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Dodge Charger Hellcat – What Were They Thinking?

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Dodge Hellcat Logo

One of the benefits of writing about cars is that you get to drive some insane stuff occasionally.  The most recent insanity is the 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat an insanely fast 4-door sedan that Dodge actually displayed with two child seats in the back showing that it can be a responsible family hauler as well as a berserker.  And berserker it is.

Powered by a 707-horsepower 6.2L Supercharged HEMI V8, the Hellcat is a range-topping $64,000 handful.  Dodge staged the review of the new 2015 Dodge Charger out of Washington DC and offered on-track driving at Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia.  On a chilly, drizzly day, taking the Hellcat out on the rural roads around Summit Point allowed only about 20% of what the car is capable of.   Punching it on a clear straightaway spooled up torque that pushed the car sideways. Careful, careful, it felt almost as if you were idling and the car wanted to surge ahead.  You always knew that there is more there that can be used.707-horsepower2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

Multiple Keys Can Tone Down Hellcat for Valets  Dodge knows that in the wrong hands 707-horsepower can be abused so they have two keys and three horsepower modes.  Red key gets you unlimited use of its 707-horsepower.  Black key gets you about 500-horsepower – still a lot for your teenage son or the valet.  The answer for that is a valet mode accessed through the vehicle system that reduces the power to around 200-horsepower so they can’t get in too much trouble.

Something for Everyone in the Charger Lineup  With the 707-horsepower Hellcat out of the way, a serious, serious car, the happiest Charger is the 292-horsepower Pentastar V6 with all wheel drive.  This lower level sedan is a delight to drive.  Nimble and forgiving in all the ways the Dodge Charger Hellcat is not.  Simply, the new Charger lineup seems to have something for everyone from happy and pleasant starting around $28,000 for the SE or SXT models with the Pentastar V6, to a $32,000 370-horsepower 5.7L HEMI V8 in the R/T, to a $40,000 R/T Scat Pack with a 485-horsepower 6.4L HEMI V8, to the monster Hellcat with the 707-horsepower HEMI V8 at a fully loaded price over $60,000.


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2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit – Coming to a PD Near You

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2015 Dodge Charger PursuitWith the demise of the Ford Crown Vic, Dodge has been winning the police patrol car fleet battle.  Sure Ford has its Interceptors and Chevrolet is pushing its Caprice from Australia, but apparently Dodge makes a financially attractive pitch for its Charger Pursuit.  We’ve been seeing more and more of them rolling around Southern California as Crown Vics are retired, uh, sent to taxi fleets.

With the update of the 2015 Dodge Charger, the Pursuit has been updated as well.  You can tell the 2015 Charger is different because the front end styling is clearly different.  Other changes to the exterior styling are more subtle and it is a surprise when Dodge execs contend that every exterior panel is new with the exception of the roof and rear doors.  Dodge continues with its distinctive LED racetrack taillamp graphic and adds LED daytime running lights to the front.2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit

The interior has been upgraded with soft-touch materials including a 1-piece instrument panel pad with aggressive graining.  Like the civilian Charger, the Pursuit instrument cluster has an added 7-inch driver information display.  In the center stack there is a 5-inch screen for Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system.  Unique to the Pursuit is a column mounted shifter, “police-duty” front seats designed to accommodate the belt gear police normally wear and a modified center console.

Police Advisory Board Input  Dodge has a 22-member Police Advisory Board and their input was valuable in determining what upgrades the 2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit has over the civilian Charger.  With “modern” interfaces, Dodge has enabled re-mapping of the steering wheel buttons to handle aftermarket police equipment.  The instrument cluster can be customized 100 ways to optimize its display for police use.  The heavy duty anti-lock vented disc brakes have been upgraded and brake cooling ducts added to the lower front fascia.  The performance tuned suspension has been upgraded with more durable bushings up front.

Factory upfit plans are offered for law enforcement to customize packages for their organizations.  Chrysler’s Mopar accessories group has developed and tested equipment that meets and exceeds the durability cycle and test requirements of the 2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit.  There is a Base Police Prep Package and a Wiring Police Prep Package.  Both are designed to handle the broad power requirements of communications gear, lighting, sirens, cameras and computers.  There is a slide-out trunk tray available and also a trunk fan to keep all the electrical and electronics gear in the trunk cool.

V6 Pentastar A Safe Alternative for Most Pursuit Work  There are two engines available:  370HP 5.7L HEMI V8 and 292HP 3.6L Pentastar V6.  The Pursuit is standard with rear wheel drive and optional with all wheel drive.  While patrol officers probably want the HEMI, the Pentastar V6 is probably sufficient for 90% of police applications.  Word on the street is that younger officers don’t know how to handle the more powerful V8 and the V6 provides plenty of power for most applications.  Safety first with the V6.  Macho cop pursuits with the HEMI.


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Dodge 100th Anniversary – We Drive the Old Ones

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Chrysler Group had its annual new product preview last week at its Chelsea, Michigan proving grounds.  The highlight of that event was the introduction of the new 2015 Ram Promaster City a small van to compete with the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200.  On the second day, the gaggle of automotive journalists and analysts was transported to Meadowbrook Hall north of Detroit and near Chrysler’s headquarters in Auburn Hills.  This event was to celebrate the Dodge 100th Anniversary.  We were given a brief history of the brand and description of ten historic concept Dodges on display from the first Viper concept to the Dodge Demon concept from 2007.  Following the presentation of these concepts we were given the opportunity to drive and/or ride in 26 Dodges from the past ranging from 1915 through 2008.  1956 Dodge Custom Lancer

When all the cars were cranked up there was probably more air pollution rising from Meadowbrook Hall’s auto court than was emanating from the Los Angeles freeway system.  Ah, memories.

The first car I was drawn to was the 1956 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer powered by a HEMI V8 and dripping with chrome.  This coupe was grey metallic over coral reminding us of a time when contrasting two-tone color schemes were very popular (remember the 1956 Ford Crown Victorias in black and yellow or black and red?).  In any event, a brief lap of the Meadowbrook estate (now home to Oakland University) demonstrated how great the package was in the old cars, but also what a challenge they could be to drive.  Even though “Power Steering” and “Power Brakes” were pressed into the horn ring and brake pedal respectively, the car steered like a truck without power steering and braking took forever.  The package of the car was amazing probably because the interior was designed for when people wore hats – huge headroom in the rear seat.  So, the 1956 Dodge was my favorite.

The most surprising vehicle was the 1984 Dodge Caravan – the first of the minivans.  It was surprising how small it was.  It even deserved the moniker “minivan” because, compared with today’s minivans, the original Caravan was very small.  The seating position was great and visibility outstanding.  No wonder they sold so well, but the driving dynamics were very reminiscent of cars from the ’70s and early ’80s.  How quickly vehicles have evolved for the better.

As I was cranking up a 2003 Viper for the lap around the estate a woman approached and asked if she could ride along.  Certainly!  She mentioned “family” a couple of times and when I asked what she meant, she volunteered she was the great granddaughter of Horace Dodge – one of The Dodge Brothers – the founders of Dodge.  She seemed to get a real thrill out of the sound and power of the Viper.  It was her first chance to ride in one.  Maybe later in the day she got to drive it.


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2007 Detroit Auto Show: 2008 Dodge Magnum

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Lose the Cartoon, Keep the Attitude
Three years ago, Dodge brought American muscle to a wagon at the 2004 North American International Auto Show. In the best Dodge fashion, the Magnum arrived with a tough, mean look; made no apologies for being either pure American muscle or for being a wagon; and we loved it, though its personality was never subtle or refined. Three years later, Dodge introduces a new face that adds sophistication without losing its edge. The changes for 2008 are minor in nature may not sound all that significant. But the result is a vehicle with some style and grace added to its edge.

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Though sales don’t begin until later in the year, an updated Magnum was but one of Dodge’s reveals at the 2007 Detroit auto show. Magnum keeps its goodness, including the HEMI V8 with cylinder deactivation in the R/T and the grocery-getter/weekend racer in the 425HP SRT8, but trades in some of the cartoon aspects of its pumped-up look for a more sophisticated approach. There is a smoother, cleaner look for the standard cars and the dad-racer SRT8. The Magnum has grown up, while keeping its devilish personality.
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Family Face Updated
New headlights and hood allow for a raised-eyebrow look similar to the Charger sedan and all-new Avenger, with creases in the hood also reminiscent of Charger, for the basic Magnum range. Combined with the subtly redesigned lower fascia, the changes allow for a less clumsy face. The new wider grille is every bit as aggressive as before. The new chrome accents below the headlights are just enough to brighten the face. The SRT8 also gets a new grille, redesigned hood, and front fascia. The new hood scoop on SRT8 is functional as well as adding to its take-no-prisoners look.
Redesigned Interior Continues Upscale March
The interior has been redesigned as well, with what Dodge calls a more driver-oriented layout. The chrome rings around the gauges are among the elements that give the interior a more upscale look, versus the overdone thick chrome rings they replaced. SRT8 models get the new ambient LED cupholder and door-map pocket lighting standard, while that new feature is optional for the rest of the range. The SRT8 now boasts a ReConfigurable Display in the cluster for getting instant feedback on just how fast you got around that autocross course, or maybe more likely, to the grocery store and back.
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Chrysler Revives Imperial Nameplate for Luxury Concept

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Imperial Takes Style Cues from the Past
The Chrysler Group has a history of presenting stunning concepts, particularly at the North American International Auto Show. Some of these reach production, though the 2006 Imperial concept is still just a concept. The Imperial may have a weaker business case than the Dodge Challenger it was introduced next too, but with it Chrysler explores how far up the luxury chain they may be able to reach. Vehicle Voice and AutoPacific correspondents were on hand for the unveiling, complete with star of Desperate_Housewives Eva Longoria flubbing her line. Expected to say she was desperate to have one, she turned out to be not that desperate to have one. No matter, in the end, as the concept won best in show from a 100-person Detroit News readers’ panel.

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The Imperial is envisioned as a flagship sedan, and looks to a lengthened version of the Chrysler 300 (LX) platform, though it has an additional seventeen inches between the axles and another six inches in height. This allows for the long, narrow proportions the company was looking for as well as the room to pamper rear-seat passengers. While the Dodge Charger borrowed inspiration from the Charger of old and the Dodge Challenger concept was a modern replica of the 1970 Challenger, Imperial looked to the 1930s and 1950s sedans that also bore the name.
Frankly, the styling of the Imperial has been very controversial no matter what the Detroit News poll says. Pundits have been ripping it apart. One design chief we talked to wondered what has happened to Chrysler’s vaunted styling team? Another senior designer thought it had interesting cues from the side view but that the front and rear designs were abominable. We know Chrysler can do a tasteful, very upscale Imperial. We’ll wait to see the next one.


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Dodge Challenger Unveiled

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First Pictures: 2006 Dodge Challenger Concept
There is much hype this January about the Dodge Challenger concept, with conversations about the potential coupe’s marketability and the wisdom of reviving an icon seemingly everywhere, including on this blog.
Though the unveiling at the Detroit auto show is still a few days away, the first pictures have found their way into the public arena, so here they are available for VehicleVoice and AutoPacific to use. Has Chrysler’s Pacifica Studio succeeded in bringing back the 1970 Challenger as we wished it were, folding all the advances of the past twenty-five years into a package that still resonates with the 1970 look and feel?

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Ward's Announces 10 Best Engines for 2006

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Ward’s AutoWorld announced the results of their latest 10 Best Engines awards. The venerable Nissan VQ soldiers on (Infiniti 3.5L V6), but VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) staff note some interesting results.
Does An Engine Have to Be High Performance to be Best?
Note the “Hemi”, “turbocharged”, “supercharged” nomenclature. Wow, most of these are high performance engines beyond what a typical buyer will find in their cars. Probably the most mainstream engine of the bunch is the 4.6L V8 in the Mustang GT.
How about the 4-cylinder engine in certain price classes? How about the best V6 between 225HP and 275HP?
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Here is the Ward’s Release

The editors of Ward’s AutoWorld magazine have chosen the 10 Best Engines for 2006, the 12th year of the award.
The engines and tested vehicles are:
* DaimlerChrysler AG: 5.7L Hemi Magnum OHV V-8 (Charger R/T)
* Audi AG: 2L FSI turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Audi A3)
* Audi AG: 4.2L DOHC V-8 (Audi S4)
* BMW AG: 3L DOHC I-6 (330i)
* Ford Motor Co.: 4.6L SOHC V-8 (Mustang GT)
* General Motors Corp.: 2L supercharged DOHC I-4 (Chevrolet Cobalt SS)
* General Motors Corp.: 2.8L turbocharged DOHC V-6 (Saab 9-3 Aero)
* Mazda Motor Corp.: 2.3L DISI turbocharged DOHC I-4 (Mazdaspeed 6)
* Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.: 3.5L DOHC V-6 (Infiniti G35 6MT)
* Toyota Motor Corp.: 3.5L DOHC V-6 (Lexus IS 350)


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