The Truth About Cars » Chrysler 300 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 27 Oct 2014 19:12:18 +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 » Chrysler 300 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, Chrysler 300 SRT Get Stay Of Execution http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-chrysler-300-srt-get-stay-execution/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-chrysler-300-srt-get-stay-execution/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:27:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=933858 Despite an effort to consolidate SRT vehicles under the Dodge brand, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT will stick around for the immediate future. Automotive News is reporting that dealers can order an SRT version of the Grand Cherokee for the 2015 model year. Beyond that, the vehicle will likely be renamed the “Trackhawk”. And while […]

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Despite an effort to consolidate SRT vehicles under the Dodge brand, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT will stick around for the immediate future.

Automotive News is reporting that dealers can order an SRT version of the Grand Cherokee for the 2015 model year. Beyond that, the vehicle will likely be renamed the “Trackhawk”.

And while the Chrysler 300 SRT is slated to be axed in North America, right-hand drive prototypes have been spied undergoing testing, suggesting the vehicle will live on for export markets. Australia is  SRT’s biggest global market outside the United States, and with the death of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, the 300 SRT will be the last rear drive V8 muscle sedan available in Australia.

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A Car As an Investment, Or How To Buy a Toy And Not Lose Money On It http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/a-car-as-an-investment-or-how-to-buy-a-toy-and-not-lose-money-on-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/a-car-as-an-investment-or-how-to-buy-a-toy-and-not-lose-money-on-it/#comments Thu, 17 Oct 2013 12:45:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=623897 With yet another Ferrari 250 GTO selling for record sums, the world has its eyes focused on the funny little microcosm that can be described as“blue chip cars”.  Investors are looking at high-profile classic cars as a potentially lucrative asset class, a way to diversify their portfolios in a world where interest rates are zero […]

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With yet another Ferrari 250 GTO selling for record sums, the world has its eyes focused on the funny little microcosm that can be described as“blue chip cars”.  Investors are looking at high-profile classic cars as a potentially lucrative asset class, a way to diversify their portfolios in a world where interest rates are zero and the only investment offering decent returns are securitized car loans. Others think that it’s just another bubble, reminiscent of the million-dollar Hemi ‘Cudas that were crossing the blocks at Barret Jackson in the good old days before the Great Financial Crisis.

But none of that matters much to the average car enthusiast. At least unless we take into account the trickle-down effect which Jack mentioned in his recent article, or until someone starts an investment fund specializing in 1960s LeMans racers. Many people consider classic car investing to be the realm of the super-rich. They conclude that only the appreciated classics can be considered an investment, while cars within the reach of us peasants should be only looked at as depreciating goods.

And from the standpoint of pure investment, they are right. Every car costs money in maintenance, storage fees, insurance and other expenses required to keep its value – less so if you just keep it stored somewhere, very much so if you drive it. And these costs are not that different between, say, a Miata and an E-type Jag, so the cheap car will have much harder time recouping them through increasing value. Unless you lucked out and bought a 1971 Hemi Cuda in 1980, any ordinary car very much sucks as a pure investment.

But what if we look at it another way? If you consider the maintenance, storage and insurance to be a price for the fun you have with the car, you can look at the price increases alone – making even investing in relatively cheap cars much more interesting. Especially if the other option is buying a “comsumable”, heavy depreciating relatively new car and losing great amounts of money on it.

So, what is the best way to buy a fun car and lose as little money as possible on it, or even make some?

The key here is the depreciation curve. Every car, even the most mundane ones, has a point when it stops depreciating, starts to keep its value and, after some time, even starts to appreciate. For some cars, it takes many decades to reach the turning points, others get to it in just 10 or 20 years. Of course, you want to pick a car which will have steep appreciating portion of this curve, and buy it as close to the bottom of the curve as possible. Here’s my few ideas on how to do it:

1. Memories sell

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If you look at most cars that really appreciated in value as classics, from the ’32 Fords and ’57 Chevys to Datsun 240Zs or E30 M3s, they are cars for young people. Or at least cars young people dream about – they are either cars that were cheap enough for young people to own, and stylish at the same time, or the ones you dreamed about as a child or young adult. Ask any owner of a Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari Testarossa why he bought his car – I am willing to bet some money that one of the most common answers will be “I had it as a poster on the wall/scale model/toy” when I was a kid. And with computer generation coming to age for buying supercars, maybe you’ll hear “I drove it in original Need For Speed” as well.

If you want to find a car that will have a steep appreciation curve, you need something loved by kids/young adults. The best choice is a car with a cult following, with bonus points for every movie or song about it. And even more bonus points for cars popular with a tuner/hotrodder/donk/crowd.

In the 1950s, cash-strapped kids modified their junkyard pre-war Fords to go fast, or their used Mercurys to look cool. Now, they keep doing it as old guys with money to spend, moving those vehicles far out of reach for any today’s kid. But today’s kids also have their toys – do you think all those guys with tricked-out Civic Coupes, CRXs, Nissan Sentras or DSMs will grow up, get wise and, embarrassed by their youthful mistakes, start collecting classic muscle cars or Italian sports cars? No way. Hot rods went into style decades ago. Today, 70s tacky modified muscle cars and custom vans are starting to become appreciated. And in one or two decades, there will be classic JDM car meets, and NOS, rear wings and Fast and Furious vinyls will be changing hands for outrageous sums.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that every clapped out family sedan that has a wing and stickers slapped on will be valuable. But cars that are popular in certain circles, be it aforementioned Civic Coupe, CRX, Chevy Caprice “box” or VW R32, will probably keep being popular in said circles, even as owners grow up and eventually grow old.

And the same goes for cars that didn’t achieve their popularity for being modified, but for their qualities – be it handling, performance or off-road abilities. Youths in 1950s and 1960s craved muscle cars, English and British small roadsters, but also various cheap cars, from VW Beetles and Buses to Minis. Look at what young people love today, and what will they remember in a decade or three. Fox Mustangs? BMW E30s and NA Miatas? Jeep Cherokee Xjs?

Of course, there are also many cars that people pay big bucks for not because they have fond memories of owning them when they were young, but because they dreamt of them. This concerns both affordable cars (like Kevin Spacey buying his Firebird in American Beauty) and expensive, or even outrageously expensive ones. And I strongly suspect that such childhood dreams are what propels the most crazy car prices ever higher.

Look at any crazy expensive classic car, and odds are you will see something a 15 year old boy could have dreamt of. It starts with the 250 GTO itself, and continues with Hemi Cudas, Shelby Mustangs and of course Lamborghinis, Ferraris or Porsches of all stripes. This is also one of the reasons why old zn Porsche or Ferrari is expensive, while old an Rolls-Royce or Mercedes usually isn’t. Boys dream about sportscars and racecars. They dream about speed and excitement, not about being pampered by soft leather seats, listening to classic tunes in total silence. Thus, old men’s cars will always be less expensive, making them worse investment material.

2. Practicality doesn’t sell

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While being practical is very beneficial for the value of a used car, it has little to no effect on the value of a classic. In fact, it’s usually the opposite – classics are usually bought as toys, so people prefer body styles which are prettier and more fun to drive on weekends. So, with a few exceptions, usually the less doors, less roof or fewer pillars is usually more. The possible exception may be the wagon – as wagons are usually regarded as more cool than sedans, and they can be used for sleeping at car shows, or for hauling parts.

3. Rarity doesn’t equal high price

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This is probably the most common mistake people make when assessing the car’s value. The fact that a certain vehicle is rare doesn’t, all by itself, mean it will ever become valuable. The value of any car in the world depends on the number of said cars available and number of people who want one. That’s why classic Mustangs are expensive, even though there were literally millions of them made, and why even classic Beetles are somewhat valuable, despite being one of the most produced cars in the whole history of the automobile. That’s also the reason why many truly rare, maybe even unique, cars will never be really valuable.

Case in point: the Chrysler 300 Hurst (pictured above). There were only about 500 made. It is a monstrous muscle car with 440-4bbl engine, fiberglass hood and trunklid, crazy spoiler, lots of stripes and hood pins. It has the Hurst name on it, and it was made in 1970, one of the best years of the muscle car era, and maybe even one of the best in history of car. It isn’t exactly worthless, but even nice examples go for similar money as a same year Plymouth Road Runner with no options – a car that cost about one third of what the 300 Hurst did cost, and more than 80,000 were made. If equipped with 426 Hemi engine, which was installed in about the same number of Road Runners as the total number of 300 Hursts, the Road Runner is worth at least five times as much as the Hurst, despite costing half as much at the time.

And the 300 Hurst was still at least a somewhat youthful car, with its muscle car image, stripes, spoilers etc. Fancy an Imperial from the same year? A few years ago, I imported a 1969 Imperial Crown Sedan for a friend of mine. Nice, original shape, and one of the 823 units of that model and body style produced in 1969. The price was $4,500, or about the same what a base Coronet from the same year would cost in rough, pre-restoration shape. A Super Bee from that year would cost maybe five or six times as much, even a low-optioned one. A Coupe version of the same Imperial would maybe come close to $10,000 mark, but would still stop far, far short of even the lowliest muscle car of the same age.

So, when someone offers you a “great deal” on some “rare and unique” car, of which only a few hundreds or thousands were made, think twice before pulling the trigger – odds are that they were made in low numbers because nobody wanted them when new. And in most cases, nobody will want them as classics, either.

4. Unreliability costs you twice

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In the beginning of this article, I decided to take the maintenance costs out of the investment equation and consider them to be just a price for the fun you enjoy with your car. But even if you’re prepared to stomach crazy maintenance and repair bills, the unreliable, high-maintenance car will probably turn out to be worse investment than the reliable, simple one with cheap and easy-to-get parts.

Why? People tend to take the maintenance costs into account when shopping for cars, and they are willing to pay less money for cars that are known to require lots of cash to be kept on the road. Just look at the old Jaguars – maybe with exception of the E-type, all are pretty cheap to buy, and even the less desirable E-type variants (2+2s, later models, automatics) are not that expensive, considering their iconic looks, and the fact that they were one of the best sportscars of their age. Compare it to some top of the heap Mustang or Camaro – do you really think people would prefer having a Mustang fastback over E-type Coupe, if the cost to keep them running were the same? No? Me neither.

And looking at most popular classic cars, the ones with steepest appreciation curves out there – cars that were once bought for peanuts by young broke guys and now change hands for tens of thousands of dollars, most of them are of the simple, reliable kind. The aforementioned muscle cars. Porsche 911s and their air-cooled predecessors – the Porsche 356s, Beetles, Buses or Ghias. The old off-road workhorses, like FJ Land Cruisers, first generation Broncos, old Land Rovers or Mercedes G-Wagens. Old Datsuns and sporty Toyotas. In Europe, first and second generation Ford Escorts…

Of course, a large part of this may be just a coincidence – because reliable, easy to maintain cars tend to catch the attention of young people, becoming legends and living in their memories, which brings us back to the first point of this article.

But it doesn’t really matter whether this is a coincidence or not – either way, complicated and fragile monsters are usually bad investments. There may be some exceptions – for example, I think that prices of R34 Skyline GT-Rs will soar in the future, but generally, you should avoid that multiple-turboed, all-wheel-drive, hi-tech monster. It will cost you twice.

5. They’re only original once

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Modifying cars is very fashion-sensitive thing. Fads come and go, and what was incredibly cool a few years ago may not be so cool today – and may become totally uncool in years to come, before coming back as “period modification”. Of course, there certain modifications on certain cars that can bring the value up, or at least not hurt is – typical examples would be traditional hot rods or customs, or “universally accepted” modifications on muscle cars. If you put a crate Hemi into a 318 Barracuda, add some stickers and special parts and create a Hemi Cuda clone, you will probably get your money back. And even things like period-correct alloy wheels (a set of TorqThrusts or Cragars S/S will never hurt anything) or some performance parts may be well-regarded by potential buyers.

But these are exceptions, not the rule. Unless you know pretty well what you are doing (and in that case, you don’t need this article), the rule is that originality is the king. And that’s not just about the modifications – original paint, upholstery, numbers-matching engine, all of that is going to improve tha car’s value.

And if you feel urge to improve your car, try to keep the changes as reversible as possible (so no body mods, please), and try not to be too creative. Famous brand name parts, popular mods typical for the time – these all can move the car’s value upwards or at least not hurt it. If you have an RX-7 FD with original Veilside bodykit, or a Mustang with aftermarket stuff from Roush, it’s probably good for the car’s value – although it will almost never bring back the money spent on mods. A BMW with huge rear wing and home-made turbo kit? Future crusher fodder…

6. Timing is the key

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Most people tend to consider cars “investment worthy” only if they already have soared up in value. Ask average car guy about good cars to buy as investment, and you will probably hear something about classic muscle cars, 1960s Ferraris, E-types or maybe F40s. In other words, the cars that are already expensive, already in the appreciating phase of the curve, and which may or may not keep continue going upwards.

But the best investment is always the car right at the bottom of the curve. Something in the phase of transition from being “used car” to “youngtimer”  (a German term for something that’s not quite contemporary but not quite classic). Of course, the earlier you buy, the higher is the risk of wrong guess, but you usually risk much less money. And there are many cars that represent a fairly safe bet on future rise of value – for example, looking at the BMW M3 (E30) values quickly rising in recent years, one could be pretty sure that E36 M3s will follow the suit shortly, considering that they were nearly as legendary as their predecessors. It’s also probably quite safe to assume that Fox Mustangs will become valuable classics, with the Generation X’ers entering midlife crisis and trying to relive their youth – and that SN95 will follow them later.

On the other hand, there are many cars which may have valuable predecessors or even successors, but don’t fetch any great money themselves – Mustang II and Porsche 911 996 come to mind here. So simply assuming that if one car became a legend and is appreciated by collectors, it’s next generation will do the same, is quite dangerous. But look at the car’s following, see if there any model-specific clubs or shows, how many people are likely to want the thing in the future, and you’ll have a good idea of what’s going to be valuable and what isn’t.

And the answer is…

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We concluded that the best “investment car” for average guy is something that is generally loved and people have fond memories of it, it’s more of a toy than a practical car, is cheap and reliable, and not yet a true classic. Something you can buy for peanuts, enjoy with reasonable running costs, and let it slowly gain value.

I may be wrong about all of the above, but if I had to choose one such car, I would have to stick to the rule of our colleagues at Jalopnik – that the answer is always Miata. In this case, a first generation (NA) example in the best shape available, with the best engine and options available, and, in ideal case, some kind of special edition. Although there’s millions of Miatas, there are still lots of people who want one – and the continuing massive production will keep generating new generations of fan, who will eventually lust after the “true original”, the NA.

And what do YOU think will be the best “accessible investment car” in the near future?

The author is Czech motoring journalist, who wrote about old cars and ran his own column answering readers’ questions in Czech edition of Autocar magazine. He also spent a few years importing classic American cars into the country.

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Why Is There A Hidden Drug Reference In CNet’s Review Of The Chrysler 300 SRT8? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/why-is-there-a-hidden-drug-reference-in-cnets-review-of-the-chrysler-300-srt8/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/why-is-there-a-hidden-drug-reference-in-cnets-review-of-the-chrysler-300-srt8/#comments Tue, 01 Oct 2013 16:11:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=532849 Late last night, a friend of mine posted the above video on my wall. At 2:15, CNet CarTech’s Brian Cooley demonstrates how the big Chrysler can read one’s text messages aloud. The example used may fly under the radar of most people, but anybody who has ever listened to rap music, or dealt massive quantities […]

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Late last night, a friend of mine posted the above video on my wall. At 2:15, CNet CarTech’s Brian Cooley demonstrates how the big Chrysler can read one’s text messages aloud. The example used may fly under the radar of most people, but anybody who has ever listened to rap music, or dealt massive quantities of cocaine, will pick up on it immediately.

Click here to view the embedded video.

At 2:10, Cooley discusses the feature, and upon hitting a button to vocalize the message, a female computerized voice robotically asks  “Hey can you spot me 5 keys on credit dog?” While I’ve never ever sold narcotics in my life, years of listening to gangsta rap gives me enough knowledge of street lingo to know that the individual in question is asking to be supplied with 5 kilos of drugs (most likely cocaine, as that drug tends to be denominated in kilograms) on credit. Current rap songs place the value of a kilo of cocaine at about $17,500, which would mean that the sender is asking for a very generous loan – almost enough to buy two 300 SRT8 Core models.

Why this even appeared is an utter mystery. But it’s also something that I could envision somebody doing as an “easter egg” to see if anyone is paying attention. At the very least, CNet gave my friends and I a good laugh.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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Generation Why: Brampton’s Endangered Species http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/generation-why-bramptons-endangered-species/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/generation-why-bramptons-endangered-species/#comments Mon, 20 May 2013 14:28:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488971 Youth is apparently wasted on the young, but there are some days where I do feel old. Flat feet and many attempts at athletic endeavors have left me with the knees of someone twice my age, while genetics has caused my hairline to retreat like Philippe Pétain in the face of the German onslaught. I would […]

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Youth is apparently wasted on the young, but there are some days where I do feel old. Flat feet and many attempts at athletic endeavors have left me with the knees of someone twice my age, while genetics has caused my hairline to retreat like Philippe Pétain in the face of the German onslaught. I would be more easily at peace with this if I had some of the context and erudition that came along with age and maturity, but not even erudition can act as a substitute for the kind of knowledge that can only be earned through experience and acquired over time.

For someone like Thomas Kreutzer, the Chrysler 300C will represent the latest iteration in a long line of powerful, opulent “letter series” cars that were responsible for the muscle car era. For me, the 300C represents the product that made Chrysler relevant again (at least in my eyes). No longer were they the purveyor of cheerio-and-snot splattered Town & Country minivans or the legions of severely geometric 1980’s sedans favored by my grandparents friend who refused to buy a German car.

Prior to this, the last time I was in a 300C was when I went for breakfast with an old neighbor of mine. Mr Lynett was 91 years old when he bought his 300C SRT8, and at that age, his C5 Corvette 50th Anniversary Edition was difficult to get in and out of, and the manual transmission was tiring on his bi-annual cross-country drives to California to visit his grandchildren. Having worked on the Manhattan Project, buying a foreign car was out of the question, but the SRT8 offered similar performance, an extra set of doors and was made in the right country – sort of. I’m not sure if Mr Lynett realized that the last great American sedan is actually made at Chrysler’s Brampton Assembly Plant, about 25 miles outside of Toronto.

I was hoping to get an SRT8 as an homage to Mr Lynett, but a 300C Luxury Series AWD was the sole V8 powered version available. I didn’t mind. As much of a speed freak as I am, I also have a strong pragmatic streak, and I would be hard pressed to justify jumping up to the current generation SRT8 on any grounds beyond feeling insecure about not buying the SRT version. The 363 horsepower and 394 lb-ft on tap was beyond adequate for any situation one might encounter, and let’s face it, these are never ever going to see a racetrack. The 5-speed automatic is starting to show its age; shifts are slow and labored, and it starts to seem like the weak link in the entire powertrain package. It seems a little late for Chrysler to start using the ZF 8-speed gearbox on the 300C, but it would only serve to improve one of the car’s few dull spots.

From an aesthetic standpoint too, I much prefer the 300C over the SRT; the 6.4L car looks like it’s trying hard to be a Made In Canada America version of an M car. The 300C looks like the kind of car I’d drive if I made my living by billing for my time; understated enough that your clients won’t think they’re bring ripped off, but still something that feels special when you get behind the wheel.

The best American full-size cars were designed to eat up the highway miles with minimal fuss, and the 300C keeps that tradition alive. At 75 mph, the ride is smooth and silent, the Hemi V8 hums along below 2000 rpm. Chrysler’s Adaptive Cruise Control system, which can automatically adjust your speed based on the distance between you and the car ahead of you via radar, means even less work for the driver. The automatic slowing of the car was a bit spooky at first, it’s easy to get into a rhythm using the system. Set yourself up for a reasonable speed and keep your hands on the wheel. You can even avoid the automatic braking phenomenon by setting yourself up to pass people before the distance threshold is met.

With crossovers becoming the bodystyle of choice for family cars and long-distance crusiers, the full-size sedan is in danger of extinction. Sales have been in a freefall for the last few years, with fleet sales making up a heavy percentage of the segment’s overall volume. The latest rumors suggest that the Taurus will get the axe after this generation, thanks to slowing sales and a series of disastrous consumer clinics. Meanwhile, cars like the Maxima, Avalon and Azera continue to linger in obscurity, as the Pathfinders, Highlanders and Santa Fes of the world cannibalize their market share.

Ironically, the LX cars, with their iconoclastic rear-drive packaging and high-power engines have a pretty good chance of surviving. The global rear-drive platform being used in the Maserati Ghibli will likely underpin the next-generation of full-size Chrysler sedans and (hopefully) an Alfa Romeo product. Since Chrysler doesn’t have to worry so much about selling their cars in Europe or Asia, they can design the next Charger and 300 with American consumers in mind. Until these cars are CAFE’d out of existence, replaced by CUVs with small, turbocharged engines, Americans will be able to enjoy Canada’s best big rear-drive sedan for a while longer. And we’re richer for it.

 

 

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Review: 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-chrysler-300-srt8-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-chrysler-300-srt8-video/#comments Mon, 29 Apr 2013 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485421 There’s a “problem” with the modern performance variant: they are too easy to review. You see, dropping a high-horsepower V8 into anything makes it good. Take the last generation Chrysler 300 SRT8. It’s interior was made from plastics rejected by Lego and Rubbermaid and you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the $9.99 […]

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

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

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

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

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

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

Interior

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

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

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

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

Infotainment

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

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

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

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

Drivetrain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hit it

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

Quit it

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

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.08 Seconds

0-40: 2.8 Seconds

0-50: 3.66 Seconds

0-60: 4.5 Seconds

0-70: 5.73 Seconds

0-80: 7.0 Seconds

0-90: 8.83 Seconds

0-100: 10.54 Seconds

0-110: 12.5 Secodns

1/4 Mile:  12.87 Seconds @ 113 MPH

Average fuel economy: 17.8 over 566 miles

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Chrysler 200, 300 Diesel Under Consideration http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/chrysler-200-300-diesel-under-consideration/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/chrysler-200-300-diesel-under-consideration/#comments Thu, 04 Apr 2013 15:10:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483549 The Chrysler 300 is already equipped with a diesel for world markets, and there’s a possibility we may see an oil-burning 300 on our shores as well. Speaking to Ward’s Auto, Chrysler brand CEO Saad Chebab noted that it all came down to cost. “I think that we are in talks about the diesels because […]

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The Chrysler 300 is already equipped with a diesel for world markets, and there’s a possibility we may see an oil-burning 300 on our shores as well.

Speaking to Ward’s Auto, Chrysler brand CEO Saad Chebab noted that it all came down to cost.

“I think that we are in talks about the diesels because the Thema has a diesel in Europe anyway…it’s a matter of how much the customer is willing to pay for that premium. That’s the only issue with it.”

Chrysler is rolling out diesel engines on the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee, with a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 made by VM Motori. But the diesel and the 8-speed automatic carry a premium of a few thousand dollars on the Grand Cherokee, a hefty sum, especially in the already declining full-size market.

Chebab also hinted that the Chrysler 200 may get a diesel option during its next generation, stating that “we have that opportunity to do it at any time.”

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Chart Of The Day: Full-Size Sedan Freefall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/chart-of-the-day-full-size-sedan-freefall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/chart-of-the-day-full-size-sedan-freefall/#comments Thu, 21 Mar 2013 15:43:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481933 Recent talk of Chevrolet attempting to convert the 2014 Impala from 75 percent fleet sales to 70 percent retail sales seemed like an improbable figure. Judging the success of any new car is a crapshoot for most of us, but one thing is for sure; the full-size sedan segment as a whole, is declining. Over […]

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Recent talk of Chevrolet attempting to convert the 2014 Impala from 75 percent fleet sales to 70 percent retail sales seemed like an improbable figure. Judging the success of any new car is a crapshoot for most of us, but one thing is for sure; the full-size sedan segment as a whole, is declining.

Over the past half decade, the full-size segment as a whole has been in serious decline. The number of product offerings for sale has been cut in half, from 15 to 7. IHS Automotive, an independent research firm, reports that full-size car sales have declined by 42 percent since 2006.

From a peak of 311,128 units in 2007, Impala sales have nearly been cut in half – and the fleet mix numbers suggest that Chevrolet is only selling about 50,000 units at retail. At the other end of the spectrum, the Hyundai Azera is barely moving the needle, consistently selling below 10,000 unts over the past few years. Impala sales will undoubtedly decline with the introduction of the 2014 model – there’s no way that Chevrolet can sustain current volumes if they plan to sell 70 percent of cars to retail customers. But even with sales of 100,000 units, it would still be the segment leader – though the Dodge Charger would be nipping at its heels.

However, an almost-certain reduction in government fleet spending could put a dent in the sales of both models. Sources in D.C. tell us that this could be as much as a 20 percent cutback, or about 100,00-120,000 vehicles. The current Impala, along with the Chrysler LX cars and the Taurus, are darlings of government fleets, and stand to lose the most from this sort of reduction. Meanwhile, the same source tells us that Chrysler is ramping up promotion of its fleet program, with Ram trucks and the LX cars as its main focus.

For many potential large car buyers (whether retail, government or private fleets), a CUV is a much more attractive vehicle, with similar fuel economy and comparable interior volume. For consumers, a CUV is often more appealing to their emotional side, while daily rental fleets can charge more for than a comparable sedan. In other cases, the CUV has a similar footprint but also offers a third row of seats and more cargo room. It’s not a coincidence that some major police departments, like the California Highway Patrol, are opting for the Ford Explorer-based Police Interceptor rather than the Taurus variant.

Speaking of the Taurus, another rumor making the rounds right now is that the Taurus won’t be back after this generation. Poor margins and difficulties during the development process meant that the Taurus has been scrapped part way through the development process, and Ford is content with the Fusion acting as its flagship sedan. If this situation holds true, that leaves Chevrolet and Chrysler as the vanguards of the large American sedan.

Even though rear-drive sedans have fallen out of fashion with most of Detroit, Chrysler seems to have made a business case for the continuation of the rear-drive platform. With Alfa, Chrysler and possibly Maserati sharing the next generation large rear-drive platform, Chrysler and Fiat will have both economies of scale and some high margin luxury vehicles on the same platform.

Previously, Chrysler had little exposure to Europe, Asia and other markets where big engines and a big footprint are seen as negatives. This allowed them to go it alone with the LX chassis and their larger V6 and V8 engines, since their main focus was the United States. Without Fiat, it would have been tough to continue down this road, but now that they can spread the technology across multiple brands and price points, the future of at least one family of full-size sedans is secure.

Furthermore, Chrysler could be in a good position to absorb the rear-drive sedan segment in Australia if GM and Ford walk away from their offerings. The rear-drive Ford Falcon has become a victim of the One Ford policy  while the Holden Commodore will apparently adopt the front-drive Epsilon II platform for its next iteration. The 300C and its SRT8 version are gaining a bit of a following in Australia, which is also becoming one of the SRT brand’s hottest markets. Despite the declining sales of the Falcon and Commodore, it would be nothing short of amazing to see both GM and Ford cede that market to a relative upstart that had almost zero presence in Australia just a decade ago.

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Chrysler 200 “8 Mile Edition” On The Way http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/chrysler-200-8-mile-edition-on-the-way/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/chrysler-200-8-mile-edition-on-the-way/#comments Thu, 11 Oct 2012 17:02:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=463512 (NSFW Language) Chrysler is launching a series of “buzz cars”, a fancy name for special edition package that will ostensibly maintain consumer interest in their cars as they progress over the model cycle. Bloomberg reports that the first buzz car will harken back to the 8 Mile-themed commercial staring Detroit native Eminem The next phase […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

(NSFW Language)

Chrysler is launching a series of “buzz cars”, a fancy name for special edition package that will ostensibly maintain consumer interest in their cars as they progress over the model cycle.

Bloomberg reports that the first buzz car will harken back to the 8 Mile-themed commercial staring Detroit native Eminem

The next phase of Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” campaign, which debuted with Eminem in a two-minute Super Bowl commercial in 2011, includes an 8 Mile edition of the Chrysler 200 sedan to mark the movie’s 10-year anniversary, said Olivier Francois, the automaker’s chief marketing officer. It’s also introducing a 300 Motown sedan that will be tied to Broadway’s new show “Motown: The Musical” Francois said in an interview.

The “buzz packages” such as the Gucci edition Fiat 500 and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Altitude, will help shore up consumer interest in between refreshes and re-designed. The 300 Glacier edition, which is “designed for all weather markets such as Denver” will feature will feature “…an active transfer case and front-axle-disconnect system that allows the car to transition between rear-wheel drive and all- wheel drive without any action by the driver”. Sounds a little like conventional all-wheel drive systems doesn’t it? Perhaps someone caught a bit too much of a buzz…

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Chrysler’s “Wildcard” In Labor Talks: Marchionne http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/chryslers-wildcard-in-labor-talks-marchionne/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/chryslers-wildcard-in-labor-talks-marchionne/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2012 17:13:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457665 Chrysler is coming off a strong year sales-wise, but negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers will force the company to make a tactical decision; should Chrysler take a tough line in an effort to reduce costs, or look for a quick settlement in order to hold off a strike, maintaining their sales hot streak. All […]

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Chrysler is coming off a strong year sales-wise, but negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers will force the company to make a tactical decision; should Chrysler take a tough line in an effort to reduce costs, or look for a quick settlement in order to hold off a strike, maintaining their sales hot streak.

All of Chrysler’s minivans and rear-drive cars (such as the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger) are built in Canadian plants/ With 27 percent of its vehicles made in Canada, a strike would have serious ramifications. In its native market, the Dodge Grand Caravan is a top-selling nameplate,while in the U.S., Chrysler’s double-digit sales gain could be in jeopardy.  Chrysler is thought to be the automaker being target for a strike by the CAW, but other observers feel that the company will take a hard line in negotiations.

Chrysler’s potential “wildcard” (as industry observer put it) is CEO Sergio Marchionne. A report in The Globe and Mail claims that

Mr. Marchionne has been vocal about how wage rates at Chrysler’s Canadian operations are uncompetitive and how Canadian workers need to accept so-called two-tiered wages that provide new workers with pay that’s about half of what established workers earn. The $7-an-hour gap between Chrysler’s Canadian and American plants arises mainly from the wage structure in its U.S. factories. Newly-hired Chrysler workers in that country will earn between $15.78 (U.S.) and $19.28 an hour between 2011 and 2015, compared with $29.11 for established workers…The Canadian plants of the Detroit Three also pay lower wages to new employees, but after six years, those workers are brought up to regular union rates.

Chrysler’s Canadian operations are expected to deliver nearly a third of the company’s $3 billion profit in 2012 alone. Aside from vehicle assembly, a strike at the Toronto-area casting plant would put a major crimp in the company’s production pipeline. But with Chrysler looking to cut labor costs while getting workers to accept a profit sharing deal, it’s tough to predict how the showdown between Marchionne and CAW President Ken Lewenza will go down. If Chrysler is the first automaker to negotiate, the deal will likely set a precedent for future negotiations with the other two domestic automakers.

 

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Report: CAW Will Target Chrysler For Strike http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/report-caw-will-target-chrysler-for-strike/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/report-caw-will-target-chrysler-for-strike/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 14:22:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457214 The Canadian Auto Workers union is expected to target Chrysler in the event of a strike, but will reportedly wait until Labor Day before taking action. CTV News reports that Tony Faria, an automotive expert at the University of Windsor, predicted Chrysler will be chosen because it has the largest Canadian footprint of the Detroit […]

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The Canadian Auto Workers union is expected to target Chrysler in the event of a strike, but will reportedly wait until Labor Day before taking action.

CTV News reports that

Tony Faria, an automotive expert at the University of Windsor, predicted Chrysler will be chosen because it has the largest Canadian footprint of the Detroit Three and therefore has the most at stake. “They can least afford a shutdown of operations in Canada, so they’re the most vulnerable in terms of a strike threat,” Faria said Wednesday. “But even though Chrysler is not pushing for two-tiered wages, Chrysler is going to push hard for lower starting wages.”

Canada is home to the plants that build some of Chrysler’s key products, including the Chrysler/Dodge minivans, the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger and the Dodge Challenger. Canadian sales would be especially impacted in the event of a strike, since Canada is a key market for the Dodge Caravan.

CTV News quotes Faria as saying that Chrysler will probably ask for a further reduction in the starting wage, and an increase in the time it takes workers to reach the maximum wage (from six years to eight years).

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Vellum Venom Vignette: The Next Iconic American Sedan? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/vellum-venom-vignette-the-next-iconic-american-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/vellum-venom-vignette-the-next-iconic-american-sedan/#comments Sat, 28 Jul 2012 16:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454427 The (mainstream) staying power of GM’s B-body is pretty much history.  Panther Love shall live for the next decade or so, not much longer.  I was in this state of mind when auto writer extraordinaire Alex Nunez posted a picture to my Facebook wall, suggesting that the Chevrolet Caprice’s proportioning is somehow a worthy successor […]

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The (mainstream) staying power of GM’s B-body is pretty much history.  Panther Love shall live for the next decade or so, not much longer.  I was in this state of mind when auto writer extraordinaire Alex Nunez posted a picture to my Facebook wall, suggesting that the Chevrolet Caprice’s proportioning is somehow a worthy successor to these Iconic American Sedans.   My response? Relative to the Chevy Impala, sure.  But proportioning is more than having rear-wheel drive and a lot of real estate.  If you proportion it wrong, you create a Fool’s errand. You create the Chevy Caprice.

While we say Panther Love, we really mean Cab Backward design for an Iconic American Sedan. Can you dig it?

Cab backward is the complete opposite of what we see today. The passenger compartment doesn’t interfere with the natural placement of the engine, axles and front/rear overhang.  While the original Chrysler LH cars were a fantastic case study in Cab Forward awesomeness, the concept’s absolutely ruined today. Not that every car should look like a Rolls Royce Phantom…

But perhaps the Iconic American Sedan should! Just look at the Town Car’s massive hood and short A-pillar, compared to the Caprice’s vast wasteland of dashboard and visibility-hampering A-pillar.  And look at how tiny the nose is compared to the green house: like a body builder who reached their caves’ growth limitations. It’s disproportionately small. Iconic American Sedan?  Not a chance.

That said, you won’t see me giving the last Town Car a free pass, its proportions are still on the wrong side of the Cab Forward spectrum.

 

 

If you were there for the beginning of Panther Love, you’ll remember this photo. The 1988 Town Car had far better visibility from a lower belt line, the space between the dashboard and front wheel is unabashedly delicious, and the fascias make it clear: this isn’t an import wannabe.  Again, Iconic American Sedan. Not the only one, it’s one of many.

Not just many, a cornucopia of Automotive Americana. Sadly, the Iconic American Sedan has been under attack for decades.  Perhaps one day an empowered design team will have the right platform, the right motivation, etc and make a proper sedan for us Yank Tank Fans. Unfortunately, I won’t hold my breath.

 

 

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Review: 2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/review-2012-dodge-charger-sxt-plus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/review-2012-dodge-charger-sxt-plus/#comments Sun, 01 Apr 2012 18:25:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437430 A month ago, I reviewed the 470-horsepower, 470-pound-feet Chrysler 300C SRT8. Today, we have a much milder 2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus with the 292-horsepower, 260-pound-feet V6 and Rallye Appearance Group. I enjoyed driving the weaker car more. This is where you note the date of publication. But I’m not foolin. Chrysler’s new corporate V6 […]

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A month ago, I reviewed the 470-horsepower, 470-pound-feet Chrysler 300C SRT8. Today, we have a much milder 2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus with the 292-horsepower, 260-pound-feet V6 and Rallye Appearance Group. I enjoyed driving the weaker car more. This is where you note the date of publication. But I’m not foolin.

Chrysler’s new corporate V6 is “best in class” in some segments, but “worst in class” among V6-powered rear-wheel-drive sedans, where Hyundai’s revised 3.8 leads the pack. Blame the lack of direct injection. Better yet, forget the numbers. The V6 might give up 31 foot-pounds of torque to the Genesis and over 200 to the SRT mill, but it still feels plenty torquey in typical driving. No, it can’t break the rear tires loose at 35 miles-per-hour, but it can and will shove you into the seat when called upon to do so. In this application, the new corporate engine also sounds more like a good ol’ American V8 than any DOHC six has a right to, fitting the character of this 21st-century muscle car. Throttle-induced oversteer remains a very real possibility, and with fewer pound-feet in play it’s easier to modulate. In default mode the stability control, though better than most, kills the joy. Hit a button on the center console to raise its threshold to a more appropriate level.

The V6’s low-rpm grunt came as a surprise, as the same engine feels soft at low rpm in the Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Credit two substantial differences. First, the Charger, at 3,996 pounds, checks in nearly a half-ton below the all-wheel-drive SUVs.

Second, the Charger is the first corporate application of a new eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. Compared to the old five-speed automatic (which remains standard in the base Charger), the new one’s ratios start lower (12.48 vs. 10.99 overall) and top out higher (1.78 vs. 2.54), enabling both better performance and better fuel economy. Anyone who’s been thinking that five or six ratios is plenty—this transmission will change your mind. BMW uses a related transmission in its cars, but the Dodge variant actually shifts more smoothly. Compared to the old five-speed, the new transmission is much smoother, much more responsive, and smarter. It’s quick to upshift, but also quick to downshift when summoned by your right foot.

Want to select and hold a specific gear? We’ve debated whether, with a manumatic, it makes more sense to push forward or pull backward for a downshift. Chrysler, the first automaker to offer a manually-shiftable automatic in a mainstream car, went the road less traveled: side-to-side. With the new transmission, they’ve eliminated the ability to shift via the shifter altogether. Instead, the Rallye Appearance Group includes well-designed die-cast magnesium paddle shifters. Jaguars should (but don’t) come with paddles as nice as these.

A monostatic shifter (which, like a computer joystick, returns to center each time after being pushed or pulled) attends the new transmission. You’ll find these in nearly all current two-pedal BMWs, but the Chrysler/Dodge implementation is different. The Pentastar bunch (like the Audi A8 team) must have decided that BMW’s system–pushing a button to engage Park and pushing forward for Reverse—strays too far from long-established convention. So P-R-N-D remain in their usual order. The downside of this arrangement: the system must intuit from the distance of your pull whether you’re seeking Reverse or Drive, and the detents are nearly imperceptible. Too often the system, uncertain of your request, decides that the best action is no action at all. It sometimes took me three or four attempts to engage Drive—usually when I was most in a hurry to do so. Calmly and firmly pull back on the T-handle WHILE depressing the button on top of it, and you’ll get Drive (nearly) every time. Chrysler has done such a good job with the touch and voice controls of the car’s uconnect infotainment system, how could they botch something as simple as a shifter?

Pulling back on the Charger’s shifter once in D engages Sport mode. Pull back on the shifter again to revert to D. I didn’t notice a large difference in transmission behavior between the two—the transmission’s shifts become a little quicker and its shifting strategy becomes a little more aggressive. The biggest difference between the modes: if you use the paddles in S, the transmission won’t override your gear selection. I actually preferred D. The car takes corners well in second, which is six paddle pulls down from top gear in S-manual mode. But manually shift the car in D, then prod the accelerator, and you get second or third right away. The transmission will then hold until you approach the redline or request an upshift. (To exit manual mode hold down on the upshift paddle for a few seconds or toggle between S and D.)

Fuel economy? The new transmission bumps the Charger’s EPA ratings from 18 city, 27 highway to 19/31. The trip computer reported averages between 19 and 25 in typical suburban driving, dependent on the number of red lights and the aggressiveness of my right foot, with the average usually in the low 20s. On a 78-mph light-footed cruise to the airport it reported 31.5.

In any iteration the Dodge Charger and the closely related Chrysler 300 feel like the big, heavy cars they are. But the V6-powered car feels significantly lighter and better balanced than the SRT. Perhaps because it is. Three-quarters of the SRT8’s 369 additional pounds sit over the front wheels. Even 100 extra pounds in the nose can affect a car’s handling. Nearly three times this amount can be counted on to substantially change the character of a car. Where the SRT’s responses to steering inputs are deliberate, the V6 car feels almost chuckable. If the lighter car still isn’t rotating quickly enough for you, dip into the throttle to nudge the rear end around. Not looking to drive a big sedan like you stole it? Even in casual driving the lighter car simply feels better. The V6’s electro-hydraulic steering is at least as direct and communicative as the (not exactly chatty) belt-driven system in the SRT8. The weak link lies elsewhere: the 245/45VR20 Firestone Firehawk GTV tires lack grip despite their large contact patches and squeal loudly the moment they start to slip.

With the Rallye Appearance Group’s “performance suspension” (similar in tuning to the V8-powered R/T), the Charger sometimes rides a little lumpy and thumpy. Some will prefer the more relaxed tuning of the standard suspension. But the car glides down most roads smoothly and quietly. Add in the large, comfortable sport bucket seats, and the Charger proves exceedingly pleasant both around town and on the highway.

Luxury cues are mixed. The warmly hued Nappa leather upholstery looks and feels upscale, but the coarse texture of the black instrument panel and upper doors successfully disguises their soft-touch composition. Not that the Charger’s “modern day muscle car” exterior promises any luxury within. For those seeking more upscale styling (but the same texture to the black interior bits) Chrysler offers the 300.

The tested car (with most but not all options—no nav or adaptive cruise present) listed for $35,510. But the new powertrain can be had for much less if you’re willing to do without leather, sunroof, dubs, and such. A Charger SE with the optional ($1,000 well spent) 8-speed automatic lists for $27,420. A strongly recommended deletion even for those who like their cars loaded: do without the rear spoiler and save $225. Dropping the red tri-coat paint can save another $500, bringing the price to $34,785.

A Chrysler 300S equipped like the tested car lists for $41,460. It does include nearly $2,000 in additional content (based on TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool), most notably a larger sunroof and adaptive cruise control (also available on the Dodge), but this still leaves a gap of about $4,750. Suddenly I find myself warming to the Dodge’s styling. Only Hyundai (yes, Hyundai) offers another large rear-wheel-drive sedan in this price range, and that only if “this price range” extends all the way to $43,850. A nearly $2,500 feature adjustment in the Korean cruiser’s favor still leaves the Dodge with a roughly $6,600 price advantage. In this context, the tested car’s mid-thirties price seems a bargain.

With gas prices once again hovering around $4, and perhaps headed even higher, you’d think that a two-ton, 200-inch rear-wheel-drive sedan would make about as much sense as seat heaters in Miami. But, thanks to a new engine and transmission, the big Dodge’s EPA numbers are competitive with those of the much smaller, much lighter Accord and Camry V6s. Yet you don’t have to sacrifice performance. The powertrain provides plenty of thrust and its relatively low weight actually enables better handling than is possible with a massive HEMI pushing down on the front treads. Even more than the SRT8, the V6 car simply feels right. Add in a relatively low price, oversteer-on-demand, big comfy seats, and the ability to effortlessly devour miles by the hundreds, and (with assists from a German transmission, Canadian factory workers, and Italian overlords), the Charger successfully sustains the tradition of the big American sedan.

Dodge provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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