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It’s 2013, and Chrysler had been “reborn” for four years under Fiat rule. The entire lineup has been polished and revisited — in some cases, more than once. Yet, something — perhaps four things — seem to be missing.
In March, we talked about a new SUV using the 1984-2011 Cherokee’s coil-link suspension, using a new body (like that of the 2014 Cherokee) with the cheaper and more off-road-friendly XJ-style suspension.
The Jeep Cherokee was light but sturdy, with class-leading ground clearance and a seemingly-contradictory low load floor, thanks to its unique link/coil setup. The new vehicle would bring that back, while keeping modern innovations such as the 2014 Cherokee’s clever four wheel drive systems.
Hard-core Jeepers want a true XJ replacement, with superlative clearance from all angles (that doesn’t disappear when you hit a bump), and a reasonable price — starting at under $30,000. Safety, modern on-road competition, and gas mileage all rule out the ancient XJ blueprints. A modern XJ, holding to current safety standards, would be around 10% larger outside (for the same interior space), and weigh around 4,200 pounds, one engineer estimated — no problem for the Pentastar V6 hooked up to an eight or nine speed automatic.
The cost would be at least $3 billion, but it could be an international seller that would boost Jeep’s credibility. Creating it could cost less if it used, say, the current Cherokee as a base; that would also ease production, since it could most likely be made in Sterling Heights.
This particular effort from JackRatchett is titled the Jeep Heritage XJ; the wheels are further apart to help approach angles, the ground clearance is the same as the XJ, the hood has a slight double slope for better visibility, the front corners are dropped and angled toward the wheels, and the body retains the box shape because that’s what you need for maximum cargo.
The PT Cruiser was a surprisingly popular car, despite annual “cheapenings” and comments from Daimler insiders that “it’s just a fad.” Slowly, though, the PT shifted from being a premium, desirable car, as “cost savings” were applied mercilessly and, in retrospect, foolishly; the company spent less to make each car, but also earned less from each sale, and ended up with both slow sales and large rebates.
The basics of the PT were still sound: a responsive if not especially fast base engine; a more powerful engine option; well thought out usability; a lower ride height than most crossovers and SUVs, but higher than a normal car; and a flexible interior, all with unique styling inside and out.
There is no shortage of vehicles to base a replacement on, but the Jeep Cherokee likely provides the best canvas. Jettison the four wheel drive options; restyle the body, inside and out; lower the ride height; and perhaps use different suspension options to save money and space, exploring the revised Watts rear suspension (which save space and money). Chrysler might just get regain a highly competitive niche car, adding 50,000 - 80,000 easy domestic sales per year with no need for rebates and incentives.
We know it’s coming, but the crystal ball is cloudy because there’s probably also a new Fiat Strada coming, and the two might be the same and they might not be the same. “It” is the light-duty pickup that’s been in the pipeline since at least 2007, which would provide a mid-sized body with European-measured metric-ton capacity; while it would end up around the same size as the 1987 Dodge Dakota, the lighter capacity and more modern design would yield far greater fuel efficiency.
An inexpensive suspension would sacrifice some road manners for cost and capacity, making it affordable for those who want a real pickup with decent size, but who do not need to tow a house up Pike’s Peak. Fiat’s four-cylinder diesel would round out the powertrain options, providing sufficient if unexciting power with high economy and relatively low cost (compared with the VM V6).
This truck’s business case was somewhat dubious for years, but not with Fiat’s desire and ability to sell worldwide: what is moderately popular in North America would also be sold in South America, India, Russia, China, and Europe.
Current rumors have it based on the Dart/Cherokee platform and architecture (though we think that’s more likely going to be used for a Fiat Strada replacement) and on the next-generation minivan platform and architecture. We will be honest and say we just don’t know; it might be important enough to get its own new platform, and use a downsized version of the Ram 1500 (or 2500) suspension.
Some believe that GM has the large-SUV market sewn up tight, but with the new eight-speed Rams establishing new standards for economy and comfort, the time has come for Dodge to finally capitalize on the Ram as it used to, with a full sized, truck-based SUV. A closed-roof wagon body would cut weight and improve aerodynamics, and designers could save time and money by using Durango components and designs, incidentally increasing economies of scale. The result would be the best-performing large SUV, enough to draw buyers’ eyes away from the ubiquitous (and, in fairness, durable and well-engineered) Suburban and Yukon, for a relatively small investment.
This particular illustration could double for a B-van if the ProMaster was not already in that space; the Dodge Ramcharger could be unique in the large-SUV space by having a traditional door behind the driver, but a van-like sliding door on the curb side, greatly increasing the accessibility of the interior without having people point and laugh at the minivan [at least, in some buyers’ minds].
While Durango provides most of what typical Suburban buyers are actually looking for, an actual truck-based SUV could still provide some unique benefits, and would help to make Dodge/Ram a one-stop shop for fleets that actually need a traditional body-on-frame full-size SUV. Either way, the eight-speed V6 and V8 combinations would easily outperform their GM equivalents.
Chrysler built a number of stretched 300s in the prior generation — technically, they supplied the parts and an aftermarket company created the cars — for the limousine and “black car” market. They were not exactly a success, but then, buyers were quite happy with their full size Lincoln Town Cars, which had after all been on the market in one form or another for decades, and had the bugs worked out. Now that the Town Car is dead, fleet buyers are searching for the ideal replacement; they haven’t found it yet, despite quite a bit of experimentation. The Chrysler’s main problems are a relatively firm ride, but mainly, not enough rear seat space. The stretched 300C limousine takes care of both these concerns with plush suspension tuning, and an extra six inches in back; at the same time, it provides an option for those who want a 300’s looks but think they need more interior space (all thirty of them).
Not a huge seller, the Chrysler 300C Limousine is largely created as a marketing exercise, to get the kind of person who has money for a Chrysler to understand that Chryslers are neither the Spartan vehicles of the Daimler occupation, nor the rattly rubbish some in the media still say they are.
Returning to the domestic market, Jeep can stir memories and nostalgia with a top of the line Jeep Wagoneer model. Based on the Dodge Durango with a Jeep Grand Cherokee suspension architecture, Wagoneer would be slotted above Overland, and available with either simulated wood or standard paint. Made for the select few who can afford it, like the original Wagoneer, it would most likely be used frequently in snow and on mud driveways and country roads, but not so often on untamed trails. Engine options would be the VM diesel and the Hemi V8; if you can afford a Wagoneer, you can afford the V8’s gasoline consumption. There would be no rear wheel drive version; it’s 4x4 or nothing.
This is a “bonus” item because we have been led to understand, for quite a while now, that Jeep is working on just this car; indeed, originally it was thought that there would be no 2014 Durango because the Wagoneer was coming to replace it. Durango is the only non-Jeep on a Jeep platform.
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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