Chrysler at the Chicago Auto Show in 2016

Ram: the launches

Ram positioned itself as “The Off-Road Pickup Leader” with the Chicago reveal of the 2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon on Thursday, February 11th.

bob hegbloom with ram power wagon

After showing off a bit of the 26 inches of the Power Wagon’s suspension articulation with some moving stairsteps, an orange Power Wagon made its way down a set of stairsteps to the stage.

While the underbody magic bits and running gear is carryover from 2016, there are a few new pieces for 2017. The Power Wagon now wears a Rebel-style grille, projector headlights with black bezels, and LED marker lights. In the rear, the Power Wagon gets the somewhat controversial large RAM-embossed tailgate with a large POWER WAGON decal.

power wagon on stairs

A new, dominant graphic package with the name Power Wagon at a 90° angle aft of the cab was inspired by the 1979-1980 Power Wagon graphics seen in the TV show “Simon & Simon.”

The front and rear bumpers are now powder-coated in black, and the front bumper conceals a 12,000-pound custom Warn winch. Power Wagon also gets unique 17” aluminum wheels wrapped in 33” tires. The only powertrain is the 6.4L Hemi V8, mated to a 66RFE automatic (the Cummins Turbodiesel doesn’t fit with all the Power Wagon-specific suspension and 4WD bits.)

red power wagon

Inside, there are updated electronics and optional backup cameras – one in the tailgate and one for the cargo bed – and you can toggle between them on the standard 8.4” screen. There are also new fancy-patterned-and-logo-embossed seats and ambient lighting.

In related news, sure to delight the truck purists, you can get the new Power Wagon in Tradesman form – which drops the fancy interior bits, most of the exterior colors, the Rebel grille, the new tailgate, and the Power Wagon graphics. You do get what makes the Power Wagon do what it does best — all the underbody drivetrain and suspension bits that matter.

orange power wagon

The “4x4 Off-Road Package” was also announced for Chicago. To be available on all Ram 2500 Heavy Duty pickups, it provides some of the Power Wagon’s suspension features to those that need a bit more than the standard 4x4. Bilstein monotube off-road tuned shocks are at all 4 corners, there’s a transfer case skid plate, an anti-spin rear differential, and large tow hooks to help rescue competitor’s trucks (Ram’s words!). It also has large fender flares help keep the debris from the “self-cleaning” 18” or 20” tires off the sides of the truck. It does not have the Articulink suspension.

Chrysler debuts: Alloy Editions

300S

Chrysler showed off the new Alloy Editions of the 200S and 300S. The bronze (or Brass Monkey) and titanium color accents work well with the S models’ usual blacked-out appearance and should appeal to those looking for something a little away from the norm in a factory-provided package. My own eyes were personally drawn in to a “standard” 300C with regular silver alloy wheels and dark grey paint – it popped more and looked classier to me.

200S

The proclaimed death of the Chrysler 200 may be a bit exaggerated; there were at least three of them on the show floor (the two alloy editions and a Mopar-ized model) and one on the test track. I have to question how many Chrysler 200 buyers will be customizing their 200 with Mopar options such as the vented hood and custom seats.

See “hands on with the Chrysler Pacifica”

Dodge

purple Dodges

Dodge hasn’t had anything new to talk about since the debut of the Hellcat Charger and Challenger, but that doesn’t seem to matter – both Charger and Challenger still draw attention and crowds. One new addition is the “Metal Edition” models of the Durango – essentially the same as the “Alloy Edition” models for Chrysler with a slightly more macho name.

durango

Despite being one of the top selling models for Dodge, the Journey was pushed to the back with only a single model (the same with Grand Caravan and Dart) – while there were several models of the Durango, Charger, and Challenger on display. Viper was represented by a single ACR model on a turntable – and it still turns heads as well.

viper

car test track

Jeep

75th anniversary cherokee

It’s clear that Jeep is the star of FCA’s lineup, with the largest display area and a newly expanded Camp Jeep driving track. Prominently on display up front are the 75th Anniversary Edition Jeeps, one of every model, with “Since 1941” labels and orange-backed model and brand badging (except for some reason the Grand Cherokee, which was up on a turntable display.)

75th compass

FCA is all about special and limited editions, and Jeep is no exception. In addition to the 75th Anniversary models, there were two special Grand Cherokees (SRT Night and California), the Willys Wheeler, Wrangler Backcountry, and a black “Dawn Of Justice” Renegade.

jeep red rock wrangler

Out on the test track were two Wrangler Unlimiteds, two Cherokee Trailhawks, two Grand Cherokees, and one Renegade Trailhawk. New to the Camp Jeep course was a section of stairsteps going up and then back down.

stairsteps

The Wrangler Unlimited made short work of the stairs, as expected. The Grand Cherokee would spin its front wheels a bit, at which point the power would shift the rear wheels and they would essentially push it up the steps. The Cherokee spun its wheels less, but seemed to do a lot more bump stop crashing while going up and over.

cherokee

renegade

wrangler

The surprise – to me, anyway – was the Renegade. It went up and over these stairsteps with no discernable wheel spin and no drama – I waited and watched this three times over just to make sure I wasn’t missing something – and this happened every single time. To me, this was more impressive than the Power Wagon coming down the steps. If you had reservations about the capability of the Renegade, you owe it to yourself to check it out in action.

Wrangler down ramp

Fiat Brands

blue fiat 500

Fiat made the most of its space with multiple examples of its four models. They were able to park a 500L next to a 500X to make it easier to see the differences in the two models – the 500 naming isn’t doing them any favors in that regard. (I believe the 500L would do better with a different drivetrain.)

Fiat 124

The 500X seems to be a good size and will likely end up being the largest selling model for the brand once folks realize that it exists. Featured on the protected turntable is the 124 Spider, based on the new Mazda Miata and in my eyes the better looking of the two.

There was nothing new to report with Maserati, and Ferrari did not officially attend the show.

alfa romeo giulia

The Alfa Romeo display was unlike last year, when it was more a museum of Alfa history along with two or three copies of the 4C. This year, they had four models of the new Giulia Quadrifoglio on display. It’s a nice looking car, sized like a BMW 3-Series or a Chrysler 200.

alfa romeo gliulia in chicago

Allpar readers are waiting to see how the bits and pieces of the Giulia filter down to Dodge for future products; the basics of the cars were jointly developed, but Alfa Romeo gets first production. Those thinking that the Charger and Challenger are just too large to be truly sporty cars may want to pay attention to the Giulia – but based on visual measurements they may also want to work on their diets and hit the gym – the Giulia’s interior looks to be very tight indeed.

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