Piston Slap: LeMons Racer Seeks Minivan Normalcy
Heeding the call for silly, not-really-that-good letters…plus I wrote you a while back about my Freestyle. Since then, my wife actually sat in a minivan, and that’s the direction we are heading. We are looking at replacing it quickly so that she can take the three kiddos to Grandma’s house while I enter Lemons South this March.
Her peace of mind at Grandma’s house is well worth my ‘not-having-the-phone-ring-contantly’ while at the race, so I agree with her timeline (she doesn’t trust the Freestyle enough to make the trip – she had good ears and hears something bad in the transmission already at 10k on the latest reman unit). So here is the thing: in 2011, Dodge went to the Pentastar in the minivan. I am of two minds regarding my decision of a 2008, 2010 or a 2011 (Karesh will love the fact that Truedelta eliminated 2009’s for me – gotta love actual data!).
Pentastar: New, efficient, clean, powerful, 6 speed auto
3.8/3.3: Well known, service proven, 4 speed auto
At first I was reluctant to get a Pentastar, but since it’s going to be the only V6 Chrysler makes, chances are the flaws will be fairly well worked out, and since they started putting it in cars in 2007, it has been along for a while. The older engine has been around FOREVER, which is pretty nice, although the fuel economy and performance will suffer. Sounds like the 6 speed transmission is mostly based on the four speed, so I guess I should not be worried about that, but feel free to chime in here as well.
What say you?
Wait, you are a LeMons racer? No wonder you actually considered the CVT to 6-speed swap on your old Freestyle! You are nuts!!!
Wait, that’s being real mean: I meant to say that people like you aren’t normal. I should know, as I listen to your collective bullshit on a regular basis as a LeMons judge in Texas. That said, it’s nice to see that you and your wife have agreed on something far better for your situation. Minivans rock.
Except they are all under-transmissioned for the loads carried in them. And while Chrysler’s transaxles are legendary for their LeMons-like durability in pure street circumstances, we might not have enough data to verify the new 6-speed’s worthiness in modern Mopar Minivans. Cue Michael Karesh!
I would buy the new model simply on performance alone. Modern close ratio 6-speed gearboxes are absolutely wonderful for launching oversized beasts while retaining decent highway cruising. If anything, the new technology will be more durable simply because they move a van more effortlessly, less stressfully.
My advice is always the same for all Minivans, as they all have the same Achilles’ heel: flush the transmission fluid every 1-3 years (depending on mileage and the weight of your cargo) and install the biggest damn transmission cooler you can find. Run it in series with the factory radiator/coolant system, if applicable.
Do it and you’ll never feel like you’re Freestylin’ ever again.
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