I must admit, I had a love/hate relationship with the last generation Chrysler 300C. I loved what it could have been, but I hated what it ended up being. Fantastic styling (when it debuted) with an interior that only a true die hard Chrysler fan could love, and even then, not all of them could stomach it. The refresh in 2008 fixed some issues, but it wasn’t enough.
When I first saw the 2011 300C in photos, I actually thought it was ugly. The amount of chrome splashed around the exterior – and that rear end! But once I saw it in person, it just felt right. The question is: is this what American luxury should be?
That’s right, a brand new 2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8 is in my driveway for a week. I’m looking forward to all 470 horses pulling this beast all week. I’ve driven it ten feet so far, and all I can say is, God Bless Chrysler.
I’ll never forget my fiancée Karen pulling into the driveway and asking me what kind of go kart was parked in front of the garage. She was referring to the new Fiat 500c. She did go on to say how cute the go kart was. This was how my week with the 500c began.
The 500c is one of those unique cars that make you instantly turn to the person next to you and say, “Isn’t that the cutest thing?” The stylized sheet metal is fantastic in a retro and unique way. Read More…
While Detroit has been down in the dumps for a while, this years auto show definitely shows things might be back on track in the D. Of course it had to snow while everyone was in town, but it gave those from the warmer climates a chance to see what us snow belt state peeps live through on a daily basis.
Some of you will remember that last year I wanted to differentiate myself. I started tweeting pictures of cars with the models and tagged them as #EyeCandy. This quickly became a hot topic. A few of my followers mentioned this year that I was not really tweeting any #EyeCandy and asked why not. The simple answer, there wasn’t any. Few booths had the babes that were in attendance last year. Though Chrysler group and Ferrari still pulled through.
But lets get down the to the product. The new Chrysler 300 looks terrific. In reality, many wondered when they saw the pictures if it can recapture the market that the 300 once had in 2005. Upon seeing the car in real life, I am happy to report that it looks much better in person. The interior really does deliver on the promise that the 300 made back in 2005. American luxury. From the great new Pentastar V6, to the growling Hemi V8 in the 300C, this is American luxury in a rear-wheel drive car.
Another car I was anxious to see in real life was the new Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic is Chevrolet’s new B-Segment car which will take on the likes of the new Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and many others. I have to say, while I think the new Sonic is a home run from a styling perspective, I can see how many will not. It will be either a love it or hate it vehicle. From the exposed barrel headlights to the ridiculously short rear overhang and really long front overhang, the styling is nothing short of eye catching. The interior gauge cluster is also interesting, as they actually put into the production model the Aveo RS concept’s gauge cluster. With a racing like analogue tachometer and a digital speedometer, the gauge cluster is more reminiscent of a race car or motorcycle than that of a sub-compact car. Going on sale later this year I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and see how the driving dynamics compare to the competition.
The new A6 has already won a design award without even leaving the show floor. In my opinion the new A6 takes everything that is right with the new A8 and A4 while dropping everything that is wrong with them. Smashing all the good together to make a great looking Audi. The design language has really come together for this car. The interior is terrific and the exterior is eye catching. The optional LED headlights are very intricately designed when inspecting them up close. You will see the new A6 on the road later this year.
I’m not going to really cover the CTS-V Coupe race car but I wanted to make mention of it. Two words come to mind when you walked past it on the turntable, menacing and awesome. Ok, moving on.
Toyota has finally unveiled a larger Prius. The model is called the Prius V. This is especially confusing to some since the regular Prius has trim level packages that are in roman numerals. Right now if you go buy a Prius in the top trim level you are buying a Prius V. Wait, that can’t make sense. So when you buy a top trim level Prius V will you be buying a Prius V V? This is clearly not well thought out. I wonder if Toyota realizes this yet. Maybe someone should send them a note. Regardless, I heard many people comment on how the Prius V rear end has a lot of Honda Fit in it. I can see that. The front, well it looks like a third generation Prius with a few slight tweaks. You’ll still know it’s a Prius. You will see the people mover Prius at a dealership near you in the Summer.
Ah the Honda Civic Concept. Honda waltzed Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy on stage to talk about the new Civic Concept. Here’s the problem, either Wentz was drunk or he really could care less about being there. He enthusiasm was worse than the new Civic’s styling. He barely stumbled through his words off the teleprompter. Note to Honda: make sure your spokesperson is somewhat excited about your luke warm product.
But getting back to that product, the new Civic Concept looks as if a new Odyssey and the current generation Civic got it on in the back room. That, or a designer of the current Civic got wasted one night, and just took the current Civics lines and tweaked them a little. For a mid-cycle refresh, I am not sure how this will be competitive until 2016 with new competition from Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet. We will have to wait and see when the new Civic comes out, but I am not holding my breath.
Mercedes had its SLS E-Cell electric car on display. In a word it is blinding. The paint job on this car can literally sear your retinas. Beyond the paint job, it looks fairly identical on the outside to the current SLS. The interior changes a little as most of the gauges and center stack are now LCD screens. This car will go into production, but if you have to ask range or price, you can’t afford it.
I don’t really want to spend much time on the Passat as I’m not sure it deserves it. I’ll reserve final judgement until I drive one. Until then, I’ll say this, Volkswagen is going downmarket to sell more cars. Is that really a good idea? Why alienate all your current customers. People that buy current Passats pay more because they expect to get better quality materials. Cheapening the car for a lower base price is going to hurt your brand image. This is no longer just German engineering, it is German engineering to a price point.
While I skipped Porsches press conference to eat breakfast at my hotel (it was at 6:30 AM), I will say looking at the car in person, it is stunning. Seeing that huge flywheel in the passenger seat, yea. This is how you build a hybrid. It is good to see Porsche looking at new technology for racing. If this car does go into the racing circuit it could change the game. With less fuel stops needed and more power on tap for instant bursts, it could be a whole new era of racing.
At the end of the day I was exhausted. Most journalists were up at 5 AM and didn’t leave the show floor till nearly 8 PM. I ran to nearly every press conference and went through approximately 6,600 milliamps of battery power for my iPhone4. It was a good show with some great product. Not everything was great, but it was a good to see where each automaker is going in 2011.
Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations are being provided by General Motors
This past weekend the Jeep Rocks and Road Tour visited Minneapolis. The tour is supposed to let people experience the capabilities of Jeep’s legendary vehicles. There is both on-road and off-road demonstrations provided, along with other fun-filled activities.
The tour in Minneapolis took over and transformed a vacant parking lot across from the Mall of America. The end result? A mud pit. Well it wasn’t a mud pit on Friday and Saturday. However, when I arrived on Sunday morning it was, due to rainfall Saturday night.
Though that did not make the event any less fun. The first thing I took part in was the Jeep Owner’s Playground. This was a course set up exclusively for current Jeep owners. If you brought your own Jeep you could take it through this course. The course had everything from a few high banked sand hills and rock trail, to a large hill with three humps to climb.
I was the first to hit the Owners Playground for the day. After about four runs, the large hill started to get too slick and the sides started to let me slide just a bit too much. The issue was all the rain from the night before. The entire course was becoming a sloppy mess. For safety, they shut down the large hill not long after my fourth run.
They also had plenty to do for non-Jeep owners. The main attraction was clearly the ability to drive the current line up of Jeeps on the main off-road course. Unfortunately the course had become so slick due to the rain that consumers were not allowed to drive.
Instead you were taken on the course with a professional driver. I was told a consumer did go first thing in the morning and walked away with eyes wide open. I took that to mean: “we could’ve had a problem, but we had the right staff on hand.” I was glad to see safety was the first priority.
I went for a ride in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited (Unlimited means four door). Naturally, the course was nothing this Jeep couldn’t handle – it took each obstacle in stride. Though the large 20 foot mountain was closed due to being too slick, I was told the Jeeps could make it up the mountain just fine. However, due to being so slick they might come down with more speed then they felt was safe.
Next up I visited the on-road course. This time I chose the new 2011 Grand Cherokee Laredo for the drive. The new Grand Cherokee handled the washboard section much better then my current 1999 Grand Cherokee would have, mainly due to the new suspension. The vehicle also had a decent turning radius. The steering was on center, though maybe too light? I would need more seat time to give that statement without a question mark.
For the kids Jeep had both a climbing wall and Jeep branded Power Wheels mini vehicles. This set up satisfied the different age groups. No matter what, families had something to do for the kids. Also on hand was a Jeep Wrangler Islander edition. The task was to see who could unlatch and take down the soft top the fastest. The last station/task was essentially a balancing act, literally.
They had a Jeep Compass on a wooden platform that was set on a log. The goal was to balance the Compass on the platform so either side of the platform was not touching the ground. I was informed only a few people have achieved the task, and it really is almost luck. I tried for over ten minutes, only to get severely frustrated. I failed, though for the record, I came close. Finally I gave up, but only because another person wanted a try.
Of course, other things were on hand to look at. The new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland was in a tent to sit in and play with. A very old Jeep Willys (?) was on hand, though no touching was allowed. Also on site were quite a few modified Jeep Wranglers, one with a regular 5.7 liter HEMI and another with a 6.7 liter HEMI. Both were quite beastly.
Overall the Jeep Road and Rock Tour was a very entertaining way to spend my Sunday morning. Even with some drizzling rain and the course turned to a mud pit, it was a blast.
Everyone there seemed to be enjoying themselves, even the staff! You can tell many of the staff are true enthusiasts themselves. That really does add to the experience and energy level. Until the Jeep Rocks and Road Tour rolls through town again, drive safe and clean the mud off your undercarriage.
Not content to let Ford and Chevrolet take the Police departments over fully Dodge has revealed the upcoming Police Pursuit vehicle. This is the 2011 Dodge Charger in all it’s glory. In fact this is the first official picture released by Chrysler of the 2011 Dodge Charger. Details are still flowing in but you can bet the pursuit vehicle will feature both the new Pentastar V6 (that just launched recently in the new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee) and the Hemi V8 with MDS. Rear wheel drive will of course be the drive train set up and it is still murky as to the transmission choice, though I would assume the current 5 speed automatic will be in the police Pursuit vehicles. Oh by the way, they finally got around to adding a column mounted shifter for the police package thus freeing up some space between the seats for other equipment. Also inside the Pursuit vehicle they are touting red and white LED interior lighting which is for night-vision equipment and more.
I will be the first to admit that I was not around during the beginning of the pony car wars. Luckily for me, I am around at the rebirth of the pony car wars. The Ford Mustang really never left , while the Challenger had been off the market for some time. The Challenger beat the new Camaro to market, but the Camaro is making up for lost time with killer sales numbers. So back to the Challenger SRT8, is this beast one blast from the past or should it just be left in the past?
The exterior really is a retouched 21st century take on the original formula. The exterior lines and design is unmistakably Challenger. The SRT ups the formula with a chin spoiler, larger wheels and brakes, along with a small trunk lid spoiler. Up front you have what almost looks like a sucker mouth front clip with four round lamps, the two inner lights being parking lights while the outer two are the headlights. The fog lights below put out a surprising amount of light. The character line that flows from the headlights down the side of the fenders and door flows into the rear haunches, which are exaggerated and quite large. They look terrific. The rear end is somewhat tall but stays true to the retro recipe set forth by the rest of the styling. The rear tail light is a strip across the back that is really three pieces – but usually if you look quick, you would not notice. Two squared off polished exhaust tips peek out from the bottom of the bumper to let you know, “hey I’m here, I can and will let you hear me.” From the retro metal fuel cover to the raised hood with functional air inlets, I love the exterior lines. They are classic – pure and simple.
Some have called the Challenger’s interior bland or boring. I really actually feel it fits the car. It is not over done, but the materials are all soft touch and have a feeling of quality. The seats are nothing short of terrific. I did note the seat bottoms were a little flatter then the seats in the Charger SRT8 I recently tested. That said, they are terrific ,with great bolsters for your backside. They were all-day comfortable and then some. The gauge cluster consists of four round barrels with the tachometer and speedometer in the center and the fuel and engine temp gauges to the side. The SRT8 model had a built in performance meter set up. This included everthing from the ability to time 1/4 miles and 0-60 runs, to braking and even a G meter. I must say this is very trick. The head unit in this Challenger was the optional Uconnect system. It is hard drive based and easy to use. Something of note is that automatic climate control is not currently available in the Challenger. While this does not bother me, it seems to irk some when they see the price tag on this particular car. Did I mention the seats? Overall, I liked the interior.
Like the other SRT8’s, the engine bay is filled with a 6.1 liter HEMI V-8 pumping out 425 horsepower to the rear wheels. The power is channeled through either a pistol-grip six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic. I had the later and it was acceptable. I noted the block of the engine was painted orange in a nod to the history of this vehicle , and I really liked that little detail.
I drove this car in town during the week and went up north during the weekend. On the open highway the car was a very comfortable cruiser. Composed at any speed, it enjoys straight lines. When the turns start coming the car can handle it, but this is no light weight. The car weighs over 4,000 lbs! On the way back from up north I had my mother, girlfriend and sister all in the Challenger SRT8, along with a full trunk. After the nearly four-hour drive I asked how they fared. Only the person behind me (the driver) said it was cramped. I still managed to average 22.7 mpg on that highway jaunt with the cruise control set at 77 mph. In the city I averaged 16.5 mpg, and that included downtown stop and go along with suburb and highway driving. The car is rated at 13/19, which I easily exceeded.
So what do I make of this modern day remake of the Challenger? It’s big, it’s comfy (did I mention the seats?) while being somewhat practical for what it is. A ton of fun, but at a price. Ringing in at $44,940, this is no cheap trick. That is a lot of coin considering what Ford and Chevrolet are offering now with the new Mustang and Camaro. Still, this car has a different personality then both of those cars, and I think it sells on its own merits. Would I recommend the Challenger? In a heart beat! Now, if you asked if it is better then the Mustang or Camaro? I would say that is all inyourdefinition of better.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Dodge
The Dodge Charger hit the scene back in 2005 and made quite a splash. That splash was two fold: firstly the fact that many people were less then thrilled that the Charger name was applied to a four door sedan. If you remember, the original Dodge Charger was a 2 door. The second part was the bold and in your face styling, which was fresh and really spoke to many people. The Charger has now been on the market since 2005 with only a few major changes (depending on how you look at it). So lets dive in and see how this once-popular muscle car has fared.
The Charger has a bold styling that can be described as chunky by some. The SRT8 kicks it up a notch, but in a subtle way. The hood has an integrated scoop that is functional, funneling outside air into the engine bay to keep that large engine nice and cool. The front end is lower to the ground and slightly more aggressive. There is a belt line that runs from the top of the headlights down the side into the rear “haunches” that begin at the rear of the back doors. These haunches go over the rear wheels and into the tail lights. The tail lights are one piece but they have been refreshed and now have four (two on each side) circles. The trunk has a small but raised spoiler. It is tasteful, but I still wonder if I would want it on my SRT8. The spoiler is attached by four bolts and I think it could be removed (not that I tried). The wheels are 20-inches, and ride on low profile tires. My favorite line on the whole car is the intersection of the belt line and the shoulders in the rear. It almost looks like a lightning bolt.
The interior was originally a horrible mess. The materials when the car launched were all hard plastic. I am not talking about just any plastic. We are talking about plastic that even Lego would reject for quality control. Back in 2008, a mild refresh fixed that, and everything you touch and even most things you do not are now soft touch. Very little hard plastic is still left. The belt line is high, which makes it feel smaller then it really is. Sight lines are surprisingly good. The interior has tons of space both in the front and back. The rear seats fold down almost flat – the bolsters prevent them from being perfectly flat. That said, it is nice to see that they are able to fold. This increases functionality for hauling large items. The seats were very well bolstered and more then comfortable. The bolsters are leather and the center of the seat is a suede-like material that keeps you from sliding when driving aggressively.
The SRT8 is powered by not just any HEMI but the HEMI. The 6.1 liter HEMI puts out 425 horsepower and 420 pound feet to the rear wheels. The power is channeled through a one-choice five-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capabilities. No manual is offered, though how cool would it be if they offered the pistol grip six-speed from the Challenger? This engine just sounds terrific. You literally just want to slam the gas to hear it over and over again. Of course you would expect with this amount of power this car has, mileage suffers- -and you would be correct. It is rated by the EPA at 13/19 mpg, I saw an average of 14.3 mpg with a mix of city and suburb driving.
This car drives like a big sports car. Wait – well not like just any sports car. This is not a Porsche, rather this is a large car. It will push in the corners and you will feel its weight. That said, it is very composed. It drives European-like which should be no surprise, because the basic frame and transmission is a hand-me-down from the 1999 generation Mercedes Benz E Class (W210).
I actually was moving when the Charger SRT8 was in my possession. I used this vehicle to see just how practical it was in daily service. The seats folding down helped and the trunk swallowed a surprisingly large amount of boxes. The subwoofer in the corner of the trunk did eat into some of the cargo space, but that is minimal. The practicality of this vehicle was demonstrated in spades.
Alright so what do we have here? Well, it is practical for a sports car. A large trunk and large interior while still going like a bat out of hell. I already know what you are going to say – but Joel it gets crappy gas mileage. To that I say this – it gets no worse then my Jeep and many other SUV’s that Americans love, yet it is a heck of a lot more fun to drive. This Charger SRT8 was fully loaded and had a sticker price of $43,730 and that is a lot of coin. You can get any of the other new muscle cars such as the new Chevrolet Camaro SS or Ford Mustang GT with just as much power, better fuel economy and for a lot less coin. But they do not have four doors. It is all about what you need and or want. I would say this is a great family sedan for the guy that simply wants fast but can not compromise and get a two door. With the Pontiac G8 GXP now dead and gone, this is one of the cheapest four-door sports sedans that houses over 400 hp.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Chrysler
As previously reported the new upcoming 2012 Dodge Durango (or is that Magnum?) is coming very soon. In fact if earlier leaks are correct the new Durango should start production on November 8. That is pending that the production is still on schedule or that the schedule has not shifted. Judging by this picture which is obviously in the factory or near the pre-production line the vehicle is probably on schedule.
The design has not changed much from the earlier leaks which is to say it is strong but dramatically different from the current Durango. The Durango (Magnum?) will be based on the new Grand Cherokee platform though probably a little longer due to third row. The powertrain line up will also mimic the new 2011 Grand Cherokee with the Pentastar V6 and Hemi V8.