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by David Zatz
Featured cars: Chrysler 300 SRT8 • 300 S V6 and V8 • 300C Executive • Grand Cherokee SRT8 • 200 S • 200 S Convertible • Avenger R/T • Fiat 500 Cabrio • Mopar 11 Charger • Dodge Avenger Rally Car
Just trucks: Ram and Jeep at the New York Auto Show, in photos
Many visitors going to the Javits Center have to go by the Jeep test drive, which is similar to the arrangement in 2010. Even if they don't walk by it, it’s hard to miss the signs, inside and out; the interior sign is a massive banner, while outside, Jeeps are “at play” along their demonstration course.
The Chrysler and Dodge areas are be re-arranged for the public show, but both are all the way in back, on the far left side of the convention center; to get there, you have to go past Ford and Kia, and most visitors will spend a lot of time forging their way past Toyota. Fiat is further towards the center, but has a bit less space, and almost blends in with Nissan.
Dodge is showing two Fast Five cars, one out in the lobby and one in its own area; the sign by the car indicates that it’s going to be a production model, though the lack of a price indicates that might not be the case. The already aggressive Charger R/T looks even more formidable in matte black. See our full Fast Five Dodge Charger page.
Allpar was able to speak with Ralph Gilles, who in his time at Chrysler has created the Jeep skunkworks (now known as Jeep Underground), and has risen rapidly to head both Dodge and styling, though he’s only in his early 40s.
Also shown at the show were the Avenger R/T, with its unique striped seats, and the Avenger - Magneti Marelli rally car. (More photos of each car, including some from the show, are on their respective pages.)
Chrysler started off their presentation with a real bang, using a Detroit choir singing an Eminem song to start out. The song emphasized “you only get one chance,” and that’s certainly true of today’s Chrysler; the public is in no mood to give them another penny, and chances are if GM and Ford had been in good shape (Ford got billions in low-interest Department of Energy loans as its subtle bailout), Chrysler would have been allowed to fail. As it is, the people who have been working hard under poor leaders have shown that they have no intention of screwing up their “one chance.”
Three new variants of the Chrysler 300 were shown; our regional rep said the idea is probably a reflection of Fiat’s tendency to provide numerous variations, so people can find the combination they like best, as seen in the incredibly varied options of the Fiat 500. Ralph Gilles also said he believed people like to use their car as a canvas for individual expression, which may be why we have the Charger Fast Five, R/T, R/T Road & Track, and Mopar 11 Charger, not to mention various Challengers (including Classic). Hence, we are getting a “darkly styled” model with expensive stereo equipment; the usual high-performance SRT8; and the Chrysler 300C Executive, this time without the extended wheelbase. One must hope it sells better than the K-type Chrysler Executive; it certainly is faster and better equipped.
The cars were all unveiled by Olivier Francois, the head of Chrysler. SRT8 photos are on our 300C SRT8 page, more 300 S photos are on our 300 S page, and many more Executive photos are on our Chrysler 300C Executive page. Of note, the Executive does not have special badging.
One of the stories told in 30-second videos (which we hope will be aired as ads) was that of John Varvatos, successful fashion designer, who came to New York City from Detroit, emphasizing the “luxury feels better when it’s earned” slogan. Another video starred last year’s NFL rookie of the year, another Detroiter.
Francois also launched the new SRT8 Performance Pages, which can again be seen on our 300C SRT8 page.
As a feat of courage, I put myself into the back seat of a Fiat 500. At 5’11” I am slightly taller than average, but fit fairly easily in the back, with the front seat in its usual position. My head would contact the roof if I leaned back, but that's true of many larger coupes, too; and while legroom was hardly generous, my legs did fit, as long as I didn't want to move them around much. The back seats are perhaps overly firm, but the front seats are extremely comfortable. More comfortable, I would venture to say, than anything I’ve experienced in a Chrysler, since the 300M was dropped.
One of the drivers said he'd enjoyed putting the 500s into position, and had decided that he liked them enough to seriously consider buying one for himself, though he's not normally a small car buyer. That's a sentiment echoed by quite a few people who try the little Fiat 500, which is said to be surprisingly fun to drive; it's certainly attractive to look at, from the inside at least, and it maintains enough cargo space to be practical as a city or second car. Perhaps even as something to accompany a Grand Cherokee SRT8 and bring the “personal fleet” mileage up a bit.
A look around the lower floor, dedicated to trucks and SUVs (though Subaru has their whole setup there), was similar to the main car floor: Toyota splashed out but was on the far right; General Motors took the most prominent spots, by the entrance, and went all out; Subaru had a small display but it was splashy and well lit. Jeep and Ram, in contrast, had relatively small signs, and the most outlandish displays were all the way in the back corner. (Most photos of this area are in our Ram and Jeep at the New York Auto Show section.)
Mike Manley launched two new Jeep models: a special edition Jeep Wrangler, the Mohave, and the second generation Grand Cherokee SRT8. The 2012 Jeep Wrangler Mohave is a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with body-color hard top, filler door, flares, and guards, desert-themed inside and out with a decal package on the outside; based on the sport, it comes with Rubicon wheels and tires.
More significantly, the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, which has been caught by numerous spy photographers, was unveiled; its 465 horsepower, 465 lb-ft engine, connected to a five-speed automatic, propels the sleek wagon from 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, achieves the quarter mile “in the mid-13s,” and runs 0-100-0 again in “the mid-16s” partly thanks to a stopping distance of 116 feet (from 60 mph).
The Grand Cherokee SRT8 has numerous differences from the normal versions, including revised and body-colored wheel flares, a different under-grille treatment with LED DRLs/turn signals, a new Track position on the suspension control (along with a new-to-SRT towing position), a new spoiler that cuts drag and raises downforce, a flattened-bottom racing-style steering wheel, new performance pages with steering input (in addition to quarter and eighth mile, g-force, stopping distance, 0-60, etc), and 5,000 pounds of towing capacity. The truck now has forward collision warning, blind spot warning, and an 825-watt, 19-speaker surround-sound system.
More SRT8 photos are on our Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 page.
Visiting The New York Auto Show: Tickets are $14 for adults, $4 for children under 12, with $2 off for groups of ten or more people. Over one million people are expected. Backpacks are not allowed; wheelchairs are available. Public show dates are April 22-May 1.
Parking lots raise their rates dramatically for the show (as in $40-$50, cash only). You can use a New Jersey or Connecticut park-and-ride if you’re driving in, to go that last step into the city via rail or bus. If you’re coming via Grand Central Station, get a MetroCard and take the subway to Penn Station, then the M34 using the same MetroCard. At some point, the MTA will finish the 7 line extension — excavation has started, which is a good sign — and then you can take the subway nearly into Javits (or, possibly, all the way. I’m not privy to the MTA’s plans.)
Mazda seems to be hitting their small cars with the ugly stick especially hard; Honda had to have a huge launch for their new Civic partly so we could tell it apart from the old one (they did soften the somewhat harsh angles of the 2010 grille so it’s easier on the eyes); and it's sure hard to find the exotic cars that littered the Detroit show. They're probably around somewhere, but I couldn't find them.
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