Archive for February, 2013
The 2013 Ram 1500 won a slew of major honors, including a Consumer Guide Automotive Best Buy Award as the premier vehicle in the large pickup truck class. Yet Chrysler officials are refusing to rest on their laurels. Today, they announced that the 2014 Ram 1500 will become the first light-duty pickup truck in a generation with a diesel engine: the new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel, which will be mated with the 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission.
“Truck owners have been emphatically asking for it,” stated Fred Diaz, president and chief executive officer of Ram Truck Brand. “We cannot rest on what we have accomplished, we must keep pushing.”
The 2014 Ram 1500 with the EcoDiesel engine will be available for purchase in the third quarter of 2013.
Ram is far and away Chrysler’s best-selling vehicle, with sales exceeding 293,000 in calendar 2012. Yet there’s plenty of room for growth in the large pickup class. In ’12, Ford sold 645,000 F-Series trucks (primarily the F-150) while General Motors peddled 418,000 Silverados. These were the two top-selling vehicles in the United States.
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, I was fortunate to talk with Andy Goss, president of Jaguar Land Rover North America. Jaguar has a stronger lineup this year, as all-wheel drive and fuel-efficient V6 engines are newly available on its sedans. The addition of the 2014 F-Type roadster later this year will strengthen Jaguar’s line even further. The F-Type is Jaguar’s first true 2-seater sports car since the legendary E-Type of the 1960s and ’70s. (The XJ220 supercar was too expensive and rare to count as a regular production car.) The E-Type spearheaded Jaguar’s U.S. sales in the ’60s, and Jaguar officials hope that the F-Type will repeat that role.
Here is what Andy Goss had to say:
On the F-Type’s importance to the Jaguar line today and to the E-Type heritage: “The F-Type will be the emotional fulcrum of the Jaguar brand. Not in numbers, but in passion and emotion. The E-type will be featured in F-Type promotion, but Jaguar will not overplay the E-Type heritage. The F-Type is more modern and can stand on its own merits. Jaguar was rejuvenated when Ian Callum became design director. Callum acknowledges Jaguar’s bloodlines, but does not mimic past models.”
The price cap here is absolutely necessary. Virtually every new car from Aston Martin and Ferrari is a stunner, and the Audi R8 leaves me weak-kneed. But once we descend into the world of the sub-exotic, things are much less clear.
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, Chrysler Group displayed its fourth Mopar Edition. This year, Mopar goes after the tuner crowd with a lowered, customized version of the compact Dodge Dart.
Previous Mopar Editions were large cars aimed at an older audience. The first Mopar Edition was Challenger based, which was followed by the Dodge Charger-based Mopar ’11. Last year’s Mopar ’12 was built on the Chrysler 300.
Mopar, which is a contraction of “MOtor PARts,” dates back to 1937. That year, the label was introduced as the brand name for factory-authorized parts and accessories for vehicles built by Chrysler Corporation (now Chrysler Group LLC). Mopar has long been a slang term for the corporation’s cars—particularly performance cars.
As is typical for most special editions, the Mopar Edition is more about form than function. The Mopar ’13 Dart has a distinctive black monochromatic look highlighted by blue stripes. It also has a ground-effects kit, which includes a front-chin spoiler, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser. The exterior’s black-with-blue-accents theme carries over to the interior. All seats are black leather with blue accents except the driver’s seat, which is bright blue.
Ford Motor Company is showing off its commitment to high-performance compact and subcompact cars by displaying a new Fiesta ST RallyCross race car and the Focus TrackSTer, a one-off custom Focus ST, during the press days of the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.
Fiesta ST RallyCross car
Constructed by Swedish rally-car company OlsbergsMSE, the 2014 Fiesta ST RallyCross car is a purpose-built racing machine that puts out well over 500 horsepower. Ford is pumping up its presence in the Global RallyCross Championship series and in X Games competition, and the Fiesta ST will be competing in a full schedule of these events in 2013. Ford is also continuing its relationship with highly marketable drivers Tanner Foust (a two-time GRC champion), Brian Deegan, and Ken Block, all of whom will pilot Fiesta STs for the 2013 GRC season.
Built to show off the aftermarket performance potential of Ford’s high-performance compact “hot hatch,” the Focus TrackSTer is the product of a collaboration between Ford Racing, Ken Block, and Los Angeles-based automotive tuner fifteen52. It’s a 2013 Ford Focus ST that’s been thoroughly hot-rodded with plenty of Ford Racing performance parts, along with components from Mountune and StopTech.
Kia unveiled a concept vehicle at the 2013 Chicago Auto show called the Cross GT. Similar in stature to the Kia Sorento midsize SUV, the Cross GT concept is a larger-size crossover that may indicate Kia’s intentions to offer a bigger and more premium-scale SUV. Based on Kia’s GT concept that debuted in 2011, the Cross GT has a longer wheelbase and more aggressive styling.
With the addition of all-wheel drive, the Cross GT is motivated by a 400-horsepower 3.8-liter V6 engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Aesthetically, Kia’s use of a swoopy silhouette and a low roofline attempt to convey more sophistication than one might associate with the brand. This is further amplified by the addition of rear “suicide” doors and the use of higher-grade interior materials, said to be inspired by equestrian saddles. Leaning toward the more environmentally friendly side, the leather seating is tanned with vegetable oil, natural dyes, and no harsh chemicals.
CG Says: With the Cross GT concept, Kia is attempting to show its interest in moving the brand upwards on the spectrum of near-luxury vehicles. We welcome the idea and hope that it can closely compete with similarly sized entries from Chevrolet (Traverse) and Dodge (Durango).
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show today, Kia unveiled the 2014 Forte hatchback. Expected to go on sale in late 2013, the Forte offers two trim levels and two engine choices. The base EX is fitted with a 173-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The sportier SX comes with a 201-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that mates with a 6-speed manual transmission, although a 6-speed automatic is available with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters.
The new Forte will boast more standard safety and technology features. Standard on the base EX is a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, a tilt and telescopic steering column, power windows, and LED headlights.
The sport-themed SX kicks the exterior styling up a notch with dual chrome exhaust tips, LED tail lights, a larger grille opening with black gloss inserts, and faux carbon-fiber on the lower front fascia and rear valance. Alloy pedals are added to the SX along with upholstery that sports a carbon-fiber look. On the performance front, Kia is adding a sport suspension to improve handling. Pricing won’t be announced until the third quarter of this year.
When Volkswagen took the seemingly regressive step of renaming the “New Beetle” just plain “Beetle” upon its redesign for 2012, the company did so with the stated attempt to attract more male buyers. To that end, the car’s cutesy contours were toned down and the famous dash-mounted bud vase was jettisoned.
Volkswagen continues that trend with a new trim package due later this year. Called the GSR, it’s mostly a paint-and-stripe package that mimics the yellow-and-black color scheme of a special-edition 1973 Beetle of the same name that was only sold overseas.
CG Says: If indeed VW is trying to attract a more masculine clientele, this may not be the optimal way to do it. Better would be one of the other cars in the display . . .
The Super Beetle
At first the exclusive domain of custom cars and high-end exotics, matte finishes have since trickled down to the masses. In fact, the Chicago show was littered with matte-finished display vehicles, and the VW stand was no exception. What was an exception is that the Beetle so dressed sported some go-fast bits to augment its tastefully applied graphics.
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, Chevrolet introduced the newest variant of its compact sedan, the 2014 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel. This car, which will be available in the United States and Canada, uses a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The company is projecting 42 mpg on the highway and claims that the car will offer best-in-class driving range.
The engine is based on the diesel unit Chevrolet uses in European-market Cruzes. But according to the company, the engine has been modified to suit driving conditions on this continent and to adhere to America’s stricter emissions standards.
Cruze will be the first diesel car offered by General Motors since 1986. It is expected to be available for purchase by the second quarter of 2013.
Chevy says the car’s chief competitor in the States is Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI. Unlike the VW, though, the Cruze’s diesel engine uses urea injection to help control its emissions. This system uses a 4.5-gallon tank of solution, which should be good for 10,000 miles of driving before requiring a refill.
After a five-year hiatus, Chrysler returns to the large-van market with the 2014 Ram ProMaster. The ProMaster is based heavily on the European-market Fiat Ducato. It is similar in size and powertrain offerings to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which was itself available as a Dodge for the 2004-2009 model years.