Posts Tagged ‘Dodge’

Ever been in a car which from the get go you really did not want to like?

I have to admit that was the case with yours truly when I picked up the 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye.

My position on this 4-door sedan changed somewhat as the days flew by. At the risk of being crude and to quote a dear departed friend of mine one week later, “It didn’t suck!”

So let’s put that phrase into context, shall we?

As soon as I saw the car, my hackles went up; what was this bright red car (to be technically correct, Redline Red Pearl Coat)? And just who was it trying to mislead?

The answers? It’s a Dodge Dart and it made a fool of me.

With the introduction of this vehicle, execs on both sides of the border can breathe a sigh of relief. However, for the record, it will take more than one model to eliminate some of the bad taste that is still lurking reluctantly with some faithful Chrysler consumers who in the past five years or so have been wondering what was going on with their beloved yet smallest manufacturer of the Big Three.

There may well be a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel and it may be an advancing Dart, heading to market via dealerships everywhere waiting like an eager puppy to make loyal Chrysler consumers believe again.

Like many of my colleagues I drive a fair number of vehicles every year. However, this particular model got a total of five direct unsolicited responses from various inquisitive consumers. Five. Not the norm. There may have been more, but these five I personally witnessed including one couple who wandered up my driveway to peer inside this red machine. Even the attendant at the car wash I usually frequent early Monday mornings made a comment. At best, if I get “Have a nice day” you know that he long before fulfilled his daily caffeine quotient. This day he was, for him, quite effusive.

So what is it or was it about this car that seemed to cause these reactions?

Its European heritage? Perhaps. After all taking a vehicle that sells as an Alfa Romeo Giulietta in Europe and making it work for North America is a fairly straightforward proposition. Cars like the Golf, Focus, and Cruze are very similar to their foreign market counterparts. But the very (resurrected) name of the 2013 Dodge Dart suggests Chrysler feels this car has an important role to play within Chrysler hierarchy. What, precisely remains to be seen.

The vehicle as tested had a price tag of $25,085. Not bad, but not wonderful either, considering other vehicles in the category, such as the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic. Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Elantra, Mazda3 and the Volkswagen Jetta.

But again, the model I was driving was, perhaps a little sportier than many comparable models.

The Dart’s entry-level engine is a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter I-4 with 160 hp and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. I drove the higher spec engine; also 160 hp, but with a turbo feeding a 1.4-liter I-4 that transfers its power through a six-speed manual. The big difference between the two engines is torque. While the 2.0-liter twists out 148 lb-ft, the 1.4-liter turbo gives the driver 184 lb-ft.Alright then. I have to confess for the first few days I wondered aloud about this. Was the turbo broken? Since it never really seemed to ‘respond’ and there was no obvious visible indicator advising said extra ‘oomph’ had been engaged. Until late one evening driving north on Hwy. 400, that was. Minimal traffic, I cruised along in the right hand lane at 105kmh. With no other vehicles of any description anywhere close, I dropped from 6th to 4 and gave the willing engine the gas it craved. OK, so no appreciable turbo lag (revs were high) and the car behaved and responded quickly – and willingly. So the turbo was there – it had been resting, never really having a chance to show or prove itself until then.

OK, so we know the car can move. What else? The transmission was pretty good – everything did what it was supposed to – when it was meant to – always a good sign.

This particular testing model was not what could be called luxurious. It was a ‘driver’s’ car – including the well-bolstered bucket cloth seats. It came with navigation and even heated seats – never really understood heated cloth seats, but… Back up camera made its now almost ubiquitous appearance as did 17×7 ½” aluminum wheels, fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel and available satellite radio.

At night, the interior of the car, especially the dash, was, for this driver a bit too much – but in fairness, I’m not the dart’s demographic. I came close to a combined EnerGuide Government of Canada city highway rating of 5.1L/100km – not too bad.

Like I said, at first, I could not see myself liking the Dart. When I turned it back in, I still had a smile (albeit faint) on my face.

We’ll all need to keep an eye open for Chrysler and their future. Can they do something engineered from the wheels up via Detroit? We’ll see. We’ll see.

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Just announced earlier this morning from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) announced the names of 11 vehicles that will now compete for 2012 Canadian Car, and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

The annual event known as Testfest and held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, brought 70 Canadian automotive journalists together to road and track test some 57, 2012 model year vehicles now arriving in dealer showrooms.

Today’s announcement followed almost a week of rigourous road and track testing by AJAC members, with the purpose of narrowing a field of 57 entries down to winners in 11 categories.

The winners in the 11 categories are:

  • Best New Small Car under $21K: Hyundai Accent
  • Best New Small Car over $21K: Hyundai Elantra
  • Best New Family Car under $30K: KIA Optima LX
  • Best New Family Car over $30K: KIA Optima Hybrid
  • Best New Luxury Car: Mercedes-Benz C-Class C350 4MATICSedan
  • Best New Sports/Performance Car under $50K: Hyundai Veloster
  • Best New Sports/Performance Car over $50K: BMW 1 Series M Coupe
  • Best New Prestige Car over $75K: Mercedes-Benz S-Class S350 Bluetec 4MATIC
  • Best New SUV/CUV under $35K: Dodge Journey
  • Best New SUV/SUV $35K-60K: Volkswagen Touareg TDI Clean Diesel
  • Best New SUV/CUV over $60K: BMW X3

Did you spot the lonely North American automobile? Does this surprise you? Seriously?

The AJAC 2011 car of the year was General Motors Cruz; is that once highly regarded vehicle now considered flavour of the month – yesterday’s news?

Of the 70 Canadian journalists who participated in Testfest this month, there are few, if any changes from last year. Why the apparent about face? Public opinion? Or can North America not build a decent automobile? Hold on a moment; consider Honda Canada with their Alliston manufacturing facilities. Recently back on line at full production, they are producing between 1,400 and 1,600 Honda Civics per day for the North American market. A Japanese car, built in Canada that may well lay claim shortly to its 14th consecutive year of being Canada’s number one selling car. When was the last time we saw that honourable statistic bestowed upon one of Detroit’s Big 3? Oh yes, right… before there was any serious competition from European or Asian manufacturers, that’s when.

I digress. As can clearly be seen, Korean automakers did extremely well, actually winning five of the 11 categories — including the KIA Optima, which sewed up both family car categories.

If you follow cars, the end result may not come as a complete surprise to many. For the past couple of years, Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia, a once bankrupt manufacturer not too many years ago has been bringing cars to the market with tremendous style and appeal while loaded with safety features and excellent value for the dollar.

We’ll still have to wait a few months to hear the declared overall winners for 2012 Canadian Car of the Year and Utility Vehicle of the Year; they’ll be announced at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto in February 2012.

One wonders; given the bailouts in North America to some automakers who were teetering on the brink, can they too, in the future return to their once former glory? Or are the stakes quite simply way too high?

Time and public opinion will tell.

OK, so let’s be clear. Yes, there are some amazing ‘supercars’ out there that right off the dealer lot showroom would impress any calf-skin leather gloved, short espresso with a twist aficionado.

But the cars we are talking about here are for the average ‘Joe’, the individual who does not own a black AMEX card nor has either Brad or Angelina on speed dial.

So without any unnecessary fanfare, here’s our final selection.

2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392

Dodge has done an absolutely stunning job of camouflaging the Challenger SRT8 392 as an automobile. When compared to its most direct rivals, the Challenger is the design that most successfully draws on its muscle-bound coupe heritage. Just look at it. Raw animal like power oozes from the sheet metal – and then some.

Look at the hood scoops and beefy oversize tires – it all adds up to one menacing muscle car. Not beautiful, almost mean, poised like a tightly wound spring, and ready to leap into action at the drop of a hat – or flag.

The new 6.4L HEMI pumps out 470hp and 470 lb ft. of torque – 50 more horses and 90 lbs more twist than the previous model. That extra torque results in some impressive straight line acceleration: 0-100 km in the high 4-second range. Fortunately for everyone, Brembo brakes are standard issue on this built-for-speed beast. The boys in the backrooms must have been chuckling when they came up with this monster.

Traditionally cars with this much heat under the hood are good for one thing – going fast and in a straight line. However, it would appear that the engineers built a spectacular muscle car with aspirations of German sports-car agility.  Really.

Only a limited number of these driving machines are destined for Canada so keep a wary eye – and your wallet wide open.