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For 2017, FCA did exactly one launch in New York City: the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk (see the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk reveal, with video). The day before, though, FCA invited a select group of enthusiasts and media to a pre-show party, in which they unveiled the Dodge Challenger Demon — an 840-horsepower drag-strip terror, street legal, warranteed, and aimed at taking advantage of true drag-strip experience. (See the Dodge Challenger Demon reveal, with video)
Dodge had a small display area near the back; Maserati and Alfa Romeo were between Audi and Cadillac, on the other side of the convention center. There were no minivans or Journeys, but the Demon alone attracted more attention than most competitors’ displays as a whole. (The Caravan and Journey will likely be shown on public days). There were two Challengers with Demon looks for a drag-racing game.
As for Chrysler, it simply wasn’t there — not upstairs and not downstairs, which means Starke and Big Power Racing were better represented than Chrysler. In fairness, Chrysler dominated FCA’s display space last year, showing off the Pacifica; and it’s possible the company will put one Pacifica into the truck area as well.
Downstairs, in the truck/SUV area, Ram has a position of honor right by the entrance, with twice Ford’s sales space; Buick had the same space on the opposite side. Jeep was right behind Ram. The back of the lower floor is worth visiting, with the NYC Police Museum’s display. And, of course, Jeep had their outdoor track — more on that later.
Ram has been doing numerous special editions lately — the Ram Night (a black trim package), various “high impact” colors normally seen only on Chargers and Challengers, and such. A spokesman said that when the Ram 1500 Night package was launched, it “blew out the doors” in sales — and customers told them they loved the look, but had to drive a 2500 or 3500 for their extra capacity — so they applied the package to the heavy duty pickups, and it’s selling well. (Ram doesn’t normally do special editions of the 2500 and 3500.)
The Ram 1500 Tradesman did very well, thanks to the V8 engine and low price; so they created another relatively inexpensive package with the V8 and some other appealing factors, which help the resale value, because the V6 generally doesn’t move well as a used vehicle. Many people were buying the Tradesman not for work, but to turn it into a customized street truck; so the company launched the Express, which had a tweaked appearance and the V8. The Rebel and high impact colors followed, so people could buy the truck they wanted off the lot. The company watched the aftermarket and responded, with black wheels, black badges, and other additions.
As for sales, “We try to do enough that everyone who wants one can have one,” but not so many that there are leftovers on the lots. That means around 3,000 for the Sublime, and around 6,000 for the Night. The goal is both to attract people into the dealers and sell more trucks; so someone may come in for a Sublime and leave with an ordinary white Ram, but if they buy the Sublime, that’s good, too.
The rep noted that Ram has not only been attracting more customers, but has also been holding onto existing buyers. Ram won an award for pickup-truck buyer loyalty. Efforts to attract new customers are especially handy, therefore, because the company can keep buyers for multiple purchases.
Around one fifth of all Ram trucks are sold in Texas, which is also the top market for Ford and Chevrolet; California is a growing market.
Ram second-in-command Jim Morrison has been very supportive, among other things allowing photo shoots of the Ram TRX rampaging off-road, literally on its way to the official launch; the paint had barely dried when the TRX was shipped out. The result was a video (and photos) that made the truck more credible. “We just poured it out of the trailer and ran the truck like crazy. We were worried about damaging the rig, it was on its way to the reveal, but it turned out great and just kept going.”
As for driving the truck off-road, the rep said it required considerable skill and training, because of its capabilities: “Driving this truck offroad is like putting you into a Viper at Road America.”
The TRX is set up like off-road racing trucks, and every Ram 1500 and 2500 already has the Jeep-inspired link-coil rear suspension; Ram also has designed air suspensions. Ram has the powertrain and expertise to do the TRX, but will they? We don’t know yet — most likely, the company will wait for the next generation pickups and then check to see if there’s enough demand to make it worthwhile.
Maserati showed off their full line. Once again, I was impressed by how much they had done with the Quattroporte to differentiate it from the 300C, without actually moving anything around behind the dashboard skin.
Alfa Romeo took up a billboard down the street, so all visitors could see it; I overheard a showgoer comment that Alfa never had to worry about being predictable. His Alfa Romeo broke down someplace new each time.
The Italian sport-luxury brand had their Giulias and Stelvios on display. The Stelvio seemed quite nice up front, though the rear seat can best be described as “vestigial.” It’s a crossover with an emphasis on performance.
The Jeep test track is a highlight of any car show; in New York this year, they had steeper steps than I recall, but they took out the jiggly rock course (I would guess, to save space). All the Jeeps easily made it up and down this obstacle, which you can see is quite tall — and yes, they go up and over the steps and other obstacles all day long, without fail.
I don’t remember the breakover being quite as steep, either; that was a fun experience, as you go up a sharp ramp that has almost no transition before coming back down. There’s lots of that in the video; the Wrangler handled it best, with absolutely no loss of traction, while the Cherokee seemed to like skidding to the right. They took the Renegade and Compass over it more slowly than the others. (It had just rained, and chances are the breakover was still wet.)
The 30° tilt is always fun. The Jeeps didn’t seem to rock much coming down.
Last year, at Chelsea, I found the Cherokee to be the most comfortable Jeep for off-roading — not the best, but the most comfortable (the only competition for the Wrangler at FCA is the Ram Power Wagon, which is an impressive beast). I hope to be able to report on the new Compass this year. In the past, I’ve found Jeeps to be very impressive on the off-road course.
There were two collections of classic cars, both easy to miss — one in the lobby area, all the way to the south end, and one in the truck/SUV floor in the back.
Here’s the Demon crate that FCA mails to you when you buy the car.
Display shows the Demon as though it’s launching.
Be nice to see the engine without the plexiglass or against a solid background, but I understand why they don’t do that.
Yup, the Viper still grabs attention. It’s comfortable inside, once you get in.
You can drive to the show — parking is $50 or more, in cash, during show days — or:
Related: Dodge Challenger Demon reveal • Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk reveal • Other car shows
Key cars: Dodge Challenger Demon • Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
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