QOTD: The Ultimate Ultra?

qotd the ultimate ultra

Night Court was ranked No. 21 on the Nielsen ratings and Nike execs were contemplating what eventually became the “Bo Knows” campaign when Chrysler’s Ultradrive automatic entered production in Indiana.

Boasting four speeds and a protective limp-home feature soon to be the butt of jokes, Ultradrive was Chrysler’s go-to FWD tranny for many a year. As you read yesterday, the original four-speed version will end production in 2020. Yet memories linger… perhaps even yours.

Ultradrive variants soon sprung forth, including a unit destined for all-wheel drive minivans. There was a version intended for early LX-platform rear-drivers and body-on-frame SUVs, too, but that gearbox didn’t make it very far past the recession. In 2007, a six-speed unit debuted in the Chrysler Sebring and is still in use today beneath the Dodge Grand Caravan and Ram Promaster.

Today we’re considering only the original four-speed version that found a home in front-drive Chrysler, Daimler-Chrysler, and Fiat Chrysler products, continuing to the present day in the four-cylinder-only Dodge Journey. There’s decades of vehicles to choose from, and one of those offerings might hold a special place in your heart.

Which Ultradrive-equipped vehicle, in your opinion, was the best? Personal experience might guide your vote, and that’s okay. We like stories here.

While your author’s past contains just one Chrysler product, that vehicle would have contained an Ultradrive had he chose the V6-powered Duster model over the basic five-speed/four-cylinder Sundance. Elsewhere, luckier men enjoyed — at least to some degree — the LeBaron and Laser, Daytona and Spirit, New Yorker and Acclaim, Sebring and Avenger, Neon and PT Cruiser, Dynasty and Shadow, a slew of LH-platform sedans and a triple-shot of cloud cars. Don’t forget the bevy of vans that ferried a generation of Americans to school.

Time to select an Ultradrive winner. Is there one?

[Images: Chrysler, Murilee Martin/TTAC]

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  • Whynotaztec Whynotaztec on Dec 10, 2019

    My sister has a 99-ish 300M with over 250,000 miles on it - hey wait how did Night Court slip to 21?

  • Mark_Miata Mark_Miata on Dec 11, 2019

    My only experience of this transmission was when one of my wife's friends bought a PT Cruiser back in the early 2000s and she let me take it for a spin. I really don't remember much about the driving experience, other than it was pretty meh. The transmission was part of that - it just sort of worked, and the car went forward, but it certainly was far less fun than the other convertibles I've driven, like Miatas or even Chrysler Sebrings.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
  • Car65688392 thankyou for the information
  • Car65688392 Thankyou for your valuable information
  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.