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Durango sales skyrocket from ‘Anchorman 2’ ads

America’s favorite news anchor is proving he has the mustachioed charisma to sell a shocking number of Dodge Durango’s.  With the release of ‘Anchorman 2:  The Legend Continues’ fast approaching, Chrysler made the call to Ron Burgundy, better known as comedian Will Ferrell to help them sell their SUV.  The results have been nothing short of miraculous, not to mention hilarious. 

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.  

Chrysler 300: Promise fulfilled

In 2004, the Chrysler 300 landed like a body slam to the midsection of the full-size sedan segment, its brooding, broad-shouldered presence a poke in the eye of convention.


The 300’s dark beauty masked an array of shortcomings, though. On the verge of bankruptcy, Chrysler cut more than a few corners. Neither the interior nor the suspension fulfilled the exterior’s promise.


Six years, one recession and a change of ownership later, the second-generation 300 arrived. No less bold stylistically than the original, the new 300 was more than just a comely face. 


Suspension upgrades tamed the 300’s wayward ways and mechanical updates boosted fuel efficiency. The cabin finally received the attention the first-gen 300 so richly deserved.


Now, in 2013, the 300 ($31,340, including destination) has matured into a comfortable, efficient and sumptuously outfitted adult conveyance. Its 122-inch wheelbase dwarfs the domestic competitions’. Its cabin is large enough and back seat roomy enough that it’s sold in other parts of the world as a limousine. 


The 300 is built on a rear-drive platform, with available all-wheel-drive. This RWD architecture produces a driveline hump that reduces rear-seat foot-room but yields superior driving dynamics. Despite its bulk, the new 300 handles confidently, even through fast sweepers.


Ride quality is very good, although larger wheel sizes — base trims come with 17s, AWD gets 19s and 20s are available — reduce compliance on rough surfaces. With its large and supportive seats, compliant suspension and well-weighted steering, the 300 will doubtless prove to be an efficient and comfortable long-distance cruiser.


And, though it won’t be mistaken for a sport sedan the equal of BMW’s 7 Series or an engineering marvel like Mercedes-Benz’s S Class, the 300 takes a back seat to none in the value sweepstakes. It’s with comfort, convenience and safety features at surprisingly low price points.


The base 300 receives automatic headlights, heated mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, an 8.4-inch central touchscreen interface, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat (with adjustable lumbar), tilt-and-telescoping steering, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB connectivity and satellite radio.


A 292-horsepower V-6 is standard (it’s tweaked to 300 hp on the sport-tuned 300S). Paired with a new eight-speed automatic, it produces EPA estimates of 19 mpg city/31 mpg highway/23 mpg combined; AWD fetches 18/27/21.


A 363-hp eight is available on all but the base trim and the high-performance, 470-hp SRT8. Mated with a six-speed gearbox, the eight earns RWD ratings of 16/25/19 and 15/23/18 with AWD. The RWD-only SRT8 earns EPA numbers of 14/23/17.


The handful of downsides include limited rearward visibility and vague shift-lever detents. A balky storage-cubby door hinted at cabin cost-cutting.


Our admiration for Chrysler’s reborn flagship remains undimmed, though. A roughhewn beauty in its youth, the 300 wears its new maturity like a champion. 

Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at don@dadair.com. 

2013 Chrysler 300 AWD
Vehicle base price: $30,345
Trim level base price: $32,845
As tested: $35,840
Options included back-up camera; power passenger seats with four-way lumber adjust; fog lamps, security alarm; remote start; universal garage door opener; center high-mount stop lamp.
EPA ratings: 18 city/27 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

Chrysler strips muscle machines to their “Core”

The original recipe of the muscle car was simple:  Stuff a ridiculously powerful engine into the smallest car possible and sell it for cheap.  Chrysler announced plans this month to spice-up the cheap ingredient with stripper, or “Core” models of the Dodge Challenger and Chrysler 300 SRT8.  

Mini Italian Jeep on the way

The automotive melting pot took another stir last month when Fiat announced it plans to build a new subcompact Jeep in Italy.  That’s right:  An Italian Jeep could soon be sold in the United States and around the world.

FDR may be rolling in his grave and there could soon be cries of blasphemy from the Jeep faithful.

As the majority owner of Chrysler, Fiat said it expects production of the vehicle to begin in 2014 after it invests 1 billion Euros, or $1.3 billion to get an Italian production plant up and running.  The new Jeep is expected to be smaller than the compact Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot built in the United States.  Read more at the Detroit Free Press.  

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.

Chrysler to sell natural gas-powered truck

Chrysler aims to be the first U.S. automaker to produce a factory-built pickup truck that is powered mainly by natural gas, the Associated Press reports.

The privately held company said today that its new Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG truck will be sold to commercial customers that operate truck fleets. The company expects to deliver the first trucks in July.

The truck will have natural gas tanks and an 8-gallon fuel tank for gasoline. Chrysler said a small amount of gasoline is needed to start the truck, but after ignition it runs entirely on natural gas. If the natural gas tanks run out, the engine can switch to gasoline.

A little lemonade from Chrysler troubles?

Fiat and the new Chrysler Group LLC will honor car buyers’ rights under Idaho’s “Lemon Law,” Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today, when the new company takes control of the auto maker.  That includes those who bought or leased their vehicles from the “old” Chrysler. “The continuation of consumers’ rights under Idaho’s Lemon Law is a significant issue that has arisen in the wake of the recent auto manufacturers’ bankruptcies,” Wasden said. “I commend Fiat and the new Chrysler Group for its willingness to protect the interests of Chrysler’s customers, and I hope similar considerations will be extended to General Motors’ customers.”

Under Idaho’s “Lemon Law,” consumers can get refunds or a replacement vehicle if a new car develops a significant problem that can’t be repaired after repeated attempts. Other states also have such laws; state attorneys general negotiated with the new Chrysler Group LLC to reach the agreement that lemon laws will be honored. The new Chrysler group will be owned by Fiat, the United Auto Workers, the United States and Canada, after the car manufacturer goes through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

No surprise! Chrysler is heading for bankruptcy…

Good morning, Netizens…

Chrysler, the third-largest automotive manufacturer, will seek bankruptcy protection and enter an alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat, the White House announced Thursday. According to my memory, it is the first time since 1933 and the days of the humble Studebaker, that an automotive manufacturer has filed for bankrupcy.

President Obama called the deal “a new lease on life” for the troubled auto maker, and promised a quick, surgical bankruptcy.

One presupposes that the union members and the bondholders for Chrysler would never dissent in such an agreement, but I could be wrong. More details and perhaps a better analysis of the bankruptcy are forthcoming.