By on June 26, 2017

2017 Chrysler 300C - Image: FCA

Sure, there’s no vinyl bench seats and standard Slant Six engine, but this isn’t 1981 and Chrysler Corporation isn’t trying to boost sales by stripping down a LeBaron and calling it Special. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is, however, trying to make three models more appealing to the buying masses, meaning trim changes are afoot for 2018.

What models, you ask? Two very old sedans and a crossover. According to ordering documents sent to dealers, FCA plans to ratchet down the entry-level price of the 2018 Chrysler 300 and Jeep Cherokee, while also shaking up the bottom end of the Dodge Charger.  (Read More…)

By on March 7, 2017

Dodge Charger Seward Highway

“It should not be denied… that being footloose has always exhilarated us. It is associated in our minds with escape from history and oppression and law and irksome obligations, with absolute freedom, and the road has always led West.” —Wallace Stegner

Got an unusual question via email the other day. It comes from a young man who will be familiar to you but whom we will not explicitly identify. He was once a writer, once an editor, and now a financier, having achieved escape velocity from this ragged, scuttling business into the security and prestige of grown men’s endeavors. There was a time that he worked for me, and a time that I worked for him. It seems difficult to believe that we met eight full years ago.

Anyway, in the course of our various conversations, this Canadian fellow (we’ll call him “Bo”) happened to mention his upcoming travel plans and his need for some companionship along the way, preferably of the short-term, transaction-oriented variety.

(Read More…)

By on February 24, 2017

2017 Chevy Equinox L

Most readers are aware of my unbridled enthusiasm for base model cars. Sure, there are a few luxury models that spring to mind where it’s imperative buyers select the top trim, lest they run the risk of an arch nemesis pulling alongside them in an Escalade Platinum when they are piloting a lowly Escalade Luxury.

Thing is, it behooves the frugal customer to pay attention before they sign the note on a set of base wheels. For years, commercials told us “America Runs on Dunkin” when we all know that America Runs on Monthly Payments. Most shoppers have a monthly or biweekly figure in mind and, examined through that lens, base cars aren’t always the best deal.

(Read More…)

By on February 10, 2017

2015 Chrysler 300S

Update: It was brought to our attention by a spokesperson for FCA that iSeeCars.com’s study includes complaints about parts availability for recall campaigns, which in and of themselves are not necessarily safety issue complaints. These complaints can skew the per-model results in a big way. While iSeeCars works out the data, take the results below with a grain of salt as they will more than likely change. —Mark

Update 2: iSeeCars retabulated the data for the below-mentioned study without recall parts availability complaints and came up with the same top 10 results. Still, the fact remains, not all NHTSA complaints are verified; anyone can submit a complaint, regardless of whether they own said vehicle. In 2010, Toyota ran into problems verifying complaints from NHTSA’s database, and Tesla more recently had issues with one particularly problematic complainer … from Australia.

Safety complaints come in all forms, some of them frivolous, but minor annoyances usually fail to make the attention of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

When all safety complaints leveled against a model are weighed against the volume of vehicles sold, potential customers are left with a clearer picture of what headaches they might expect after signing on the dotted line. Meanwhile, automakers could realize they have a problem to fix.

In a recent study based on NHTSA complaints, one brand showed why quality control is key to keeping a loyal customer base, and how problems in the past can haunt a company for years. (Read More…)

By on November 30, 2016

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-006

Tommy writes:

I love reading your columns, and have a question that I think you’ll enjoy. I’ve been living in Washington, D.C. for seven years, about half of that time without a car. I’m planning on getting a raise soon, and with that, I’d like to buy a car. And not just any car, but an adult car that I can rely on to start when I need it, and not constantly have to wrench on the little things that break.

For so long now, I have wanted nothing more than a Focus ST. Everything I’ve read about them just screams to my inner child, and at 29, I think I can still listen to him because I’m not expecting a family any time soon.

(Read More…)

By on November 7, 2016

2016 Chrysler 300C Rear 3/4, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sure loves its aging rear-wheel-drive LX platform, so much so that it might just keep it around for an extra two years.

According to Automotive News, sources claim the Dodge Charger, Challenger and Chrysler 300 will forgo their planned platform swap in 2018 and soldier on until at least 2020. If true — and FCA’s lack of allegiance to long-term product plans lends it credence — that means no major redesign for the models until 2021.

It’s good news for lovers of the current generation models, but it’s yet another sign that the Chrysler 300 may be doomed. (Read More…)

By on October 26, 2016

2016 Chevrolet SS blue

Nate writes:

Hi Bark,

I like to know your opinion on the subject matter of the email. My ideal car is a reliable all-wheel-drive, full-size sedan with more than 400-500 horsepower, similar 400 lb-ft of torque, decent average fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon, and it’s made by Honda/Acura with all the safety features (lane keep assist, front collision mitigation, blind spot detection, etc).

However, that vehicle does not exist, and I have a budget of $55,000 out the door.

(Read More…)

By on June 8, 2016

GC Shifter

As a six-and-a-half-foot tall red-blooded male who’s driven in demolition derbies and owns John Deere machinery, I naturally gravitated to a big, rear-wheel drive, future Junkyard Find sedan when it came time to replace our family car four years ago. Settling on a Pentastar-powered 2012 Dodge Charger, one non-negotiable item was FCA’s 8.4-inch uConnect screen. The other was ZF’s eight-speed automatic.

As we know, hapless drivers have failed to put their ZF-equipped cars in Park, confused by the spring-loaded shifter’s design, which always returns it to a central position no matter what gear those drivers select. The NHTSA started an investigation and FCA voluntarily recalled over a million 2014-2015 Grand Cherokees and 2012-2014 Chargers/300s.

I got my recall notice in the mail yesterday, which provided me with two things: a “Visor Tips Card” and a good belly laugh.

(Read More…)

By on May 31, 2016

2016 Chrysler 300C Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Greatness isn’t always universal. Being a great sprinter doesn’t make one a great marathoner. In fact, exhibiting greatness in one sense will often make for a fatal flaw in another. If you need any proof of this, simply pick up the closest Greek tragedy and read it.

The same can be be said of rental cars. The qualities that make a car a great rental don’t necessarily translate into a great daily driver. That being said, after four days in Northern California, I’m prepared to remove the Chevy Impala from its lofty perch as the best rental car money can buy (or rent) you.

The 2016 Chrysler 300 C is the best rental car in the world.

(Read More…)

By on May 30, 2016

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (2 of 13)

The venerable rear-drive LX platform will soldier on underneath the Dodge Charger into the next decade, according to sources close to the company.

A platform swap planned for late 2018 won’t come until after 2020, with a styling refresh serving to stretch the lifespan of the current generation, a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles insider told Automotive News. (Read More…)

By on May 7, 2016

2015 Chrysler 300S

Is Chrysler’s LX platform doomed to meet the same fate as the beloved Panther?

Replacing the aging Chrysler 300’s rear-wheel-drive architecture with that of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan is one idea festering in the mind of Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, judging by recent comments published by Automotive News. (Read More…)

By on April 23, 2016

2015 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Overland

Like an unoccupied Dodge Charger stuck in “Drive,” Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ gear selector controversy was rapidly building momentum before yesterday’s announcement.

Responding to numerous instances of runaway vehicles and an expanding National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation, FCA voluntarily recalled 811,586 vehicles in the U.S. and 52,144 in Canada, and a further 265,473 in Mexico and overseas. (Read More…)

By on May 6, 2015

House of Cards Ignition_snip(1)_snip

If you’re into American politics, have access to a high-speed Internet connection, or you’re a Kevin Spacey fan, you’ve watched – or have heard of – House of Cards. You know, it’s that show where Kevin Spacey puts on his best Southern accent and somehow manages to manipulate his way up the political ladder from being the majority whip to the presidency of the United States. At this point, if you’re planning to replicate Frank Underwood’s journey to the top, it should be noted that no House whip from either party has ever become President of the United States, with Dick Cheney (House Minority Whip for two and a half months in 1989) coming the closest to the prize. But ladies and gentlemen, Frank Underwood’s rise to power never should have happened, due to a particular, automotive-related moment during the first season.

(Spoiler alert from here onwards if you’ve never watched House of Cards. Seriously, watch it. You’ll be worse for it in so many ways, or maybe you’ll be a lot better at playing office politics or at imitating a Southern accent, but watch it.)

(Read More…)

By on December 30, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

25 years ago, every American automaker offered at least one vehicle that fit what Kim Clark and Takahiro Fujimoto called “the American Plan”: body-on-frame construction, rear-wheel-drive, V8 power, and a roughly 120-inch wheelbase. This was in stark contrast to the increasingly popular offerings from offshore, which were the antithesis of the American Plan. Today, no American automaker offers such a product.

The modern family car has abandoned the American plan in favor of the transverse, front-drive layout that was once the exclusive province of compact and subcompact cars. Chrysler’s dependence on the K platform meant that they were committed to such a change early in the game. They were also arguably the first of the Big Three to abandon the American Plan when their M-Body cars died in 1989. Today, however, they are the only ones that offer anything close to it.

(Read More…)

By on December 11, 2014

300ccover

Hey! You! Over there in the corner! I see you looking at that leather-interior Accord or Camry or Altima or Fusion or whatever. How’d you like to buy a lot more car for just a little more money?

(Read More…)

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