Chrysler previews four new concept vehicles

October 16th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler Group LLC to showcase four Mopar image vehicles at 2009

Interest and exhibitors in the upcoming SEMA Show in the States may be down this year because of the state of the economy. However, Chrysler is unfazed and is using SEMA to show off four new concepts based on models popular with the American aftermarket. The company’s Mopar devision has thrown custom bits on a pair of Jeep Wranglers, a street-legal 556-horsepower Dodge Challenger, and a dolled up Dodge Ram 1500.

Jeep Wrangler concept fqThe most striking vehicle of the lot is the Jeep Wrangler “Lower Forty” – an imposing vehicle that uses a 5.7-litre Hemi V8 engine to turn its massive 40-inch tyres. Strangely, the massive running gear upgrade has been put on a standard ride-height two-door Jeep Rubicon — no suspension or body lift has been fitted. What has been bolted on is new fender flares that ride four inches higher than stock, a new integrated roll cage, a relocated spare tyre, a new drop-down tailgate with an old-school stamped Jeep logo. The windscreen hasn’t escaped severe treatment either, being chopped three-inches and raked back ten degrees further.

The second of the two Jeep Wrangler concepts is the Overland, a useful off-road Jeep Wrangler concept fq1camper. The go-bush-ready Overland includes a roof-mounted two-man tent with awning, a weatherised interior, and a three-inch suspension lift kit that helps clearance for the 35-inch tyres. Further enhancements include a Warn winch, desert-running-ready lighting, and a snorkel kit to ensure you can cross rivers.

The Dodge Challenger 1320 concept started off as a Mopar Drag Pak car, but it’s been civilized toned down for street life. It features a Hemi crate motor displacing 426ci, an engine that is made even more attention-getting by a pair of exhaust cutouts that allows the mufflers to be bypassed. Other bits include a strengthened driveline with a Dana 60 rear-end, ARB locking diff, widened Mopar police wheels wrapped in Mickey Dodge Challenger conceptThompsons, and a coilover kit. The interior has had some tweaks in a drag racing theme, including a pair of Viper front chairs, Hurst shifter, and a sports steering wheel. Dead weight like the rear seat and center console, and been kicked out in the search for lower ETs.

Finally, Dodge’s Ram pickup has been given the luxury treatment to create whats called the Bianco. The package includes 22-inch wheels, Arctic Ice pearl paint, two-tone Katzkin leather seats, various trim bits done up in piano black and Arctic Ice, and a thumping Kicker audio system.

Chrysler, Fiat joint-developing electric car

October 15th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Circuit EV fq

In a few weeks time, Chrysler big boss Sergio Marchionne will reveal his 5-year plan for the automaker. According to information leaked out early, at least one electric car will be part of the plan. Apparently the once presumed-dead electric car program is back in progress and being worked on by Chrysler and Fiat together.

Chrysler, through its ENVI in-house electric propulsion division, currently has four electric vehicles: the Dodge Circuit EV (pictured), Jeep Patriot EV, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited EV, and Chrysler Town & Country EV. The ENVI website claims that you’ll be able to own at least one electric model by 2010, and there will be “at least three more models available by 2013.”

Those claims may be outdated, but come November 4 Marchionne will reveal all.

Next Dodge Viper could use Ferrari derived V10

August 13th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Dodge Viper V10 eng

Back in 1987, Chrysler purchased a troubled Lamborghini, and within two years had Lambo hard at work developing a V10 engine program that would ultimately lead to both the Dodge Viper and the Lamborghini Gallardo. Ironically now, two decades later, it’s Chrysler that’s in trouble with an Italian carmaker coming to the rescue. Fresh reports are now suggesting that the replacement for the Viper’s V10 could infact be derived from Ferrari’s next-generation engine program.

Chrysler’s original plan was to sell of the Viper business, but no serious money was put on the table for it. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has become keen on taking advantage of the sportscar’s standing as the company’s halo vehicle. But with Chrysler unable to pay the heavy costs of developing the next-generation Viper, the engine program could be borrowed from the same basic powerplant that will propel upcoming Ferraris and Maseratis.

Ferrari has essentially only had four engine designs in its history: the Colombo design was in use from the company’s beginnings all the way through the ’90s. The Lampredi engine was used on a handful of vehicles in the 50′s before being phased out. The Dino engine had V6, V8 and V12 versions and was used until just a few years ago, while the current Ferrari/Maserati engine powers all vehicles in both companies’ current ranges as well as the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Its 90-degree replacement will most likely come in various configurations including a flat-plane crank V8 for Ferrari, a cross-plane crank for Maserati and a pushrod V10 for the Viper.

Facelifted Chrysler 300C on sale in NZ

August 7th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler 300C facelift 2009

Chrysler’s 300C has received its first refresh since it reached the NZ market three years ago and is now offering an upgraded equipment list and cosmetic changes.

Minor changes to the rear fascia and tail lamps have been made, with the sedan now sporting a rear deck lid featuring an SRT-inspired integrated spoiler and high-mounted stop light. The dramatic nose and the long-bonnet, short-deck styling remain unchanged.

Inside, however, is another story. The interior design of the Chrysler 300C has been upgraded with a change to dark slate premium leather upholstery, LED lighting in the front cup holders and front- and rear-door map pockets, along with soft-touch surfaces on arm rests and door panels. Also new are the instrument panel and centre-console design, highlighted with satin silver bezels.

“Most of the changes are subtle, because you don’t want to radically alter what is already such a successful formula, so what we have aimed to do is enhance the ownership experience and value,” says David Smith General Manager of Chrysler New Zealand. “The 300C has become a benchmark for Chrysler in terms of its styling, performance and quality of craftsmanship and the new model lifts the bar even higher.”

Under the bonnet the 300C continues to offer four power options, but with some minor changes.

The 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine has improved performance and economy thanks to an all-new active, three-plenum intake manifold and ETC, which provides higher power and torque over the entire operating band, offering 183kW @ 6500 and 340Nm @ 3800rpm.

The 5.7-litre V8 HEMI-powered Chrysler 300C now has a “Fuel Saver Mode” display, included as part of the Electronic Vehicle Information Centre (EVIC), that tells drivers when they are in four-cylinder mode, allowing them to modify their driving habits for improved fuel efficiency.

Chrysler 300C Sedan and Touring are offering the Multi-Displacement System (MDS) as standard on its V8 engines. Chrysler’s MDS turns off the fuel consumption in four cylinders of the 5.7-litre HEMI engine when V8 power is not needed. MDS improves fuel economy by up to 11%, depending on driving style and vehicle usage.

Some visual changes have been reserved for the Chrysler 300C SRT8, now featuring an all-new deck lid with an integrated spoiler, new tail lamps and black mesh front grille. Other unique touches to the 300C SRT8’s exterior include new body side mouldings, body-colour front and rear bumper inserts, body-colour mirrors and door handles, along with unique SRT badging.

End-user technology figures prominently in the Chrysler 300C SRT8 with new features such as the SRT-exclusive Reconfigurable Display in the cluster providing performance data, Adaptive Cruise Control and a Kicker premium surround-sound system.

Matching its high-performance character, the Chrysler 300C SRT8 continues to provide power-adjustable front sport seats accented with suede inserts (matched in the rear seats), full instrumentation, automatic temperature-control system with dual-zone controls and infrared temperature sensing, and an EVIC with 128 customer-programmable features.

Powered by a 6.1-litre HEMI V8 engine producing 317kW and 569Nm of torque, the Chrysler 300C SRT8’s powertrain represents a high level of HEMI performance, with over 65 additional kilowatts 27% more than the 5.7-litre HEMI.

Chassis setup for the Chrysler 300C SRT8 is aimed at all-round performance, including SRT-tuned dampers, specially tailored spring rates and suspension bushings, and large-diameter anti-sway bars. Revised front and rear suspension knuckles contribute to a ride height that is lowered 13mm from the 300C. In addition, the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) has been tuned for the 300C SRT8’s Adaptive Cruise Control.

Chrysler 300C pricing starts from $60,990 and currently all Chrysler dealers are offering a 1/3+ 1/3+1/3 finance deal at a 3.9% interest rate.

Chrysler keeping Viper… for now

July 14th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Hurst Viper fq

The future of the Dodge Viper has been in question since mid 2008, when it was reported Chrysler wanted to sell the rights to it’s fastest sports car instead of discontinuing it. At first, there was a lot of interest, including Roush and Saleen, but the economic slowdown led to just one lowly offer from Devon Motor Works. The Viper’s production facility opened back up again last month but it was still believed that the 600 horsepower sports car would up for grabs. Now, that’s changed.

Late last week, Chrysler announced that the Viper program is no longer for sale and that it will continue to be produced until next year at least at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant. Nothing was mentioned as to why the decision was made or what will happen beyond 2010, but for now, the Viper remains Chrysler’s pet.

Check out the official press release below it doesn’t offer much new information but has a brief history of the Viper.

Press Release:

Chrysler Group LLC announced today that production will continue for the legendary Dodge Viper SRT10.

Originally slated to cease production in December 2009, the Chrysler Group Connor Avenue Assembly Plant — the exclusive home of Dodge Viper production since 1995 — will continue to build the V-10 powered sports car. Chrysler Group is no longer pursuing a sale of the Viper business assets.

“The Dodge Viper has successfully captured the hearts and imagination of performance enthusiasts around the globe,” said Mike Accavitti, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dodge Brand. “We’re extremely proud that the ultimate American-built sports car with its world-class performance will live on as the iconic image leader for the Dodge brand. ”

Introduced as a concept car in 1989 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Dodge Viper was designed and engineered to test public reaction to the concept of a back-to-basics, high-performance, limited production sports car.

The reaction was so overwhelming that customer orders began to flow in even before the auto show was over. Chrysler Corporation immediately decided to determine the production feasibility on transforming the crowd-pleasing Dodge Viper show car into a limited-production sports car in no more than three years.

In May 1990, after months of intensive study and testing, Chrysler Corporation announced that the Dodge Viper, powered by an aluminum V-10 was a “go.”

Dodge Viper production began in May 1992 at the New Mack Assembly Plant and was moved to Conner Avenue in October 1995. Viper V-10 engine production transferred from Mound Road Engine to Conner Avenue Assembly in May 2001. In 2008, Dodge introduced the all-new, fourth generation Dodge Viper SRT10. With more horsepower, more torque and more than 30 exterior and interior color combinations, the latest Viper gives enthusiasts the performance they expect on the track and off, with more factory customization options than before.

For 2009, the Dodge Viper SRT10 offers outrageous power, with an 8.4-liter, 600-horsepower (450 kW) V-10 engine contributing to blistering acceleration (0-60 mph in less than four seconds, 0-100-0 mph in the low 12-second range), setting an American sports car benchmark.

To date, more than 25,000 Dodge Vipers have been built.

Chrysler’s PT Cruiser to survive till 2010

June 23rd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler PT cruiser fq

Chrysler’s PT Cruiser is proving its resilience once again with another death-row reprieve. Apparently the PT has yet again escaped the gallow’s pole, and instead will soldier on in production until December 2010.

The move will reportedly keep Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico plant running until the Fiat 500 and Panda arrive to fill the space. The two models will be built at the site beginning summer 2011, and the six or so months between the final demise of the PT and the beginning of the Fiat era will be required to retool the facility.

With the PT Cruiser possibly around for another year and a half, there is no choice but to continue to enjoy its retro charm. By now it’s an 11-year-old platform and a design that has changed little since its inception, the PT is almost a living, breathing classic car in its own right.

Single offer received for Dodge Viper business

May 29th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Devon GTX s

Recent court documents filed by Chrysler indicate that there is only one offer on the table for its Dodge Viper business. The lonely offer is well under the $10 million asking price that the bankrupt automaker has been seeking and If a suitable buyer isn’t found, it’s likely that the assembly plant where the Viper is manufactured will be closed down this December.

The sole $5.5 million USD bid came from Devon Motor Works, a small boutique coachbuilder based in Michigan, USA that has plans to launch a new supercar of its own called the Devon GTX (pictured), which will be based on the underpinnings of the Dodge Viper. The GTX is scheduled to make a run at the Nürburgring lap record for a production vehicle (currently held by a Dodge Viper ACR) sometime in July, after which it will be officially debuted at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours in the states.

Chrysler first looked at selling off its Viper line last August, and the troubled automaker still claims that it has other interested parties, but it’s now clear that it’s very short on actual realistic offers. The bottom line is that $5.5 million USD is better than nothing especially when you owe billions of dollars. Chrysler is apparently looking into Devon’s offer to verify that the small company has sufficient resources to close the deal.

Tokyo Motor Show looking thin on the ground as manufacturers pull out

May 25th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Tokyo Motor Show

Porsche and Maserati are the latest party poopers for the biennial Tokyo Motor Show, adding to BMW, Volkswagen, Volvo, Ford, GM, Chrysler and more. That’s 22 foreign brands that will be staying at home watching the telly as the world focuses its attention on the new releases of other manufacturers. Japan’s 14 domestic manufacturers will almost certainly have a strong presence, but who is left out of the foreign marques: Ferrari, Hyundai, Lotus and possibly Kia.

This will take the number of cars at the show down by around 50%.