by Patrick Rall
Announcing the new partnership with Magneti Marelli, Mopar (Chrysler’s performance and aftermarket division) unveiled the 2011 Dodge Avenger Rally Car on April 13, 2011.
In a lineup of high performance models like the Charger and Challenger, the Avenger is often overlooked, but the Mopar engineering team converted this mild mannered mid-sized sedan into a high performance off-road racer. Mopar teamed up with Magneti Marelli to show off the performance roots of the popular European sport of rally racing, which has gradually grown in popularity in the US over the past few years.
Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, said, “Our companies worked closely together to bring this vehicle to life in a joint build that utilizes proven, quality-tested performance parts and accessories from Mopar and Magneti Marelli. We will gauge reaction to this vehicle and determine which parts will go into production.”
The starting point was a 2011 Dodge Avenger Heat, powered by the new 3.6L Pentastar V6. The standard output of 283 horsepower was increased to the area of 300 thanks to a cold air intake, a performance exhaust system, and a performance tuned ECU (in the Dodge Challenger, the same engine with a different cam produces 305 hp). The standard 6-speed automatic transmission with Autostick is still used to get the power to the front wheels, but Mopar and Magneti Marelli added a paddle-shift system to allow the driver to shift without removing any hands from the wheel.
Once the power was increased, the handling capacities of the Avenger Rally Car were improved, starting with a Mopar/Magneti Marelli-modified suspension setup. This lowers the Avenger Rally around 1.5” from the standard stance, while also giving the car better handling and responsiveness on the rally course. Helping the Avenger Rally to dig through the mud and dirt is a set of Pirelli race tires wrapped around unique Mopar/Magneti Marelli 18-inch lightweight alloy wheels.
Next, a Mopar/Magneti Marelli high performance braking system has been added to help the Avenger stop in any condition including a special hand-brake setup that allows the driver to control the rear brakes independently of the fronts, allowing the driver to make the hard, sudden turns often found on a rally course. In addition to the unique rear brake control, this system features 14.25” diameter front rotors and 13.5” diameter rear rotors, all of which are clamped down on by 4-piston brake calipers (finished in Mopar Blue).
After the suspension, brakes and drivetrain modifications were finished, the Mopar team went to work on lightening up the Avenger by stripping out all of the unneeded interior items like the stereo system, center stack, door panels and the rear seats. This made room for the Mopar 8-point roll cage and the Mopar/Magneti Marelli unique carbon fiber hydra-graphics center console. Within this center console is an advanced Mopar/Magneti Marelli fully programmable slim racing display with shift lights, vehicle information and a comprehensive datalogger to allow the team to check the motion of the car via a variety of sensors. A set of race-spec front bucket seats were added, complete with 5-point racing harnesses instead of seat belts courtesy of OMP and a emergency fire suppression system was added to ensure the safety of the driver and navigator should an accident occur on the track.
Perhaps the most impressive piece of information on the Avenger Rally Car is that from conceptualization to completed production took less than three weeks.
SUSPENSION / WHEELS AND TIRES
Concept cars are often made so a car’s feel can be evaluated, problems can be foreseen, and reactions of the public can be judged. Some concepts test specific ideas, colors, controls, or materials — either subtle or out of proportion, to hide what’s being tested. Some are created to help designers think “out of the box.” The Challenger, Prowler, PT Cruiser, and Viper were all tested as production-based concepts dressed up to hide the production intent.
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