The Truth About Cars » mopar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:30:27 +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 » mopar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Dodge Revives “Shaker” Hood, Scat Pack Club to Help Celebrate Centennial http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/dodge-revives-shaker-hood-scat-pack-club-to-help-celebrate-centennial/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/dodge-revives-shaker-hood-scat-pack-club-to-help-celebrate-centennial/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 10:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=643537 New Mopar ’14 Challenger model revealed: only 100 serialized c

To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of when Horace and John Dodge started selling automobiles in November 1914 under their own brand name after years of supplying Henry Ford with components and rolling chassis, Dodge is going to bring back a feature from its storied past, albeit from a period more recent than when Horace and John walked the floor of Dodge Main. The Chrysler Group’s brand used the occasion of this year’s SEMA show to announce that it will be making 1,000 special edition Challenger R/Ts with “shaker” hoods, as used in Mopar products during the golden age of muscle cars in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s called a shaker hood because an engine mounted air intake protrudes through an opening in the hood and shakes from the torque as the engine rocks on its mounts. The limited run of cars will also come with an electronically operated exhaust dump, to allow a more free flowing, and louder, exhaust.

As in the late 1960s, this shaker hood equipped Challenger comes with a Hemi, in this case the 5.7 liter version of the V8. Prices start at $37,990, including delivery, a $2,500 premium for the special hood.

New Mopar ’14 Challenger model revealed: only 100 serialized c

In addition to the Challengers with the shaker hoods, Dodge is resurrecting the Scat Pack Club. No, it has nothing to do with excreta, it was the name of a company sponsored enthusiast group associated with performance equipment sold from 1968 to 1971. The new Scat Pack will include performance kits, available in stages, for the Challenger, Charger and Dart that incorporate custom ECUs, cold air intakes, performance exhaust systems, suspension upgrades and other accessories that can be user or dealer installed. In the muscle car era you had to buy the go-fast gear to get the now quite collectible bumblebee Scat Pack decal. This time around you still have to buy the parts to get the graphic, only this time it’s a badge with the stage number indicated, not just a sticker.

2014 Dodge Challenger R/T with Scat Package 3

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Vellum Venom: 1970 Dodge Charger RT-SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/vellum-venom-1970-dodge-charger-rt-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/vellum-venom-1970-dodge-charger-rt-se/#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 13:21:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=518889

My departure from the cloistered world of automotive design was anything but pleasant: leaving the College for Creative Studies scarred changed me, possibly ensuring the inability to conform to PR-friendly autoblogging. Luckily I am not alone. While Big Boss Man rests in Chrysler’s doghouse, a remotely nice comment about their door handles perked the ears of the local Chrysler PR rep…and she tossed me a bone.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Hovas’ Hemi Hideout: so here’s a slice of Mopar history worthy of a deep dive into the Vellum. Oh, thanks for the invite, Chrysler.

1

An unforgettable face: the iconic 1968-1970 design was Chrysler’s most memorable effort to spook insurance and safety special interest groups into forcing “better” vehicles on the public. Sure, we’re better off now, but is a fragile chrome halo of a bumper really that useless?

Isn’t this bumper (and complex hidden headlights) worth the extra insurance premiums? Worth it to have a disturbingly clean and minimalist design?  Probably not…

2

But still, you can’t argue with how stunning and shocking this is.  While nothing like Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, the Charger’s front clip is a timeless work of art.  The blackout grille extends over the headlights, encased in a deep silver rim, topped with a chrome bumper…wrapped up with a name: Charger R/T.  This nose and this name made a promise to would-be new car racers of the era, and its aged phenomenally well.

That said, my favorite grille of this body style was the cleanest: the 1968 Charger was the one to have. It makes the otherwise clean 1970 Charger look downright fussy!

3

Things fall apart as you look closer, however.  Maybe the solid grilles over the headlights look cheap, and the panel gaps are too sloppy. The round signal lights look like a leftover assembly from the 1950s. Or perhaps the license plate should be located even lower as to not interfere with the bumper’s strong minimal form.

4

Even though the front end looks flat from many angles…

Note how the chrome bumper tapers in near the headlights, then pushes back out at the ends of the fenders. The silver rim accentuates this dance, ditto the fenders and hood.  But that black sheet of grille?  It peaks at the middle and nothing more.  The different high/low spots are phenomenally beautiful, it is fantastically executed on this front fascia.  5

The hood’s recesses and that strong center mohawk add a bit of excitement to an otherwise far-too-subtle design for a Mopar Muscle car. If you had a problem with Mopar Minimalism!

6

Somehow I doubt the meaty rubber trim does anything to protect the Charger’s painted body from the front bumper.  Not to mention the horrible fitment of this (replacement?) trim. I’d hate to be a broke-ass dude in the 1980s when someone slams their 5-mph bumper’d Monte Carlo into my otherwise cherry 1970 Charger.  The damage would be extensive…and would go unrepaired!

 

7

Hood pins are cool…but following their cable to this horrendous gap in the rubber trim leaves much to be desired. Damn, son!

7_1But it’s less offensive when you step back a little.

8_1

The only thing cooler than Rallye wheels and Goodyear white letter polyglass tires on this Charger would be the new-age 17″ repros with fat steel-belted rubber.  I love the proportioning of a proper 1970s muscle car with 17″ rolling stock: it’s perfection.

9

The hard bend (with a slight upward angle) at the end of the fenders just “ends” me. It’s another snapshot on vehicle design that emulates the timelessness of the infinity pool in modern architecture. Combine with the Charger’s long front end and deep fenders (i.e. the space between the hood cutline and the end of the fender) and this is simply a fantastic element.

10

The hood’s negative areas add some necessary excitement, otherwise this would be too boring for an American muscle car.  There’s just too much real estate not to do…something!

11

The signal repeaters at the beginning of the negative area’s cove are a styling element that I wish could come back.  But no, we need standard bluetooth and keyless ignitions instead…probably.

12

I’d trade all that standard technology for a hood this menacing, this modern.

Mid Century Muscle?

Mad Men Mopar?

Don Draper’s mid-life crisis machine?

All of the above. 13
The intersection of the cowl, fender, hood and door isn’t terribly elegant.  Newer cars have “hidden” cowls, an advancement that’d make the Charger shine. Because not having the fenders and hood sweep over THIS space does THAT front end a huge disservice.  Plus the panel gaps kinda suck, too.

14
At least there’s no DLO fail.  But imagine this angle with the 1980s technology of hidden cowl panels!

15

A little faster A-pillar would also be nice, it’s too static just like the cowl. But asking for such changes 40 years later is beyond idiotic. And while the R/T door scoop isn’t nearly as hideous as the afterthought scoop on the 1999 Ford Mustang, you gotta wonder how “ricey” this looked to old school hot-rodders making sleepers out of Tri-Five Chevys and boring 1960s sedans.

16

The pivot point for the vent window is an interesting bit of kit.

17

Chrome elbow sleeves, because a computer couldn’t bend/cut one piece of bling for us back then. Bummer.

18

Yeah, the R/T’s useless scoop is pretty much Muscle Car Rice.  While it kinda accentuates the genesis of the door’s muscular bulge, it’s completely superfluous. 19

Chrysler’s side view mirrors for the time were pretty cool by themselves…but they didn’t match the max wedge (get it?) demeanor of the front end.  20
I never noticed the three lines inside the R/T’s slash.  Definitely adds some excitement without today’s emblem marketing overkill.

21

Note how the R/T scoop does match the contrasting muscular wedge of the door.  Problem is, the scoop is obviously a tacked-on afterthought.  Negative area like the hood was a smarter alternative. But the interplay between doors lower wedge and the strong upper wedge coming from the fender is quite fetching.  As if the Charger is ripped from spending years a the gym.

22

Yup, toned and perfected at the gym.  Too bad the door handles belong on Grandma’s Plymouth.  Perhaps we all shamelessly raid the parts bin…22_1

The SE package was always the Super Classy Excellent model to have.  The vinyl top, these “proto-brougham” emblems and the interior upgrades are totally worth it. What’s up with the pure modern “SE” lettering with that almost malaise-y script below to explain what SE stands for? I’d cut the emblem in the middle and only use the upper half.

I’d save the lower half for the disco era, natch. I mean, obviously!

22_2

Vintage Mopar marketing sticker?  Check.

23

Classic Detroit is present in the Charger’s profile.  Long hood, long dash-to-axle ratio, long fastback roof, long quarter panels and a long deck. That’s a lotta long!

The only thing too short are those doors: the cutline should extend several inches back for maximum flow.  And from the subtle curve in the front fender to the stunning hips above the rear axle, does the Charger ever flow!

  24

Aside from the obvious problem with rearward visibility, how can you hate this buttress’d roof?  The fastback C-pillar is a long, daring and classy affair when trimmed with chrome and textured vinyl.  Keeping the roof from being too boring was the rear window’s use of a different vanishing point than the C-pillar, which translates into a different stop on the blue body.

25

To make up for the different vanishing points, more chrome and vinyl. I can dig it, but perhaps such design novelties are better off on a less mainstream product.  Or perhaps not…because how many people wanted a Charger back in 1970?  And how many people want one now?  Me thinks the number is exponentially higher today.

Yes, I know these pictures suck. But you can’t imagine how painful it was to coax a cheapie digital camera to do the right thing under the harsh lighting provided by half a million dollars worth of vintage neon lights. And now I hate neon lights.

26

Chrome and vinyl: so happy together.

26_1

The different vanishing points for the C-pillar and rear window make for a little problem: the trunk’s cutline should be much closer to the rear window.  And while that’d make a stupid-long trunk, it would look stupid cool.

26_2
Just in case you didn’t know where the new Challenger got that fuel door idea from. Too bad the new Challenger doesn’t have the Charger RT’s sense of chrome trimmings elsewhere to integrate it into the package.  That said, this is a beautiful piece of outstanding metal on a minimalistic body. Which makes it a wart…and by definition, warts must be destroyed.

Killed with fire. Or splashed with acid.  Or whatever it takes for a Dermatologist to knock ‘em off a beautiful body.

28

A part of me wishes the Charger’s back-end had the same round chrome bumper treatment as the front.  And no chrome around the red tail lights.  Actually just graft the front end entirely back here, and replace the black grille with red tail lights. A bit stupid perhaps, but it’d make a completely cohesive and eye-catching design.

29

That said, the Charger ain’t no slouch in the posterior.  The vertical bumperettes need to find lodging elsewhere, ditto the round backup lights.  But the space between the lights is the perfect location for a branding emblem, and the impossibly thin decklid looks quite sharp.

30

There’s a subtle dovetail at the end of the trunk, a nod to modern aerodynamic designs. I love it, don’t you?

31

Can’t say the same for the undefined space between the rear bumper and the quarter panel.  Yeesh, this was acceptable in 1970?

32

The trunk’s gap also leaves something to be desired. While I like the interplay between the chrome bumper and the tail light trim above the license plate area, it’s a bit too subtle.  Wait, did I actually mean what I said?

The difference in “heights” at the license plate should either be a bit more aggressive, or completely, exactly the same as the rest of the light/bumper ratio.

33

Maybe the crude black paint on the tail light’s chrome trim is the byproduct of a terrible restoration…but considering factory correct restorations elsewhere include similarly sloppy craftsmanship to mimic the factory…

Oh boy.

34

The tail lights are sunken significantly into the body, just like the grille up front.  Me likey enough to adore: such use of aggressive negative areas needs to come back in a BIG way.

35

There’s something about the chrome trim’s application around the trunk lock…

36

Even the camera-infurating action of all those neon lights can’t hide the ugliness here. Maybe my idea of having an all-encompassing chrome bumper instead of chrome around the tail light isn’t such a stupid idea after all. It’d certainly address this problem.

37

The round backup light does this design no favors. Exposed screws on the chrome bezel makes it worse. Weren’t there some square lenses Chrysler coulda parts-bin’d instead?

38 No matter: the 1970 Charger is an unforgettable machines.  I can’t imagine owning one when new, only to move on to tackier metal from the disco era.  And if a 1970 Charger owner was loyal enough to stick around during the Iaococca era and beyond, well, they’d be justified to hate everything made after 1970. Just look at that roof!

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

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An Open Letter To The Mopar Community Regarding Our Cherokee Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/an-open-letter-to-the-mopar-community-regarding-our-cherokee-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/an-open-letter-to-the-mopar-community-regarding-our-cherokee-review/#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 18:51:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=517809 neontow

Dear fellow Chrysler/Plymouth/Imperial/Dodge/DeSoto fans,

It appears that some of you are not happy with our man Derek’s review of the new Jeep Cherokee. I can understand that; like many of you, I wanted the Cherokee to be a solid if not superior product. Today, however, I saw that Allpar.com’s administrator has called for Chrysler to blacklist TTAC from future press vehicles. I thought I’d take a moment to discuss with you why an attitude like this is bad news for everyone, including the Mopar Nation or whatever the long-suffering group of Chrysler loyalists is being called at the moment.


If you’ll indulge me for a moment before we get to the meat of the discussion, however, I want to respond personally to allegations made on Allpar and elsewhere that we are “out to get” Chrysler, and the occasional allegation that I personally am “out to get” Chrysler. I bought a 1995 Neon new from the showroom floor. I factory-ordered a 2004 SRT-4. I bought and campaigned an original Neon Challenge ACR in NASA until I was put in the wall — and then my team and I built another Neon from a bare shell to logbook racer in twenty days. I’ve competed in Dodge and Plymouth automobiles from California, where we won ChumpCar in a Neon Coupe, to Ohio where my ACR was the only car to finish in the top five of both wet and dry NASA National Championship qualifying races. This f**king morning I bought a 2.4 DOHC engine to use for the 2014 NASA race season. I’ve seen more flags behind the windshield of a Mopar product than all but the most committed racers. I’ve voted for Chrysler with my own money again and again and will continue to do so.

Okay. End of rant. The objections brought up on forums regarding Derek’s review mostly fell into two categories, which I’ll cover separately below.

“These were pre-production automobiles. Why did Derek complain about the fit and finish on them?” On the surface, this sounds completely reasonable. If Derek was informed that the Cherokees he was being given to drive weren’t ready for prime time, so to speak, why not ignore the little stuff and focus on the important aspects of the vehicle? I’d suggest that he did focus on the important aspects of the vehicle. He and I discussed the problems he was seeing with the Cherokees multiple times. It wasn’t just fit and finish; it was a failure to ride, handle, and address NVH as well as the best competitors in the CUV field. Where the Jeep had “wins” — against the RAV4, for instance — he said as much. It wasn’t just a matter of mis-stitched steering wheels.

But what if it had been just a matter of mis-stitched steering wheels? Do you, the Allpar or Edmunds or whatever forum reader, want us to hide that from you? Do you want us to keep secrets from you about the fit and finish of vehicles we drive just because the pretty girl sitting next to us at dinner pats our arm and says “Oh, I know the steering wheels are all terrible, but I promise we’ll have them right in production”? Are you more comfortable if we just take the manufacturer’s word for this stuff? Or do you want us to report on what we saw truthfully and leave the determination about what the manufacturer might or might not do on the production line up to you?

Imagine, for example, that every Cherokee on the drive had a stalling problem. If we kept our mouths shut about that at Chrysler’s request, and then you bought a Cherokee and it had a stalling problem, wouldn’t you have suffered from our willingness to adjust our ethics to please the site administrator at Allpar.com? Is that guy going to come to your house and fix the stalling problem for you? “Oh, but,” some of you will say, “a mis-stitched steering wheel isn’t as important as a stalling problem.” Fair enough — but do you want to pay $37,000 and get something that isn’t up to par? I ordered my SRT-4 sight unseen, trusting that what I had read about the car was honest. Shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to you? Should our loyalty be to you, or to the manufacturer?

“All the other early reviews of the Cherokee have been positive.” Undoubtedly. All the early reviews of anything nowadays are positive. There’s a certain amount of Freakonomics at work here. Derek will never meet 99.9% of Allpar readers, but he’ll be at dinner with the same Chrysler people at every press event. There’s a strong temptation to say nice things about the car, particularly if you can wind them back later in a comparison test. Many of the people who are currently lauding the Cherokee will call it a complete piece of junk as soon as the next Cherokee is ready. Some of the writers who are currently slamming the Patriot and Compass in their Cherokee reviews tripped all over themselves to say nice things about those same vehicles at the early launch events.

Let me look into the future for you. The new Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec just had its press event last week. It will receive positive reviews all the way around even though I’m already hearing grumblings about the car being underpowered garbage. Want to know why? Click here. Mr. Day had his resignation from MBUSA accepted with extreme prejudice recently, but in the words of the poet, one monkey don’t stop no show.

Two years from now, the E250 might get tossed to the back of a comparison test. Four years from now, it will be revealed to have been a bad car. If you want to know what the auto media really thinks of a car, you can read what they say when the next model comes out. Of course, new-car buyers do not find this to be helpful.

When the administrator of a major Mopar fan site calls for Derek’s voice to be silenced because he doesn’t like the review, what he is in effect saying is this: “I value the sales success of a Chrysler product over the individual experience of Chrysler owners.” He’s siding with the corporation, not the driver. I suppose that’s fine for some people. It doesn’t wash here. The English car magazines used to whitewash the failings of cars like the Rover Metro and Jaguar XJ6. Today the companies that made those products are in non-British hands. Because you cannot lie and whitewash your way to success in the automotive business. In the long run, the customer will find out. Every cheat, every slip, every cut corner, will eventually show. You cannot wallpaper a bad product forever. Eventually, the truth will come out and the manufacturers will fail. If you love Chrysler, then you’d better hope that they make a good car. That’s all that can save them.

TTAC will continue to give positive reviews of Chrysler products — when the product is good. When that is not the case, we will continue to alert our readers to problems. We do not apologize for that, we will not walk that back, we will not change. If that means that we are no longer invited to evaluate Chrysler products, we will rent Chrysler products. If that means that we don’t get to party with the cool kids, we can live with that. Our allegiance is to the reader. It was thus when TTAC was founded. It is thus now. Forever may it be.

Sincerely,

Jack Baruth
#187 Plymouth Neon, NASA Performance Touring “E”

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Piston Slap: The Gassy Dart, the Bosch-eating Magnum http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/piston-slap-the-gassy-dart-the-bosch-eating-magnum/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/piston-slap-the-gassy-dart-the-bosch-eating-magnum/#comments Wed, 18 May 2011 22:38:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=395000

TTAC reader sportsuburbanGT writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Have a couple of questions: I have a 72 Dodge Dart that I am performing a 318 to 340 swap.  It’s taken longer than I planned (lack of time), I backed the car in the garage 2 years ago and now I am planning on firing it up in this April.  The question is the gas: I had about a half tank when I backed it in, and I put some Stabil in the tank, but I took the cap off to try a new cap and the tank smelled really awful.  I replaced the fuel filter, but should I drain the tank and refill with fresh gas, put some fresh gas in the tank to mix up what is in there, or pull the tank have it boiled out and refill.  I was driving the car up until March 2009, and I put that last half tank in there in March 2009.  I am in Long Island, NY so we have that crap gas till April.

My second question is on my (daily driver) 2005 Dodge Magnum RT, with 87k on it.  I replaced the O2 sensors (all 4) as preventative maintenance and now I keep getting a p0152 code.  It’s the code for the upstream right side O2 sensor.  I installed new Bosch sensors, but I received the first CEL right after I started it up after the new sensors were installed.  I replaced the right upstream with a new unit (Bosch), no code on start up.  The CEL came back after 4 days and 300 miles, stayed on for a day then went off for a day and came back this Sat and is still there.  I disconnected the neg. battery before I performed this work.  I replaced the sensors as preventative maintenance; I was under the impression they last for about 100k.  I also have the Mopar Performance long tube headers with a Borla exhaust on the car, they have been there since about 15k.  Is the Magnum eating O2 sensors, or are these Bosch sensors no good?

Great write ups, I have really enjoyed reading them, thanks in advance for any help.

Sajeev answers:

I like your tastes in cars, this brand loyalty proves why some (Detroit) brands need not stray far from what made them so popular in the first place. Not that we all need Dodge Darts in lieu of a Toyota Prius, but that’s not the point…

The Dart: I really can’t decide between 100% fresh gas or diluted with fresh gas. It also depends on if you plan on a carburetor rebuild/upgrade in the future. I think it’s less work to buy a several fuel filters and replace as needed, carefully (low RPMs, please!) driving the car until the old stuff burns off.  But that’s because I absolutely loathe messing with gas tanks.  And, once again, you might need to re-jet the carb to compensate for the extra cubes, so who cares if you get junk from old fuel in there?

The Magnum: if the wiring does not look frayed/melted, get a new sensor, it should be warrantied at your parts store.  I have Kooks headers on my ’95 Mark VIII and I love my “non-factory” Bosch O2 sensors for a Ford truck. These have been very good to me for over 5 years and 40,000 miles. But others have complained on the forums, for reasons I can’t logically understand. But then again, I only have one sensor per exhaust bank.

sportsuburbanGT answers:

Thanks for the pointers.  I will replace the O2, I hope three times is a charm.  The wiring is mint, it is nit hitting or rubbing anything. I will also go for the fresh gas in the Dart a little of the summer blend 93 should do the trick.

That Mark sounds sweet.

Sajeev concludes:

Oops, I mis-read your comment.  If that’s your third O2 sensor, I’d look much, MUCH closer at the wiring harness.  It’s amazing what little contact it takes to melt those wires against a set of long tube headers, especially if you doubt the skill of the installation.  If the wiring checks and there’s no other trouble codes, consider the OEM-branded replacement sensor. I can’t imagine any other problem creeping up so quickly after installation of your first set of Bosch sensors.

And yes, its modifications like yours (ours?) make my Mark so much fun to drive, so difficult to sell in the face of more modern, far superior iron. I’m sure you know the feeling. Good luck to you.

Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Review: 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2010-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-8/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2010-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-8/#comments Mon, 05 Jul 2010 15:05:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360242

Behold the mighty off-road prowess of the Grand Cherokee SRT-8! Yes, my ratty-looking lawn is about as far off-road as most JGCs ever go. The 2011 Grand Cherokee even offers a couple of optimized drivetrain-and-suspension setups for those people who, as the nice Jeep PR man said during the introduction, “only go off-road… in their minds.”

The autojourno business is an odd one. Your not-so-humble author was one of the first people to have the chance to drive the 2011 JGC anywhere, and also very possibly the last journo on the planet to obtain a 2010 Grand Cherokee as a press vehicle. I’d like to think that, at the moment I achieved 88 miles per hour in the 2011 truck, I went back in time and successfully snagged a 2010 as a loaner.

There’s no SRT-8 in the 2011 lineup, although I strongly suspect there will be one debuting later on in the year, so if you want the combination of big-cube HEMI and Brembo brakes in your SUV, this is your only choice for now. The question is: with the demonstrated excellence of the new model, is there any reason at all to choose a 2010?

If you’ve just stepped out of the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, stepping into the 2010 will shock you. The ergonomics are all wrong — at least, they are for me at 6’2″, 225lbs, and a 48 Long suit size — and the steering wheel seems to sit in one’s lap. The rear seat is cramped, as was the case in all Grand Cherokees prior to the new model, and the general state of trim quality seems a bit low for a $49,000 vehicle (as tested). I compared this back-to-back with my Ford Flex Limited and Audi S5; the Jeep comes in a distant third for interior ambiance. The dashboard and center stack, in particular, aren’t up to the standards of the class.

The instrument panel itself has a few nice surprises. It’s well-trimmed, with convincing chrome rings and two high-resolution two-line LCD displays. One of those displays can be configured on-the-fly to record g-force in four directions and time to distance for braking and acceleration. Set the display for 0-60, apply the brake, use the throttle to strain the big HEMI against the four big red Brembo brakes to the tune of 2200rpm or so, and release the brake when the light turns green. Instant no-hassle 5.0-second 0-60, with passengers, just about perfect, every time. If that sounds slow by magazine standards, don’t be fooled. Most exotic cars struggle to break five seconds to sixty in the real world, on dirty roads, with a slight curve or hill thrown in. The SRT-8 is extremely quick.

I find the first-to-second shift performed by the Mercedes-sourced WA580 transmission particularly charming. There’s a very brief ignition cutout during the shift, which happens with almost DSG speed, and when the ignition switches back on there’s a wonderful “brap” as the motor re-fires as the new, lower rev level. It’s pretty much the same thing you get with a PDK-equipped Porsche or a Nissan GT-R.

Both of those cars, by the way, will need to stay on their toes around the SRT-8. A normally-aspirated 911 won’t keep up with this truck from a slow roll, and the Grand Cherokee is capable of stealing a car length or two on a GT-R until the turbos really wake up. The 6.1-liter V8 may drink fuel at a rate that seems astonishing by modern standards — I recorded 15.5 average on the freeway and 10-11 during my two-lane commute, about which more in a moment — but it does the business in a straight line.

My current daily commute takes me about 108 miles from my front door to the garage at Switzer Performance. About thirty-five miles of that happens on Ohio two-lanes in “Amish country”. The roads are marked 55 and 65, but the traffic commonly crawls at 35 to 50, slowed down by tanker trucks struggling on hills and the desperate, rural poor in death-rattling old Cavaliers, trying to make it to work or their crystal-meth lab. In these situations, every possible pass has to be made, every time, no exceptions, no waiting. The difference between making every pass and waiting behind traffic is, literally, ninety minutes of commuting time every day.

Not every car is perfectly suited for this. My Boxster S is absolutely lousy, since I can’t see around the pickup trucks and it requires snagging second gear to step out with alacrity from behind the traffic. My S5 is better, since it has torque. A GT-R is better still, since it requires less space. Best of all is the Grand Cherokee SRT-8. The infamous “high and mighty” view, toned-down a touch by the low suspension, allows me to see the pass. The HEMI allows me to make the pass, and the Brembos allow me a solid haul-down back into the traffic line if I can’t snag everybody in one run. No, the Brembos probably aren’t enough for track work, since this truck weighs 5300 pounds, but for wiping off fifty or sixty miles per hour in a single press, they are spectacular.

The only fly in this back-road ointment is, regrettably, the SRT-8′s solid rear axle. Not all SRA cars are terrifying on rough roads — see “Ford Mustang, post-2005″ for an example of one that’s more than okay — but the Jeep’s weight, size, and rollover point combine to obtain one’s full attention when hitting potholes, pavement waves, or uneven patching. At full speed, the back end will step out, and the stability control seems to have little to say about it. After a few all-hands-on-deck episodes, I learned to be very careful about applying full throttle on broken pavement. The new SRT-8, when it arrives, won’t suffer from that problem.

Let’s tally up the pros and cons of buying a 2010 SRT-8. Pros: you can buy one now. You can get a hell of a deal. They retain their value in the used market and are likely to do so. It’s fast. It’s comfy enough for front-seaters. Cons: the new one is better in every single way, it will probably have more power, and your children/parents/other rear-seat denizens will thank you profusely.

Speaking personally, I’d wait for the 2011. If you want a truck now, then the SRT-8 makes a solid case for itself. You won’t go faster for less money in a truck, and you won’t really go much faster for two or three times the price. The mechanicals are well-proven, and you won’t have a hard time selling it. I wouldn’t blame you for pulling the trigger today, but don’t blame me when you see that the next one is far, far better, okay?

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Anything To Forget You’re In A Chrysler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/10/anything-to-forget-youre-in-a-chrysler/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/10/anything-to-forget-youre-in-a-chrysler/#comments Thu, 29 Oct 2009 15:50:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=333491

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