300 SRT8: Chrysler’s hottest sedan scorches hearts and pavement

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300 SRT8: Chrysler’s hottest sedan scorches hearts and pavement

Chrysler’s SRT sub-brand is at it again. Taking what should be run-of-the-mill, comfortable, family focused, full-size vehicles and turning them into raging speed-demons. The 2012 300 SRT8 is so ostentatious, one might be tempted to call it bipolar. That’s because there’s few other vehicles that can coddle you in comfort and technology one moment, only to throw you back in your seat with the the howl of a large displacement V8 only a split-second later.

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Road Test Gallery: Dodge Challenger SRT-8

A classic is reborn.  The 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT-8, with 425-horsepower and 6.1-liters of fury, punishes pavement with raw muscle and tempts the eye with gorgeous styling. We’ve taken one for a spin and here’s 60 photos from our coming Road Test.

2009 Dodge Challenger SRT-8 Road Test Photo Gallery

Photographer: Zane Merva
Copyright 2009 AutoInsane.com

Road Test: 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid

If there was ever a vehicle that portrayed what may be the ultimate paradox it may be the 2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid.

And, yeah, that thang’s got a Hemi, too.

Take one full-size SUV that has three rows of seating, can tow up to 6,000 pounds, boasts 385 horsepower from a 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi engine and toss in a two-mode hybrid setup to boost in-town gas mileage and provide 20/22 EPA estimates from the 27-gallon gas tank and you’ve got the Durango Hybrid. During the past week, the trip computer registered 20.4 miles per gallon overall during more than 600 miles of mixed driving.
That figure, of the estimates guessed by many who offered sympathy at the size of the land-locked Leviathan on wheels, surprised everyone at its relative miserly way.

2009 Dodge Durango with highlighted Two-Mode Hybrid System

Utilizing a two-mode hybrid setup, the big Durango takes advantage of a fuel-saving Multi-Displacement System (MDS) technology. Total output, when combined with the advanced two-mode hybrid system, is 400 horsepower and 380 lb.-ft. of torque – the most powerful hybrid SUVs. This mechanical magic results, according to Chrysler, at a 25 percent increase in city mileage and 40 percent overall.

The hybrid system, which was developed with General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, delivers a “two-mode” full hybrid system by integrating proven automatic-transmission technology with a patented hybrid-electric drive system.

The two modes in the hybrid system result from low- and high-speed electric continuously variable transmission (ECVT) modes. During the two ECVT modes, the system uses electric motors for acceleration, improving fuel economy, or for regenerative braking to utilize energy that would normally be lost during braking or deceleration. The energy is stored in a 300-volt battery pack for later use. The system’s two modes are optimized for city and highway driving. The setup includes four fixed gear ratios for “efficiency” and power-handling capabilities.

The first mode is designed for low speeds and light loads. In this mode, the vehicle can operate in three ways: electric power only, engine power only, or any combination of engine and electric power.

In city use, up to about 20 mph, Durango runs off battery power, sounding like an oversized golf cart until the Hemi kicks in.
The second mode is used primarily at highway speeds. The second mode provides full power from the HEMI when needed, such as passing, pulling a trailer or climbing a steep grade. Durango’s 380 lb.-ft. of torque is more than enough for low-end grunt pulling.

A controller determines when to use the first or second mode and shifts the torque as needed.

A 300-volt battery pack powers the system without crabbing interior room – which is cavernous to say the least. A rectifier located under the hood converts AC to DC in order to power conventional 12-volt accessories, including interior lighting, climate control and the audio system.
The MDS system shifts the engine from using all eight cylinders to four, depending upon the power required. A light green hard-to-see and read dash light displays a needle showing when the economy is at its best while cruising.

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid

Though Chrysler, aka Dodge, claims the MDS shifts back and forth seamlessly, and a CVT transmission is supposed to provide seamless shifting up and down the band range I found otherwise.

MDS did not work behind the scenes without interfering with the ride, noise or being noticeable. Neither did the CVT. This was surprising because other vehicles with similar setups rode and drove as advertised. Instead, I found that slower traffic along Route 33 and through Market Square caused Durango to constantly hunt and search for the right speed and setting. Disengaging or changing it up was noticeable and disappointing.

Despite its largess – which is another disappointing factor since it was originally introduced in 1998 as the perfect midsized SUV – measuring nearly 18 feet long and weighing 5,553 pounds empty, Durango was rather light on its feet, aided by power rack-and-pinion steering. Of course, turning or parking in any parking area will be a challenge, but is aided by the rearview camera in the tailgate.

To support a vehicle of this size one needs 18-inch standard tires and a stiff suspension for its fulltime 4×4 ability. Thus, the independent front suspension and rear coil springs with a solid rear axle provided a torsionally stiff and somewhat jarring ride when it came to rough road and railroad tracks. Much more vibration was transmitted into the cab that I had expected and found acceptable given today’s standards.

2009 Dodge Durango Hybrid

There’s little to want in the way of options in Durango and it comes loaded with a price tag as big as its profile: $44,540 with $800 additional for delivery. Toss in a tow package, power sunroof and a rear seat video package and the sticker soared to $48,410 for a vehicle that might have been a technical marvel 3 or 4 years ago but is viewed with disdain today.

For someone with a large speedboat, horse trailer or family that skies and needs the 102.4 cu. ft. provided with the rear seats folded down, (68.4 c.f with the seats up) it’s a workhorse.

But for the company trying to find its way back to what made it what it was when the Bobs – Eaton and Lutz – ran it, an oversized Durango and a hybrid edition Hemi are the wrong mixes at the wrong time.

2009 Dodge Durango Specifications As Tested

Engine: 5.7-liter HEMI® Hybrid, OHV, V-8 with Multi-displacement System (MDS)
Power Output: 345 hp @ 5300 rpm
Torque: 380 lb.-ft. @ 4200 rpm
Electric Motor Output: 87 hp
Torque: 235 lb.-ft.
Type: 2 AC synchronous electric motors
Voltage: 300 V max
Battery Power Output: 40 hp
Voltage: 300 V
Type: Sealed Nickel-metal hydride
Total Power Output: 385 hp
Emission Control: Dual three-way catalytic converters, heated oxygen sensors, electronic EGR and internal engine features
MILEAGE: 19/20 mpg (city/hwy)
Transmission: Two-mode Hybrid
Wheelbase: 119.2″
Length: 202.1″
Width: 76.0″
Height: 73.6″
Base Price: $44,540
Delivery: $800
Options: $3,070
As tested: $48,410

2009 Dodge Durango Photo Gallery

Road Test: 2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

Awkwardly styled, the Sebring Convertible is the Pat Boone of automobiles – it hits the notes, but there’s no soul in its singing. The convertible does look slicker than the standard Sebring sedan and its hunchy shape, but the hood is still too short and the retractable hardtop’s roofline still doesn’t look quite right. Maybe it’s because of the high trunk out back? The roof looks like it was plopped on, Automoblox-style.

Road Test Gallery: 2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

There are some angles where the Sebring looks good. Catch it in the right light, and all those strakes and character lines manipulate the reflections just so. It doesn’t happen often, but the right shading down that strong Chrysler family swage in the body side will have you exclaiming “wow, if you stand here, close one eye, and squint, it actually looks good. If you can ignore the strakes in the hood.”

Middle management pencil pushers will focus on the spec sheet and convince themselves that the Sebring offers much of what you can find in the BMW 3 series for a lot less. It makes its case on paper, initially. Standard four cylinder power can be upgraded to either a 2.7 liter or 3.5 liter V6, big alloy rims conceal four wheel disc brakes bolted to a four wheel independent suspension, an available MyGig system bundling navigation and multimedia together with a LCD in the dash, leather seating, power folding hardtop, it all sounds very nice, though the price can scrape high into the 30s.

Road Test Gallery: 2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

Upon first setting eyes on the Sebring, the reaction to the price goes from a shrug to “are they on drugs?” In Chrysler’s defense, the good people at the Sterling Heights plant have solidly screwed all the pieces together, the Sebring Touring we tried was well-assembled. The fine construction job only goes so far when the pieces aren’t very good. While the outside has to deal with being generally ungainly, the interior is molded from plastic so cheap it’d make a milk jug blush. Door and dash panels are large swaths of injection molded cheapness. Surface textures are off-putting, and most everything is rock hard to the touch.

Road Test Gallery: 2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

The Touring wore seats that were generally comfortable and attractive with two shades of leather and contrasting stitching. The dashboard’s design appears more disjointed in pictures than it comes off in practice, though the attempt to dress things up with featureless expanses of silver colored plastic again screams cheap. A redesign isn’t really what’s needed, just new molds that will impart some high quality surface finishes so the HVAC controls don’t have to float in limbo. It’s easy to sit back and call for millions of dollars in molds and materials upgrades, but that’s what this car needs.

Actually, the Sebring needs one last thing: new engines. We’re astounded you can even get a four cylinder in the Sebring, even the 2.7 liter V6 feels inadequate. Chrysler’s Phoenix engines are slated to hit the production stream for the 2010 model year, and we hope they’re as good as promised so the wheezing, braying sixes Chrysler now has can go to the grave.

Road Test Gallery: 2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

It’s good at what it does; normal adults fit in all the seats, front and rear, and the trunk is nice and big, useful even when the top is down. Given the exterior size, the interior feels a little more intimate than you’d first expect, though, and the trunklid rises on very stiff struts yet has no grab handle, making closing difficult. The Touring comes well equipped and is solid on the road, but the price is unforgivable. Chrysler wants BMW money for the Sebring, but there’s a big difference between the two. The BMW drives with aplomb, while the Sebring drives like a bomb. Not entirely, but its limits are low, easily pushing the Turanzas into abuse territory and there’s not much feedback from the helm.

Road Test Gallery: 2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

For a car that doesn’t purport to be sporty (never mind what Touring badging implies), the Sebring hits all the right notes to satisfy the likes of Michael Scott, and it will please the audience that’s always bought Chrysler convertibles. It is nice to have a convertible with a useable trunk, and the retractable hardtop makes it possible to have a no compromises closed car when the weather doesn’t support top-down motoring. It’s not a cracking good bargain, but choices are limited when it comes to commodious domestic-branded droptops, and for that, we can hope that the Sebring goes to finishing school and sticks around.

Click to view our original 2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible Road Test photo gallery
Road Test Gallery: 2009 Chrysler Sebring Convertible