Pity the image of the Caravan Man. Constantly derided and stigmatized, minivan ownership of late has nearly become a punch line, as if being in their presence or being forced to *gasp* drive one is something to be looked down upon. Hopefully that tide will start flowing the other way in short order – after all, the social arguments usually made against minivans can also be leveraged at the somewhat trendier crossovers that moved in to fill their territory. Let’s go down the list – mostly owned and driven by females, check. Often populated with hordes of kids and all their detritus, check and check. Styled like a box, check. Based on a mid-to-full size sedan platform, check. Am I describing a minivan or a crossover? Exactly.
I always relish the opportunity to test different iterations and trim levels of the same model, perhaps because it helps me determine whether the inherent goodness (or badness) of a given car is innate, or limited to a specific loaded-up example. In the case of the Dodge Challenger, my experience with the model line had thus far been limited to the full-fat SRT8 392 model with 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. I thoroughly enjoyed that car, loaded as it was to a near $50k price tag, but would its core values be retained in the 95-horsepower-tamer R/T Coupe? Only one way to find out.
Resto-modders, listen up: stop tearing apart perfectly salvageable classic muscle cars, fitting them with wide wheels and tubbed fenders, and instead go straight to your nearest Dodge dealer. There, you’ll find the Challenger SRT8 392, a classic 70s muscle car disguised as a brand new, modern five-seat coupe with a warranty. The Challenger looks as tough as those resto-modded vintage rides, hunkered down the way it is on its 20” 5-spoke wheels, a deep chin spoiler splitting the flies up front and a pair of over-the-roof vinyl stripes the only decoration on what is otherwise a totally throwback body.
As much as we’d all like to believe that the trail-riding, rock-hopping, parked-in-the-pine-needles-down-by-some-deserted-lake image of “sport utility vehicles” we used to hold wasn’t firmly in the rearview mirror, reality seems destined to prove the contrary. In fact, typing out “sport utility vehicle” made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve even heard the term. The class has evolved, and at the same time spawned enough of its own orders, families, genera and species to muddy our roads with so many two-box designs that the notion of buying a sedan or coupe seems almost quaint by comparison. The common vernacular now points to “crossover” or “CUV” being the de rigeur label we associate with pavement-bound mall-roaders, and beyond that lies any number of different marketing terms fabricated by the automakers to splash up their wares.
Dodge’s Dart takes a rare position in the small car marketplace in which it plays – it seeks to win its customer’s hearts rather than their minds. It’d be easy for your head to dismiss the Dart based purely on its on-paper specs – particularly the trim level we’re driving, which is saddled with the smallest-displacement engine in its class (1.4L) and the highest curb weight – nearly 3,300 pounds on our tester. Hardly the combination car guy dreams are made of. Although Dodge couldn’t return the bundle parent company Fiat left on their doorstep – the chassis and turbo powertrain are hand-me-downs from the Alfa Giulietta–they decided to imbue the Dart with enough personality to overcome its spec sheet deficiencies instead.
Dodge has finally released a full set of photos of the new C-segment 2013 Dart sedan, ending the teasing that has gone on for over a month now. This new sedan replaces the Caliber in the Dodge lineup and we think they’ve finally built a car that will be competitive in the compact segment.
The 2013 Dodge Dart will initially be available in two trim levels: the R/T pictured above and the Limited which is the white car in the photo gallery. The drivetrain options for the Dart consist of three different engines and three different transmissions including a 9-speed automatic transmission. The engine choices will be the 2.0-liter 16-valve 4-banger, a 1.4-liter MultiAir turbo, and the 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir.
We’ll have full reveal photos of the 2013 Dodge Dart live from the show floor at Cobo Hall tomorrow. In the meantime, hit the jump to catch a 49 image photo gallery of the 2013 Dodge Dart.
UPDATE: The full 49 image set of the 2013 Dodge Dart has been added.
This week, Chrysler released two teaser images of the upcoming replacement for the underachieving Dodge Caliber. Behold the 2013 Dodge Dart.
Well, behold the 2013 Dodge Dart as it would appear in Forza 4 or Gran Turismo 5, that is. What you’re looking at are screen captures of a computer model, obviously, so take them with a grain or two of salt, but what we see here are some nice contemporary design cues combined with some nice touches from the current Dodge lineup. A glance at the rear end reveals the same LED light pipe style lamps which Chrysler recently revived for the refreshed Charger. Up front, we get headlights reminiscent of newer Volkswagen and GM designs, and the trademark crosshair grille is looking pleasantly svelte compared to the enormous, truck-inspired maws featured on many Dodge vehicles over the last few years. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait long for the real thing. The full debut will take place in January at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Underneath, it’s an Alfa — a Giulietta, to be precise. That should be good news from a chassis perspective, as it should mean carry-over IRS and other goodies. The outgoing compact may have been competent transportation appliance on a fundamental level, but even in SRT guise, it was never a dynamic front-runner. Motivation comes from three new engine options. Two are based on the “Tigershark” architecture (which may be the best engineering moniker this side of Ford’s V8 engine programs), one a 2.0L and the other a 2.4L, both naturally aspirated. The third option will be the 1.4L, turbocharged MultiAir engine that will make its U.S. debut in the Fiat 500 Abarth fairly soon here.
There’s not much else to say until we get a chance to drive it. The full press release and 49 image photo gallery is pasted below the break if you want the deets.
“I see we’ve got you booked for a minivan today- how many people will there be in your party?.” As I thought about explaining to the attendant at the Alamo desk that I’d be the only one using the van, and that I’d basically be living out of it for the next 24 hours, better judgment prevailed: “Four. Thanks.”
You are seeing the image correctly. That is a Plymouth Voyager road racing! The van, run hard by “The Soccer Moms” race team, traveled from Oregon down to Buttonwillow Raceway in Southern California to run in the 14-hour “Summer Sunset” ChumpCar endurance race. The van did quite well getting the kids to practice and put down some pretty fast laps. Hit the jump below to see how it faired overall in the ChumpCar race. Photo by VanHap Photography.
SSL and TTAC will be at Summit Point Motorsports Park this weekend with a Lexus IS-F and an Ford Mustang V6 Allstate Edition. Look for some track test results in the coming weeks, along with a road test of the slightly warmed over 2011 Nissan 370Z, a look at Chrysler’s refreshed Jeep Wrangler, and some comparison tests featuring the latest cross-overs from Ford and Chrysler.
Happy spring, everybody.