seat passengers. Wide is no misnomer, there’s an airy feel to the cabin from behind the wheel. The belt line sweeps up towards the rear of the car but at the driver’s window it’s almost low enough for resting your elbow. Because of that rising belt line, though, rear passengers might feel a bit more closed in.

Visibility for the driver is pretty good, except for the fact that the hood slopes down sharply and you can’t see the front corners. Sajeev Mehta will rejoice at the Day Light Opening (DLO) win, as small triangular windows behind the rear door glass provide a clear look at your blind spots over your shoulders. They also help keep rear passengers from getting claustrophobic from the high belt line in back. Speaking of DLO, there is some DLO fail around the mirror and A pillar, with a black plastic insert.

Speaking of black plastic, there’s a variety of black colored and textured polymers at play in the interior. Most of the surfaces that you’d come into contact with, though, are of the soft touch kind.

Everything up front was properly ergonomic, with Chrysler’s industry leading 8.4″ UConnect touchscreen well integrated visually with the configurable display that sits directly in front of the driver. I thought the default red color scheme of the liquid crystal displays was a bit garish, compared to the cooler blue scheme on the Chrysler 300S I’d had the week before, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. YMMV. The instrument panel is surrounded by a band of red trim that lights up subtly when the headlights are on. It’s a nice touch in this class of car, providing you like red.

Chrysler is big on their sliding console storage bin in the company’s minivans. I think that’s where they got the idea for a two position armrest on top of the console storage bin. Whichever position you slide it to, when you open it, you’ll find a USB port, a 1/8″ AUX port, and, what is getting to be a rarity these days, a CD drive.

The 60/40 fold-down back seat features a console that flips down from the seat back and contains cupholders and a storage bin. When that console is flipped down, it reveals the hatch for passing though long items that are being stored in the trunk, like skis.

I thought the rear seat was roomy enough but then I’m a 5’6 tall guy with a 28″ inseam. I was left with about 3″ of headroom and about 5″ of knee room. Will it Zayde? Yes, I had no problems getting my grandson’s rear facing car seat in the Dart. There are child seat latch anchors on the back deck for all three rear seat positions.

In Limited trim, the Dart had most of the features most drivers will want, in fact, most of the options offered on the car – it was pretty loaded. With the Technology Group, Premium Group, automatic transmission, UConnect and a few odds and ends, it stickered out to $25,190, including a $795 destination charge.

The seats were full leather and quite comfortable. They feature the now ubiquitous contrasting detail stitching. The passenger seat has a hidden storage compartment under the hinged seat squab for stowing small valuables.

Visually, to my tastes it’s an attractive car, sort of a muscular and squat wedge. Car companies are putting more style into their mass market compact sedans. There’s a lot of sheet metal contouring happening on the hood and around the front end that you probably wouldn’t have seen a few years ago in a class of cars that American’s have considered to be economy cars. On the outside, the Dart looks more expensive than it is.

I like the way the headlamp lenses stand proud of the fender and the rear end goes together in harmony, with an integrated. duck tail spoiler. The rear end also features a version of the Dodge Charger’s brand identifying full-width LED tail-lights. I think that the smarter designers today are using the flexibility of LED and other modern lighting technology to make a brand statement in the dark of night as well as in the light of the day.

Other than acceleration, what’s it like to drive? The Dart wants to handle. Those Alfa genes are strong. The problem is that under normal driving, letting the car shift for itself, the drivetrain’s lack of acceleration compromises the handling. You can dive bomb into a corner and it holds the line just fine, but when you want to power through the exit letting front wheel drive understeer help straighten the car out, there’s just no there there.

At first I was struck at some obvious price-pointing, but I realized that impression was biased by the fact that when they dropped off the Dart, they picked up that Chrysler 300S AWD with a Hemi, a car whose base price is almost double that of a stripper $16K Dart. While there’s indeed $14,000 worth of visible and tactile difference between the Dart and the 300, the Dart feels solid and has a fairly comfortable ride for a compact. The test car was equipped with 17″ X 7.5″ aluminum wheels mounted with 225/45 R17 Continental ContiproContact tires.

There was one visible quality control issue, a surprising one. While doing the photo shoot I noticed something I haven’t seen in a long time, a paint “run”, a drip at least an inch long near one of the rocker panels. I worked at a DuPont automotive paint lab from 1982 into the 21st century and I haven’t seen a visible paint defect that bad since the early 1990s. To be fair, the rest of the paint, and the rest of the Dart seemed to be defect free.

I noticed something else that, no pun intended, touches on quality control, or at least attention to detail, while doing the photo shoot. If you have to open the hood and the engine is hot, make sure that you’re wearing an oven mitt or using something else to protect your hand before you grab the prop rod that holds up the open hood. When stowed, the prop rod sits right above the radiator and it gets very hot.

I had high hopes for the Dart but as equipped with the 2.0L/6AT powertrain it left me disappointed. I thought the revival of the nameplate was brilliant, with many Americans holding fond memories of a reliable, inexpensive compact American car, powered by the almost indestructible Slant Six. I also knew that when they have tried, eg. Neon, the boffins in Auburn Hills know how to make a compact car, even if the company as a whole didn’t quite get the continuous improvement thing. I think that they still know how to make a decent small car, but my first encounter with the Dart suffered from expectations not met. So much so that it was my choice as my least favorite test car of 2013. Yep, not only did I not review a loaned car, I slagged it off at the end of the year. I suppose that also risked some displeasure of the folks in Auburn Hills, but they can’t complain that much since in that same end-of-year wrap up I also said that the Chrysler 300S AWD Hemi was my favorite car of 2013.

Maybe all that stuff about ticking off car companies with negative reviews is a bit exaggerated, because despite doing somethings that wouldn’t necessarily curry favor with them, the folks at Chrysler approved it when I asked the fleet company if they had a 2.4 liter Dart for me to try. We’ll look at that car, a GT model, in Part Two.

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 get a parallax view 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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Reader Review: 2014 Dodge Charger R/T http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-review-2014-dodge-charger-rt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-review-2014-dodge-charger-rt/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 20:55:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838729 TTAC reader and contributor Rich Murdocco sends us his review of his brand new 2014 Dodge Charger R/T In the middle of the harsh winter of 2013, the lease on my beloved Ford Mustang was coming to an end. That car had a special place in my heart – The 305 horsepower power plant whisked […]

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ChargerFront

TTAC reader and contributor Rich Murdocco sends us his review of his brand new 2014 Dodge Charger R/T

In the middle of the harsh winter of 2013, the lease on my beloved Ford Mustang was coming to an end. That car had a special place in my heart – The 305 horsepower power plant whisked me to my first  “big boy job”, my first date with a new girlfriend, the birth of my niece and was right there as I got down on one knee and proposed to that aforementioned girlfriend. I was faced with the difficult decision every leasee faces: Do I stick around, or see what else was out there?

Sunset Logo

I had my heart set on another Mustang. Myself, uncle and cousin walked into the Ford Dealer, priced out a GT (if it wasn’t an upgrade, what’s the point?) and left satisfied. The car I had in my head – a 2014 Ford Mustang GT in dark silver, complete with the beating 5.0 Coyote heart and sense of condescension towards Camaros. As we were driving home, my uncle casually suggested we look at the Dodge dealer down the road. I’ve always been intrigued by Dodge’s offerings, and was impressed by the then-freshly redesigned Journey’s build quality when my Uncle had one on loaner. Halfheartedly we pulled in and strolled around the lot. “There is nothing you want here, is there?” I shook my head no, and that’s when my cousin called me over to come see something he found – a Charger R/T

Sitting in the car, it didn’t feel like a Dodge. The panels fit well together. There wasn’t a rattle. What felt like metal, was in fact, metal. The chunky steering wheel’s leather was soft, flanked by paddle shifters that allow your index finger to comfortable slip between them. I pressed the push-button ignition and with the soft burble of the exhaust, I was sold. It was black, brash and just plain mean looking – in a way, it reminded me of a Buick GNX.

HEMI

Before I knew it, I was handed a surprisingly quality key fob to my new 2014 Dodge Charger R/T with the new Blacktop package. The RWD (as God intended) car is powered by the 5.7 liter HEMI, has the 8.4 inch touchscreen with navigation and a 3:06 gear ratio setup.

The supportive yet comfortable seats are cloth, the HID headlights are automatic, and the sunroof is large. In fact, everything in this vehicle is large. It’s built for a supersize generation, of which my five foot seven inch height appreciates. My fiancée, who is a tiny little lady, disappears into the passenger seat, but when she drove it the power driver’s seat and adjustable steering wheel accommodated her just fine. The car’s dimensions are substantial.

At work, I’ve parked next to a BMW 5-series and dwarfed it. The Charger’s lines in the recent redesign added character to the slab-like sheet metal of the first new generation, with the most distinctive addition being the racetrack LED lights on the read end. Now, the Charger looks like well…a Charger (the odd looking 1980’s model notwithstanding). This isn’t a car for blending into the commuter pool. Even in the V6 guise, this car looks aggressive. It looks like it wants to kick puppies and wear fingerless gloves while smoke cigarettes like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club.

Charger flag

Recently, when picking up my college roommate from the train, he said he found me by walking towards the “most obnoxiously angry looking car in the lot.” The attitude exerted by the sheet metal is only matched by its presence on the street. On Long Island, police of different stripes use the Charger Pursuit paired with their fleet of SHO’s. With the Blacktop package, you’re getting black 20’’ wheels that make many other drivers think you’re a cop. This is both awesome (when others let you pass) and annoying (people slam on their brakes to go the speed limit frequently). In my Mustang, few people ever wanted to rev their engines at me. In this, BMW’s especially, always want to start something – there are worse problems to have.

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Coming from a Mustang, pretty much anything would look spacious, but the Charger’s trunk truly eats whatever you put in it. I recently bought a rather large A/C unit and the trunk swallowed it up. I bet if I tried, I can fit my Marshall half-stack in the car, with a guitar, with no problems. The back seat is roomy, with three of my friends in the back sitting comfortably on the two-hour trek to New Jersey when I first got it. My buddy’s girlfriend is five foot nine, and had room to spare.  The nav is simple, while the radio, “powered by Beats Audio”, is pretty punchy, with more than enough bang for an automotive system. To be honest, I don’t use the audio to its full potential, because I prefer the sound of the HEMI. The voice recognition isn’t as intuitive as my Mustang’s SYNC, but it gets the job done. If the Chrysler UConnect system and SYNC had a baby, it would be the perfect infotainment unit. One quirk that my Charger has is the placement of Sport mode. It’s accessed via the UConnect system on the same screen as the front and passenger heated seats. “Hold on Camaro… We shall duel our automobiles shortly. Please wait while I activate Sport mode!” The difference in the transmission is marked when sport mode is activated, with the aggressive upshifts quickly snapping into the next gear.

Sport Mode

Smooth. That’s the word passengers I’ve had thus far have used to describe the ride. The Mercedes sourced 5-speed gets complaints from automotive journalists, but the transmission feels pretty rock solid. It seems that the German’s leftovers have worked wonders for the brand. With decently aggressive driving, I average 16.7 miles to the gallon of mid-grade fuel, and it costs roughly $55-60 per fill up here on Long Island. The transmission would benefit from an extra gear or two, but in 2015 Chrysler is putting in their popular 8-speed which should soothe the naysayers. In manumatic mode, the paddle shifters or console shifter allows for some spirited red-line hitting runs, but the electrical nannies prevent any significant overrevving and overly aggressive downshifting. One of my newfound joys is cruising in 5th, drop it to 3rd to pass. The whole experience is very gratifying.

The HEMI provides more than enough get up and go, but acceleration is never violent like it is in my cousin’s 2013 Mustang GT. It’s a smooth crescendo mostly. Passengers will be taken by surprise, and sometimes, during a boring morning’s drive, it’s fun to plant your foot to wake up both yourself, and the car. It’s powerful, and the engine, which is typically library quiet at cruising, comes to life under hard acceleration. One complaint is that it may be too quiet. For its brash looks, you’d hope it will shoot flames from the twin exhaust. In reality, the acceleration is more than entertaining enough, but isn’t as brutal as you think it would be given the specs. It does however turn heads if you drive by a group of people at full blast. It sounds proper, especially in a tunnel, and allows for acceleration to 60 in the low to mid-fives. My brother, who passed the love of cars into his younger brother, was impressed at the Charger’s throttle response and handling as he took a sweeping turn at unmentionable speeds for taking such a turn. For a heavy sedan whose trunk can eat a 12,000 BTU AC unit while seating two in the back, it’s impressive. The car feels planted at 30 mph, 60 mph and beyond 100 mph. With the Blacktop package you get a “high speed engine controller” up to 149 mph, but good luck safely and legally hitting anywhere close to those speeds on Long Island.

One of the many surprises of the car I found was that it doesn’t handle like you expect it to. During my first test drive, I was picturing similarities to my grandma’s old Grand Marquis, but it drives very similarly to my Mustang. It’s eager on turn in, and handles the curves without too much drama. The turning radius is a bit wider, but not by as much as you’d think. My fiancée’s 2010 Accord is like turning the Queen Elizabeth compared to the Charger.

This car is unapologetically American (despite the fact that shhh…it’s made in Canada). It’s big, rear-wheel driven, and powered by a big ol’ V8 up front. The interior is made of quality materials with fit and finish that was unheard of even five years ago. The street presence is ample. The fuel economy isn’t as bad as you’d think it would be given the power and weight stats. The Dodge Charger may have four doors, but it has the soul of the old Charger, and thanks to the HEMI, the heart of one as well. So far, I do not regret my decision to jump ship from Ford to MOPAR. In the future I may return, but as of right now, I’m more than content with the Charger.

MurdoccoCharger

On the web I’ve read comments such as the following: “it’s a pig…”, “it’s too fat”, “UGH A FAMILY CAR! It NEEDs TWO DOORS”, “It needs a manual transmission.” I’d answer these naysayers, but I’m too busy doing burnouts in the angriest looking family sedan on the road.  Long live the four-door, American muscle car.

ChargerFront HEMI Charger flag Sport Mode MurdoccoCharger Sunset Logo Hemi+Badge ChargerRear

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Marchionne’s Grand Vision For FCA Faces Hard Financial Road To Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/marchionnes-grand-vision-for-fca-faces-hard-financial-road-to-success/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817858 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 […]

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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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/shudder-to-think-new-transmissions-bad-friends-and-the-daimlerchrysler-merger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/shudder-to-think-new-transmissions-bad-friends-and-the-daimlerchrysler-merger/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 20:38:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817698 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 […]

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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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New York 2014: 2015 Dodge Challenger Debuts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-debuted/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-debuted/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 21:07:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803530 Prior to the 2015 Dodge Charger descending onto the stage, the 2015 Challenger made its world debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show. The Challenger will arrive in showrooms ahead of its sedan brother in Q3 2014, and will bring with it eight different trims, including the R/T Shaker and 392 HEMI Scat Pack. […]

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2015-Dodge-Challenger-7

Prior to the 2015 Dodge Charger descending onto the stage, the 2015 Challenger made its world debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The Challenger will arrive in showrooms ahead of its sedan brother in Q3 2014, and will bring with it eight different trims, including the R/T Shaker and 392 HEMI Scat Pack. Under the hood — whether shaking or static — a choice of three engines will send power to either the standard six-speed manual or the new eight-speed Torqueflite automatic: 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 (305 hp); 5.7-liter HEMI V8 (375 hp); and 6.4-liter HEMI V8 (470 hp/lb-ft of torque).

Inside, drivers will have adjustable gauges, UConnect with remote-start and Performance Pages adjustable performance system, and two touchscreens at the ready.

As for outside, the new Challenger takes its cues from the 1971 Challenger, though with modern upgrades such as LED daytime running lights and LED tail lamps.

2015-Dodge-Challenger-7 2015-Dodge-Challenger-6 2015-Dodge-Challenger-1 2015-Dodge-Challenger-5 2015-Dodge-Challenger-4 2015-Dodge-Challenger-3

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New York 2014: 2015 Dodge Charger Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-charger-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-charger-live-shots/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:32:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=803314 Alongside the 2015 Dodge Challenger, the 2015 Charger made its debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show. The Charger, which will follow the Challenger to the showroom a few months later, will bring both the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter HEMI V8 to the party. The former will push 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft […]

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Alongside the 2015 Dodge Challenger, the 2015 Charger made its debut at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The Charger, which will follow the Challenger to the showroom a few months later, will bring both the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter HEMI V8 to the party. The former will push 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic, which will also help send the HEMI’s 370 horses and 395 lb-ft of tire-destroying torque to the back or, if equipped, all four wheels.

The big change, however, is its Dart/Durango-esque look, including LED daytime running lights and the blacked-out grill that will likely be obscured by the bull bar of the police-ready variant when the fleet orders are delivered and prepped.

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Chrysler Hellcat V8 Could Unseat Viper V10 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/chrysler-hellcat-v8-could-unseat-viper-v10/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/chrysler-hellcat-v8-could-unseat-viper-v10/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:09:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=780489 For over a year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been working on a Hemi V8 dubbed the Hellcat, which set to debut in a revised Dodge Challenger. However, the Hellcat could prove a challenge to the SRT Viper’s V10, possibly unseating the venerable monster from the throne. Automotive News reports the rumored V8 has caused an […]

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2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

For over a year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been working on a Hemi V8 dubbed the Hellcat, which set to debut in a revised Dodge Challenger. However, the Hellcat could prove a challenge to the SRT Viper’s V10, possibly unseating the venerable monster from the throne.

Automotive News reports the rumored V8 has caused an internal debate within FCA, in particular what it would mean for the Viper when the Challenger receives the engine. SRT brand boss Ralph Giles told Hot Rod magazine:

We have a situation where, you know — we may have a situation — where the flagship car is not the most powerful car in our arsenal … how do we explain that to ourselves? So we have an internal horsepower race as well as an external one.

While the Viper’s naturally aspirated V10 pushes 660 horsepower, the SRT variant of the Challenger — pitted against the Ford Mustang GT500 and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 — is rumored to put out as much as 700 horses .

The 2015 Challenger is rumored to debut in New York next month.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Dodge Durango http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-dodge-durango/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/capsule-review-2014-dodge-durango/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 14:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=749777 It’s a shame about the 2014 Dodge Durango. Every car eventually gets wound down, but the Durango will be going out in its prime. If the way a vehicle drives is a high priority for you, it’s hard not to adore the Durango’s comportment. More tragic, the Durango has been the quiet way to get […]

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It’s a shame about the 2014 Dodge Durango. Every car eventually gets wound down, but the Durango will be going out in its prime. If the way a vehicle drives is a high priority for you, it’s hard not to adore the Durango’s comportment. More tragic, the Durango has been the quiet way to get Grand Cherokee goodness with some bonus wheelbase and space for exceptionally-aggressive Dodge pricing. That’s going to be over soon.

If the Durango is so good, and Chrysler even bothered to update it this year, why is it going away? The answer: Because it’s a Dodge.

But the Durango won’t be gone for long.

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Soon, the vehicle we know as the Dodge Durango will go back from whence it came. It’s being re-absorbed into the Jeep line, which has aggressive volume targets and can command higher prices. Back in the mid-aughties, Jeep tried a three-row range topper. The Commander did not do well, but it’s where this generation of Durango came from. The story is brought to you by the letters W, X and K, but here’s the short version: When Jeep cleaned up the Grand Cherokee for the 2011 model year, the Dodge Durango took over as the three-row version of that WK2 architecture.

At one time, the Durango was booking nearly 200,000 sales per year for Dodge, but that’s ancient history. Those hot numbers happened back when the Durango was the latest masterstroke from Bob Lutz. Most recently, the Durango has been racking up the critical affection while actual sales seem asbestos-lined, with no heat going on. Despite the Durango’s roots, it’s a lot harder to demand premium pricing without the power of deep Jeep love. Dodge has to be a lot more aggressive about putting cash on the hood to move iron. If you want to feel smarter than the average bear, act now to get the best deal on what’s probably the best vehicle in this segment.

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You’re giving up a few things for the sake of the deal, chief among them is brand cachet. That might not be important to you, but it matters for resale. While the Grand Cherokee enjoys strong resale and sniffs of approval from the other twit parents at soccer practice, the Durango’s residual value drops farther, faster. Also, the Durango isn’t as space-efficient as other three-row family crossovers, and it can feel a little more trucky than the car-based competition. Fuel economy is also a challenge, though the new 8-speed automatic takes smaller sips.

Still, the positives of the Durango outweigh the negatives. There’s huge rear seat legroom, extra cargo space, a human-sized third row and composed highway ride thanks to the significantly longer wheelbase. Inside, there’s good materials, luxury touches like laminated side glass, universally-praised UConnect infotainment, now with an 8.8” screen and deeper functionality, and surprising quiet. I drove a V6 Durango dressed up like an R/T, but lacking the Hemi. I also had some time with a full-boat Durango Citadel that topped out over $52,000, but I spent the most time with this mid-$30,000s Durango with AWD, V6, 8-speed automatic with spiffy rotary shifter and utility-focused cloth upholstery. Unlike most models facing their sunset, the Durango is to-the-minute current in its level of competitiveness. You can be sure that when this vehicle is wearing Jeep emblems it will have a thicker bottom line and thinner incentives.

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It’s counter-intuitive, but the fact that Jeep is pulling a Godfather 3 on the three-row is an acknowledgement of its fundamental goodness. Coming back into the fold will give Jeep a comprehensive model range from Patriot/Compass, through to Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and on up. In spite of the looming change, because the Durango and Grand Cherokee are built together, it’s less expensive to give the outgoing model the same mechanical changes as the Jeep. Variations on the assembly line cost money. What the spec sheets can’t tell you is how well all the facts and features come together out on the road. Despite the unitized construction, the attitude of the Durango is more SUV than mall-trawler crossover. You feel it in the ride, which carries the feeling of weighty authority as it smothers bad pavement into submission. You’re up higher in the Durango, and while it’s smooth and quiet, she’s a big girl that’s clearly got some Ram in her family. There’s more rugged resistance than carlike compliance, but the structure is solid and the machinery feels refined.

Saddled with 4,700 lbs, the Pentastar engine does a lot better than you’d expect a 290 hp, 3.6 liter V6 could manage. That’s partly due to the new 8-speed transmission, but there are times where it feels like it shoulda had a V8. Of course, you can get one of the best V8s on the market, the 360 hp 5.7 liter Hemi. The V8’s fat torque is still blunted by the big-time curb weight, but it does enable quicker getaways and significant bump in towing capability to 7400 lbs. The table stakes for the Hemi are higher, with fuel economy taking a significant hit, even with MDS cylinder deactivation.

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The fuel economy numbers to pay attention to for the Durango are the city and combined EPA ratings. Family crossovers often do a lot of in-town driving, and that kind of use with a Hemi Durango Citadel had me staring at 14.5 MPG. The red Durango in the photos, a Pentastar-powered all-wheel driver with the 8-speed automatic returned a 19.5 MPG average with a heavy emphasis on secondary roads. That’s pretty good, though lots of stop and go will drive it down further. Either way, the claim of 25 MPG highway seems like fantasy.

Another issue is visibility. The mirrors are large and forward visibility is good, plus the elevated ride height doesn’t hurt. But the back window is small and far away. It wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that the constrained view to the rear has sunk more than one potential sale during the test drive. At 8.1”, ground clearance for the Durango is higher than in other competitors like the GM Lambda triplets (7.1”), the Nissan Pathfinder (6.5) or Ford Explorer (7.6”), so it’s not as easy to get in and out of as those vehicles, and you’ll also be perfecting your clean-and-jerk to load stuff in the back of the Durango versus the lower lift-over heights of the competition.

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With all these gotchas, it might sound like the Durango isn’t as good as those Crossovers that came from cars. The opposite is true. The ride is supple with disciplined control, and the whole vehicle feels solid. On smooth roads or the surface-of-the-moon byways that seem to cover 90 percent of the nation, the Durango chassis is always graceful. The steering, an electro-hydraulic rack and pinion, is precise and confident with good weighting but not a whole lot of feel.

The Durango is well screwed together, and it feels as good as the Grand Cherokee from behind the wheel. The Durangos which came before are really the issue here. The original sold really well, a bit of parts-bin genius, but it looked tougher than it proved to be. The second-generation Durango is best left out of this conversation, unless you’re trolling CraigsList for a bargain on a loaded-up truck-based SUV that looks Chinese. That leaves this one as the last, and best Durango. Hold on to your wallets, it’s gonna make one hell of a Jeep. 2014 Dodge Duranto_0001 2014 Dodge Duranto_0002 2014 Dodge Duranto_0003 2014 Dodge Duranto_0004 2014 Dodge Duranto_0005 2014 Dodge Duranto_0006 2014 Dodge Duranto_0007 2014 Dodge Duranto_0008 2014 Dodge Duranto_0009 2014 Dodge Duranto_0010 2014 Dodge Duranto_0011 2014 Dodge Duranto_0012 2014 Dodge Duranto_0013 2014 Dodge Duranto_0014 2014 Dodge Duranto_0015 2014 Dodge Duranto_0016 2014 Dodge Duranto_0017 2014 Dodge Duranto_0018 2014 Dodge Duranto_0019 2014 Dodge Duranto_0020 2014 Dodge Duranto_0021 2014 Dodge Duranto_0022 2014 Dodge Duranto_0023 2014 Dodge Duranto_0024 2014 Dodge Duranto_0025 2014 Dodge Duranto_0026 2014 Dodge Duranto_0027 2014 Dodge Duranto_0028

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