Dodge Nitro SE 2011 Review

January 14th, 2011 by Darren Cottingham

There aren’t many new cars on NZ roads that genuinely illicit long stares from passers-by but since 2007 the Dodge Nitro has done exactly that. With unmissable bodywork and burly American dimensions the Nitro inspires strong opinions from both those who dig the look and those who do not. Whatever camp you’re in, Chrysler has made sure the Nitro is here to stay in NZ and will likely continue when the second-generation Nitro reaches production in 2012. While the 2011 Nitro comes in the twilight years of the first-generation, minor tweaks and competitive pricing are keeping it on the radar of new car buyers. But is this American journeyman a good choice for Kiwi families? To find out Car and SUV looked past the Nitro’s tough shell at the beast within.

So what’s new for the 2011 model? Not too much really. There are some updates to the interior where trim quality has been improved and there are more soft touch surfaces. It’s a good effort and the dashboard that was once a weakness of the Nitro is now robust and functional. Dark grey plastics form bulky shapes and chrome trim adds a sense of quality. The switchgear and instrumentation is basic and looks slightly dated but is easy to use and illuminates nicely in green.

Continue reading “Dodge Nitro SE 2011 Review” »

Dodge confirms next-gen Viper for 2012

December 6th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

It hasn’t been the easiest road for the Dodge Viper supercar recently. When the last model rolled off the assembly line back in July, there were only loose rumors about the possibility of a new generation. It was a few months later that new information leaked about a possible successor, which was to share a platform with the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, much to the dismay of hardcore Viper fans.

Now, according to The Detroit News, Chrysler has confirmed that next year the world will get it’s first look at the new 2013 Viper and it won’t be based on Alfa’s supercar.

“There won’t be a part of the car that remains untouched,”Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles said, and would apparently not rule out the potential for a brand-new V10 engine.

“Where the cabin is, relative to the wheels, is unique” said Gilles. “The Viper cabin is very rearward and the hood is very long. Few cars in the industry are designed with those proportions anymore” he added.

Late last year, Gilles confirmed that the new Viper would draw on the Alfa-owned Ferrari brand’s knowledge, but would not use any of its technology. “They really know sports cars. We just want some advice,” Gilles said at the time. “Ferrari is Ferrari, Viper is Viper. Please don’t go there.”

Mr. Gilles also added that the 2013 Viper will be “a more forgiving car to drive and accessible to more people”.

The previous generation Viper was an unforgiving machine, without any real electronic assistance it quickly scorned anyone who treated it with disrespect. While this has given the supercar a hardcore appeal a more drivable Viper is not such a bad idea.

How far Dodge plans to dilute the sports car’s aggro nature is not known for now. But Chrysler will be looking to keep a fine balance between the ingredients.

Dodge at work on fuel frugal hatchback

November 16th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Chrysler is hard at work refreshing and reworking its line-up and to go a step further it has announced that it’s working on a small car for the Dodge lineup. This new vehicle is being built with fuel economy clearly in mind and should be capable of achieving a fuel economy well under 6.0l/100km. The mysterious new model will sit on a Fiat-sourced platform and is expected to be revealed sometime near the end of 2011.

Little is known about who the main rivals for this new Dodge will be but apparently a fuel-efficient small Chrysler has been planned for a long time and lead to the creation of the Dodge Hornet concept car (pictured) in 2006. The Hornet was seemingly given the go-ahead for production but never surfaced in finished form. Now may be its time.

Aside from the North American-specified Fiat 500, the new Chrysler/Fiat partnership has yet to produce any real joint vehicles. In the meantime, Chrysler has been reworking its product portfolio, offering new powertrains higher-quality interiors and improved refinement for the full slate of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep products.

To read a recent Car and SUV review of the updated Dodge Caliber, click here. Continue reading “Dodge at work on fuel frugal hatchback” »

Chrysler looking to resurrect the Barracuda badge

November 10th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Something quite special for the muscle car scene happened at the recently held SEMA show in Las Vegas. Ralph Gilles, the big cheese at Chrysler’s Dodge brand in the states came out and told a crowd of Mopar-obsessed fans that a resurrection of the classic Barracuda may be on the cards.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds, especially with Dodge already re-released the Challenger, which was the Barracuda’s fellow pony car sibling from 1970 through 1974, so the new vehicles platform has already been developed. The bigger question is how exactly would Chrysler differentiate the two models if they shared a platform and featured similar styling? Also, how would the model fit into the current Chrysler range? Being that the Plymouth brand was phased out from the Chrysler Group’s portfolio back in 2001, if the ‘Cuda brought back from oblivion, it would most likely be marketed under the Chrysler brand.

“There’s a lot of pressure on us to bring the ‘Cuda back,” said Ralph Gilles, he added that “the customers have been stomping their feet for it.”

This is the second occasion that the Chrysler Group has looked into bringing back the ‘Cuda nameplate, but due to ownership changes and of course, last year’s bailout, the company was forced to put all plans on hold. But now, with improved financial stability it could be time for this motoring icon to return to the fold. Stay tuned.

Dodge Caliber SXT 2010 Review

October 29th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

In our highly competitive world sometimes you have to be that little bit different just to get noticed. Carmakers worked this out a while back and have recently given the automotive world some unique and progressive designs. This holds especially true in the hatchback segment where radical styling has almost become the norm. So how exactly does a new car cultivate a unique appeal in these diverse times? To get the answers, Car and SUV spent a week with the updated 2010 Dodge Caliber because it still looks like no other vehicle on NZ roads.

What makes the Caliber aesthetically different is a mixture of traditional Dodge DNA and a body shape that’s a mash-up of hatchback, crossover and sports coupe. Its styling talks loudly and offers a truly American take on the conventional hatchback. The Caliber announces its arrival with its signature Dodge crosshair grille. In profile it shows off pumped up wheel arches, a coupe like roofline and a front foot, pouncing stance. The squared-off rear features jeweled tail lamps a narrow back windscreen and a protruding chunky bumper.  Exterior changes to the updated Caliber are minimal but do include some subtle chrome trim and a new 17-inch alloy wheel design which helps give the 2010 model an even sharper edge.

Step inside the Caliber and the unique styling continues with a fully refreshed interior design. The instrument panel, centre console storage bin and door panel trims have all been redesigned using higher quality materials. The result is a cabin that is more modern and user-friendly. There are some nice touches like chromed surrounds for the instruments and air vents and smart LED lighting which illuminates the cupholders. The hot rod red plastic inserts in the centre control stack may not appeal to all tastes but it provides another unique feature and matches up with the stain-resistant red/black cloth used on the seats. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good to grip and has audio controls at your fingertips. Continue reading “Dodge Caliber SXT 2010 Review” »

Chrysler shows concept 2012 Dodge Viper at dealer conference

September 16th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Earlier this week a Chrysler dealer conference went down over in the States where new or updated products from the American brand were unveiled. It was business as usual until Chrysler Group and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne had a concept of the 2012 Dodge Viper roll on to the stage.

While no photos or specs have been released, Chrysler has confirmed that the next-generation Viper is on its way in two years time, but showing a concept off this early is a clear indication that work is well underway.

There’s still much rumour and speculation over what powertrain will be fitted to the all-new Viper, but early reports indicate that the same 8.4-litre V10 may carry on, possibly with the inclusion of Fiat’s MultiAir technology to reduce emissions and boost output over 700 horses. An entry-level V8 option is also a possibility, and expect to see some input from Ferrari’s engineers on anything from handling to steering and stability control systems. Just one of the perks of partnership with the Fiat Group.

Dodge Journey SXT 2010 Review

September 3rd, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

Is your home full of family members and pets but your bank account isn’t packed full of cash? If you answered yes, then read on because the Dodge Journey SXT may be the family hauler for you. The 2010 model year has brought some small updates for the American SUV and being priced just below the $40k mark it’s ready to continue forcing itself into the consciousness of thrifty kiwi buyers. Car and SUV played mum for a week in the Journey to find out if it had the durability and versatility demanded by New Zealand families.

From the outside the Journey’s styling and proportions are striking but difficult to define. It looks like a cross between an SUV and a people mover with a chunky face surrounded by pumped up sheetmetal. There’s a definite road-focus to the styling and its relatively low ride height and colour-coded body kit make no promises of any off-road credentials. Out front there’s the chrome Dodge signature grille with the Ram’s head logo stamped in, quad halogen headlights and fog lamps mounted in the square-jaw front bumper.  In profile the Journey shows off a large glasshouse, and pushed-out wheel arches that house 17-inch alloy wheels in base-model SXT form. The rear design is a touch softer boasting jeweled four-piece taillights and a lightweight single panel lift-gate with integrated roof spoiler. While the overall design isn’t as polarizing as the Nitro or Chrysler 300C the Journey is a handsome machine and looks more expensive than its price tag suggests.

Continue reading “Dodge Journey SXT 2010 Review” »

Chrysler reveals 2011 Dodge Charger in police uniform

August 25th, 2010 by Darren Cottingham

While it was known that the 2011 Dodge Charger was due for a refresh no one expected the first official image of the new model to be shown in full Police pursuit gear.

Chrysler is out to prove it’s a contender for lucrative American Police agency car contracts with its 2011 Charger Pursuit. Ford and General Motors have already introduced their next-generation police pursuit vehicles, and while the Taurus- and Caprice/Commodore-based cruisers will be tough competition for one another, the new Charger pursuit is no softie either.

The Pursuit is based on the new-for-2011 Dodge Charger, and will be available with either Chrysler’s 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 or 5.7-litre Hemi V8. The larger engine comes equipped with a Multi-Displacement System to shut off fuel to unneeded cylinders during lighter duty, improving fuel economy when cruising the beat.

Other special treats for the Charger on Police duty include things like heavy-duty anti-lock brakes, front and rear stabiliser bars, a two-mode police-specific stability control system and 18-inch performance tyres on ugly steel wheels.

Inside, the front cabin serves as a mobile command center, and Chrysler has got busy developing a police interface module to best integrate existing computer equipment. There’s also reinforced front seats, a column shifter to open up floor and console space and interior lighting in red and white to assist the use of night-vision equipment.

It’s one mean machine and American Police forces will be able to order the 2011 Charger Pursuit from next month.