Tag Archives: Chrysler

Imported from obscurity

Something non-generic this way comes...

Something non-generic this way comes…

Auto reviews in the New York Times can sometimes generate their own news stories, so I’ve started paying closer attention to the road-going scribes at that lofty publication.

(For evidence of my claim, please see Exhibit A: http://jalopnik.com/this-brutal-nyt-mirage-review-is-whats-wrong-with-cheap-1583123298)

Anyhoo, the Times has just come out with their take on the vastly-improved Chrysler 200, which replaces a forgettable car that couldn’t avoid being mentioned in the same sentence as ‘rental lot’.

And they like it!*

*with some quibbles

The 2015 model went on sale at the beginning of June with new everything, minus the top-level Pentastar engine (which everyone agrees was the only flawless element of the new 200’s flawed predecessor). Classy-looking on the outside (with vaguely Audi-inspired lines), the interior of the 200 wowed me when I first sat in one at a March auto show.

We’re talking comfort, luxury, and nice trim that was pleasing to both the eye and the touch.

Reviewer Lawrence Ulrich (I’m putting that name near the top of my alias list) was clearly smitten with the car’s interior, though I can’t agree that the 200 has a “distinctly American design.”

The car’s new 9-speed automatic – actuated via a novelty rotary shift knob – does get called out for gear-hunting and roughness (possibly an early production problem that can be corrected with a software tweak), as well as a soft suspension seemingly calibrated for comfort rather than handling.

Props are given to the vehicle’s design, materials, and the availability of both class-leading fuel efficiency and raw power.

(Read the full write-up here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/automobiles/autoreviews/2015-chrysler-200-review.html?_r=0)

"You will forget about the Sebring..... You will forget about the Sebring..."

“You will forget about the Sebring….. You will forget about the Sebring…”

At first, I didn’t know how to feel about the Chrysler’s new body, but it has grown on me since. Obviously, it’s better in every way than its bulbous, boring predecessor, with lines and curves that convey both length, strength and heft (hallmarks for any luxury sedan).

I wish to drive this alluring beast.

The old 200 sold in fairly good numbers in its last couple of years, thanks to a low, low starting price and upgrade packages that didn’t break the bank. It very well could have been the cheapest way to get into a midsize sedan with V-6 power.

Commercials aired in all mediums flogged the previous 200 to such a degree that Chrysler will have its work cut out for it as it tries to alert the buying public to the presence of this all-new vehicle with an old name.

Undercover brother

"Where's our guy?! D'ya think we've been double-crossed?"

“Where’s our guy?! D’ya think we’ve been double-crossed?”

I was thinking lately – and not for any particular reason – about what would make a good getaway car.

Or, alternatively, what would make a good undercover police pursuit vehicle.

I’m not talking about the unmarked-yet-obvious Tauruses, Explorers and Chargers you see waiting in speed traps, either – I’m talking deeper cover than that.  For a stakeout operation or a tail job, you don’t want Starsky and Hutch’s ride.

At first glance, the list of automotive choices out there seems pretty much endless. However, to properly execute either role I believe a smart driver would demand certain attributes from his trusty steed.


I’m not here

First off, anonymity. You want the car to be rolling camouflage, seen but not noticed by either cop or felon. Just part of the landscape.

Non-descript is key, but as our mustachioed hero once stated in an episode of Magnum, P.I., you can go overboard on it and end up shouting your presence to the world. If I recall, the ‘loud’ shadow car in that episode was a beige Ford Fairmont.

I’ve always said the best car for non-descript would be a 5 to 10-year-old GM sedan like a Grand Am or Malibu – ubiquitous, bland, and usually one of two colours. Most popular Japanese sedans have the problem of being either a heat score (Accord, Altima, Maxima), or simply too un-sketchy to fit in (Camry, Camry, Camry).

However, going cookie-cutter isn’t the whole game plan. If your needs include more than just being incognito, these sensible sedans pose a problem.


Need for speed

 If a pursuit/chase will at some point be likely – whether it’s collaring bad guys or shaking the heat – you’ll need muscle and handling. Boring the other party to death isn’t an option here.

And as important as power is, it needs to be subtle. Racing stripes, modifications and a aftermarket exhaust might be cool in heist flicks, but it’s a dead giveaway in the real world. The power needs to have been born on a factory assembly line.

Also, the vehicle model itself can’t be synonymous with performance. You’ll want to have a top-end drivetrain in a car whose model lineup contains some real tepid stuff. There should be an engine lower down the totem pole than yours, with less cylinders.

The setup I’ve described, a hot engine coupled with an aging, dime-a-dozen design and no exterior add-ons, should do the trick (though nothing’s foolproof, of course).

Any suggestions, you ask? Any particular vehicular preference, after weighing the key criteria?

After some careful thought, as well as observations on the road, I think I’ve narrowed down a decent choice.

Your forgettable hero has arrived. (Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)

Your forgettable hero has arrived. (Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons)

 2011-2014 Dodge Avenger

Yes, it’s the car that’s barely there.

Chrysler was recently slinging these off their lots so fast, and at such discounted prices, you’d think they had been stolen. If there was a cheaper midsize car on the market, I didn’t notice it.

There are many things that make this outgoing model a good candidate.

First off, the 2011-2014 Avengers look an awful lot like the 2007-2010 Avengers that came before them. The mid-life cycle design refresh gave the bland car a slightly improved appearance, but at a distance, or in the dark, or to an untrained eye, they may as well be the same thing.

“Is that a nearly-new car, or seven-year-old clunker?”

The 2011 upgrades also endowed the Avenger with a decent shot of power, courtesy of the available 3.6-litre Pentastar V-6. This well-regarded unit serves as the base engine in hotter models like the Dodge Charger, Challenger, and Chrysler 300.

The Pentastar’s 283 horses and 260-lb-ft of torque, delivered through a modern 6-speed automatic, provides big pull in a smaller, less-assuming package than its storied stablemates. Zero-to-60 (mph) times were listed at 6.3 seconds with this drivetrain, according to the manufacturer.

No slouch, for sure. To put this into perspective, results from the Michigan State Police’s vehicle evaluation program in 2013 show the fastest police cruiser on the road – the Taurus-based and EcoBoost-equipped Ford Police Interceptor – ran up a 5.66 second 0-60 time.

The Explorer-based Police Interceptor utility, equipped with the same turbo 3.5-litre, emerged with a 6.28 second 0-60 time. The non-turbo utility returned a 8.02 second figure.

In the same tests, a V-8-powered Dodge Charger cruiser hit 60 mph in 6.04 seconds when equipped with optional all-wheel-drive.

 While I certainly don’t condone running from the cops (they have many ways of getting you), those high-performing vehicles’ numbers are very interesting when contrasted with the lowly Avenger.

Besides the upgraded powertrain (at least in higher trim levels), the 2011-2014 Avenger saw fairly major suspension upgrades, which would help both cop and felon stay on the road while enjoying their car’s newfound power.

Chrysler sold a good number of Avengers in the latter part of the model’s run, but it was never a vehicle anyone talked about. Lately, I’ve begun to notice them more and more – often outfitted with blacked-out rims that aren’t unattractive on this boxy vehicle.

Frankly, in some cases, the Avenger looks a little bit badass, and isn’t that really just perfect for both criminal and cop?




1972 Dodge Charger, Yellowknife, NWT.

1972 Dodge Charger, Yellowknife, NWT.

I’ll have what he’s having…

The Canadian subarctic is an unlikely place to find red-hot American muscle, but that’s where this brawny ’72 Charger found itself.

Gas in the summer of 2012 was $1.41/litre in the ‘Knife, a figure that doesn’t change much in either direction, so filling the tank on this beast would be a direct hit to the wallet. Still, any driver’s options for cruising are as limited as the northern road network, so this thing likely stays parked for most of the time.

The ’68-70 Chargers get most of the drool action in popular culture, but I really dig the ’71-72’s as well. Their hulking, wide-stance and curvaceous fuselage shape are everything I love about early-70s American cars.

Vehicles from this era simply look indestructible.

The body on this black beauty looks pretty unblemished and straight, though the hidden headlamp doors are way out of alignment. I’ll blame the harsh, northern climate and the failure-prone nature of this feature (on any make or model) for this imperfection. As well, the hood seems to me missing its tie-downs, though the anchors remain.

Horsepower figures has started to slip by ’72 as compression ratios dropped, but the Charger could still be optioned with several tons of iron under the hood. I have no idea what motor beats within this example – ’72 Charger engine choices ran the gamut from the 225 Slant-Six, to the 318, 340, 400, and 426 V8’s, maxing out with the range-topping 440.

I hate to think what it would cost to feed a 440 muscle car making 8-10 miles per gallon – especially in Yellowknife. However, I have no doubt this owner turns a lot of heads during the 1.5-kilometre trip to the local watering hole.