Archive for the ‘Dodge’ Category

Chrysler Group: Chrysler didn’t show any new models, but it did show some awesome updated and special edition models. And of course, this is the Los Angeles debut of the 2013 SRT (Street Racing and Technology) Viper.

The 2013 SRT Viper is one mean-looking snake. Move over Corvette, the Viper is finally more user friendly, while still packing a mean bite with the 8.4L V10 making 640 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque.

The 2013 SRT Viper from the rear. This beauty has no bad angles. Prices start at $97,395. Something this pretty doesn’t come cheap.

There was scant information about this 2013 Dodge Challenger R/T. I love the stripes and amber running lights.

This was a Mopar Concept Car – a Dodge Challenger with a big engine under the hood (note the bump) and a mean purple paint job.

This is another Mopar Concept car – The Dodge Charger Juiced. This lovely orange-copper colored beast has the Viper V10 engine stuffed under the hood. Talk about muscle!

This 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye has a factory matte paint job and it was quite sharp. You too can order it this way.

The 2014 Jeep Wrangler with the Rubicon 10th Anniversary package. It also has some cool Mopar accessories like that mean winch on the front bumper. The red leather interior was very sharp, I’m just not sure it would do well in open or off-road motoring or in mud.

Another popular Mopar Concept is this Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sand Trooper with Chrysler’s 5.7L Hemi V8 and a 5-speed automatic. The tires and wheels are ridiculous but it would be a wet dream for serious off-roaders.

The rear view of the Jeep Wangler Unlimited Sand Trooper.

The interior of the Mopar Concept Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sand Trooper is mostly stock. Most of the modifications were under the hood as well as the chassis, suspension, off-road accessories and 4-wheel drive hardware.

Ford: Ford had several interesting new models in Los Angeles. The biggest news, of course, was the LA premier of the all-important 2013 Fusion. It’s a volume leader for Ford and with Aston Martin-ish handsome face, it will be a serious treat to the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat.  The only engines offered will be 4-cylinder, with the top of the line being a 2.0L EcoBoost making  240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque.  The Fusion Hybrid is rated at 47 mpg – city or highway, besting the Camry, Sonata and Optima hybrids as well as the Passat TDI.

2013 Ford Fusion. Check out that Aston Martin grille.

This 2013 Ford Fusion has a Euro Series styling package by 3d Carbon-Air Design

The interior of the 2013 Ford Fusion is all high-tech. However, I found some of the controls didn’t respond quickly to my touch and I accidentally pressed surface controls that I didn’t want to change or activate.

Ford’s Mustang is getting very old and is due to be replaced in the Spring of 2014 with an all-new, completely modern model to celebrate Mustang’s 50th Anniversary. In the meantime, Ford just keeps adding horsepower and styling packages to keep up interest.

The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible is always a crowd favorite. I mean who doesn’t like 662 HP, 631 lb-ft of torque and a price tag of $68.,710?

The white leather stripes make for a nice continuation of the paint stripes on the outside of the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 Convertible.

Ford also introduced a refreshed 2014 Fiesta. The headline in the redesign isn’t the exterior, but that for the first time in decades, it will be offered with a 1 liter 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine. The little mill whips out 123 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque and should be good for at least 40 mpg highway.

The 2014 Ford Fiesta with the 1.0L 3-cylinder EcoBoost engine.

To please the enthusiast crowd, Ford also showed the 2014 Fiesta ST.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST. Note the grille looks more like the 2013 Fusion.

Ford is jumping back into the minivan market, albeit in a completely different way.  Ford’s little Transit Connect commercial van has been selling well since it went on sale a few years ago. Now it’s time for a refreshed Transit Connect and with that refresh comes a consumer minivan option. It’s definitely a Euro-flavor van as it’s quite tall and shorter than something like a Chrysler Town & Country.  I think it will find a new type of buyer – a family which may not want a traditional minivan or a big SUV.  I think it’s pretty cool!

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon.

The interior of the 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon.

The rear of the 2014 Transit Connect Wagon (don’t call it a minivan) can easily be reconfigured for passengers or cargo. Sliding doors are on both sides. And it should be more fuel efficient than a traditional minivan.

Honda: The big news was the redesign of the Honda Civic for the 2013 model year. However, I’ll cover that in another post as it happened on Day 2 of the auto show.

Honda did have an interesting little hybrid concept called an EV-STER and it also showcased the new 2013 Plug-In Accord Hybrid.

Honda EV-STER Concept. It’s small and cute… I doubt it will ever see production.

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid.

Hyundai: The big reveal was the 2014 Santa Fe – long wheel-base version.  However, I’ll cover that on Day 2. On Day 1, the fun Concept Veloster Roll Top opened some eyes. If you don’t like the Veloster, you won’t like the Concept, but I really like the sporty and high-style concept of the Veloster, so the Roll Top concept for an active lifestyle hit the right note.

Hyundai Veloster Turbo C3 Roll Top Concept

Everyone needs a custom bike to put in the back of your custom concept car, right? Very cool Veloster C3 Roll Top rear hatch.

Infiniti: The LA Auto Show got nothing from Nissan’s luxury brand.  The LE Concept has made the rounds of auto shows for over a year now, finally landing in LA.  Is this its final resting place?  The LE is based on the all-electric Nissan Leaf platform and it shows nicely, but I was tired of seeing it in photos before I was bored seeing it in person. Hey, Infiniti, time for some new product, right? And I don’t mean the JX – a luxury version of the Nissan Pathfinder SUV.

Infiniti’s all-electric LE Concept.

Jaguar: The 2014 Jaguar F-Type roadster was probably the highlight of the LA Auto Show. I have more pictures of it from Day 2 that I will put in another post. There’s no denying the Sexy Kitty and the F-Type is a sure hit, even if it’s a low volume one. It’s more of a halo car for Jaguar, something the brand sorely needed. The Old XK Cat has been face lifted more times than Joan Rivers and while we will eventually get a new XK, I almost don’t care as the F-Type is so delicious.

2014 Jaguar F-Type V8S’ supercharged engine makes 495 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a ZF 8-speed automatic.  It looks sensational in orange. Can you say tiger?

The rear of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8S has a spoiler that rises out of the rear deck lip.

The interior of the 2014 Jaguar F-Type V8S looks like a lovely place to spend many hours on the open road. The electronic shifter appears to be lifted straight out of a BMW.

Jaguar also showed an updated XF sedan. The screaming blue example on the floor refuses to be ignored. I have more pictures from Day 2 which I’ll put in another post.

The 2014 Jaguar XFR-S.

The business end of the 2014 Jaguar XFR-S. Hear its supercharged V8 roar as it blasts past you.

Kia: The Kia Sorento mid-size SUV is all new for 2014. It features both four and six-cylinder engines and improved fuel economy.  It’s much more stylish than the Toyota Highlander.

The 2014 Kia Sorento is rides on an all-new platform.

Interior of the 2014 Kia Sorento.

Lexus: Toyota’s luxury division didn’t have anything new for the LA Auto Show, but it did have some very cool (albeit recycled) concept cars.

The Lexus LF-CC Concept previews the upcoming new IS. However, I can’t believe the production IS will ever look this good.

The Lexus LF-LC Concept Coupe was also sensational. Now if Lexus would actually produce an IS or GS coupe and/or convertible that looks this good.

On the production side, the GS F-Sport models are looking good.

2013 Lexus GS F-Sport. The ground effects package give it a sportier appearance.

I think Lexus nailed the interior of the new GS. The horizontal lines work and the matte colors in the F-Sport look, well, sporty.

Lincoln: The big news is the 2013 MKZ, which was introduced on Day 2 of the show, so I’ll cover it in a subsequent post. But lucky for the press, and only on Day 1, Lincoln brought a collection of classic Lincolns.

1929 Lincoln L Dietrich Convertible Coupe.

1932 Lincoln Derham Sports Sedan

1932 Lincoln KB LeBaron Convertible Roadster

1932 Lincoln Zephyr Sedan Coupe.

1940 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet

1961 Lincoln Continental Sedan.

Elizabeth Taylor’s 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II

To be continued in the next post, 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show Part 3


I’m old enough to remember the original Dodge Dart that “graced” the American roads from 1960 to 1976. Aside from the first generation 1960 – 1961 model years, the Dodge Dart was a platform twin with the decidedly un-sexy Plymouth Valiant.

The original Dart sold well, but the vast majority were soporific, entry-level “compact” (by contemporary standards) family cars. Some performance variants came and went. Remember the Swinger or the Demon? And after some Christian groups complained about the name “Demon” and the use of a devil with a pitchfork in ads, it was renamed the Sport. Gosh, that was original.

The Dart soldiered on until is was quietly laid to rest at the end of the 1976 model year. Of course, there was the obligatory “Spirit of ’76” edition — I think all the Detroit automakers introduced some tedious bicentennial models, some complete with red, white and blue theme, stickers and badges.

After decades in the dustbin of history, the rejuvenated Chrysler Group, now controlled by Italy’s Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) Automobiles S.p.A., dusted off the venerable nameplate for what is arguably its most important post-bankruptcy product.

The 2013 Dodge Dart

Based on the well-received European market Alfa Romeo (also a Fiat company) Giulietta, the 2013 Dodge Dart put on some weight and size for the bigger North American market. In fact, Dodge boasts that the Dart has interior capacities more in line with mid-size sedans than its compact class.

Styling is a mostly successful pinched version of the much bigger Dodge Charger. It’s a fresh design, replete with Dodge styling cues, that once and for all drives the final nails in the coffins of past Dodge compact disappointments; namely the Neon and the Caliber.

The rear of the 2013 Dodge Dart. In this case, it’s the Limited model with the 1.4L turbo engine with Fiat’s MultiAir technology.

I had the opportunity to briefly test the base Dart SE with the 2.0L 160 hp 148 lb-ft of torque “Tigershark” 4-cylinder engine mated to a new 6-speed automatic. In addition, I drove the 6-speed manual Dart SXT fitted with Fiat’s 1.4L turbo 4-cylinder engine making 160 hp 184 lb-ft of torque with valve induction and timing managed by the company’s MultiAir ™ technology This is the same engine and transmission combo found in the Fiat 500 Abarth.

The base Dart SE starts at $16,790 including destination; but needs at least $2,390 of options to give it a minimum level of kit, some of which should be standard, like Bluetooth and air conditioning. The 6-speed automatic is a $1,100 option that will be fitted to the vast majority of Darts sold in the U.S. I can’t imagine a Dart SE sold in California without the $995 “Value Group” which includes air conditioning, keyless entry and speed-sensitive power locking doors.

A nice vanity shot of the new 2013 Dodge Dart, courtesy of Dodge.

The Dart’s class-leading 106.4 inch wheelbase and front struts combined with an independent rear multi-link suspension did an admirable job of soaking up bumps and rough roads. The electric power steering was light and precise, although I think the Focus has a more driver-focused feeling.

The 2.0 L Tigershark (stupid name for a new family of engines, considering this one doesn’t have much of a bite) engine with variable valve timing bolted to the 6-speed automatic will be the volume drivetrain. People like me would like some more bite to our Tigershark and that will be available later this year in the R/T model with a 2.4L Tigershark 4-cylinder engine sporting “enhanced” MultiAir II ™ technology making 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. The R/T will be available with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.

There are lots of transmission choices for the Dart. All models have a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission as standard. A 6-speed automatic is also available on all models and a 6-speed dual dry clutch transmission is available on the 1.4L MultiAir turbo engine that won the Best New Engine of 2010 award.

Dodge is certainly not willing to admit it, but it blew the introduction of the Dart in July because it didn’t have the 6-speed automatic transmission available. Since 90+ percent of the Darts sold will be equipped with the automatic, dealers couldn’t convince many customers to buy the manual version. That’s bad planning.

Since I keep throwing around the term MultiAir, it might be a good idea to define it. It’s an electro-hydraulic variable valve actuation system that delivers “optimum combustion at any speed under all driving conditions by allowing direct and dynamic control of air intake and combustion.” Basically, it helps the the engine breathe better resulting in increased fuel economy.

My Dart SE was the basic model that you’ll find in the rental fleets. The cabin was sort of a dreary cave, all covered in black plastic and cloth; however, the plastics were as good or better than the competition (Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, VW Jetta, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, etc.). Hard plastics were reserved for lower panels, not the ones in your direct line of site or touch.

This is the interior of the basic Dart SE. If you do opt for an SE, get a lighter interior as the all black looks a bit somber. The two-tone tan interior looks much richer, even if it isn’t.

I think most Dart retail buyers will step up to the better-equipped and competitively-priced SXT models with more standard kit and a slew of high-tech optional equipment found in more costly Chrysler Group products. In fact, the Dart is another prime example of the democratization of technology.

The basic radio unit in the Dodge Dart.

How did it drive?

Well, it was definitely solid and fuss-free. It won’t win any speed contests, but the 6-speed automatic did a great job of downshifting when needed and kept the engine in the sweet spot to optimize fuel economy. The brakes felt capable and linear, not spongy. All four wheels get disc brakes as standard equipment. I was also impressed that I didn’t detect any torque steer in normal city driving.

The radio and climate controls were simple and well-placed. The AC strained to overcome the extreme triple-digit desert heat, but managed to cool the cabin by the end of the drive. The manual tilt-telescope steering wheel helped me find a good seating position so that my 6 foot 1 inch frame didn’t feel cramped at all.

The passenger in-seat storage system in the 2013 Dart.

The front passenger seat has a clever in-seat storage system. The cushion pulls forward to reveal a hidden compartment for small items like a wallet or digital camera. I’m not sure how comfortable it would be for the passenger as the seat cushion is thinner. The extra-large glove box can fit a laptop computer or tablet.

The SXT with the 1.4L turbo MultiAir engine had a completely different character. I loved the exhaust note when it was started and revved. I didn’t love the way it drove in traffic. It’s like the engine is dead between 2nd and 3rd gear. What happened to the turbo?

The only way to have fun with the turbo was to get it on open stretches with your right foot mashing the happy pedal. The 6-speed manual was good, but not compared to the amazingly silky unit in the Honda Civic Si. I can’t imagine driving this thing on a daily basis in LA — it would make me scream like a maniac in traffic. If you want the turbo, opt for the 6-speed automatic or the dual clutch unit.

The 6-speed manual transmission available on the 2013 Dodge Dart

Fuel economy is an important selling point for the new Dart. One of the benchmarks set by the U.S. Government was for Chrysler to make a high-volume, 40 mpg car at a factory in the U.S. The Dart, built in Toledo, Ohio at Chrysler’s Belvidere Assembly Plant, fulfills that metric and Fiat’s bonus was an additional 5% ownership stake in Chrysler.

The base Dart SE I drove was rated at 24/27/34 mpg. The Dart SXT, with the 1.4L MultiAir turbo and 6-speed stick was rated at 27/32/39. The base SE is slightly behind its class, but the little turbo equals or slightly beats its competitors.

Wait, wait – there’s more!

In a couple months, you will be able to buy the Dart Aero, a more aerodynamic variant of the 1.4L MultiAir turbo Dart that will get up to 41 mpg with the stick or 40 mpg with automatic. For no real reason, 40 mpg is the new “magic” number in the compact segment and now Dodge has similar bragging rights.

But that’s not all…!

This upgraded interior of the Dart Limited sports red accents, Nappa Leather seats and contrasting red French stitching.

For the enthusiast, you will have to wait a little bit longer to get your hands on the sporty R/T model with the new 16-valve 2.4L Tigershark MultiAir II 4-cylinder engine. It promises to be the really fun Dart. Yeah, it’s right on target (no review is complete without this cliché).

I love all the grown up features that Dodge is offering on the new Dart. In addition to the over 100,000 ways to color customize the Dart, Dodge offers features including automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, Xenon lamps with Smartbeam ™ headlamp control, heated seats and even a heated steering wheel. You can opt for high quality Nappa leather seats with contrasting French stitching.

The reconfigurable TFT instrument display is unique to the Dart in the compact class.

A class-exclusive feature is the optional, full-color TFT (thin film transistor) cluster display replacing the analog dash gauges. It’s totally customizable with countless variations as to how and what is displayed for the individual driver. The optional U-Connect navigation system has Dodge’s intuitive, dazzling 8.4 inch touch screen, nearly identical to the one in the top shelf Chrysler 300. The system incorporates Bluetooth, Satellite Radio, SiriusXM TravelLink, real-time traffic, climate control, and digital media functions.

Other democratized options include dual-zone automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, a rear-view back-up camera, blind spot monitors, keyless entry and start, remote start, HomeLink and voice command.

The optional 8.4 inch full-color touch screen controls many infotainment functions and navigation.

In short, the Dodge Dart may be the new kid on the block, but it’s ready for prime time and ready to grab its share of the multimillion unit, highly-competitive compact car segment.