TTAC reader and contributor Rich Murdocco sends us his review of his brand new 2014 Dodge Charger R/T
In the middle of the harsh winter of 2013, the lease on my beloved Ford Mustang was coming to an end. That car had a special place in my heart – The 305 horsepower power plant whisked me to my first “big boy job”, my first date with a new girlfriend, the birth of my niece and was right there as I got down on one knee and proposed to that aforementioned girlfriend. I was faced with the difficult decision every leasee faces: Do I stick around, or see what else was out there?
Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision.
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.
It’s a shame about the 2014 Dodge Durango. Every car eventually gets wound down, but the Durango will be going out in its prime. If the way a vehicle drives is a high priority for you, it’s hard not to adore the Durango’s comportment. More tragic, the Durango has been the quiet way to get Grand Cherokee goodness with some bonus wheelbase and space for exceptionally-aggressive Dodge pricing. That’s going to be over soon.
If the Durango is so good, and Chrysler even bothered to update it this year, why is it going away? The answer: Because it’s a Dodge.
But the Durango won’t be gone for long.
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.
The scheme was both ridiculous and somewhat unlikely to succeed as written. Drive from Columbus, Ohio to Toronto for the John Mayer concert. Turn immediately around and drive home. Go to work for a day, go to sleep. Wake up and drive from Columbus to Charlotte, NC via Lexington, KY. Play three sets with Bark M. at a rooftop party chock-full of impossibly gorgeous women and free Tito’s vodka. Sleep. Drive home. Do not damage car, do not play an Em7 when a Emaj7 is called for, do not short my brother on the “A” section in the middle of his solo, do not attempt to crash bachelorette party in the next room.
We needed room for equipment and people, the ability to hit 110 mph on hilly freeways in order to make soundcheck on time, a boomin’ system, and the maximum possible fuel economy. The car had to be spacious enough for three people to travel and/or take roadside naps in while being small enough to fit in a downtown parking garage spot. Most of all, it had to be relaxing on the freeway, because I’d be doing almost all the driving on low or no sleep, but not so relaxing that I fell asleep behind the wheel.
In other words, what I needed was what your parents or grandparents might have called a grown man’s car. I love the Camry and I respect the Altima, but with a task like this ahead, only one rental ride would do. Mr. Charger, step forward.
I had dinner recently with TTAC’s enfant terrible, Doug Demuro, something we do every few weeks as our respective schedules permit. Predictably, our pre-, mid- and post-prandial conversation revolved around our shared passion for automobiles, as well as the people who read and write about them. At one point I made a hasty proclamation, which was in retrospect unwise given my audience: “Doug, I really don’t think any manufacturers are making objectively bad cars right now.” Doug paused and replied: “My friend, have you ever heard of Chrys-ler?,” enunciating the last pair of syllables as if speaking to an alien. He continued, “check out the 200 if you have a chance.”
The longer I do this, the more I realize that it’s about people, not machines. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that cars are way cool, something only human beings could create, but it’s those human beings involved in that creation that make stories worth telling and hearing. When my son, my only son, Moshe, whom I love, was a boy we put model cars together. It was a father-son thing but I also wanted him to learn a little patience. We took care putting them together, but we rarely painted them. That too took much patience. Sometime when he was in fifth grade, so this would have been 1994 or 1995 when Mo was ten years old, we were building a model of a Dodge Viper. It was an AMT/Ertl kit, in 1:25 scale.
How much car can you get in this country for sixteen thousand bucks? Well, you could try a base-model Elantra, or with a bit of sharp dealing you might come up with a Sentra. TrueCar thinks you might be able to sneak into a Cruze LS. Certainly you could get a Ford Focus, which might be the best choice if you can shift for yourself or you trust the PowerShift double-clutcher.
How about something a little bigger and more powerful? Would you be interested? What if I told you it wasn’t all that bad on a racetrack? What if you’re a subprime buyer?
My takedown of the Ford Police Interceptor Sedan Taurus generated almost two hundred comments. Having recognized what the people want, I immediately began scheming for rides in the Ford’s two major competitors in order to give it to them. An E-mail, followed by a visit to the municipal sales manager at Lexington’s Freedom Dodge- Chrysler- Jeep- Fiat and I was provided with a 2012 Dodge Charger Pursuit for a weekend evaluation.
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.
You’ve got to give Sergio Marchionne credit for at least one thing: he’s a masterful negotiator. The Italian-Canadian FIAT exec bluffed General Motors into paying $2 billion for the right to NOT buy the Italian company. He went on to acquire a controlling stake in Chrysler for no cash. Instead, FIAT agreed to provide the auto maker, hollowed out by Daimler and Cerberus, with powertrains and platforms. Three years after that deal, Chrysler has introduced the first car developed for North America around FIAT innards, the compact Dodge Dart sedan ( pre-production review).
The last time Chrysler made a serious attempt at the C-segment was in 1995 with the Neon. High initial sales were soon followed by less-than-stellar crash scores, a redesign that put off buyers, the death of the Plymouth brand, and the unholy offspring that was the Dodge Caliber. With Fiat needing to add a “ 40 MPG CAFE” vehicle to the fleet to continue their acquisition, the Dodge Dart was born. This first fruit of the Fiat/Dodge marriage isn’t just a rebadged Alfa Romeo Giulietta (pronounced Juliet-ta), and there’s a reason for that. Dodge wants a bigger part of the pie since sedans account for 80% of the compact segment. Rather than “sedanify” the Giulietta, Dodge took the extra step of crafting an entirely new vehicle that shares little with the Italian organ donor. Can some Italian spice give Dodge what they need to compete with the growing compact sedan segment? Dodge invited us to a regional preview event to find out.
A month ago, I reviewed the 470-horsepower, 470-pound-feet Chrysler 300C SRT8. Today, we have a much milder 2012 Dodge Charger SXT Plus with the 292-horsepower, 260-pound-feet V6 and Rallye Appearance Group. I enjoyed driving the weaker car more. This is where you note the date of publication. But I’m not foolin.
When you’re a 24 Hours of LeMons judge, it’s expected that you’ll roll up to the track in a righteous Judgemobile. Perhaps it’s a fenderless, three-wheeled Amazon, or maybe it’s a woodie Roadmaster… Sometimes, though, you need to call up a car manufacturer’s PR flack and get something new and shiny, then [s]stand by helplessly as it gets T-boned by some LeMons racer’s runaway Winnebago[/s] see how the budget-challenged racer crowd responds to its presence. The ’11 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid Judgemobile was sort of terrible (though it did have great presence) so this time I decided I’d spend the race weekend with a manly, tire-smokin’ V8-powered vehicle that ought to make heartland American car freaks— for example, the sort we get at the Showroom-Schlock Shootout LeMons in Illinois— start chanting teary-eyed Pledges of Allegiance to a fiery sky full of imaginary F-111s. That would be the Challenger SRT8, of course, in Vanishing Point white.
Women and minivans, women and minivans. They don’t quite go together like a horse and carriage, but it’s possible to be just a little more romantic about either when the location is right. I fell in love with the revise-and-retouch 2011 Chrysler minivans during an epic Northern California trip, as detailed in my first-drive review, but sometimes the girl who bewitched you in that far-away hotel room turns out to be a completely damaged headcase in daily living, and sometimes a manufacturer-prepped van in a gorgeous setting doesn’t hold up in that cold, no-makeup morning.
To find out, I requested (meaning “rented”) a Grand Caravan from my local PR flack (meaning “Enterprise counter agent”) and I set out on a trip designed to test the not-so-minivan to its limits (meaning “I had a trip I was going to take anyway and I want to get paid for doing it.”) Only by driving nearly two thousand miles in under three days could I determine if Chrysler was ready to compete against the leaders in the segment. Translation: “I will submit my fuel receipts for this trip, and they will not be paid because there was no reason to cover this kind of distance.”
The Chevrolet TrailBlazer and its many sibs are extinct. The Ford Explorer nameplate survives, but it’s now attached to a car-based crossover. Only one family of domestic midsize conventional SUVs remains—and, quite ironically, it’s based on a Mercedes platform. We’ve examined the five-seat Jeep Grand Cherokee before. For those more focused on people hauling than rock crawling Chrysler more recently introduced the seven-seat Dodge Durango. Is the all-new 2011 Durango only for people who need the dependable towing capacity of a conventional SUV? Or can it compete with the transverse-engined competition on their own terms?
When I first heard that Chrysler had revised nearly every one of its models for the 2011 model year, I cynically assumed the changes couldn’t possibility make much of a difference. After all, how much could they have done with little money and even less time—and with Detroit’s tendency to make minor changes and expect them to have a major impact? Then I drove the new Dodge Grand Caravan, and was amazed at how much its ride and handling had improved. For those seeking something smaller, or who simply refuse to buy a minivan, Dodge offers the Journey crossover. Underwhelming before, does it now similarly surprise?
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.
When Jack Baruth reviewed the 2011 Town & Country his praise for the minivan’s handling was so effusive that I wondered what sort of Kool-Aid Chrysler served at the launch event. Were mind-altering substances involved? To find out, I requested one of the new minivans for a week.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” The fellow from the Jim Russell School at Infineon couldn’t hear me screaming through my helmet and the rolled-up windows of my blue-and-white Challenger “392”, but surely he saw me gesturing. Let me out first! In the last ten-minute session, I lapped all the other journalists at least once and some of them twice! Let me out FIRST!
Smiling and making a “calm down” motion at me, the Russell instructor waved the other 392 out, this one piloted by one of the usual potbelly-avec-cheap shoes barfly journalists. And then he ostentatiously counted off fifteen or so seconds. You see? I’m gapping you out! But it didn’t matter. Four turns later, I was attached to the back bumper of that other car, where I would remain for three laps while the journosaur in question steadfastly ignored, in order of occurrence, flashing lights, honking, a black flag from two different stations, and another Russell instructor screaming and waving his arms from the pit wall. By the time I decided to break the rules and blast past this jerkoff without a point-by, I had one lap left in which to test the car.
Are you ready for the one-lap review of the 2011 Challenger?
Trucks are a hot commodity in America. According to a few pickup truck forums, if you’re not some leftist tree hugger, then you either have a pickup truck or want a pickup truck. Truth be told, every time I bought a new car, I secretly wanted a pickup truck: a huge red one-ton diesel pickup truck. So when the US Government Dodge said one would be available for a week, I jumped at the opportunity. Not one week later and occupying four parking spots was that boyhood Tonka-truck dream: an extended bed, dually-equipped 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 SLT Crew Cab 4X4 (seriously, could that name be any longer?), but is the boyhood dream shattered by adult realities?
One of the strangest phenomena of the revived retro muscle car wars is the renewed emphasis on V6 performance. Once derided as “Secretary Specials,” the V6 versions of the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro now make upwards of 300 horsepower, while earning EPA highway ratings that surpass the 30 MPG mark. But if these latter-day pony cars herald a new era of performance and practicality, the V6-powered Dodge Challenger is as retro as its 1970-again styling.
For a moment, turn away from the uncertain prospects of Chrysler’s Fiat-directed future and consider the subject of this review as nothing other than one entry in the popular five-door hatchback segment of the North American compact car market.
That’s what I had to do, anyway, in order to rationalize driving and writing about a vehicle that a lot of folks would justifiably consider to be a loser car from a loser car company. The question is, is it really?
Puerto Vallarta is a lovely vacation spot for fans of beauty and tranquility mixed with unique Pistonhead sightseeing opportunities. Take the Chrysler K-car: a stateside rarity, but not an uncommon vehicle in a country known for taking our tired, neglected automobiles, giving them a new lease on life. But I never saw a Dodge Caliber or Neon on the roads of Puerto Vallarta. Ever. While Iacocca’s turnaround machine never died in Mexico, the rest of Chrysler’s small car lineup drifted away. For good reason? Cue the Dodge Boyz’ rebadged Hyundai Accent: the Dodge Attitude.
Welcome to the most recent addition to our team: Roman Mica. Mr. Mica is a veteran journalist with pistonhead proclivities. He’s fully committed to telling the truth about cars; so enjoy his contributions while he can still get press cars. I joke. A bit. Anyway, with our limited editorial budget, we’ll be linking to Mr. M’s website tflcar.com. Every damn time. Both here in the text, and in the linkage area. So get used to it and the most excellent videography provided by Roman’s twelve-year-old son. BTW, why would the Challenger be pissed off that it has a 425hp engine? Just sayin’ . . . Hey, how about we send Baruth over to give Roman a little driving lesson?