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. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars 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 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Pricing Leaked – $60k For 707 Horsepower http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-pricing-leaked-60k-for-707-horsepower/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-pricing-leaked-60k-for-707-horsepower/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 14:25:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866906 KAwyFVdl

If you squint really hard, you can almost make out the $59,900 figure next to the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat’s 707 horsepower figure.

Reddit users managed to save this image, which was apparently removed from AutoSpies.com. Our man Jack Baruth is en route to Portland to test drive the Hellcat, along with the rest of the 2015 Challenger lineup.

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Cain’s Segments, July 2014: Muscle Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/cains-segments-july-2014-muscle-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/cains-segments-july-2014-muscle-cars/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:31:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865873 TTAC_Muscle-Car-sales-chart-June-2014

It feels like we’ve known a lot about the 2015 Ford Mustang for years. There have been stories on its alleged weight gain, then stories that suggested the gain wasn’t nearly so bad. Its independent rear suspension makes the idea of serving global markets so much more tenable. Its turbocharged four-cylinder should, on paper, offer a new blend of performance and efficiency.

But it’s not here, and it won’t be sitting at the forefront of dealer lots (alongside The Used Car Deal Of The Day! Call Tom @ 555-4321! and its accompanying neon sign) for a few months yet.

It was therefore not surprising to see that Mustang sales in the United States dropped sharply in June 2014, even though sales of the venerable Ford had reported improved sales on a year-over-year basis in January, February, March, and May of this year. Could Ford really maintain a high level of interest in a departing pony car?

In a word, no. And yet, with 7631 sales in the sixth month of 2014, one could argue that Ford did, in fact, maintain a high level of interest in the Mustang, as they always do. Naturally, deals on an outgoing car improve as it ages. Some who perhaps thought they may want to wait for the new car have decided they prefer the current car. But 7600 units for a relatively impractical rear-wheel-drive muscle car, is actually a very high figure, if not for the Mustang itself than for cars which compete in a performance-oriented corner of the market.

Volkswagen announced a terrific GTI sales month: 1927 were sold. Subaru sold 2065 copies of their WRX and STi. Jaguar sold 428 F-Types. Aside from the Countryman and Paceman, Mini sold just 3238 cars in June.

The Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and even the Dodge Challenger aren’t low-volume cars. They attract lifestyle buyers – whoever they are, whatever it is they do – as well as performance car buyers. And they most certainly attract loyalists, the kind of buyers who, while acknowledging that these three cars are direct competitors, wouldn’t actually cross-shop.

After consecutive years with declining sales in 2012 and 2013, Camaro sales are up by 4360 units through the first half of 2014. If this sales pace holds, General Motors could see Camaro volume rise to a 2011-besting level, the highest since the nameplate returned in 2009. In this three-car category, the Camaro’s market share has risen from 36.7% during the first half of 2013 to 39.8% so far this year.

Since the Dodge Challenger nameplate returned in 2008, sales have always risen, doubling between 2009 and 2013, when 51,462 were sold. That streak is in danger in 2014: could the improved 2015 Challenger arrive in time for the year end results to improve from the current pace which would see fewer than 46,000 sold?

Even with its decreased volume and its third-place status in the category, the Challenger highlights the high-volume nature of this trio. FCA has sold more Challengers than Chrysler 300s this year; more Challengers than total Fiats.

The Viper, on the other hand, has clearly struggled in its latest form. June volume slid 63% to just 36 units. As for the Chevrolet Corvette, sales are booming, with 2723 sold in June and 17,744 in the first half, making it more popular than the Audi TT, BMW Z4, Jaguar F-Type, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Porsche Boxster, Porsche Cayman, and Porsche 911 combined.

Auto
June
2014
June
2013
%
Change
6 mos.
2014
6 mos.
2013
%
Change
Chevrolet Camaro
7721 7236 +6.7% 46,672 42,312 +10.3%
Dodge Challenger
4377 5101 -14.2% 26,281 29,982 -12.3%
Ford Mustang
7631 9243 -17.4% 44,231 43,111 +2.6%
Total
19,729
21,580 -8.6% 117,184 115,405 +1.5%
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You Owe Me A 10-Second Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/you-owe-me-a-10-second-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/you-owe-me-a-10-second-car/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 18:23:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863729 Click here to view the embedded video.

 

We try not to blindly re-post content created by OEM PR teams, but Dodge has thrown down the gauntlet here.

According to them, the all-new Challenger SRT Hellcat will knock off a 10-second quarter mile time, and we’re not about to let that claim slide. Our own EIC Jack Baruth will be off next week to test out those claims, on a drag strip at the 2015 Challenger launch event. Let’s see what JB is capable of pulling off both there and the road course. Anyone care to take bets?

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Deliverance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/deliverance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/deliverance/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:02:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863361 Shelby Charger

An old car is a feast for the senses. The gentle curve of a fender or the sharply drawn body line pleases the eye while the clatter of valves and the whine of spinning belts combine to make mechanical music. The exhaust gasses, which smell just a tad too rich, blend with the odors of old motor oil, decaying rubber and that musty smell that wafts from the car’s interior to fill your olfactory, while the mixture of gasoline, oil and grease that makes your hands feel so slippery even finds its way onto your tongue when you bring the fingertip you burned on a hot manifold to your mouth. You see it, hear it, smell it, feel it and can even taste it, all five senses touched by one malodorous, malevolent little mechanical beast. Yes friends, if you hadn’t guessed by now, my ’83 Shelby Charger is here at last.

I had, I am ashamed to say, forgotten the physicality of old cars. As someone who lives with two fairly new, almost totally drama free vehicles, it’s easy to forget that all cars are anything but appliances. Like the washing machine I have running in the other room right now, my cars are competent, clean and perform flawlessly at the turn of the key. I could jump into either of them and drive from one coast to the other just as easily as I could drop another load of laundry into the tub of my washer and know with utter and absolute confidence that I will, in short order, have a load of clean clothes. The Shelby, on the other hand, more closely resembles the antique clock that graces my mantelpiece. It is a magical assembly of whirring gears that human ingenuity has brought together into one marvelous machine and, while it does the job, it requires almost daily adjustment to perform as intended.

shelby charger

Some of our readers may recall that, a few months ago, I posted a plaintive cry for help in choosing an older car. I set down a rather strict set of criteria: it needed to be older, not too nice lest I succumb to the desire to preserve it rather than use it, and it needed to have a manual transmission. I got a lot of great suggestions and a couple of tantalizing offers that I had to pass on but as luck would have it, one of our website’s erstwhile readers in Maryland, a gentleman named Terry, reached out and made an offer almost too good to refuse.

The photos showed a stunning little car and I was instantly smitten. In the flurry of emails that followed, Terry let slip that he was the car’s original owner but that, because like me he often works at jobsites outside of the United States, the car had spent a lot of time sitting. Eventually, it had ended up in a friend’s barn in West Virginia where time, the elements and a family of mice had worked their magic.

But Terry isn’t the kind of man who let’s things slide and although it might have been out of sight the little car was never out of mind. From the far side of the planet Terry plotted and waited and then, on a short trip home, he brought the car back over the Appalachians to Maryland where he dropped it at a local speed shop before heading back overseas. The list of things done was extensive and can’t hope to recount all of it here, I do know that the old transmission was swapped out for a stouter unit from a later model turbo Dodge, the top end of the engine was rebuilt and the car’s rust issues, which sounded extensive, were resolved by cutting out the cancer and welding in new steel. Finally, the car was repainted in its factory colors, set on a set of good looking OZ wheels shod with sticky, performance rubber and returned to its owner.

shelby charger 1

Terry enjoyed the car for a few years but, with an SRT8 Challenger, a 71 Charger and two jeeps in the garage, the little Shelby ended up under a cover in the driveway next to the daily driven Neon RT. While it didn’t exactly languish there it spent more time sitting than Terry liked and so, after reading of my undying love for 80s Dodges on these hallowed pages, Terry decided to shoot me an email. Naturally, I responded immediately and on my recent trip to DC I swung through Frederick. After a brief test drive through the rolling hills I decided that the car needed just a bit of sorting to be perfect for my purposes, but that it really was as Terry had represented a solid, original little car. At this point, because I am still working on a few of the things I think need to be addressed and because my impressions are still a bit muddled by the excitement of having so recently taken delivery, I won’t write a full review, but know now that you will soon hear so much about my adventures with this little car that you will grow to hate it.

Although I only got the car the day before yesterday, I can already tell you that it gets all kinds of attention. The cable guy and the garbage man both asked about it while it sat in the driveway before I got it registered. People asked about it at the inspection station and, once I got the plates on, it drew a small crowd when I took it to the gas station for its first fill-up. The guys in the auto parts store I stopped at all had to go out and see it and I even got asked about it from the passenger of a neighboring car while I paused at a stop light. Everyone, it seems, is excited to see my little Shelby Charger and they all have a question that they must ask or a story to share. It is a strange, visceral reaction that only the most special, elemental machine can inspire and if I cannot jump into it and drive to the far side of the country on a moment’s notice I’m OK with that. No one ever asks about my washing machine.

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

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Dodge Colt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-colt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-colt/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=854209 08 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy the final years of the Malaise Era, Chrysler had their econobox needs covered on the one hand by much-modified rebadged Simcas, and on the other by not-at-all-modified rebadged Mitsubishis. These cars were no worse than their Ford and GM competitors (which isn’t saying much), but the inherent cheapness of the 4th-gen Mitsubishi-built Colt meant that most of them weren’t worth fixing after about 1992, and these cars are rare indeed nowadays. In this series, we’d seen just one example of this generation of Colt/Mirage/Champ prior to today’s find.
05 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one was parked illegally in Hayward, California, and the owner couldn’t or wouldn’t rescue it before the tow-truck man came to take it on its last ride.
09 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy any sort of 21st-century standards, these cars sucked. They were noisy, rattly, slow, and broke down a lot. However, we are now living in the Golden Age of Miserable Little Econoboxes, where even the diminished-expectations Versa and Spark are perfectly pleasant transportation applicances, and so it just isn’t fair to apply 21st-century standards to the ’81 Colt.
01 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJust imagine you’re listening to Debbie Harry “rap” about Fab Five Freddy on the AM radio and getting 40 mpg in the grim years after the Ayatollah jacked up gas prices and this car makes more sense.
11 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot much attempt was made to obscure the Japanese origins of this car, though the same could not be said of the French origins of the Omni/Horizon.

Perhaps Chrysler should have gone with the Japan-market ads for this car.

Imported for Dodge!

01 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1981 Dodge Colt Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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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 ExteriorFront1

 

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?

Enigne1

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.

ExteriorBack2

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.

Enigne2

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.

Interior1

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.

ExteriorBack1

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.

ExteriorFront8

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?

Interior2

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).

Interior4

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.

ExteriorFront9

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.

HemiBadge1

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.

ExteriorBack5

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.

Enigne1 Enigne2 ExteriorBack1 ExteriorBack2 ExteriorBack3 ExteriorBack4 ExteriorBack5 ExteriorBack6 ExteriorFront1 ExteriorFront2 ExteriorFront3 ExteriorFront4 ExteriorFront5 ExteriorFront6 ExteriorFront7 ExteriorFront8 ExteriorFront9 HemiBadge1 Interior1 Interior2 Interior3 Interior4 ]]>
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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 2010-dodge-grand-caravan

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

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

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

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

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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 IMG_0092

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 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.

ChargerRear

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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Piston Slap: The Importance of Enlightened Diagnoses http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-the-importance-of-enlightened-diagnoses/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-the-importance-of-enlightened-diagnoses/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 12:54:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=835201

Geoff writes:

Sajeev, I enjoy your TTAC contributions very much. I have a 2002 Dodge Ram with a 5.9 liter V8. Starts every time and idles fine initially. But just when it transitions over from the cold start sequence to Normal running it starts to act as if it is gasping for air.

If I give it a stab of WOT or if I shut it off and restart everything is fine for the rest of the time I drive it which makes me think O2 sensor. But looking at the O2 output it remains high when the engine is stumbling but after the WOT or restart the O2 sensor signal begins cycling up and down as it should. It will throw a CEL if I let it keep going once the stumble starts – but I can’t remember the code at the moment.

Since I know how to replace a starter the restart is my “fix” but any pointers on where to go next? After it throws the light the engine stops sputtering and the idle returns to normal.

Sajeev answers:

“But I can’t remember the code at the moment.”

Writing to an automotive help column without posting the CEL code is like dating a gal/guy that’s a total jerk, but not pretty/handsome enough to justify the psycho jerk-i-tude. You never do this, unless you know your audience both loves you and knows your vehicle like the back of their hand.

Since you asked for pointers, here’s my short list to anyone posting on Piston Slap or some forum where noobs get flamed:

  • Year, Make, Model and relevant options (completed)
  • Mileage (needed)
  • Previous, relevant service history (kinda needed)
  • Engine Codes scanned with your scan tool or the free service at a parts store (mandatory)
  • Research the code here. (definitely appreciated)
  • Ask about your next step on the diagnostic tree after giving us a good slice of the branch.

Without following the above pointers, I can only guess.  So what the hell: there’s a problem with the EGR system, as it happens after warmup.  Maybe it’s a bad sensor/actuator, or some vacuum lines are toast.  Maybe the intake manifold and the EGR need a good cleaning.  But I’ll go with the EGR valve itself, because there’s zero accountability on my side!

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Ur-Turn: An Ode To The Hellcat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/ur-turn-an-ode-to-the-hellcat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/ur-turn-an-ode-to-the-hellcat/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 16:24:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828258 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Supercharged

TTAC reader and Charger R/t owner Rich Murdocco pays tribute to the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.

I’d say 6.2 liters is plenty of engine. Too much, in fact, especially if you’re trying to save the planet one bike lane at a time. It’s simply too much engine that consumes too many gallons of gasoline, which causes all sorts of problems down the road. Every time this 6.2-liter behemoth starts, I hope the driver, who is probably some man-child who never grew up, thinks of the plight of the polar bears. Shame on Fiat, the spunky Italian auto giant, who bought Chrysler, for creating this anachronism. Those peppery Italians have some nerve.

And then they added a supercharger.

The name of this testament to outdated American stubbornness? The Hellcat. This monster is named after the Grumman Hellcat, the naval fighter plane that helped secure America’s air superiority in the Pacific Theater during World War II. And what a name it is.

Husband: Honey, let’s go to the theater. I hear that “Waiting for Godot” is divine.

Wife: Oh darling, once I am done increasing our portfolio’s yield I’d be happy to.

Husband: Shall we take… the Hellcat?

Cue the wailing guitar solos and pyro, as every window in their mansion shatters at mere mention of the beast’s name.

That burble at start up; it stirs the soul. Listen, and picture volcanoes erupting, the earth quaking, and lightning piercing the blackest of skies.

What was once the realm of legends is now, somewhat approachable to us common men and women. For about $55,000, us mere mortals can pilot these rocket-sleds to oblivion. What an incredible time to be an auto enthusiast.

The Hellcat will compete in the Parthenon with a bevy of epic creatures – the Mustang, with Shelby’s coiled Cobra emblazoned on it, the Chevrolet ZL1. Each with enough horses in their stables combined to supply a glue factory for a decade. The bible got it wrong: There aren’t four horsemen to signal the end of times, but rather, the end will be brought by these three American-made chariots that run on the fossilized remains of our ancestors. How metal.

For perspective, in the 1990s, a McLaren F1, a million-dollar supercar had 627 horsepower. That power is now in a Dodge, the company that birthed the Neon. Incredible.

The Hellcat – what a name. One can imagine how the fine folks at Dodge came up with it. What creature can beat a Cobra? A panther? A mountain lion? Nay, only a hellcat. For less than the price of a BMW M3 or a Corvette, you can drive a leather-clad rocket that eats both tires and souls.

Baby boomers pine for the muscle-car era of the 1970s. In the age when a basic Camry can outrun Magnum PI’s Ferrari, when a mere Dodge can run with the best of them, as it’s been said before, we’re truly living in an automotive renaissance. Enjoy it my friends.

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Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat: Meet America’s Next Top Muscle Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-meet-americas-next-top-muscle-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-meet-americas-next-top-muscle-car/#comments Tue, 20 May 2014 14:43:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826794 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Supercharged

Mopar fans, this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Dodge has officially announced the 6.2L Supercharged SRT Hellcat Challenger with “more than 600 horsepower”. Now that the Shelby GT500 is gone, this is officially America’s most powerful muscle car.

 While Dodge announced a whole new Challenger lineup at this year’s New York Auto Show, the Hellcat was notably absent – perhaps due to the reorganization of FCA’s brands, and the suspicion surrounding the Hellcat’s place in either the SRT or Dodge brand.

But now that SRT is no longer a standalone brand, the Hellcat remains a dodge, and the 6.4L Supercharged engine will make its way into other SRT vehicles. The Challenger Hellcat will get a choice of either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic, and buyers will get two key fobs. A red one unlocks full power, while a black one limits the engine’s power, while also allowing for a valet mode to disable launch control, lock out first gear and impose a lower redline.

hellcatinterior hellcat1 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Supercharged ]]>
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Piston Slap: Spicy…or Spicier? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-spicy-or-spicier/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-spicy-or-spicier/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 11:11:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=819161

John writes:

Wasup, Sajeev!

I have an 06 R/T Charger and I am contemplating getting a set of Eibach springs for it. What other costs might be associated aside from installation? What other products would I need to purchase, if any?

Thanks for any input,
John

Sajeev answers:

Well son, there was once a time when lowering springs ruined the suspension settings of a half-assed platform: hat tip to my dear Fox Body Ford. Hopefully your German-bred Chrysler product has none of those problems.

Eibach makes two kits for your car: spicy and spicier. That’s because the lower you go, the more heat you gotta handle.

Lowering (or lifting, for that matter) springs alter any vehicle’s suspension geometry.  A wheel alignment is mandatory, and the LX forums seem to agree.  Mild lowering kits (1.5″-ish max) are usually fine with stock dampers, even if a firmer shock compliments a lower and (usually) firmer spring.  More aggressive setups usually need a matched set of dampers to go with, unless you care not about ride degradation.

Sometimes a full suspension kit includes an anti-roll bar upgrade too, which could help the feel and scrub understeer but the reduced left-to-right suspension flexibility isn’t necessarily that fantastic. More jolts don’t translate into faster lap times: do extensive research before you buy.

There’s also the matter of stock wheels: even the R/T might look a little silly with a lower body and boring-ass stock wheels. A bigger rim with a shorter sidewall is needed to “complete the look.” A different offset rim (see hyperlinked thread above) can also help with the inevitable: the meeting of expensive rubber with metal body parts. And brings me to the big problem with aftermarket lowering bits: driving style!

The more you have, the more likely you’ll avoid the punishment of potholes, pavement joints and puddles.  If you live in a place with bad roads, or flooding, you might want to reconsider.  Because nothing’s worse than a sore back, a tired ass and a hydro-locked motor if you treat a lowered car like a normal one.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

See the slippery slope here? What exactly do you want?  Looking lower requires more parts than just springs to complete the look.  That’s the stance or hellaflush look, and it ain’t cheap. Going faster for the road and track? Going full aftermarket may be overkill: I’d try some factory funded engineering perfection via SRT-springs, famously high quality dampers (like Koni, Bilstein) and stickier tires on stock wheels. That won’t make you look any cooler, but you certainly will be.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

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Piston Slap: High Caliber Aftermarket Stoppers? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-high-caliber-aftermarket-stoppers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-high-caliber-aftermarket-stoppers/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 12:13:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=811186

John writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’ve had a 2009 Dodge Caliber SRT4 for a few years and it’s coming up to its first all-around brake job at 50,000 miles / 80,000 km (I drive like a granny). I work at a dealership (different brand) but can get parts at a bit of a discount. Still, OEM brakes + pads on this thing are $980+tax Canadian. From what I’ve seen I can get aftermarket ones for a quarter of that. One of the mechanics here suggests I put on OEM pads and aftermarket discs.

What do you recommend? Any good aftermarket manufacturers who meet or exceed OEM standards? I know with this car you’ve got the weird fake differential that uses braking to adjust for wheel slip, would non-OEMs eff this up? When I private sale this next year, will having aftermarket brakes effect the resale value with the type of people who buy these cars?

The car has been surprisingly reliable, but I’m only doing 8,000km a year. Debating getting employee pricing on something more…Swedish.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Sajeev answers:

I’d be shocked if Chrysler makes the brake bits that rest in their branded boxes.  Brakes, like many other parts, are usually made to OEM specifications by a third party supplier. Which is great, except when it’s not. A few thoughts lifted directly from my experiences:

  • Brake pads: high quality ceramic street pads from any parts store (i.e. not the cheapest) stop, leave similar amounts of dust and be silent like an OEM pad.  Plus, if you know a bit more about materials, you can choose an aftermarket pad’s composition (organic, ceramic, semi-metallic, full metallic, etc) to tune the brakes to your particular needs.  I prefer carbon metallic pads, as I’m easy on the brakes (Houston is flat, and metallics heat up quickly here) and they do an amazing job when I do need them.  If not, maybe ceramics are more your speed, so to speak.
  • Brake Rotors:  Even though the dudes at the parts counter swear that the pricer USA-made rotors are better,  I’ve had amazingly good luck with the cheapest, Chinese-made stuff. Perhaps it’s partially because of a friend that tows for a living; he mentioned they are all the same, too.  IMO, the USA made stuff has nicer machining around the hub, but that’s about it.
  • Brake Rotors II: Avoid the ricey aftermarket slotted/drilled rotors (crack prone) and stick with the conventionally vented units.  High Performance cars may have factory drilled/slotted rotors, and if so, stick with OEM just to be safe.

With this in mind, let’s answer your questions:

 1) What do you recommend?

Your car’s rear brakes are like any other Caliber, so I’d recommend any high quality ceramic pad on a cheap replacement rotor. Since the fronts are lifted from the Chrysler LX cars, get a cheap LX rotor and your choice of pad.  Me personally?  Get semi-metallic (carbon metallic) pads all around, especially since a common upgrade for the SRT-4 appears to be the same semi-metallic pad used on the LX Cop Cars.

2) Any good aftermarket manufacturers who meet or exceed OEM standards?

I’m not interested in endorsing one big name pad manufacturer over another for pads. They are all good, and I have yet to regret owning cheap rotors.

3) I know with this car you’ve got the weird fake differential that uses braking to adjust for wheel slip, would non-OEMs eff this up?

I seriously doubt it. But that’s a question for the forums: do some homework, don’t listen to me.

4) When I private sale this next year, will having aftermarket brakes effect the resale value with the type of people who buy these cars?

I think saying that you upgraded to semi metallic pads like the LX Cop Car is a huge plus given the intended buyer.  So maybe you should listen to me.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Chrysler Vans Sitting Idle As Oil Boom Robs Rail Capacity http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/chrysler-vans-sitting-idle-as-oil-boom-robs-rail-capacity/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/chrysler-vans-sitting-idle-as-oil-boom-robs-rail-capacity/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 19:17:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=809450 Back-440x350

Several hundred Chrysler minivans are stuck indefinitely on a piece of prime Detroit real estate, unable to be transported across America. The reason? The fossil fuel boom in Canada and the United States is hogging much of the available rail capacity needed to transport the vans.

Citing a report by the Associated Press, the Windsor Star reports that railway capacity – which is normally transport new vehicles – is being eaten up by deliveries of oil from both the Alberta Oil Sands and the Bakken shale formation in the United States. According to the AP, just 9,500 railway carloads of crude were being transported in 2008, but that number exploded to 434,032 in 2013. In addition, ethanol shipments have exploded nearly fivefold since 2005, with up to 325,000 carloads being shipped last year.

One of the biggest players in energy shipments is CP Rail, a Canadian railway company that is also the major player in the Windsor, Ontario region, where Chrysler’s minivan plant is located. Aside from capacity issues, a CP spokesman told the Star that the extreme weather has created supply chain issues that still linger at CP’s Chicago hub.

A Chrysler spokesman told the Star

“We have experienced delays of delivery of our finished vehicles due to rail car shortages…We are using alternative modes of transport and alternative routes where possible to move around the biggest problem areas.”

Inventories of the two vans have fallen sharply in the last month. As of April 1st, Chrysler had 50 days worth of Town & Country vans, and 37 days worth of Caravans, down from 75 days and 50 days respectively on March 1st.

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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 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 2015-Dodge-Charger-10

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.

2015-Dodge-Charger-10 2015-Dodge-Charger-13 2015-Dodge-Charger-18 2015-Dodge-Charger-17 2015-Dodge-Charger-7 2015-Dodge-Charger-9 2015-Dodge-Charger-8 2015-Dodge-Charger-23 2015-Dodge-Charger-16 2015-Dodge-Charger-20 ]]>
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New York 2014: 2015 Dodge Challenger Gets Badly Needed Upgrades http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-gets-badly-needed-upgrades/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-challenger-gets-badly-needed-upgrades/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:57:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=801914 From Front to back: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Challenger 3

 

Dodge’s long-rumored 6.4L supercharged Challenger isn’t coming to New York, but there are a number of important upgrades for 2015.

The big news for 2015 is the addition of the 8-speed automatic across the broad, a long awaited upgrade to the Challenger. An upgraded electrical architecture allows better implementation of UConnect as well as electric power steering with three selectable modes. Eight trim levels are now available, with new Shaker and Scat Pack models available with the 5.7L and 6.4L V8 on the Shaker, while the Scat Pack gets the 6.4L engine exclusively. The 6.4L engine gets a bump to 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft on the Scat Pack. Dodge is claiming that the 8-speed Scat Pack model can hit 60 mph in the low 4-second range.

Shaker models get a Super Track Pack suspension package, Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, sport seats and a very retro graphics package – indeed, Dodge is going long on the retro theme for the 2015 upgrades.

2015 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT / R/T Plus (shown in Pearl/Black) with 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT / R/T Plus (shown in Pearl/Black) with 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus (shown in Ruby Red/Black) 2015 Dodge Challenger with eight-speed automatic 2015 Dodge Challenger “Tic-Toc-Tach”-inspired gauges 2015 Dodge Challenger 2015 Dodge Challenger trunk 2015 Dodge Challenger – 1971-inspired full-length stitch trape 2015 Dodge Challenger Uconnect SiriusXM Travel Link 2015 Dodge Challenger rear ¾ home screen 2015 Dodge Challenger Uconnect 3-D navigation icon 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic Ruby Red suede-leather 2015 Dodge Challenger TorqueFlite 8-speed electronic shifter 2015 Dodge Challenger 6-speed manual shifter 2015 Dodge Challenger 6-speed manual shifter 2015 Dodge Challenger Scat Pack 7-inch TFT 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T 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 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dodge Challe From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Dodge Challe From Front to Back: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S From Front to back: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT, 2015 Challenger 3 From Left to Right: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack S ]]>
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New York 2014: 2015 Dodge Charger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-charger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-dodge-charger/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:56:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=801562 2015 Dodge Charger R/T

Although the 2015 Dodge Charger is largely unchanged mechanically, it gets a whole new look.

SXT V6 models equipped with Rallye Appearance Group gets a power bump to 300 hp and 264 lb-ft of torque due to a cold air intake, an upgraded exhaust and a tweaked ECU. Aside from that, the changes are mostly cosmetic.

2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 2015 Dodge Charger R/T

 

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Junkyard Find: 1963 Dodge Dart http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1963-dodge-dart/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1963-dodge-dart/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=796762 04 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFor the entire time I’ve been on this planet, Chrysler A-bodies have been a constant presence in American wrecking yards, and they’re still quite easy to find today, 33 years after the last Valiant Charger rolled off the assembly line in Australia. I don’t photograph every Dart and Valiant that I see in junkyards, but this series has included this ’61 Valiant, this ’64 Valiant wagon, this ’67 Valiant, this ’66 Dart, this ’68 Valiant Signet, this ’73 Valiant, this ’75 Duster, and this ’75 Dart, and today we’ll admire a non-rusty California Dart two-door that I saw back in December.
07 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe last official year of CONELRAD was 1963, and here we can see the official CONELRAD frequencies of 640 and 1240 kHz marked on this Dart’s fancy factory radio. How much was the optional AM radio in your new ’63 Dart? $169, which comes to $1,296 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Not only that, but you’d be hearing pretty much nothing but terrible hit singles and ugly news stories on that shockingly expensive staticblaster, back in ’63. Think about that the next time you’re enjoying your $300 Bluetooth-enabled aftermarket car stereo.
02 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car has the look of one that sat exposed to the elements for a decade or two. The biohazardous trunk contents include some icky-looking time-capsule stuff.
19 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe car was running as recently as 1987, when a student commuted in it to the stoniest junior college in California.
14 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf the car had a hood (or at least an air cleaner) during its long-term abandonment, the engine innards might have stayed dry enough to remain unseized. Not that anyone is going to bother with rescuing a tired 170.
05 - 1963 Dodge Dart Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBeing a two-door gave this car a slight chance of being saved by an auction buyer and restored, but the late-60s Darts tend to be more highly prized. Some of its parts should live on in other A-bodies, though.

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Piston Slap: The Buy or Rent Pitfall? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/piston-slap-the-buy-or-rent-pitfall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/piston-slap-the-buy-or-rent-pitfall/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 12:44:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=778729 pitfall2

Henry writes:

Sajeev,

My wife and I are planning on taking a large 20 day vacation this summer where we plan on driving aver 5000 miles with our three older children. My wife drives a 2008 Ford Taurus X, which we love, but does not have enough space for a family of five for such a long journey. We were originally going to rent a minivan from the local enterprise, but a two week rental will set us back $1,300 with tax.

Ouch.

Recently I noticed that there are some good deals to be had on fourth generation Chrysler minivans. My wife and I bought two of these vans new, a 2001 and a 2005, and we loved both vans. This has me thinking, why not just buy a loaded up low mileage van for around $3,000-$4,000, use it for the summer/trip, and then sell it after we are done. Any advice?

Sajeev answers:

If you have the cash flow/time to buy-then-sell AND assuming you can do a bit of repair with your own hands, then yes, you should absolutely do this! This will be cheaper than renting (obviously) and maybe even flying to your destination. Plus, road trips are all about the journey.  That said, let’s make sure you are safe and not stranded on the journey.

A list of items you must check on your short list of minivans you want to buy, then sell:

  • Tires, tires, tires. Road trips are hard on old tires, so new-ish tires are almost mandatory. And not just tread depth wise, also age wise. Don’t forget the spare, either!
  • Service records: buy the van with the most comprehensive service history. Even if it’s Barney purple and has stains/rips inside, that’s the safest bet.
  • Fresh fluids, good rubber hoses/wipers/belts/vacuum lines, fresh brakes and all the stuff we preach in this column on a regular basis.
  • Clear headlights with new bulbs, as you will drive at night and want to actually see where the hell you’re going.

There are other granular bits to discuss (strength of transaxle if subjected to neglected ATF) but that’s hard to armchair in terms of being a relevant concern to your short-term ownership.   I would buy the van with the most records, the best tires/brakes you can find and hope you can add value in your ownership (via repairs and detailing) so you can actually make money on your vacation!

Best of luck with that.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1994 Dodge Shadow ES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1994-dodge-shadow-es/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1994-dodge-shadow-es/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 13:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=769394 09 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSo many Chrysler P bodies in American wrecking yards today, so many that Shadows and Sundances generally make up a good quarter of your typical self-serve wrecking yard’s Chrysler section. You still see some of these cars on the street these days, though hit-bottom-years-ago resale values mean that a running Chrysler P is becoming semi-rare sight. I think the low-buck Shadow America and Sundance America are interesting enough to photograph, as is the Sundance Duster, but most of the time I just tune out the Ps when I see them during junkyard expeditions. The Shadow ES, with its goofy 80s-hangover tape graphics, manages to attract my attention, so let’s admire the exquisitely of-its-timeness of this ’94 that I spotted in Denver a couple months ago.
10 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars were pretty cheap, and they weren’t slow (by mid-90s standards).
08 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThat is, they weren’t slow when equipped with the Mitsubishi 6G72 V6, as this car is. Though, as we’ve seen, this engine doesn’t guarantee reliability.
05 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe early 90s are notable for having introduced the world to fake wood trim that was much more realistic than the Tormented Souls In Hell Simu-Wood™ of the 1970s and 1980s. Look, 20 years old and not faded or cracked!
04 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere oughta be a law.
14 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe snow is obscuring the mean-looking hood bulge with V6 emblems, but it’s there.
07 - 1994 Dodge Shadow ES Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith manual transmission, this sort of car wouldn’t be a bad first car for a teenager interested in making a cheap machine to take to test-n-tune night. Grab the turbo hardware off a wrecked Stealth, experience the joys of Xtreem Torque Steer®.

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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 2014 Dodge Duranto_0014

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.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0001

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.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0005

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.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0028

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.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0018

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.

2014 Dodge Duranto_0012

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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Poor Sales Of Dodge Dart Prompt Plant Layoffs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/poor-sales-of-dodge-dart-prompt-plant-layoffs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/poor-sales-of-dodge-dart-prompt-plant-layoffs/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:02:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=765097 450x221xdart-450x221.png.pagespeed.ic.ly_3Q05If7

Poor sales of the Dodge Dart have led to temporary layoffs at the auto maker’s Belvidere, Illinois plant, where the Dart is produced. Despite Chrysler sales being up 11 percent last month, sales of the Dart were down 37 percent.

Speaking to the Daily Herald, Autopacific’s Dave Sullivan noted that

“What’s going on now with the Dart is that when buyers go into a Dodge showroom they are getting such great incentives on the Dodge Avenger that buyers are choosing the larger car. It’s going to be several months before the Avenger is sold out, then we’ll get a better sense where the interest is in the Dart.”

Current incentives on the Avenger mean that it’s possible to get a mid-level Avenger for roughly the same price as a Dart. Although the difference may be $1,000-$2,000 in MSRP, it means virtually nothing in the realm of monthly payments that most car shoppers operate in.

As of February 1, Chrysler had a 220 day supply of Avengers and a 129 day supply of Darts. Both figures are abnormally large for the industry, but they only serve to highlight the problem outlined by Sullivan. Incentives on the Avenger will rise, as Chrysler tries to clear out the remaining stock, meaning the Dart could languish on the lots. Year-to-date, the Avenger is even outselling the Dart by about 3,000 units.

Prior to the Dart’s launch, Sergio Marchionne sat for an interview with 60 Minutes, where he proudly showed off the Dart for the cameras and said “If you’re a serious car maker and you can’t make it into this segment, you’re doomed.” At the time, it might have seemed like harmless bluster. Right now, those words look a bit ominous – even if the Dart itself isn’t such a bad product.

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge Aries K http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-aries-k/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-dodge-aries-k/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=764217 15 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe quantities of true Chrysler K-Cars in high-turnover self-service wrecking yards have been declining a bit in recent years, though I still see enough of them that I choose only the most interesting to photograph for this series. So far we’ve seen this “Hemi 2.6″ ’81 Dodge Aries wagon, this ’83 Dodge Aries sedan, this ’85 Dodge 600 Turbo, and this ’88 Dodge Aries wagon, and today I’m adding a gold Aries sedan that has special significance for me.
18 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinYou see, this is the car that provided the hood for the “Lee Iacocca, Comintern Agent” mural that went on the Plymouth Reliant wagon judged to be the Worst Car In 24 Hours of LeMons History.
20131122_121205This hood now lives somewhere in California, having been removed from the Reliant by Iacocca zealots.
12 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car was in pretty good shape for a 28-year-old sedan that depreciated to scrap value by about age 10: no rust, interior not bad.
05 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinLots of options, including air conditioning and AM/FM radio.
04 - 1986 Dodge Aries Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinQuality engineered.
Don’t forget to visit the Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™!

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