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Chrysler back in top form

In black and white: The Chrysler 300S features extra chrome and a blackened grille.

Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Mopar all receive boost as Fiat-run giant reasserts itself

1 Apr 2010

CHRYSLER this week moved to reassert itself as a major force on the American motoring landscape, unveiling significant upgrades for several Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models at the New York auto show and presenting a new range of ‘Moparised’ Jeep and Ram trucks at the annual Moab Easter Safari in Utah.

The Fiat-controlled US car-maker has also marked the final year of production for the current V10-powered Dodge Viper SRT10 supercar with a new American Club Racer-spec ACR-X edition, and announced other special Vipers planned for MY2010 including an ACR 1:33 Edition which celebrates the production car lap record set last November at the Laguna Seca racetrack.

Virtually all of these products are aimed at the Chrysler’s all-important American domestic market, with Chrysler Australia advising that no specific new models seen in the US this week are on the agenda for release Down Under during 2010.

However, the factory-backed Australian arm, which is still working on setting up new headquarters and finalising distribution arrangements with Iveco in Melbourne, has pointed to new safety technology, namely Blind-spot Monitoring (BSM) and Rear Cross Path (RCP) accident-avoidance systems, which should be introduced on a number of Australian-bound vehicles from 2011.

Both BSM and RCP are part of a new SafetyTec Package on the Chrysler Town & Country (sold in Australia as the Voyager) people-mover and are claimed to be segment-first innovations. The package also includes current optional safety features such as reverse-parking camera and sensors, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and tyre-pressure monitoring.

11 center imageFrom top: Chrysler Voyager, Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR-X edition, Dodge Ram PowerWagon, Jeep Wrangler J7 and Mopar ImMortal (bottom).

The T&C has also had some TLC applied with more standard features, extra creature comforts, higher-grade cabin materials and an engine upgrade for the 3.8-litre OHV petrol V6. The latter now produces 147kW of power (up 5kW) and 305Nm of torque (up 7Nm) and combines with a revised Auto Stick six-speed automatic transmission.

Tweaks to the 3.5-litre V6 engine used in the Chrysler 300C were also presented in New York with a high-spec 300 Touring “Plus” model, which delivers 186kW (up 3kW) and an unchanged 340Nm, while a “serious, low-key look” to the large sedan was introduced with a new 300S model that trades in the abundant exterior chrome detailing for a menacing blackened grille and more body-coloured accents.

Darkened headlamp bezels and large 20-inch polished wheels complete the 300S look, while the cabin similarly takes on darker overtones and is fully kitted out with a thumping Kicker stereo (with 13 speakers, 322-Watt amp and 100-Watt subwoofer), among other interior treats.

Other cars of note on the stand at New York include a PT Cruiser Couture Edition (with a radical hot-rod-inspired silver/black two-tone paint scheme) – the 16th special edition in the current-generation retro-car – and new “lifestyle packages” across the mainstream Dodge range.

As well as the new ACR Viper editions, and slight changes to the standard Viper roadster and coupe (shorter fifth gear ratio, new colours, but no change to the 450kW/760Nm 8.4-litre V10), Chrysler also presented Furious Fuchsia editions for its Dodge Challenger muscle-car, in both R/T Classic and SRT8 form, to celebrate four decades of “modern muscle-car design and performance”.

The facelifted Caliber range, first shown at the Frankfurt motor show last year and due on sale in Australia late in 2010, was also unveiled in New York with a number of new model grades that carry more standard equipment.

It was a similar story in the Jeep corner, with a broader model line-up via new variants and a general improvement in the value story.

The main attractions for the off-road brand in the big Apple were the return of the mid-series Renegade trim level for Liberty (Cherokee) – offering a “premium, rugged appearance with class-leading capability features” – and, for Wrangler, new limited-issue Islander and Mountain editions.

Meanwhile, Chrysler also turned up at the 44th annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari with “truckloads” of Jeep and Ram models kitted out with Mopar accessories, including customised production models and “image vehicles” that showcase directions Mopar might take in the future.

Among the image vehicles were a stripped-back semi-military-issue ‘J7’ Jeep Wrangler, an ‘Extreme’ super-off-road-oriented Jeep Patriot, a ‘Trail Boss’ Wrangler with a host of off-road products from the Mopar trail catalogue, and a Jeep Nukizer 715 – an all-purpose truck that pays homage to the military-only Kaiser M-715 truck.

The Ram pickup truck was also turned out in ‘PowerWagon’ form, another off-road warrior brimming with Mopar accessories and finished in a black-on-white look that harks back to the wild Power Wagons of the 1970s.

Select “Moparised” production vehicles shown at Moab include a ‘Ram Runner’ desert racer and a Wrangler-based (and seemingly unbreakable) ‘ImMortal’ off-roader.

Speaking at a forum ahead of the New York show opening, Chrysler Group (and Fiat) CEO Sergio Marchionne said: “The futures of Fiat and Chrysler are now inextricably intertwined, and both will reap enormous benefits from the relationship.

“By accessing Fiat’s pool of automotive architectures and powertrains, Chrysler will save months – realistically, even years – in development and testing, along with billions of dollars in investment.

“Fiat’s advanced fuel-saving technologies will give Chrysler a significant advantage toward meeting future regulatory requirements. By 2014, more than half of Chrysler vehicles will be built on Fiat-derived architectures. And over 40 per cent of Chrysler will be fitted with powertrains which are either from Fiat or benefit from Fiat technology.

“In turn, Fiat will benefit from Chrysler’s product strengths in minivans, Jeep sport-utility vehicles, Ram pickup trucks and HEMI-powered large sedans by turning over responsibility for development of all large vehicles in its product portfolio to Chrysler.

“Chrysler’s all-new, state-of-the-art Pentastar V6 engine will be shared with Fiat. This family of engines is more refined, more powerful and more fuel efficient than the seven existing V6 engines in the Chrysler line-up that it will replace.

“We’re moving rapidly to execute the Chrysler plan. Seventy-five percent of our vehicle line-up will be all-new or renewed by the end of 2010. For those who are keeping count, that’s 16 vehicles! “And 100 per cent of our line-up will be refreshed or renewed by the end of 2012.”

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