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Ralph Gilles on 2011 Dodge lineup

by David Zatz on

The color of the new interiors has been improved. “We abandoned rat’s-fur gray,” said Dodge CEO Ralph Gilles. Interiors will have more color, “more chroma.”

on the Dodge Avenger: The new transmission “brings the fun back. … Now it has the menacing look… and the power to back it up” with the 283 horsepower Pentastar engine. It gets 19 / 29 mpg with low-7-second acceleration. They redesigned the suspension, lowered the track, changed the brake linings, new springs, new sway bars… now, it is “absolutely a joy to drive.”

The Grand Caravan: “We had to make it belong in the Dodge family.” Dodge sold over 13 million Caravans, “but how can you make a minivan exciting, a little less of a tool and a little more of something you aspire to own.” … They revamped the suspension, added power, and the “interior is kind of a driver’s office now. … The gauges look like something more out of a Porsche than a minivan.” For Stow ‘n’ Go, they raised back of the seat, made it more comfortable, and added one touch feature.

“I want vehicles to have souls, and we gave the Journey a soul,” said Ralph Gilles, making it more fun to drive, improving the gauges, and rebuilding the interior. They spent over 2 1/2 years developing the technology for the oversized screen, which provides weather, real time traffic, etc. “People said it drove like a minivan, so we went after the suspension and stiffened it, it’s night and day.”

The Challenger SE was dramatically improved, partly by cutting out the smaller wheels and upgrading the suspension. Going from 6.1 to 6.4 in the SRT8 was done largely to make the MDS system possible. They gained a lot of torque along the way. “Still from 19 highway to 22 highway, pretty good for this kind of performance…”

One of the biggest complaints about the old Challenger was the steering wheel, which has been replaced. They benefitted from the 2011 Charger; they took the new suspension settings e.g. negative suspension camber, stiffer rear suspension, and new tires from Charger. Now it can achieve 0.93 lateral acceleration, and “it feels 500 pounds lighter as you drive it.”

The Durango Sport was not originally planned, but was the result of a discussion with some of the younger Chrysler staffers, with the monochromatic look and lowered suspension. Gilles said he did not believe in base models, and now “every Durango looks good. We’re differentiating with features, electronics, luxury items… We’re making sure that everyone who buys a Durango, starting at around $30,000, has this experience.”

The Durango Citadel has features some would never believe would be in a Dodge, and is aimed at buyers who would normally buy far more expensive cars; a special leasing program is being set up for them.

(Videos were shown of the Charger and Durango.)

“I’ve been driving an early prototype of the Charger and there’s been an unbelieveable response… we’re really proud of this vehicle…we’ve included much more sex per pound.” Visibility has been improved by 15%; in the back end, there are 164 LEDs. The dual exhaust is now standard, and you can get 20 inch wheels on any model. The interior was benchmarked against Audi, BMW, and Mercedes, which is why there are cloth-wrapped pillars and aluminum bezels even on entry models.

The Hemi is still there, but most effort went into the 292 horsepower Pentastar V6, which goes up to 27 mpg but still does 0-60 in less than eight seconds; the handling was completely revised; there’s no brake dive, and the steering is no longer numb. Super Track Pack provides the same suspension that the SRT gets, on the R/T. The starting price is $25,995 including destination.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304

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