The Truth About Cars » hemi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:51:42 +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 » hemi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on the Hellcat.

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Chrysler Hellcat V8 Could Unseat Viper V10 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/chrysler-hellcat-v8-could-unseat-viper-v10/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/chrysler-hellcat-v8-could-unseat-viper-v10/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:09:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=780489 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: 2014 Dodge Durango Limited V8 (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 15:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695921 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002

Car shopping used to be so simple: you could buy a truck or a car. Then came the wagon, minivan, sport utility and the latest craze: the crossover. There’s just one problem with the crossover for me however: it’s not a crossover. With a name like that you’d assume that a modern crossover blended the lines between a truck/SUV with a car/minivan. The reality of course is that the modern three-row crossover is just a front-driving minivan that doesn’t handle as well or haul as much stuff. In this sea of transverse minivans in SUV clothing lies just one mass-market vehicle that I can honestly call a three-row crossover: the Dodge Durango. Instead of a car that’s been turned into an AWD minivan with a longer hood, the Dodge uses drivetrains out of the RAM 1500 combined with a car-like unibody. While rumors swirled that the Durango would be canceled in favor of a 7-seat Jeep, Dodge was working a substantial makeover for 2014.

Click here to view the embedded video.

So what is the Durango? Is it an SUV? Is it a crossover? In my mind, both. If a Grand Cherokee can be a unibody SUV and not a crossover, the Durango must be an SUV. But if a crossover is a hybrid between a car and a truck, then the Durango is one as well. While the first and second generation Durangos were body-on-frame SUVs based on the Dakota pickup, this Durango is a three-row Grand Cherokee, which is a two-row Jeep version of the three-row Mercedes ML which is quasi related to the Mercedes E-Class, which is quasi related to the Chrysler 300. Lost yet?

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2014 brings few changes to the outside of the Durango. The design first released in 2011 still looks fresh to my eye but that could be because I don’t see many on the road. Up front we get a tweaked corporate grille and new lamps while out back we get “race track” inspired light pipes circling the rump. Aside from a lowered right height on certain models and new wheels, little has changed for the Durango’s slab-sided profile, which I think is one of the Dodge’s best features. No, I’m not talking about the plain-Jane acres of sheet metal, I’m talking about RWD proportions. Bucking the trend, this three-row sports a long (and tall) hood, blunt nose, short front overhang and high belt-line.

To create the Durango from the Grand Cherokee, Chrysler stretched the Jeep’s wheelbase by 5-inches to 119.8 inches and added three inches to the body. The result is four-inches longer than an Explorer but two inches shorter than the Traverse, Acadia and Enclave triplets. Thanks to the Durango’s short front overhand, the Dodge has the longest wheelbase by a long way, beating even the full-size Chevy Tahoe. Speaking of the body-on-frame competition, the Durango may have been a size too small in the past, but this generation is just 8/10ths of an inch shorter than that Tahoe.

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Interior

Body-on-frame SUVs have a practicality problem when it comes to space efficiency. Because the frame sits between the body and the road, they tend to be taller than unibody crossovers despite having less interior volume. Like the rest of the crossover crowd, this allows the Durango to have a spacious interior with a comparatively low entry height. 2014 brings a raft of much-needed interior updates to the cabin including a new soft touch dashboard, Chrysler’s latest corporate steering wheel with shift paddles, revised climate controls, Chrysler’s latest uConnect 2 infotainment system and a standard 7-inch LCD instrument cluster. Like the other Chrysler products with this LCD, the screen is flanked by a traditional tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge. Oddly enough, the standard infotainment screen is a smallish (in comparison) 5-inches.

Front seat comfort proves excellent in the Durango which was something of a relief, as the last few Chrysler products I have driven had form and oddly shaped seat bottom cushions that make me feel as if I was “sitting on and not in the seat.” As with all three-row vehicles, the accommodations get less comfortable as you move toward the back. By default all Durango trims are 7-passenger vehicles with a three-across second row. For $895 Dodge will delete the middle seat and insert a pair of more comfortable captain’s chairs and a center console with cup holders and a storage compartment. The third row is a strictly two-person affair and, like most crossovers, is best left to children and your mother in law. Those who do find themselves in “the way back” will be comforted by above average headroom and soft touch plastic arm rests. With large exterior proportions you’d expect a big cargo hold like in the cavernous Traverse, alas the RWD layout that makes the Durango so unique renders the interior less practical. With more of the body used up for “hood,” we get just 17 cubes of space behind the third row. That’s three less than an Explorer, seven less than GM’s Lambda triplets and about the same as a Honda Pilot. On the bright side this is more than you will find in a Highlander or Sorento and shockingly enough, more than in the Tahoe as well.

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Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version of this system the Durango has ever had. Based on a QNX UNIX operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. For the second edition of uConnect, Chrysler smoothed out the few rough edges in the first generation of this system and added a boat-load of trendy tech features you may or may not care about. In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on (standard on Summit) and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held Garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your Cat Stevens CD by paying $190 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest.

2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001Drivetrain

Dodge shoppers will find two of the Grand Cherokee’s four engines under the hood. First up we have a 290HP/260lb-ft 3.6L V6 (295HP in certain trims) standard in all trims except the R/T. R/T models get a standard 360HP/390lb-ft 5.7L HEMI V8 which can be added to the other trims for $2,795. 2014 brings a beefed up cooling system and a number of minor tweaks in the name of fuel economy. Sadly Chrysler has decided to keep the V6 EcoDiesel engine and 6.4L SRT V8 Grand Cherokee only options, so if you hoped to sip diesel or burn rubber in your three row crossover, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Both engines are mated to a ZF-designed 8-speed automatic. V6 models use the low torque variety made by Chrysler while V8 models use a heavy-duty 8HP70 made in a ZF factory. If you’re up to date on Euro inbreeding, you know this is the same transmission used by BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. To say this is a step up from the vilified Mercedes 5-speed or the Chrysler 6 speed (the 65RFE featured some of the strangest ratio spacing ever) is putting it mildly. Fuel economy jumps 9% in the V6, 10% in the V8. No small feat in a 4,835lb SUV (as tested). All Durangos start out as rear wheel drive vehicles but you can add a two-speed four-wheel-drive system for $2,400. Although Dodge bills this as AWD, it is the same transfer case that Jeep calls 4×4 in Selec-Trac II equipped Grand Cherokees. Thanks to the heavy-duty drivetrain towing rings in at 6,200lbs for the V6 and 7,400lbs for the V8. Like the Jeeps the Durango has moved to more car-like 5-lug wheels which should widen after-market selection.

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Drive

The engineers took the refresh opportunity to tweak the Durango toward the sportier side of the segment with stiffer springs and beefier sway bars. While far from a night-and-day transformation, the difference is noticeable and appreciated out on the roads. While never harsh, it is obvious the Durango is tuned towards the firm side of this segment. Thanks to the long wheelbase the Durango feels well composed on the highway or on broken pavement.

With a nearly 50/50 weight balance, wide 265-width tires, and a lower center of gravity than a “traditional SUV”, the Durango is easily the handling and road feeling champion. That’s not to say the Durango is some sort of sports car in disguise, but when you compare a well balanced 360 horsepower rear wheel drive elephant to a slightly lighter but much less balanced front driving elephant on skinny rubber, it’s easy to see which is more exciting. Thanks to the Mercedes roots there’s even a whiff of feedback in the steering, more than you can say for the average crossover. Despite the long wheelbase and wide tires, the Durango still cuts a fairly respectable 37-foot turning circle.

Those statement may have you scratching your head if you recall what I said about Jeep on which the Durango is based, I must admit I scratched my head as well. Although the Dodge and the Jeep share suspension design elements and a limited number of components, the tuning is quite different. The Grand Cherokee Summit rides 3.1-inchs higher and was equipped with the off-road oriented air suspension.

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When it comes to performance, the new 8-speed automatic makes a night and day difference shaving a whopping 1.4 seconds off the 0-60 time versus the last V8 Durango we tested. The reason is all in the gear ratios. While the 545RFE and 65RFE transmissions suffered from some truly odd ratios, the ZF unit’s ratios are more evenly spread and dig deeper in the low gears. The result is a 6.0 second sprint to highway speeds which finally nips on the tails of the Explorer Sport which we’re told will do the same in 5.9-6.0 (TTAC hasn’t tested one yet). This proves what extra gears can do for you because the Explorer is 200lbs lighter and has a far more advantageous torque curve thanks to the twin turbos.

You can also thank the ZF transmission for the Durango’s robust towing numbers. V6 models are now rated for 6,200lbs while the V8 can haul up to 7,400lbs when properly equipped. That’s nearly 50% more than you can tow in any of the crossover competition and just 1,000 lbs shy of the average full-size body-on-frame hauler.

The transmission is also responsible for a whopping 20% increase in fuel economy. The last V8 Durango I tested eked out a combined 14.8 MPG over a week while the 2014 managed 18.0 MPG. While 18 MPG isn’t impressive in wider terms, it is 1/2 an MPG better than GM’s Lambda crossovers or the Ford Explorer on my commute cycle. The V6 yields improved fuel economy at the expense of thrust, but you should know that although the acceleration provided by the V6 is competitive with the V6 three-row competition, the 20 MPG average falls short of the new Highlander, Pathfinder and the rest of the FWD eco-minded competition.

After a week with the Durango I was no closer to answering the biggest question car buffs have: is this Dodge a crossover or an SUV? One thing is sure however, the Durango is likely the most fun you can have with 6 of your friends for under $50,000.

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.4

0-60: 6.0

1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds @ 96 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69dB @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 18 MPG over 811 miles

 

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Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-with-video/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=666978 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004

If you want a high performance SUV today, you’re left with relatively little choice. GM hasn’t dabbled in the market since their Trailblazer SS / Saab 9-7 Aero and Ford never even gave it a try with the old Explorer. That means your only options for ridiculously fast boxes on wheels come from BMW, Porsche, Mercedes… and Jeep. Is it possible that the “bat-shit-crazy” Chrysler that I remember and love is back?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

This isn’t the first Grand Cherokee with sporting pretensions, as 1998 Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited was arguably the first fast Grand Cherokee. Despite the RWD layout making a performance version “easy to do” (in a relative sense), we wouldn’t see another until the third generation “WK” SRT8 in 2006. With a 425 horsepower 6.1L engine, it was the most powerful Jeep ever built. Sadly, a Cerberus-era interior kept it off my wanted list. After a hiatus, another SRT landed in 2012, this time with 470 horses under the hood. Although improved, the interior still underwhelmed and the Mercedes sourced 5-speed transmission was hardly a team player.

While the basic vehicle remains unchanged, 2014 brings more changes than your typical refresh. Up front we have a new nose featuring LED daytime running lamps, headlamp washers and standard HID headlamps.  Out back we get a refreshed rump with twin exhaust tips, which are far more practical than the central tips on first Jeep SRT,e because it allows a standard hitch receiver to be mounted behind a trim panel in the bumper. It’s worth noting that Chrysler rates the Grand Cherokee SRT for 7,200lbs of towing.

Now it’s time to talk about competition. When it comes to high horsepower SUVs, you don’t have many options. Sure, we have that new Porsche Macan, but it’s smaller than the Jeep and less powerful. When you do the numbers, the only 470+ horsepower beasts on the market are the closely related Mercedes ML63 AMG, the new supercharged Range Rovers, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo/Turbo S. And… That’s it. BMW has taken a break from X5M for 2014, likely to return as a 2015 model. Audi Q7? Too wimpy. Acura MDX? Weaksauce. That means that while the Grand Cherokee plays with the Explorer, GMC Terrain, Toyota 4Runner, VW Touareg and others, the Grand Cherokee SRT appeals to two different sorts of buyers. The performance enthusiast that wants an AWD Chrysler 300 SRT, and the luxury SUV shopper on a value hunt.

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Interior

As with the exterior, 2014 brings more interior changes than your typical refresh. The Jeep gets Chrysler’s chunky new SRT steering wheel complete with metal shift paddles, a heated soft leather rim, a flat bottom, and more buttons than Apollo mission control. The refresh also brings an entirely new stitched leather dashboard, leather coated doors, carbon fiber trim, and improved plastics all around. Below the carbon fiber, little has changed. This means we still have hard plastics which belie the SRT’s luxury credentials.

Dominating the dash is the latest 8.4-inch uConnect infotainment system joined by a 7-inch LCD disco dash.  The LCD gauges put the Jeep well ahead of BMW and Mercedes and, interestingly, only a notch below the full 11-inch LCD used in Range Rovers. Finishing the transformation is an Audi-like shifter in the center console. Sadly the SRT doesn’t get the Alcantara headliner that the Grand Cherokee Summit gets. Combined with the easily scratched plastic shifter surround, the SRT is obviously not running with the luxury pack but it is a notch above the crossover rabble and feels  worth the $63,995 base price. More on that later.

The  front seats are modified versions of regular Jeep thrones with more bolstering and are available in your choice of “baseball glove” brown or black with Alcantara inserts. (The full-leather seats will run you $1,995 more.) Although the seats are less comfortable than those found in the Merc, Rover or Bimmer, I had no problem finding a comfortable position on multi-hour drives. Unlike less expensive versions of the Grand Cherokee, the SRT’s seats seem to be designed for you to sit “in” the seat rather than “on” the seat, something that I was pleased to note.  Rear seat passengers will have little to complain about with reclining rear seat backs, air vents and the same soft-touch leather door treatment as the front. New for 2014 are two high-current USB power ports in the center console so your kids can charge their iWidget without cigarette adapters.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-005Infotainment

In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new Chrysler “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. The navigation interface is easy to use, but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. The SRT trim gets Chrysler’s home brew 9-speaker sound system with a 506-watt amplifier. The sound is acceptable for the price tag but I’d buy the 19-speaker, $1,995 Harmon Kardon Logic7 system if I were you. Quite similar in timbre to the Logic7 systems BMW uses, the system holds its own compared to the up-level audio packages in the luxury set. Because BMW’s X5M is on hiatus, the infotainment win in this segment has to go to the SRT. COMAND is well past its prime and Porsche and Land Rover’s infotainment systems are unintuitive and lag in terms of feature functionality.

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Drivetrain

The first Jeep to wear the SRT badge used a 6.1L V8 that was accused of having a narrow power band, a “peaky” torque curve and poor fuel economy. To address this, Chrysler released a new 6.4L V8 in 2012. Instead of revising the 6.1, the engineers went back to the drawing board and created a new engine based off the second-generation 5.7L Hemi. This means that unlike the luxury competition, you won’t find overhead cams, direct injection or 32 valves. Don’t let Top Gear or the iron block fool you, this engine is a modern design with some tricks up its sleeve. Despite the push rods, Chrysler managed to fit variable valve timing, a variable length intake manifold, cylinder deactivation, alloy pistons and 16 spark plugs. The combination is good for 470HP and 465 lb-ft of torque.

Thanks to the “Mercedes years”, Chrysler was still using a Mercedes 5-speed transmission behind the 3.6L V6 and the 6.4L V8 in 2012 and 2013. While not a bad transmission, the 5-speed’s ratios were not well mated to the 6.4L V8. In order to get SRT levels of performance, a different final drive was fitted making the engine spin over 2,400RPM at 70 MPH. The new ZF 8-speed automatic allows a lower effective first gear, a more balanced ratio spread and a taller final gear so the engine can at 1,900 RPM at 70. Directing power to all four wheels is an MP 3010 electronic proportioning transfer case. The driver can select from five drive modes that control the torque split, shift pattern and the dynamic suspension system. Auto gives the softest suspension, slowest shifts and sends 40% of the engine power to the front for balanced handling. Sport stiffens and makes the shifts crisper, while sending only 35% of the power to the front for more rear bias. Track provides the stiffest dampening and sends 70% of the power to the rear for even more of a RWD feel (2012 and 2013 models topped out at a 35/65 split). Should you like things 50/50, Sport and Tow modes provide balanced power front and rear. One thing you still won’t find however is a torque vectoring rear axle, Jeep retains the electronic limited slip unit found in other Grand Cherokee models.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-016Drive

The Grand Cherokee SRT has all the right numbers for bat-shit-crazy status, but can it deliver? In a word: Yes. Backing that answer up is a blistering 4.1 second run to 60 and an eye-popping 1.37 second 0-30 time. But can it truly compete with the Germans? Despite the new interior and 8-speed automatic (basically the same transmission Porsche, BMW and Range Rover use) the SRT isn’t as refined, inside or on the road. Driven back to back with the competition, the SRT feels more like the Range Rover or the Mercedes than the tighter BMW or Porsche. The Merc comparisons are especially interesting since the ML and the Grand Cherokee share plenty of design DNA.

Although Mercedes has fitted a more powerful twin-turbo V8 (515 HP / 516 lb0-ft or 550 HP / 560 lb-ft), the Merc feels less connected to the road than the Jeep. Part of this is due top the air ride suspension Mercedes uses and part of it is due to the narrow 265 width standard tires. While you can get 295s all the way around, it’ll cost you dearly as the ML63 is easy to option over $100,000. Factor in the dated COMAND system and the 7-speed auto that is 1 gear shy of everyone else and the ML comes in last.

Land Rover’s Ranger Rover Sport continues to march to a different drummer. Although the 5.0L V8 produces 510 HP and 461 lb-ft of twist, the Rover’s mission is more luxury than sport. The English mountain climber retains all the off road hardware of the lesser models, all season tires and a high ground clearance. Thanks to the supercharged engine’s lack of torque compared to the rest, the Range Rover is also the slowest to highway speeds. While the Range Rover would be my choice if I had the cash, the fact that it isn’t really the same kind of animal puts it in fourth place.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-008

Porsche’s Cayenne is, without question, a beast. With sharp handling, an excellent weight balance and a well-trimmed interior you’d logically expect the Touareg’s rich cousin to take top billing. However, there’s a big value problem. In order to get 4-second 0-60 performance like the rest, you have to throw down at least $146,000 for the Turbo S model and getting crazy with the option sheet can bump your out the door by more than $25,000 without trying very hard.

BMW’s X5M would take top billing if it was still made, but, for the moment at least, there is no X5M for shoppers to contemplate. The outgoing X5M model’s torque vectoring axle, insanely wide tires, low stance and underrated twin-turbo V8 are a lethal combination. The fact that the outgoing X5M was also cheaper than the ML63 and the Cayenne certainly helps the value proposition as well. That is, if you can call a six figure vehicle a “value.”

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-015

That means that the $70,135 Jeep (as tested) is my pick for 2014. And now let’s talk about why. The fact that you could literally get two for the price of a Cayenne is huge, and that’s because I’m all about value. Value isn’t being the cheapest (although the Jeep wins that award by over $30,000 in this mash-up) it’s about delivering the same or similar experience for less, and that’s something the SRT has down. But there’s also something rough and rugged about the Jeep that elicits more charm. The Jeep’s interior is more utilitarian, the throttle blips on down shift lack the fanfare and overrun “pops” you get with the competition and there’s still that Jeep logo on the hood. More skill is required to pilot the SRT around a canyon road making it more engaging than the Teutonic competition. (It isn’t just the product that’s a little crazy, Chrysler allowed folks to drive the Jeep on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, other manufacturers kept their toys out of harm’s way.)

The lack of a torque vectoring rear axle means you have to be in control of the Jeep, while more refined nannies and vectoring systems in the Porsche and BMW can make anyone feel like a pro. The Cayenne and X5M are also better balanced than the Jeep which wears 54% of its weight up front thanks to that cast iron engine, but when pressed hard the Jeep gives up little to the Germans. Even in a straight line the Jeep’s numbers stack up well. Thanks to the 8-speed auto in the Jeep, and the old 6-speed ZF unit in the 2013 X5M we tested, the Jeep’s power deficit resulted in a scant 1/100th 0-30 penalty, 1/10th 0-60 penalty and by the 1/4 mile the Jeep was still neck and neck at 1/10th and 6 MPH slower.

After a week with the Grand Cherokee SRT I was sad to see it go, even after I noted my 15.5 MPG fuel economy average. Perhaps it is because I recently bought a Saab 9-7 Aer0 with GM’s 390 horse LS2, so I seem to be the target market for a value performance SUV. Perhaps it is because I’ll nver be able to afford the SRT’s German competition but the Jeep is within reach if I sell a kidney. Or, perhaps the real reason is that a 5,150lb Jeep with a 6.4L push-rod V8 engine making 470 horsepower that ticks off a 0-30 time faster than a BMW M6 rain or shine is bat-shit-crazy. Anyone know the going rate for a kidney?

Chrysler provides the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review. Chrysler provided an SRT Grand Cherokee at a Mazda Raceway event for local press.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.37 Seconds

0-60: 4.1 Seconds

0-100: 11.33 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.7 Seconds @ 107 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 15.5 over 989 miles

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-005 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-006 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-007 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-008 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-009 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-010 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-011 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-012 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-013 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-014 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-015 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-016 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-017 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-004 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-005 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-006 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-007 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-008 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-009 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-010 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-011 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-012 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-013 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee LCD Instrument Cluster ]]>
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Want To Impress The Swells At the Country Club? Hemi-fied Custom Dodge A100 Pickup! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/want-to-impress-the-swells-at-the-country-club-hemi-fied-custom-dodge-a100-pickup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/want-to-impress-the-swells-at-the-country-club-hemi-fied-custom-dodge-a100-pickup/#comments Fri, 10 May 2013 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487909 02 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOf all the racing venues I visit during my travels as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, the ritzy clubs tend to be the weirdest. We went to the Monticello Motor Club in New York a few weeks back, and twice a year the LeMons Traveling Circus rolls into the Autobahn Country Club in Illinois. The reaction of the members, who must navigate the madness of the LeMons pit scene as they drive their GT3s and Facel-Vegas to the clubhouse, runs the gamut from loathing to delight. Most of the time I ignore these guys— I always feel like we’re caddies in the pool in that setting— but as the owner of an A100 I just had to talk to the owner of this truck that showed up at the 2012 Showroom-Schlock Shootout.
07 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI didn’t get the guy’s name, but I recall that his passenger was a veteran of the 1949 Indianapolis 500.
03 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHe was on his way into the clubhouse, but told me to go ahead and open up whatever I wanted and shoot whatever photographs I felt like shooting. The bodywork was flawless, all the chrome was perfect, and the truck was full of custom touches like this aluminum instrument cluster.
04 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, that’s a modern 5.7 Hemi under the doghouse. There’s barely room for the LA-block 318 in my van, so I know some serious fabrication went into making this swap fit.
09 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis setup isn’t quite as extreme as the one in the Little Red Wagon, but it would take a very brave man to stand on this pickup’s throttle.

01 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - Custom Dodge A100 pickup - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Review: 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/review-2013-dodge-challenger-srt8-392/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2013 16:28:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472956

Last time we had a Challenger SRT8 to review, well, we didn’t review it so much as we burnt the rubber off the rear wheels. Sorry Dodge, we couldn’t help it. After a few Facebook requests, we put Dodge’s 470HP retro coupé back on our wish list and someone at Chrysler decided to trust me with their retro cruiser. If you couldn’t afford that Challenger in the poster on your wall when you were in college, click through the jump to find out what Dodge’s 470HP two-door is like to live with for a week before you throw down 45-large on this retro bruiser.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Designing “retro” sounds easy to me. You pull out a picture of ye olde Challenger from 1972, put it next to a picture of your largest sedan and make the shapes fit. Next you round things off a bit, tack on some 5MPH inspired bumpers, spray it with metallic paint and hey-presto, you have a modern Challenger. You also have one enormous coupé. Sure, Chrysler says the “LC” platform Challenger is shorter than their “LX” platform sedans, but you’d be hard pressed to say where inches were excised. The result is a heavyweight muscle car with a wheelbase 9-inches longer and a body that’s 10-inches longer than Ford’s pony car.

Parked next to the Camaro and Mustang, the Challenger dwarfs them both like the Jolly Green Giant next to Little Pea. This means comparisons between the three muscle cars is difficult. It doesn’t make rational sense either because I have a hard time believing anyone will seriously cross-shop a Mustang Boss 302 and a Challenger SRT8. Why? They’re just not the same kind of car. While the Challenger’s portly dimensions are likely to turn off some shoppers, I was strangely intrigued. But then again, I have a soft spot for big Chryslers having owned both a Chrysler LHS and an Eagle Vision. The size (visual and on paper) of this beast brought another vehicle to mind: the BMW 650i. Blasphemy? Perhaps, but they’re about the same size.

 

Interior

2008 is an important year to keep in mind as it was post-Mercedes but pre-Fiat. It was in that Cerberus window that the Challenger was born. As a result, the cabin’s plastics aren’t as awful as the first generation 300/Charger, but neither are they as good as the 2011 revisions of the same. Still, the Camaro and Mustang don’t exactly come covered in the best plastics that money can buy, so while the Challenger feels a little rubbery and low-rent, the American competition isn’t much better.

On the bright side, the SRT8 392 version of the Challenger is brought up-market by standard leather upholstery with Alcantara seat and door inserts, high levels of standard equipment and one of the best OEM steering wheels available. The new SRT wheel is chunky, deeply cushioned, covered in soft leather, heated, thoroughly addictive and enough for me to forgive the rubbery dash and oddly positioned door handles. Of course, only a few days before the “publish” button was pressed on this review, Chrysler announced a “core” version of the SRT8 Challenger that drops the price by removing the leather and other options. Full details on the low-cost model have yet to be released at this time.

Front seat comfort proved excellent for long trips, although the seat design suffers from the same problem as the Chrysler 200: the bottom cushion is shaped like a “dome” making it feel as if you’re sitting “on” the seat and not “in” the seat. To hold you “on” the leather clad gumdrop during the inevitable shenanigans 470HP will invite, Dodge severely bolstered the seats. Thankfully (and unlike the Mercedes C63), Chrysler was kind enough to make the seats wide enough for normal Americans. Back in 2011 when the 392 debuted, an ivory/blue leather interior was offered, but for 2013 your only options are black on black or the red and black interior our tester wore.

Thanks to the proportions and long wheelbase, rear accommodations are large, comfortable and “normally” shaped. What do I mean by that? Sit in a Mustang, Camaro, or most other two-door four-seat coupés and you’ll notice the seat backs are set at an odd angle to “improve” the headroom and legroom numbers in an otherwise small rear compartment. Despite having (on paper) only three inches more legroom and two more inches of headroom than the Mustang or Camaro, the rear cabin feels cavernous. It’s even possible to squeeze a third adult in the rear of the Challenger, something you can’t do in the four-seat Camaro or Mustang. Chrysler also designed the optional $995 sunroof so that it doesn’t cut into rear headroom.

When it comes to cargo schlepping, Dodge went retro with a trunk lid rather than a modern trunk “hatch.” The result is a high lift-over making it difficult to lift heavy suitcases into the trunk without scuffing the rear bumper. On the bright side, the cargo hold is a cavernous 16.2 cubic feet, a whopping 44% larger than the Camaro. While the Challenger lost points in our exclusive Trunk Comfort Index (see the video segment) for having cheap trunk fabric, it gained more for having trunk hinges that don’t cut down on usable trunk space.

Infotainment

Dodge’s snazzy new engine didn’t bring Chrysler’s new uConnect system with it leaving shoppers to choose from three retro radio and navigation options. We start off with a base 6-speaker Dodge-branded audio system and a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit with a standard CD/DVD player, Bluetooth phone interface aND USB/iPod interface port. $595 buys you the 6.5-inch touchscreen Garmin-based navigation system and Sirius Satellite radio. The system is as easy to use as after-market Garmin systems but doesn’t have the ability to enter a destination address via voice commands. Chrysler’s “730N’” navigation head unit adds the ability to voice command your navigation wishes but the cost is dear at $2,190 because it must be ordered with the optional Harmon Kardon amplifier/speaker package.

The $1,995 Harmon system used their Logic 7 surround processing engine (as seen in the BMW 6-Series), 18 speakers and Green Edge amplifiers. The system can be added to any of the infotainment options on the Challenger. (No, the irony of power efficient “green” amplifiers on a vehicle that wears a gas guzzler tax was not lost on me.) In terms of sound quality, the base system is barely average while the Logic 7 system wouldn’t be out of place on a $60,000 luxury vehicle. Before you check any of the option boxes however, you should know this generation of uConnect system doesn’t exactly love USB/iDevices and browsing your tunes is a drag. Compared to Chevy’s MyLink system or the older SYNC system in the Mustang, the Challenger’s interface is ancient and a distant third place.

Drivetrain

HEMI. 392. Almost, but not quite. Chrysler (like everyone else) designs their engines with metric measurements and the chief engineer at Dodge claims the displacement translation to English units was done after the fact. That’s why this 392 is really a 391, but that’s close enough for the marketing department. If we’re splitting hairs, the heads are only partially hemispherical. Does any of that matter? Nope.

Any complaints about the rubbery interior evaporate you look at the engine’s numbers. Chrysler didn’t just bore out the 6.1 to get more displacement. Instead, the 6.4L shares its tech with Chrysler’s revised 5.7L V8. Unlike the competition, you won’t find any overhead cams, no special direct injection sauce and only 2 valves per cylinder. Despite that, the 6.4L engine is far from retro. This pushrod V8 gets variable valve timing thanks to a trick camshaft, a variable length intake manifold and cylinder deactivation (with the automatic transmission only). The changes vs the old 6.1L SRT engine are transformative. Power is up 45HP to 470 while torque takes a 90ft-lb leap to a horsepower matching 470. More important is the significant improvement in torque from 2,000-4,000RPM. The old 6.1L engine had some odd power peaks and felt out of breath at the top end. The 6.4 on the other hand feels eager at almost any RPM.

Dodge made the Tremec TR6060 6-speed manual transmission (borrowed from the old Viper) standard, a surprising twist in a portfolio that’s automatic heavy. The manual’s shifts are short, the engagement is near perfection and the clutch pedal is linear with predictable engagement and low effort. Should you be a left-leg amputee, a Mercedes 5-speed automatic is available. Don’t do it. While the automatic transmission enables Chrysler’s Multi Displacement System to function, the 6-speed manual is better in every way including fuel economy. Speaking of economy, the Challenger wears a $1,000 gas guzzler tax because of its 14/23/17 MPG numbers (City/Highway/Combined). However, thanks to an extremely tall 6th gear we averaged 19.5MPG over our week with the Challenger and averaged an impressive 25MPG on a long road trip. Real world economy numbers with the automatic appeared to be 1-2MPG lower based on a short drive with a dealer provided vehicle.

Drive

At 4,200lbs and 198-inches long, the Challenger is a GT car at heart, much like BMW’s 4,368lb 193-inch 6-Series. That means (if you haven’t figured it out by now) that being behind the wheel of the Challenger SRT8 is more like being behind the wheel of BMW’s two-door luxury barge than Ford’s pony car. Is that a bad thing? Not in my book. Sure the Challenger cuts a circle 5-feet bigger than the Mustang, doesn’t handle as well on the track, and delivers straight line performance numbers similar to the less expensive Mustang GT, but it’s the car I’d rather drive. Why? The Challenger delivers the most polished ride of the high-horsepower American trio thanks to a standard computer controlled suspension system. If that makes me sound like an old man, let me remind you that Mustang/Camaro vs Challenger is always going to be an apples vs oranges comparison.

No performance car review would be complete without performance numbers. Before we dig in, it is important to keep in mind that the test car had a manual transmission. This means the driver is the single biggest factor involved. The 2013 SRT8 has “launch control” but it proved too cumbersome so it wasn’t used in our tests. You should also know that a single shift (1-2) is required to get the Challenger to 60 while four are required for the 1/4 mile (1-4). Traction is also a problem with any 2WD vehicle and this much power; the more control you have over your rubber burning, the faster your 0-30 times will be.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in. Our first test resulted in an 8.1 second run to 60… Because we only used third gear. That should tell you the kind of torque this engine produces. When not joking around, my best time was a 4.4 second run to 60 with a respectable 2.0 second 0-30 time. You can see from these two numbers that traction is the issue. I estimate with wider, grippier tires in the rear, a 1.8 second 0-30 and 4.2 second 0-60 would be achievable. If you opt for the automatic, 60MPH will take a few ticks longer, but because the Mercedes slushbox only needs gears 1-3 for the 1/4 mile (1-4 in the manual) Chrysler says the time will be about 4/10ths faster.

With a starting price of $44,775, the Challenger is about $2,000 more than a Mustang Boss 302 and around $5,000 more dear than a Camaro SS when comparably equipped. Of course for the price you get dynamic suspension, a larger trunk, bigger back seat and one of the best exhaust notes in the industry. In an attempt to even the playing field, Dodge just announced a new “core” model which will start just under $40-large. When pitted against the competition, the Challenger may march to a different drummer, but this is a beat I dig. The SRT8 392 is ginormous, impractical and eats like a teenager with the munchies. It’s also comfortable, powerful and put more smiles per mile on my face than I had expected. It’s hard to go wrong with those results. Just don’t race for pinks, ok?

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

Specifications as tested

0-30:2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.4 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.8 Seconds @ 115 MPH

Observed Average Fuel Economy: 19.5MPG over 829 miles

2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, 392 Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear Spoiler, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Door Panel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, 6-Speed Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, 6-Speed Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Infotainment, uConnect, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Passenger Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard Driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Engine, 6.4L 470HP HEMI V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Fuel Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Is This The Best Muscle Car Deal That Nobody Knows About? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/is-this-the-best-muscle-car-deal-that-nobody-knows-about/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/is-this-the-best-muscle-car-deal-that-nobody-knows-about/#comments Mon, 17 Dec 2012 18:59:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470498

Two doors. 390 horsepower. 8 cylinders. Two seats. Just a hair under $25k. Sound too good to be true? It might be one of the best muscle car deals going, as long as you’re willing to drive a pickup.

While perusing the Ram website for someone looking to buy a pickup, I came across the Ram Express; with a regular 6’4″ bed and rear-drive, it can be had with a 5.7L Hemi engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission for just $24,825. Next year, the 8-speed automatic will be the sole option. For those of us in the snowbelt, four-wheel drive will bump the cost up closer to $28,000, which makes it less of a value proposition. Note that in Canada, the Express starts at a mere $22,395 for a 4×2 single cab – the sole option is four-wheel drive, and a bigger cab is not available.

The V6 Mustang is rightly touted as the muscle car bargain of the century, but the Ram Express offers its own proposition. No, it won’t handle like a V6 ‘Stang, nor will it return the same fuel economy. But it can haul more, carry people in greater comfort (if you opt for the Quad or Crew Cab versions) and can be had with four-wheel drive. Like the Mustang V6, the base price merely serves to get buyers in the door – the real desirable versions need more options and dollars thrown at them – but the intent remains the same. And while a truck may not put up the same on paper acceleration numbers as a conventional car, they can still haul ass just fine. The Express is also extremely basic. If nothing else, it’s an intriguing, all-American alternative to the traditional muscle car – one that can tow 9200 lbs, should the need ever arise.

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Review: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2013-jeep-grand-cherokee-overland-summit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2013-jeep-grand-cherokee-overland-summit/#comments Sat, 29 Sep 2012 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460597

So, you really want a Range Rover but your trust fund hasn’t recovered from the “bankocalypse?” What’s a guy to do? Well, you could take advantage of the British brand’s cliff-face depreciation curve and buy an off-lease Rover, but do you really want to test your reliability-fate with used wares from Old Blighty? The answer comes from the only other brand that has “off-road” coded into its near-luxury DNA: Jeep. Gasp! A Chrysler product you say? While Chrysler would not say the phrase “American Range Rover,” they did throw us the keys to the top-of-the-line Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit 4×4 so see what a refresh and stitched leather goodness could do for our soul.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Grand Cherokee started life in 1993 as a mid-sized SUV attempting to slot between the full-size Grand Wagoneer and the smaller Cherokee. Since that time, like many cars in America, the Jeep has been getting bigger. Unlike many cars, the Grand Cherokee has been something of a social climber receiving newer trim levels with luxury features hitherto unseen in a Chrysler product. Now in its fourth generation the Grand Cherokee has grown by a foot in length, six inches in width and gained nearly a ton in curb weight. Despise the “Americansizing,” the Grand Cherokee’s exterior is well proportioned and elegant thanks to a redesign in 2011 that replaced the cartoonish front with a more attractive and elegant design. Further upping the luxury ante, Jeep bedazzled the Overland edition with chrome, even slathering the tow hooks in bling.

Interior

I have come to the decision that adding stitched leather to anything is a recipe for success. If you don’t believe me, hop in a Laredo trim Grand Cherokee then step inside an Overland. Even though Jeep improved the plastics in the 2011 refresh, the plebeian models receive a rubbery dashboard that collects dust and is difficult to clean. Meanwhile the Overland gets one of the best stitched dashboards I have had the pleasure to fondle see. Seriously, the quality of the stitch-work is second to none in the luxury industry and the contrasting piping on the seats screams Range Rover. This is a good thing. The Range Rover parallel continues with an interior color palate that runs from black-on-black to a series of contrasting leather combinations culminating in the striking “new saddle”  leather interior our model wore. Jeep has tossed plenty of real wood in for good measure and topped everything off with tasteful matte and shiny chrome trim. As you would expect from the “budget” Range Rover, all the creature comforts you could ask for are available including: radar cruise control with pre-collision warning to a heated steering wheel, cooled seats, automatic high beams and keyless go.

A common complaint with the first two generations of the Grand Cherokee was rear seat legroom. While the Grand Cherokee will never be mistaken for a limousine, rear leg room has improved and is no longer a problem point for most passengers. This increase in leg room came with a general increase in the Grand Cherokee’s dimensions. While this increase makes the SUV a bit less capable off-road in some ways, it pays dividends in passenger  comfort, cargo room, and, my personal favorite: lumber capacity. If you own a WJ series Grand Cherokee you’ve probably noticed that it’s hard to get 8-foot long items in the vehicle, this is not a problem with the WK’s increased dimensions. While the Jeep still can’t swallow a 4×8 sheet of plywood, four-foot wide items will fit in the cargo area easily. As before, the rear tailgate features a glass section that opens independently allowing longer items to hang out the rear, this is a feature that is notably absent in the competition.

Infotainment

The positive impression of the Overland’s interior is tarnished once you get settled and reach for the infotainment system. Because Chrysler’s finances were in the toilet when the Grand Cherokee was refreshed in 2011, the infotainment systems from the previous generation remain with essentially no change. All but the base model of the Grand Cherokee get the same 6.5-inch touch-screen interface with the more expensive trims getting more software options in the system. At the top of the food chain, Overland models get “everything” which includes: Bluetooth, iDevice/USB integration, Sirius Satellite Radio and a backup cam. While the feature set is competitive, the system’s graphics are old school, the software operation is far from intuitive, voice commands are few and far between, call quality is mediocre and the system is sluggish. Expect this to change for 2014 as we’re told Jeep is jamming the snazzy new 8.4-inch uConnect system into the dash. If you’re a gadget hound, wait for the upgrade. On the bright side, the Jeep’s English competition has an infotainment system that is just as lackluster, just as ancient and just as infuriating.

Drivetrain

As a nod to those interested in fuel economy, premium interior trappings no longer come bundled with a larger engine. As with all Grand Cherokee models, the Overland starts with the 3.6L V6 which produces 290HP at 6,400RPM and a respectable 260lb-ft of torque at 4,800RPM. Jumping up to the 5.7L V8 gets you 360HP at 5,150RPM and 390lb-ft at 4,250RPM. Attending the V8 party takes a toll on your fuel economy, dropping from 16/23 to 13/20 (City/Highway.) Compared to the Range Rover Sport’s 5.0L naturally aspirated engine, the Jeep delivers 15lb-ft more torque at the expense of 15HP and 2MPGs on the highway (13/18 MPG.)

The rumor mill tells us to expect both engines to get Chrysler’s  ZF-designed Chrysler-built 8-speed automatic for the 2014 model year. Until then, the V6 is paired with a Mercedes 5-speed while the V8 gets Chrysler’s in-house designed 65RFE 6-speed transmission. Our Overland also had the optional Quadra-Trac II AWD system which uses a 2-speed transfer case to split power 50:50 during normal driving situations and provides a 2.72:1 low range for off road use. Four-wheel-drive Overlands also get Jeep’s variable height air-suspension dubbed “Quadra-Lift.” Jeep claims the system is one of the fastest acting in the industry and compared to the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport I’m inclined to agree. Going from the low ride height of 6.6 inches to the 10.7 inch “rock climbing” height takes around 30 seconds while lowering the Jeep takes a similar amount of time.

Drive

Out on the road the Jeep’s hard-core roots are obvious. In a sea of sharp-handling FWD crossovers, the Grand Cherokee sticks out as a marshmallowy soft traditional SUV with standard RWD, a longitudinal mount engine, and a stout 7,200lb towing capacity. This means that despite wide 265-width rubber, the Grand Cherokee will only carve corners in the off-road-incapable SRT8 variety. Still, that’s not this Jeep’s mission. Much like a Range Rover, the Overland’s raison d’être is to drive like a Barcalounger regardless of the road surface. Mission accomplished.

With 360HP and nearly 400lb-ft of twist on hand, you would think the Overland 4X4 V8 would be fast. You would be wrong, our Overland took 7.3 seconds to hit 60 putting it firmly in the “average” category. The first impediment to forward progress is the mass of the Overland which rings in at 5,264lbs (V8 4X4) without a driver. The second is the Chrysler 65RFE transmission under the hood. Compared to GM, Ford and ZF’s 6-speed units, the shifts are slow and soft, first gear isn’t as low as the Mercedes 5-speed the V6 uses and the ratios are somewhat oddly spaced for normal driving. While I expect the new 8-speed unit to deliver better acceleration for the V8 with its low 4.69:1 first gear, don’t expect 2014 to improve HEMI fiel economy by much as the 65RFE’s 6th gear is already a tall .67:1, the same as the Chrysler/ZF 8-speed’s final gear. While we were unable to 0-60 test a V6 Overland, the V6 doesn’t feel that much slower than the V8 and it saves 351lbs of curb weight. The transmission’s ratios and shifting are likely the reason the Range Rover Sport (which manages to be even heavier) is 4/10ths faster to 60 despite the similar power numbers from the engines.

The high curb weight of the Overland causes a few problems off-road for the big-boy Jeep limiting the amount of fun you can have at the off road park. If you see that Grand Cherokee Laredo in front of you barely making it through the mud, just turn around, he’s 632lbs lighter than you. If you see a Patriot playing in the soft-stuff, it’s 2,000lbs lighter. Still, this isn’t likely to be a huge problem for you as I have yet to see a new Grand Cherokee let alone an Overland at my local SVRA. That being said, like the Range Rover, the Grand Cherokee provides all the off-road hardware you’d need to tackle the Rubicon. On our short course at Hollister Hills the Jeep proved that it still has a serious off-road setup that never flinched regardless of which wheel we had up in the air. There is a great deal of debate about whether Jeep’s move to a four-wheel independent suspension in the Grand Cherokee was the right move or not and I must throw my $0.02 in the ring. It doesn’t matter but Jeep made the right business decision. I appreciate both sides of the argument but since most Grand Cherokee buyers think of their gravel driveway as “off-road,” Jeep’s focus on asphalt manners is the way to go.

Branding is important to many shoppers, but just how important is that Range Rover brand to you? If the answer isn’t $16,195, then the $51,500 (as tested) Overland Summit is your “frugal” alternative. Not only does the Overland deliver an honest-to-goodness similar experience for considerably less, it is a viable option for those that simply prefer buying an American brand, or those living in Middle America where you can’t find a Range Rover dealer. Like the Range Rover, the Grand Cherokee Overland is all kinds of crazy, it’s big, brash and heavy but coddles the driver in a leather cocoon. Like the Range Rover, nobody “needs” an Overland, yet I secretly want one.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.9 Seconds

60: 7.22 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.64 Seconds at 87 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 15.2 MPG over 819 miles

 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-001 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-002 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-003 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-004 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-005 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-006 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-007 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-008 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-009 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-010 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-011 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-012 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-013 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-014 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-015 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-016 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-017 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-018 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-019 IMG_0555 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, stitched leather dash, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, stitched leather dash, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Marchionne: V8 Muscle Cars To Be “Rare As White Flies” Under CAFE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/marchionne-v8-muscle-cars-to-be-rare-as-white-flies-under-cafe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/marchionne-v8-muscle-cars-to-be-rare-as-white-flies-under-cafe/#comments Thu, 30 Aug 2012 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458248

I’m still making my way through the tome that is the CAFE regulations, but Sergio Marchionne already know what’s up – maybe all that time he saves by not picking out his outfit each day has something to do with it.

The Chrysler CEO was characteristically blunt with his assessment of CAFE. Going forward, V8 engines (erroneously described as “supercharged Hemis” in certain major outlets) will be “rare as white flies”. Marchionne also delivered more prophetic broad strokes, stating CAFE will “will change the way this industry operates” and that “Everything is on the table…” when it comes to the next generation of cars.

I’m not entirely convinced. Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics put it best when describing to NBC how he envisioned the changes that CAFE will bring. According to him, the automobile

“…will change less than anybody imagines – but more than anyone wants…They will find a lot of new ways to do things.”

At the height of the oil-crisis, when muscle cars were thought to be dinosaurs on the verge of extinction, who would have thought that the 2012 Corvette Z06, with a big-block V8 would retun 15/24 mpg city highway, or that today’s crop of V6-powered pickups would lose nothing to their 8-cylinder brethren in terms of power or towing? There are multiple arguments for or against CAFE – like many of life’s important issues, it’s not entirely black and white.

As far as I’m concerned, more efficient engines, in the abstract, are always a good thing. I take a cornucopian view with respect to automotive technology – whether it’s more efficient powertrains or lighter vehicles (which needs to be the next breakthrough if we’re going to make any gains) will allow us to enjoy a future of motoring that will, like Jim Hall says, change less than anybody will imagine – and hopefully less than any of us want.

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Quote Of The Day: That Fiat-Based Compact Got A Hemi? Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/quote-of-the-day-that-fiat-based-compact-got-a-hemi-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/quote-of-the-day-that-fiat-based-compact-got-a-hemi-edition/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2011 17:43:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=403797

WardsAuto is a great source for industry news, but it’s pretty clearly not the best source for enthusiast news. Take, for example, a recent interview with Dodge SRT boss Ralph Gilles about the forthcoming compact Dodge and its possible SRT version:

“The Neon put the whole street-tuning scene on its ear with the factory turbo. We have to figure out how to get an entry-level SRT product to capture the next generation.”

The car to which Gilles refers will be a Dodge C-segment sedan derived from the same platform that shoulders the highly acclaimed European-market Alfa Romeo Giulietta offered by alliance-partner Fiat…

While Gilles is adamant that a high-performance C-car would be a welcome addition for Chrysler, he stops short of saying it’s a done deal, noting internal plans still are being hammered out.

However, it’s unlikely the entry-level model would share the 470-hp 6.4L Hemi V-8 shared by its SRT brethren introduced at the event here. [emphasis added]

Say it aint so, Dodge! I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned it’s just not a true successor to the Neon SRT-4 unless it’s got a Hemi V8… damn Italians! Seriously though, how cool is it that Wards considers a V8-powered Fiat-based compact merely “unlikely” rather than “a surefire sign of the apocalypse”?
Alternative video after the jump…

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The Other Chrysler Hemi: Simca Esplanada! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/the-other-chrysler-hemi-simca-esplanada/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/the-other-chrysler-hemi-simca-esplanada/#comments Tue, 31 May 2011 20:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=396832
I love stories of American cars that take a weird journey to production in South America, preferably with a dash of European influence added during the journey’s many twists and turns. The Argentinean Renault Torino, a Rambler American with Jeep Tornado engine and Pininfarina rebody is a great example, as is the Willys Itamaraty, a limo-ized Willys Aero sold in Brazil by Ford. The list goes on, but perhaps the greatest, most convoluted tale of them all is that of the Simca Esplanada. How about a late-60s Chrysler product, based on a Dearborn-designed French Ford, with an Ardun-ized hemi Ford Flathead V8 under the hood?

If you read Portuguese, head on over to the Simca do Brasil history site; actually, you should head over there even if you don’t read Portuguese, because the gist of the Esplanada story comes through via the photographs. The Old Car Manual Project also has some Esplanada brochure scans.

It all started in the 1940s with the Ford Vedette. Ford France built this flathead-V8-powered postwar-Mercury-esque machine— incidentally, the first production car in history to feature McPherson strut front suspension— from 1948 through 1954. Ford tired of the constant strikes at the Poissy factory and sold the whole operation, including rights to build Vedettes as well as flathead V8s, to Simca. Simca made the Vedette in France into the early 1960s and in Brazil (as the Simca Chambord, main character of Brazil’s favorite highway-patrol-themed TV show) until 1966.

By that time, Chrysler had taken over Simca, which meant that machines sporting 1930s-vintage Ford V8s now sported Pentastar badging. Henry’s design had become a little long of tooth by the mid-1960s, so Simca budgeted the funds necessary to design and mass-produce an overhead-valve cylinder head with hemispherical combustion chambers, so as to bring the flathead into the (semi-)modern age.

The heads for the new engine (which Simca dubbed the Emi-Sul) were essentially copies of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s famous Ardun head, but with some performance-enhancing upgrades. The end result was a 140-horsepower OHV V8. Some flathead freaks over at the H.A.M.B. are importing these engines for use in their American hopped-up speed buggies, so we’ll probably start seeing Model Ts with Brazilian V8-60 power soon enough. Naturally, the Emi-Sul still has many fans back in Brazil.

Once the Emi-Sul was ready to go, Simca ditched the Chambord’s ’46 Merc-esque body and replaced it with a vaguely Dodge Coronet/Chevy Chevelle-influenced sedan body. A little blocky, but the Esplanada still had a helping of real Detroit style to go with its V8 guts.

Esplanadas were built for the 1966 through 1969 model years. We can assume that Chrysler management wasn’t particularly happy about selling cars equipped with Henry Ford’s V8s under the hood, not to mention the marketing problems associated with the Esplanada’s ancient design, and so Brazilian Dodge Dart production started that year.

Since I’m on a quest to adopt a Zaporozhets into my personal fleet, I won’t be sidetracked a search for a historically fascinating Ford-Simca-Chrysler sedan to drive around Denver… but it’s tempting.

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Review: 2011 Dodge Charger R/T Take One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2011-dodge-charger-rt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2011-dodge-charger-rt/#comments Wed, 11 May 2011 20:53:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=394641

So I’m driving a $69,000 Cadillac CTS-V, and it makes me wonder—if you can only spend half as much, how much performance do you sacrifice? And if you can spend twice as much, how much can you gain? Today, the first question. If you’re seeking a V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive sedan, but have a budget in the mid-30s, the 2011 Dodge Charger R/T is your only option.

For 2011, Dodge has excised the aggressive chunkiness from the Charger’s exterior, substituting smoothly flowing curves. Scallops in the hood and bodysides provide a link to the classic 1968-70 car. The sedan’s face remains suitably menacing, with a large, protruding crosshairs grille. This face notwithstanding, the new Charger is prettier, and less distinctive. Though the 199.9×75.0×58.4-inch exterior dimensions remain about the same, the new car looks longer, with too much visual mass for $995 of bright red paint. The no-extra-charge metallic gray of the tested car much better suits the big body. Even so attired, the Charger lacks upscale aspirations—that’s the related Chrysler 300’s territory. Instead, the Charger’s achieved intent is “four-door muscle car.”

The same is the case inside the new Charger: more flowing lines, limited luxury. The silver patterned trim plate that spans two-thirds of the instrument panel has a retro vibe, though the materials and workmanship here and elsewhere in the interior are mostly up to 2011 standards. Some switches continue to look and feel cheap, and some elements lack finesse. For example, why is the hood over the instruments a couple inches thick? The entire instrument panel could be much more compact with no loss in functionality. The graphics on the 8.4” touchscreen are unusually large, good for usability but not so good for a refined appearance. The best part of the interior: the attractively styled, comfortably upholstered door panels. The most disappointing: the $3,000 Road & Track package no longer includes the aggressively bolstered seats from the SRT8. Instead, synthetic suede center panels have been added to the Charger’s minimally bolstered, less enticing standard seats.

The windshield has been laid back a few degrees, and the windows have been enlarged about 15 percent, so the view from the driver’s seat is considerably less gangsta than before. Given the size of the instrument panel, though, drivers under 6-2 will still want to raise the seat, and even then will feel like they’re wearing a car that’s a couple sizes too large. On the other hand, those who shop at the “big and tall” store might find the XXL interior they’ve been looking for. Room is similarly plentiful in the comfortably high back seat. Perhaps because of its encapsulated conventional hinges, the trunk isn’t as roomy as before (15.4 vs. 16.2 cubic feet). Some midsize sedans have more space for cargo. A split folding rear seat remains standard.

The Charger R/T’s standard 5.7-liter V8 kicks out 370 horsepower at an easily accessible 5,250 rpm, and sounds good while doing so. Torque: 395 foot-pounds at 4,200 rpm. A far cry from the CTS-V’s 556 horsepower, but still about 100 more than in the typical V6-powered midsize sedan. Even though the curb weight is up over 200 pounds, to 4,253, this is a quick car, with a zero-to-sixty in the low fives. Impediments to visceral thrills lie elsewhere. Effective soundproofing reduces the sensation of acceleration and responses to the throttle lack immediacy. The ancient Mercedes-Benz five-speed automatic deserves much of the blame for the latter. A new eight-speed automatic, available with the V6 at the start of the 2012 model year and with the V8 at some point in the future, should improve responsiveness and acceleration. A six-speed manual would provide an even more direct, responsive connection, but this option is restricted to the related Challenger coupe.

The Charger’s chassis similarly feels distant and slow to respond. The Road & Track Package didn’t only lose the SRT’s seats this year. It also lost SRT-like suspension tuning. In standard Charger R/T tune the steering feels light and numb. In sharp contrast to the CTS-V and the late, lamented Pontiac G8, where progressive oversteer can be dialed in almost intuitively, with the Charger it’s necessary to dig deep into the throttle to affect the attitude of the chassis. Though lean in turns is moderate, the Charger always feels every bit as large and heavy as it is. Easy to control, certainly, and far from the floaty land yachts of yore, but a satisfying tight connection between man and machine proves elusive. A $400 Super Track Pak, which includes firmer suspension tuning, should help, but how much? Unless this package makes a huge difference, the Charger simply isn’t in the same league as the CTS-V dynamically. Instead, it’s a modern embodiment of the classic large American sedan, complete with a (mostly) smooth, quiet ride. More controlled and capable, but the spirit remains the same.

Ultimately, the Charger R/T isn’t remotely a half-price substitute for a CTS-V. Compared to the Cadillac, the Dodge feels large, soft, lethargic, and disconnected. Whatever was done to make the revised Grand Caravan ride and handle so well needs to be done here, and hopefully will be done for the upcoming SRT. As is, I didn’t much enjoy driving the big sedan. Nevertheless, the Charger does fill a gaping hole in the market. In every way save trunk space it’s a superior substitute for Ford’s Panthers, now in their final months of production. With ample V8 power, predictable handling, a quiet ride, and a roomy interior, the Charger should fill the Crown Vic’s shoes quite nicely. Watch your speed, or you’ll see a big crosshair grille (further enhanced with flashing lights) in your rearview mirror often.

Bryan Galczynski of Suburban Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep in Novi, MI, provided the car. Bryan can be reached at 248-427-7767.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data

Charger front seats Charger front quarter 2 Charger view forward Charger instrument panel Charger rear Charger rear quarter Charger? I just met her! Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Charger front Charger trunk Charger engine Charger red Charger-front-quarter-thumb Charger interior ]]>
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Autobiography: Hemi Love http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/12/autobiography-hemi-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/12/autobiography-hemi-love/#comments Sat, 15 Dec 2007 10:56:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/editorials/hemi-love/ hemifxs.jpgWhat eye-candy poster was pinned up on your bedroom wall when you were thirteen? A black Lamborghini Countach sprouting numerous spoilers? Farah Fawcett-Majors with blindingly-white teeth? Metallica? KISS? What I gazed lovingly upon-- whilst sprawled across my bed-- was a giant detailed cross-sectional drawing of a Chrysler hemi engine. Thus was the spell that the mythical engine had on me.

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What eye-candy poster was pinned up on your bedroom wall when you were thirteen? A black Lamborghini Countach sprouting numerous spoilers? Farah Fawcett-Majors with blindingly-white teeth? Metallica? KISS? What I gazed lovingly upon– whilst sprawled across my bed– was a giant detailed cross-sectional drawing of a Chrysler hemi engine. Thus was the spell that the mythical engine had on me.

I spent days painstakingly making the icon myself, recreating an image from a library book unto the large poster board with nothing more than a ruler, pencil and magic marker. It was my masterpiece, my Mona Lisa. I had finally and fully unveiled the mystery beneath those giant valve covers. The hemispherical combustion chambers, complex valve train and gracefully curving ports were revealed in graphic detail, as explicitly on display as Miss April in the Playboy centerfold under my mattress.

In earlier years, I would peer endlessly into any open engine compartment. Although largely ignorant of the actual thermodynamic differences, I had intuited a distinct pecking order for the distinctive cylinder head configurations: flathead, conventional overhead valve (OHV) and hemi-head. Flatheads spoke old-school; big rectangular lumps of cast iron, almost lost in the depths of the deep engine compartments of the times. And once having seen that slab of a flathead cylinder head removed, the torturous path afforded the intake and exhaust gases was obviously inferior.

The usual OHV configuration– with valves lined up side-by-side under their narrow valve covers– spoke of modernity, efficiency and the ability to make decent power in Detroit’s postwar generation of V8s. But one glance at those huge wide valve covers perched on Chrysler’s FirePower hemi V8 inspired awe. I instantly knew that it was designed for one thing, and one thing only: power.

With valves canted some 60 degrees, they could be bigger. Intake and exhaust ports were both a straight shot into their respective manifolds, dramatically improving breathing. I knew Chrysler hadn’t invented the hemi. The 1912 Peugeot grand prix engine had them (as well as DOHC and four valves per cylinder). Hemis were common in Europe, and used on the Miller/Offenhauser racing engines. But Chrysler was the first to adapt them to the sedate, slow-revving Yank tank engine bays.

Starting with a mild 180hp in 1951, Chrysler quickly began to develop the hemi’s potential, and soon dominated the horsepower war of the fifties. The crowning glory was the 1955 Chrysler 300, the first production vehicle to sport the eponymous amount of horsepower. It would top 130mph straight off the showroom floor. The 1957 300C’s 390hp represented a doubling of power in just six years– and then some. It was a milestone. An instant classic.

Hot rodders knew a winner when they saw it. The hemi quickly became the ticket on the drag strip. With a giant blower forcing a nitro mixture into massaged hemi heads, thousands of horsepower could be extracted. That seemed miraculous to me, given that our elderly neighbor’s 1956 Windsor generated all of 225p. No wonder I stared reverently as he burbled down the street at 20mph; I knew the awesome potential that was waiting to be unleashed under that long hood.

Unfortunately, the hemi’s capabilities carried a penalty. The complicated engine was expensive to build, and heavy. By 1958, Chrysler pulled the plug.  The company developed a completely new hemi– the 426 — for NASCAR racing in 1964. It was never intended as a production engine; Chrysler was forced to adapt it for civilian use when NASCAR threatened to ban it otherwise. The hemi was reincarnated, in even more mythical form.

Although 426 hemis terrorized the stock car circuits and drag strips, they were not exactly common on the street. But thanks to my first job at fifteen, pumping extra-high-octane Sunoco 260 gas, I had regular close encounters of the hemi kind with a Plymouth GTX.

I couldn’t wait to pop the hood to gaze reverentially on that huge orange and crackle-black icon. As an ex-altar boy, my instinct was to genuflect, especially when that heady incense of hot oil and crankcase vapors hit my nostrils. I felt privileged to check its vital fluids, and eventually, screwed up the courage to ask if I could check the air filter. The owner obliged, even though he knew it was just a ruse to see the two enormous four-barrel Carter carburetors in their naked splendor.

Tempus fugit. Those days of heady hemi horsepower are long gone. You know it’s a different age when Chrysler files a trademark on the hemi name– boldly emblazoning it on cars and trucks with oversized HEMI badges– even though the engine powering them isn’t really a hemi (it’s more accurately a “pent-roof”). It’s no wonder the wonder’s gone, genuine hemis are notoriously “dirty” but it’s sad nonetheless. That thing got a hemi? Not really, no.

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