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Brandon Seiler's Blog on Cars

Posts tagged: dodge

Dodge’s Scat Packs are back

Dodge announced this week at the 2013 SEMA show plans to jazz-up a core piece of their MOPAR heritage with the reintroduction of their legendary Scat Pack packages.  In honor of the 45th anniversary of the “Scat Pack” Dodge enthusiast club, which led Dodge to first develop the performance kits, MOPAR faithful will once again be able to order up the factory-installed hotrod kits for the 2014 Challenger, Charger and Dart.  

Ram trucks floor GM, Ford tow ratings

As far as bomb dropping goes Ram just pulled out a nuke.  News came this week the 2013 Ram 3500 is rated to tow 30,000lbs, up from a maximum towing capacity of 22,750lbs for their equivalent setup in 2012. To put that in perspective similarly equipped heavy-duty 3500 pickups from General Motors are rated to tow 23,100 pounds while Ford’s most capable F-350 is rated at 22,800 pounds.

Big news from Dodge @ the Seattle Auto Show

Dodge’s Ram trucks are still huge and meaty just the way you like em’.  In my opinion no other American pickup has a beefier front end that perpetually appears to be trying to eat something.  It was a difficult pill to swallow when Ram’s spokesperson claimed that when equipped with a Hemi V8 and their new eight-speed transmission the 2013 Ram 1500 will be more fuel-efficient than other V6 powered pickup rivals. The verdict will be out on that one until the EPA gets a chance to test a Ram with the 8speed V8 combo.

What’s obvious is that Dodge is on a warpath of fuel efficiency with the new 1500.  Using Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 and the magical 8spd automatic transmission fuel economy is up to an EPA-estimated 17mpg city/25 mpg highway.  That’s a whopping twenty percent improvement over last year’s 3.7-liter V-6. 

If that weren’t alluring enough when equipped with the 306hp Pentastar the 1500 can tow up to 6500 pounds.  It begs the question why anyone would opt for the carryover 310hp 4.7L V8 that makes nearly identical fuel economy numbers as the massive 5.7L Hemi V8.

Besides the high-five worthy efficiency jump the biggest news of the 2013 Ram 1500 is optional air suspension. That might not sound like a big deal on your computer screen but no other full-size pickup has anything like it. 

The system has five modes controlled by a switch on the center stack.  Without human intervention the truck will automatically lower its stance just over an inch at highway speeds (60mph) to improve aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.  The truck will also kneel subserviently to make entering and exiting the cabin easier, as well as loading and unloading the bed.

For off-roading the ride height can be increased up to 2 inches, at which point Chrysler claims the 1500 has best in class ground clearance, break over angle and departure angle.   

Keep an eye on the sorts of technological advances being made by the Ram 1500.  Pickups are pretty much the only vehicles on the road that need to make gobs of power for practical purposes.  That puts them directly in the crosshairs of increasingly stringent government fuel economy requirements.   

The advancements Chrysler and their competition are developing to keep adequate grunt in their trucks while making them vastly more efficient is going to showcase how they’ll achieve the best of both worlds in vehicles across their lineups. 

That might be the biggest story of the 2012 Seattle Show.  From the press tour at least it looks like we might be able to have our cake and eat it too. 

News from Ford, Fisker, Buick, Toyota

Fiat 500 Sport Test & Review

When I asked Chrysler for a Dodge Challenger to review they delivered a Fiat 500 Sport instead. There was no reason to feel crestfallen. A proper auto enthusiast doesn’t judge a car on preconceived notions and Jennifer Lopez commercials but on driving impressions. 

The little Italian stallion makes a strong case for itself in the way of curb appeal alone. For starters it’s not a Mini Cooper. Any Seattleite who throws a handful of Skittles over their shoulder is bound to hit at least six of those popular little runabouts, or the headliner of their own for that matter.

Dressed up in Fiat’s Sport package the 500 comes equipped with sixteen-inch alloy wheels, a roof spoiler, fog lamps, tighter suspension tuning, recalibrated steering, sport seats and a five-speed manual. 

Commonplace sports upgrades such as these sometimes only serve as flimsy attempts to slap sports car image on a vehicle that will still make finding a manager’s special on milk the most exciting part of a trip to the grocery store.

This isn’t the case with the 500, and a big reason for that is how incredibly small it is. Besides the Smart Fortwo the 500 is the smallest car sold in the United States. On a car of its size adding a sports package with sport-tuned suspension, more responsive steering and manual transmission turns it into a joyously tossable car that's surprisingly fun on just about any city street. 

The result is a rarity of the daily driver breed that can provide a giddy thrill in places a Dodge Challenger would only be able to grunt and growl in frustration. 

The 500 doesn’t need a drag strip or passing lane to impress, it prefers cutting hard lines through roundabouts and darting through city traffic to make it to an office supplies store before close; any road is big enough for a thrill. 

Still, for as much fun as the 500 Sport can extract from day-to-day driving it’s not advisable to test it against many other cars in a test of raw acceleration. Besides the high-performance Abarth 500, all other models are powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 102hp and 98 pound-feet of torque. 

Those are respectable numbers for such a wee car, until you come to an inevitable point in any Fiat 500 review:

The Mini Cooper Comparison 

In a best case scenario the 500 can make it from 0 to 60mph in 10.5 seconds with a manual transmission – nearly 1.5 seconds slower than a base Mini Cooper. 

On top of that the Mini has nearly identical fuel economy numbers to the 500’s impressive 30cty/38hwy. Looking at it that way, the 500’s smaller platform can seem less like a selling point and more like Smart Fortwo gimmickry aimed at people who know about as much about Italian cars as they do Stouffer’s lasagna. 

But looks can be deceiving. Despite being 7 inches shorter in length and 2 inches narrower than the Mini, the 500 is 4 inches taller. With the added height the 500 is able to accommodate a more upright seating position that increases legroom, visibility and creates a “bigger” cabin feel. 

Aside from “the feel”, the 500 boasts 9.5 cubic feet of luggage space – significantly more than the Mini. With the 500’s backseats down luggage capacity grows to 30.2 cubic feet – nearly 25 percent more than a Cooper hatchback. 

Keeping in mind the 500 starts at about four grand less than a base Mini Cooper hatchback, there’s plenty of reason to give it a serious look. Other cars in its market segment are more spacious and faster in a straight line for comparable money, but few if any can provide such a unique fun factor behind the wheel. 

Plus, it’s not every decade Americans can put a new Italian car in their driveway for around sixteen grand. Those who really want to live the dream should opt for the Sport package - it's well worth the money.

Acura NSX, Dodge Dart revival @ Detroit Auto Show


Automakers are looking to the past for brand names we’ve come to love, respect, or just heard of before. Two more industry heavyweights are being called out of retirement for debut at The Detroit Auto Show in January. The names are the same but both cars are drastically different in ways that are sure to grab the attention of their fans. 


It’s been seven long years since Honda ceased production of the legendary NSX. Introduced in 1990, the mid-engine rear wheel drive coupe established itself as a 290hp machine worthy of supercar status that could double as a daily driver. 

Honda is hoping to fill the halo car position in their lineup once occupied by the NSX. When development of the NSX’s successor – the HSV-010 was halted due to financial shortcomings, news soon followed that a new NSX would debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January. 

Jalopnik reports major changes to the car are rumored to include all-wheel-drive and a hybrid powertrain to compliment Honda’s push to be viewed as a “green” car company.

While adding AWD to the NSX’s already renowned balance shouldn’t be a hard pill to swallow, adding a hybrid system to a car that spent 15 years impressing sports car fans with good ‘ol fashion gasoline could be a much harder sell. 

To drum up excitement before the NSX hits showrooms in 24 months, movie goers will be able to catch a rare glimpse of a one-off version of the car in this summer’s Avenger’s movie. Driven by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the car is said to look very much like the soon to be third generation NSX. (1) 


Remember the Dart? Well its back from 1976… Sort of.

Chrysler is reanimating the Dart and aiming it at the youth market as the new compact car slated to replace the mundane Dodge Caliber. MOPAR fans should read on before drooling with muscle-car excitement:

The new Dart is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a small car popular in Europe for its style and enjoyable drivability. The Dart’s three engine options will include 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter four-liter four cylinders and a 1.4-liter turbocharged four that’s good for 170hp and 41mpg in the Giuletta. 

If you’re wondering how a Detroit brand name is appearing on a car derived from Alfa Romeo, Chrysler Group is now owned by Fiat, which also owns Alfa Romeo. Per the bailout deal with the U.S. government the Dart will be assembled in the United States - Building a 40mpg car in the U.S. meets a requirement under the deal to secure Fiat’s final 5 percent of Chrysler stock from the U.S. government. 

To help reach the 40mpg mark Dodge will offer a nine-speed automatic transmission in addition to a Fiat six-speed dual clutch transmission. (2)(3)

Chances are their won’t be any burbling V8’s crammed into the new Dart, but rather features designed to impress young buyers interested in the likes of the new Ford Fiesta. As the first Alfa-Romeo-based Chrysler production car released in the States there’s plenty of rich history for the Dart to live up to. 

The Dart will officially debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January before going on sale in the first half of 2013. 


The Chronicle-Herald

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About this blog

Brandon Seiler is a bonafide car guy, member of the Northwest Auto Press Association and proud Washingtonian. He covers the latest auto news, technology, and pretty much anything having to do with car culture. You don't have to like cars to read his blogs, you just have to be able to read.

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