Category Archives: Dodge

2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie Quad Cab 4X4 (664)

Overview:
This week let’s look at the 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie Quad Cab 4X4 and although it is like my personal Ram 3500 it is newer and mine is white. This test vehicle is bright Red. What were they thinking? I never wanted to be a fireman like most little boys but after climbing up into this Mammoth I had visions of a “Hook and Ladder” truck.

And to make the experience complete I realized I would need my “Kidney Belt” if I would be traveling over 65 mph on a cement freeway surface. This dual rear wheel “broad” rear end Ram will shake your eye teeth lose. Of course this truck is made for work and heavy loads so the suspension is really stiff and empty is not as smooth ride as we’d like. But when you sit in such a plush interior it is misleading since the luxury is contrasted by the heavy big truck look from the outside.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – United States and Mexico

Class:  – Truck

Cars: – Avenger, Caliber, Caravan, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 1500, 2500 & 3500, Sprinter Van and Wagon and Viper.

Handling & Performance:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), together with the Department of Energy (DOE), Chrysler Group and Cummins, recognized the new 2007 Dodge Ram Heavy Duty as the cleanest mass-production diesel-engine pickup truck on the market.

It’s cleaner, quieter and more powerful at 350 horsepower because of the Turbo Diesel from Cummins. 18 Wheeler drivers probably won’t want one because it’s simply too close to what they drive for a living. Cummins is arguably the best big truck engine you can have in your truck. Take it from me – I own a Ram 3500 with over 260,000 miles and it is just about broken in. No joke. These things are made for lots of miles. Mine is a Cummins as well. You gotta love this truck.

However it is a chore to drive because it is so big that you will have to take up two parking spaces – not that you can’t maneuver into a single space, because you can. But others who will be parking next to you are clueless about how big it really is and two spaces will give them lots of space to avoid hitting you. I was embarrassed to take two spaces recently and regret it because someone in the parking structure in Ventura (Spanish for “good fortune”) left a little bit of their vehicles white paint on my beautiful new “Flame Red Clear Coat Paint”. Next time – two spaces.

I had an eye exam and they dilated my eyes just before leaving on a short trip with the little lady. Sorry honey but you have to drive. I can’t drive that big truck she says. But she did and amazed herself. Of course once you hit the road it handles well with great power steering and all the power you need to feel like you’re driving a passenger car. But this one has “Attitude”. The truck, not my lady. But now that I think of it she has somewhat of an attitude too. Don’t tell her I said that.

Styling:

Classic Dodge Ram.

Fit and Finish:

Outstanding, strong, shinny, solid, elegant (as a truck can be elegant) and generally very clean lines. But this is anything but a ‘sissy’ girlie man truck.

Cost:

Pricey – no question about it – this truck is expensive with all the bells and whistles. A plain Jane model is however priced competitively for those who just want to get ‘er done.

Conveniences and comfort:

As usual, this is no different from most trucks these days that give you the option to “Dress them Up” so they are more like luxury SUV’s than work-horses.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you need the “max” in pickup trucks you’ve found the right truck for the job whether fit to do a big dirty job or dressed up for the prom.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Ram 3500 $28-50,000, Chevrolet Silverado Classic 3500 $26-38,000, GMC Sierra Classic 3500 $27-39,000, GMC Sierra 3500 HD$28-40,000,  Ford F-350 Super Duty $23-39,000.

Good News:

Turbo Diesel with great power and improved fuel economy, super comfy and almost too pretty for most but important to many others.

Bad News:

Pricey when dressed up, tough to park.

Standard Equipment:

6.7 liter 350 horsepower Cummins Turbo diesel engine, 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift on the fly transfer case, Leather heated bucket seats, 40/20/40 split folding rear bench seat, 4-wheel ABS disc braking system, dual front air bags, power steering, 35 gallon fuel tank, variable intermittent wipers, theft deterrent system, fog lights, power adjustable pedals, air conditioning dual zone temp control, tilt steering column, leather wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, overhead console with trip computer, stereo with 6 in-dash CD / MP3 player with 7 infinity speakers, GPS Navigation system, and SIRIUS satellite digital radio including 1 year service, power 6-way driver / passenger seats, rear power sliding window, class IV hitch with 7 pin wiring harness, side curtain air bags, anti-spin differential rear axle, under rail box bedliner, chrome tubular side steps, under seat storage compartment.

Gas Stats:

$2.65/ Gal avg. August 22, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information. City and Highway MPG is not required for Heavy Duty vehicles. I believe manufacturers should do it anyway. My calculations were right at 15 mpg average highway and city combined

Pricing:

MSRP $38,480 and as equipped above $53,470.

2007 Dodge Caliber R/T (656)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Dodge Caliber R/T and will look at the Honda Element next time because they are in the same price range even if they technically are not in the same class. The Caliber is considered a compact car but crossovers are beginning to blur with smaller SUV’s. So the competition is a mix of the two classes.

Overall I felt a comfort and ease driving the Caliber but couldn’t help but wonder what the product will be like with new ownership of Chrysler. It is impossible to separate the two thoughts – the car today that is a product of a well respected company with great design and management skills and what about tomorrow with the unknown?

Chrysler has been like the proverbial ‘football’ – that has gone through stable years and then the past few decades has been on a roller coaster ride.

General Info:

Parts – U.S/ Canadian 63%, Mexico 22%.

Assembly – Belvidere, Illinois, USA

Class:  -Compact Car

Cars: – Avenger, Caliber, Caravan, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 15, 25 and 3500, Sprinter Van and Wagon and Viper.

Observation:

The entire American auto industry has been anything but stable as a whole. The disturbing part of the story is the way the American people have been caught up in taking sides in this war of car makers. Yes American carmakers got cocky in the good years with unbridled growth because of the love affair Americans had with their cars. Freedom personified. But that freedom has cost us a lot. We spawned an industry that sucked up more and more fuel and the we became indentured to oil rich countries who are bent on our destruction. What’s sick is they’re using our money to beat us up with and we keep doing it. What’s that all about? Is our government worthy of our trust? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Handling & Performance:

Good cornering because of the lower center of gravity of a sedan even though if feels so much like a small SUV. It is, however a little sluggish in passing situations as it sounds like the engine is really straining which is in part caused by the heavy R/T with all wheel drive. But if you don’t mind that occasionally then it is smooth and quiet on the highway.

Styling:

Today styling – know what I mean. Designers are either copy cats or way out there like the Scion from Toyota ore Honda’s Element. Of course Mercedes Benz had to get into the square box kick with the G Class but at a price nearly SIX times … that’s 6 times the cost of the Element or Scion. But this ‘Crossover’ Caliber is conforming to the competition which is a bit unusual for Chrysler. They are generally more adventurous.

Fit and Finish:

Usual and expected. Nothing to write home about but good.

Cost:

Someone asked me last night if cars are getting cheaper. Einstein’s theory of Relativity applies here. Relative to the past the answer is that you get much more than the price increases have been. Food is a good example except for water that has increased in cost more than gasoline.  In other words, cars have never been more affordable.

Conveniences and comfort:

Reminder for cell users in the car to start early and get headsets for hands free use as our wise legislators passed a law that will impose high fines if caught holding the phone to your ear. I guess we’re so comfortable in our cars today we expect we can do just about anything – and DO – while we’re driving. This is a good law, I believe, because people have taken this homey atmosphere for granted and the reality is that you are 60 times more likely to die in a car accident than if you served in Iraq. So eliminating distractions is a good thing while you’re driving.

Options include a neat ‘Chill Zone’ for cooled (up to four 20 oz. Bottles or cans) beverages. Finally you don’t have to drink warm water on those hot days.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you want a small SUV or station wagon but with the handling characteristics of a sedan, this is the ticket. When you look at the competition you’ll notice the blur in distinction in classes between sedans and SUVs that has evolved.

If you’re interested in the Caliber you may want to look into the Caliber SRT4 front wheel drive that will be out soon. It is a 300 horsepower turbocharged version of the R/T engine. Expected invoice cost will be about $25,000.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Caliber $14-20,000, Ford Focus Wagon $17-18,000, Ford Focus $14-17,000, Chevrolet Cobalt $13-20,000, Hyundai Accent $10-14,000, Mazda 3 $14-20,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Nissan Sentra $15-20,000, Kia Rio 5 $13,750, Subaru Impreza Wagon $18-27,000, Mitsubishi Lancer$14-17,000, Jeep Patriot $14-21,000, Pontiac Vibe $16,760, Toyota Matrix $15-17,000, Kia Rondo $16-20,000, 2008 Scion xB $15,650.

Good News:

Improved fuel economy, comfortable, clean design.

Bad News:

Slide sun visors don’t extend far enough, noticeable road noise and obstructed rear and side views.

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter 172 hp inline 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, dual front air bags and front and rear side curtain bags, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, rear window defroster, rear fold flat forward seat, rear 60/40 split reclining seat, theft deterrent system, front passenger fold flat seat, intermittent wipers, rear washer wiper, sliding sun visors, soft tonneau cover rear cargo area, tilt steering column, stereo with CD player, Sirius satellite digital radio feature with 1 year included, power mirrors, keyless entry, liftgate door with fixed glass, air conditioning with chill zone storage, halogen headlights.

Options:

leather trimmed heated front bucket seats, manual driver lumbar, continuous variable transaxle with auto stick auto transmission.

Gas Stats:

$3.15/ Gal avg. June 26 ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information

24 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $17,820 with options $20,470.

2007 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport (654)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport. I suspect if you intend to buy a pickup truck you are not concerned with fuel economy but rather there is a business purpose – and your business is profitable enough that you don’t care about the cost at the pump. Why because you’ll pay your favorite Uncle in Washington DC 34% income tax and about 9% to the state of California, for example. Some states are less or nothing at all. Now the way I figure it, for every $100,000 of income I’ll be taxed $43,000. So why not let my Uncle pay for the gas for my inefficient vehicle – after all they made the problem so they simply won’t get as much in income tax.

On the other hand if I’m an individual my tax rate is probably much less so I should buy a Toyota Prius or some other such fuel stingy car.

For the businessman who needs a truck the tax considerations are good enough reason to buy this gas unconscious truck because it has the power and torque (375 ft. lbs.) to pull a house through a swamp. The way the government spends money why give it more to (pardon the expression) piss away. “Suppose you were an idiot; and suppose you were a congressman; but then I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain. Mr. Twain, some things never change and after you died in 1910 our congress only got worse. Twain may have used many more expletives to describe the senators of today if he were alive, so I can think of a few for him – wanna hear them?   &%#@ and ^+#@%.

General Info:

Parts – U.S/ Canadian 72%, Mexico 16%

Assembly – Fenton, Missouri

Class:  -Standard Pickups

Cars: – Avenger, Caliber, Caravan, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 15, 25 &3500, Sprinter Van, Sprinter Wagon and Viper.

Handling & Performance:

Wow, trucks and other “things ain’t what they used to be – and probably never was” – Will Rogers. And that fact that things are different was reaffirmed when I took this unassuming race car over my favorite mountain course I refer to as the Crest Test. It was an amazing experience in this Ram 1500 mostly because the results were unexpected. It was like a mountain goat. Ram … goat.

Jack be nimble Jack be quick because it sports a 345 horsepower V8 that is wonderfully responsive.

Styling:

Dodge has tried by advertising to create in our minds an image of tough. Ford and Chevrolet do the same and now that the Japanese are getting into the BIG pick up truck market they also must tell us how tough they are. Consider Toyota Tundra and Nissan’s Titan that are two new additions to the 100 year old truck market.

Aside from being tough, if indeed it is, it is a nice looking truck as well. I’ve got the big dualee Ram 3500 which is also distinctively Dodge.

Fit and Finish:

Very good. Remember the days when cars were put together with bailing wire and chewing gum? Those days are fairly far behind us and today’s cars generally are put together very well. Seams are more exacting and tolerances are closer and thus the end product is far superior to cars produced just 30 years ago.

Cost:

Not bad stripped down, but the tricked out version is pricey.

Conveniences and comfort:

Well, considering my 1955 Ford ½ ton pickup had a radio (AM only), 4 wheels, an engine and transmission I didn’t even think about the roll up windows. Most cars in those days had power windows as an option. Today they are expected as standard equipment on all cars and even trucks are tricked out like a luxury sedan or SUV.

This Ram will seat 3 with the 40/20/40 split bench seat and two without it.

Consumer Recommendation:

My 1955 Ford, like this Dodge Ram, had no back seat. Of course a back seat was just as unthinkable then as it is unthinkable NOT to have one today. I surely would never consider a pick up truck without a rear seat. Likely a crew cab because the small ½ door rear seat entrance on my Ram 3500 isn’t real practical. It is simply too restricting and I find it impossible to think of any occasion where a rear seat wouldn’t be of use. I have to tell you I’ve been very happy with my Ram 3500 and on the ranch it totes a ton or more of hay without even breaking a sweat.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Ram 1500 $21-41,000, Honda Ridgeline $28-35,000, Ford F150 $18-36,000, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 $17-38,000, GMC Sierra 1500 $17-41,000, Toyota Tundra $22-42,000, Nissan Titan $24-38,000.

Good News:

Lots of power and torque to pull a house, relatively comfy even though it tends to hop a bit on cement highways and even though there is no rear seat they did think to provide a convenient storage bin behind the seat.

Bad News:

Without a load it will shake, rattle and roll… actually that is over stated and it is a smooth ride on blacktop. It will burn way too much fuel to accomplish its job.

Standard Equipment:

5.7 liter 345 hp V8 engine, 5-speed automatic trans, rear wheel drive, dual airbags, 4-wheel disc brakes, ABS, power rack and pinion steering, front stabilizer bar, 136 amp alt., 600 amp maintenance free battery, variable intermittent wipers, 26 gallon fuel tank, air conditioning, tilt 4-spoke steering wheel, cruise control, power windows & locks, remote Keyless entry, tachometer, overhead console w/ trip computer, stereo with CD player, behind the seat storage bin, power heated fold away mirrors.

Gas Stats:

$3.21/ Gal avg. June 11 ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information

15 City and 19 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $24,480.

2007 Dodge Durango Limited 4X4 Hemi (651)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Dodge Durango Limited 4X4 Hemi SUV. What a perfect time to be in a “Tank” of the highway. I feel so conspicuous driving this berg as it sucks up gas at about 15 miles per gallon on average. In the news is the amazement of everyone why sales of these environmentally irresponsible vehicles. That wouldn’t be so true if the vehicle were transporting more than one (count them – ONE) person most of the time.

If you can get past the crime of waste the vehicle is pretty special in appearance, performance and comfort. The Hemi engine is powerful and you don’t suffer any acceleration in spite of its size and weight.

Curious that the press information doesn’t indicate a Gas Guzzler Tax imposed on this sled.

General Info:

Parts – U.S/ Canadian 77%.

Assembly – Newark, Delaware, USA.

Class:  – Special Purpose

Cars: – Avenger, Caliber, Caravan, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 15, 25 and 3500, Sprinter Van and Wagon and Viper.

Observation:

Gas Prices – In the news you hear groans coming from lower wage earners and ambivalence from higher income households when they are faced with rising prices at the pump. My observation is that industry – big business primarily – simply raise their prices to cover the rising costs of any kind. We common folk must bear the burden because we’re not represented by our illustrious congress-people. Mark Twain said it best and is quoted as saying: “Suppose you were an idiot; and suppose you were a congressman; but then I repeat myself”. Some things never change.

If congress were wise and responsible to their constituents they would understand this economic fact of life and give the commuter a break for their increased cost of earning a living.  This just goes to show you they are insensitive and ‘out of touch’ with reality – and then they become President! – What’s that all about? We must be as stupid as they think we are.

Handling & Performance:

Outstanding in most respects. It swayed a bit on my Crest Test mountain runs but there weren’t any moments when it didn’t take the turns or accelerate on demand equal to smaller sedans on the road. And at only 335 horsepower it is very impressive.

Styling:

Rough and tumble looking as a Dodge should be but pretty nice looking and stylish.

Fit and Finish:

Solid and well put together. The lines are clean and well fitted. I wonder what will happen when Mercedes Benz is gone.

Cost:

Less than I expected and very price competitive with other luxury brands.

Conveniences and comfort:

All the comforts of home and more but I miss the GM lock on OnStar that I’ve come to appreciate more and more over time. This is a beefy SUV and feels the part of a luxury family outing vehicle.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you have a need to haul a family and lots of gear and tow a boat or trailer this Durango makes a lot of sense. But if you’re using it as a single passenger commuter it isn’t a good idea even if the price of gas doesn’t faze you. The sense of responsibility to burn less Middle East oil per capita should awaken your senses.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Durango $26-36,000, Toyota 4Runner $28-38,000, Acura MDX $40-48,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $28-43,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $25-37,000, Buick Rainier $32-34,000, GMC Acadia $29-37,000, $20-34,000, Honda Pilot $27-35,000, Chrysler Pacifica $24-36,000, Nissan Pathfinder $26-36,000, Kia Sorento $20-26,000, Mercury Mountaineer $27-34,000, Ford Explorer $25-35,000, Hummer H3 $29-38,000, Mazda Tribute $19-26,000.

Good News:

Hugely comfy, solid and safe feeling, powerful for those ‘special purpose’ things you need to do.

Bad News:

Totally irresponsible gas guzzler, 27 gallon gas tank (because you NEED it).

Standard Equipment:

5.7 liter 335 HP Hemi V8 engine, 5-speed automatic trans, ESP – electronic stability program, leather trimmed seating, front and side curtain airbags, rear park assist system, 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, rear variable speed wipers, power liftgate, rear window defroster, 27 Gallon FUEL tank, tire pressure monitor and warning signal, dual zone air conditioning front and rear, overhead console, driver memory feature settings, heated front seats, vehicle information center, reclining 40/20/40 second row seat, keyless entry, security alarm, power adjustable pedals, power windows and locks, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel, 115 and 12 volt power outlets, illuminated entry, auto dimming mirror, steering wheel mounted audio controls, stereo with 6-in-dash disc CD/MP3 player, 8 speakers with subwoofer. SIRIUS satellite digital radio with 1 year included, 18” chrome aluminum wheels, auto headlights, fog lights large power fold away mirrors. Optional equipment: tow group with class IV hitch and 4 and 7 pin wiring harness, 5.7 liter HEMI multi displacement engine with full time 4-wheel drive, heated second row seats, hands free communication connection.

Gas Stats:

$3.35/ Gal avg. May 22 ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

14 City and 19 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $36,375 (add $3,090 for options)

2007 Dodge Caliber R/T AWD (640)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Dodge Caliber R/T All-Wheel-Drive crossover. The R/T comes with AWD. Other models are front wheel drive propelled. It is roomy with lots of head room as well.

Great family vehicle in all respects.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 63%, Mexico 22%, Engine – US, Transmission – Mexico.

Assembly – Belvidere, Illinois, USA

Class: – Compact Cars

Cars: – Avenger, Caliber, Caravan, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 15, 25 & 3500, Sprinter Van, Sprinter Wagon and Viper.

Handling & Performance:

Performance is quite good but you will hear the engine that powers this compact. I wonder when they’ve done so many things so well, why they didn’t quiet the mechanical a little better. Here in the US gas will fuel the power plant but it will be offered in Europe and other foreign markets with turbo diesels where more than half of the cars are diesel. Now that is Smart. But even the US gas burner version will get pretty good mileage. I would like to see Americans buy more diesel products and push a movement to “Clean Diesel” model availability in the US.

My ranch truck with 265,000 miles is a diesel and most diesel owners will tell you that is just getting broken in. It is a very popular Dodge Ram 3500 dual real wheel and will haul a house if called upon. It is awesome and even with 15 large bales of hay stacked up it will still pull that house.

I prefer more road steering feel but this Caliber is a little loosy goosy feeling. I did get used to it but still prefer more feel.

Styling:

In keeping with Chrysler bravado in design this Caliber also makes an original and contemporary statement. I like it. How about you?

Fit and Finish:

Quite good and exceptional in class.

Cost:

Like most Chrysler products this Caliber is verrry affordable. I’m always impressed mostly because price hasn’t increased in proportion with the quality and design improvements of this American car company.

Conveniences and comfort:

The console has lighted cup holders that are really very cool and it makes me wonder why that nice touch isn’t seen on any other cars.

I found the ignition location annoying.

Standard in the R/T is a unique Chill Zone storage area for keeping up to 4 – 20 ounce bottles or cans cool.

Consumer Recommendation:

In my opinion this Caliber is the best of the bunch listed here, so it is a must drive inclusion in your search. Try it, you’ll like it.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Caliber $14-20,000, Mazda 3 $14-20,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Ford Focus $14-17,000, Pontiac Vibe $16,710, Chevrolet Cobalt $13-20,000, Nissan Sentra $15-18,000, Hyundai Accent $10-14,000, Acura RDX $33-36,000, Subaru Impreza Wagon $18-27,000, Kia Rio5 $13,750, Toyota Matrix $15-17,000.

Good News:

Perky performance, nice styling, well priced, versatile roomy family alternative and good fuel economy.

Bad News:

Poorly positioned ignition, noisy engine.

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter 172 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, continuous variable transaxle auto transmission, dual front air bags and front and rear side curtain airbags, 4-wheel power assist ABS disc brakes, power windows, solar control glass, rear window defroster, theft deterrent system, rear window wiper washer, power mirrors, speed sensitive power locks, cruise control, 12 volt and 115 volt aux power outlets, air conditioning with Chill Zone storage, front passenger fold flat seat, rear fold flat seat, with rear 60/40 split reclining seat, stereo with CD player, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, tilt column, illuminated cup holders, lift gate and fog lights.

Gas Stats:

$2.69/ Gal avg. Mar. 4, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

23 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $19,475.

2007 Dodge Nitro SLT 4X2 (639)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Dodge Nitro SLT 4X2 SUV. What do you think? Well, take a look at the price before you answer that. And don’t consider the recent news rumors of Daimler Chrysler wanting to sell the Chrysler division. Don’t also look at the staying power of Chrysler over the years when others thought it would die.  Mercedes says they aren’t making money. But the accountant in me says, so what?! Who’s fault – Mercedes or Chrysler? What’s going on behind the scenes is what interests the auditor in me.

In any case none of that is in defense of Chrysler and I do feel all things work to good… and we may find another influence on Chrysler could be even more beneficial than was Mercedes-Benz on them. Hard to imagine, but it could be.

I believe the affiliation has been very good and that isn’t about to go away any time soon.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 76%

Assembly – Toledo, Ohio, USA

Class: – Special Purpose

Cars: – Avenger, Caliber, Caravan, Charger, Dakota, Durango, Magnum, Nitro, Ram 15, 25 &           3500, Sprinter Van, Sprinter Wagon and Viper.

Observation:

Even notice no matter how fast you drive there are always others who are compelled to travel even faster. This fact supports the need for traffic control measures (tickets that cause monetary punishment). Of course the problem is that if you continue to speed up others do as well and as you ratchet up faster and faster one or more will exceed their ability to control the car and then – CRASH! And if there is a coming together of two drivers exercising poor judgment the real problem is the innocent often are pulled into the whole mess.

I test most cars on a race track so I don’t feel the need to prove I’m Mario Andretti on our public roads. Perhaps the State should set up track days for those who’d like to put their driving skills to the “Real” Test without endangering others. The cost of providing such facilities would be less costly to society in the long run. For the older generation you’ll recall drag racing in the 1950s and 1960s that gave an outlet to blow off steam.

Handling & Performance:

The accelerator is not as smooth as I like and I experienced a leap forward at the slightest touch of the pedal. The brakes were a little grabby on the other end as well. But I did notice I adjusted to the over sensitive feel of both acceleration and braking by the end of the weeks testing. Another explanation for the sensitive controls could be the newness of components.

Styling:

Square-ish – but that seems to be the in thing these days. Fashion and all that – because we get tired of any design in time and the car makers change to meet consumer expectations. I must admit I do appreciate variety and options.

Fit and Finish:

Very good for a product in this price range.

Cost:

Quite good. I liked the ride overall and warmed up even quicker when I saw the price.

Conveniences and comfort:

For the life of me I couldn’t find a valid use of the slide out floor in the rear cargo area. I’m sure they must have had some in mind and I’m told it allows you to put stuff on the shelf when pulled out and slide it in. I think it’s a wasted expense (that I as the consumer must pay for) – no thanks.

On the whole the standard equipment is outstanding. I say that because the cost of such things these days is very low and manufacturers should include a lot because everyone wants gadgets and goodies. And portable Navigation systems are getting so cheap a factory installed system is not needed at the high prices they ask.

Consumer Recommendation:

Surely this is a must drive for those about to make a purchasing decision. The Nitro surely gets high marks in the class.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Nitro $19-27,000, Mazda CX-7 $24-28,000, Saturn Vue $17-24,000, Ford Edge $25-31,000, Pontiac Torrent $22-24,000, Chevrolet Equinox $22-29,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $21-25,000, Hyundai Santa Fe $21-28,000, Acrua RDX $33-36,000, Jeep Liberty $21-27,000, Kia Sorento $20-26,000.

Good News:

Well priced, good number of creature comforts and technical safety features like stability control and traction control are standard and very good to have. It is also roomy.

Bad News:

The ride is a little soft with touchy brakes and accelerator. For a 4X2 the fuel economy is not as good as I expected. Not terrible but I expect better.

Standard Equipment:

3.7 liter V6 engine, 4-speed auto trans, front and side air bags, LATCH child anchor system, traction control, electronic stability program, 4-wheel ABS power assisted disc brakes, theft deterrent system, remote keyless entry, speed sensitive power locks, cruise control, rear window defroster, tire pressure monitoring display, power windows & locks, 115 A/C and 12 volt outlets, air conditioning, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, stereo with CD /MP3 player with 6 speakers, front passenger fold flat seat, tilt steering wheel, stain resistant cloth seats, rear split 65/35 folding seat, information center, overhead console, load and go slide out rear floor, compact spare tire, fog lights and power heated fold away mirrors.

Gas Stats:

$2.69/ Gal avg. Feb. 27, ‘07

www.fueleconomy.gov for more information.

18 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $22,635.

2007 Dodge Caliber R/T FWD (619)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2007 Dodge Caliber R/T Front Wheel Drive SUV.

Yet another sport utility. Do you think these guys know something they’re not telling us? Is there something about $4 buck a gallon gasoline they don’t understand? Did someone just find an oil reserve that will eliminate the need for middle east oil? Why else would we play into the hands of those bent on our destruction?

“Suppose you were an idiot; and suppose you were a congressman; but then I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain.

You gotta just love that man who recognized at the turn of the 20th century what is still true today as we forge forward into the 21st century.

Anyway, Chrysler has (along with all manufacturers in the auto industry) at least improved the fuel economy of cars and trucks like this SUV “looking” vehicle. Powered by a 2.4 liter I 4-cylinder engine will get 26 highway mpg but you can push that up to 32 mpg highway if you opt for the 1.8 liter inline 4-cylinder.

Public Service Reminder:

Keep the traffic flow moving by slowing down to no more than what the general speed flow is. If everyone is traveling at 50 mph in heavy traffic and you insist on doing 75 you not only get there no sooner, you will be a hazard to everyone on the road. At the very least you will cause a ripple effect when forced to brake down to the average speed of those around you. That will bring everyone far behind to a screeching halt to avoid collisions if they’re lucky. Guess what? It will have been your fault. Keep the pace and be safe in consideration of all who must share the road with you.

Handling & Performance:

Quite a nice comfy ride. You won’t break any speed records but you will go 0-60 mph in just under 10 seconds. Compared to a Corvette Z06 that does 0-60 in under 4 seconds I guess it seems slow. But for every ass there’s a seat, I’ve heard it said, and these two cars have nothing else in common either. The Vette was just used as a reference point of perhaps the fastest production car on the highway today.

Styling:

I like the styling, but it would have been nice to include a roof rack as standard equipment considering the limited cargo space inside. Seating is provided for 5 people and I’m sure that will be a buying consideration for larger families.

Interestingly enough this Caliber comes with a large speaker system in the rear tail gate that swings down with the gate open so you can have music at “Tailgate” parties or anywhere radio broadcasting, CD music etc may be wanted at outside venues.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

Actually pretty competitive and when I drive economy cars it never ceases to amaze me that manufacturers can build a piece of machinery as cheaply as they do.

Conveniences and comfort:

Overall this is a well thought out interior with very convenient storage cubby holes with today’s drivers in mind. What a novel idea – considering what the consumer may want. Sometime you’ve got to wonder if they really think about how the product will be used.

Consumer Recommendation:

This is a passenger car we used to call a station wagon. I know it looks like an SUV but it isn’t in the true sense of our perception of the 4-wheel drive, tow a boat, go off the road and basically indestructible. If you really will need to tow a boat, the 1,000 pound rating isn’t likely enough.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Caliber $14-19,000, Ford Focus $13-18,000, Scion xB $14,000, Chevrolet HHR $15-16,000, Mazda 3 $14-19,000, Subaru Impreza Wagon $18-27,000, Toyota Matrix $15-19,000, Scion xB $14,030, Chrysler PT Cruiser $14-29,000, Volkswagen Golf $16-20,000, Suzuki Aerio SX $14-17,000, Kia Rio 5 $13,700, Pontiac Vibe $16,630.

Good News:

Well priced, decent fuel economy and comfortable.

Bad News:

No roof rack.

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter 172 horsepower inline 4-cylinder engine, continuously variable transaxle transmission, dual air bags, solar glass, 4-wheel ABS disc brake system, rear window defroster, rear fold flat seat, 60/40 split reclinine seat, theft deterrent system, intermittent front wipers, rear window wiper/ washer,  sliding sun visors w/mirrors.

Gas Stats:

$2.60/ Gal avg.

23 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $17,475.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright © 2006 – An Automotive Love Affair

2006 Dodge Sprinter 2500 SHC (Super High Passenger Van) (601)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2006 Dodge Sprinter 2500 SHC (Super High Passenger Van) perhaps for the first time for most of us.  Ok, so it’s not the prettiest debutant at the ball, but it does serve a purpose… I think.

I’m at the airport dropping a friend and a ‘Sky Cap’ says “Is that your van?”. Now what, I thought. Is he going to call a cop. My mind races, am I parked poorly – illegally? Did I run over someone and didn’t hear the thud? Yessss, it is! “Oh”, says the ‘Sky Cap’,  “how much do they cost?” I told him and we chatted for a while about its capacity of 10 people and then I got in and remembered the automated message indelibly etched on my brain “the white zone is for passengers only – NO parking”.

Public Service:  Ever notice the signs on the back of public service vehicles something like “Thank you for Driving Safely”? If I could reply with I sign on my car to them it would say “Thanks for keeping debris off our highways”. But we pay them to do that, you say. And of course the Highway Patrol is there to make sure debris is indeed removed. I thought of that because we see more and more of it on the highways. If you’ve ever been to Germany or Singapore you’ll notice the absence of junk on the roads. I’m embarrassed for us as a society especially when I see avoidable stuff on the road sides.

Richard says there is only public and private and government should stay out of our private lives and we should respect public rights. I think most would agree our fellow citizens can litter their homes but don’t throw crap in my yard which extends to our parks and highways.

According to Caltrans in California you can report litter that needs removal on line via Caltrans’ Roadside blight litter reporting system.  http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/rdside_blight/index.shtml . However if you observe the jerk doing the littering you can report that to the CHP at  818-240-8200. By the way, if you are wondering whether you should or not – wonder no more. If someone tossed that stuff in your front yard you’d be mad as hell. Well… would you do it? Probably not because most people are considerate while a few have a blatant disrespect of others.

Handling & Performance:

Well, a six foot person can stand tall in this Sprinter as he finds his seat. You get the picture… this is not a vehicle in which you’ll want to take the corners too fast. And you’ll want to pick your parking areas and pathways carefully. This thing is so tall I felt like ducking when I drove under a freeway overpass.

It is however quite spry off the line from the Turbo Diesel. It is really quick. It is only 2.7 liters but the turbo helps it to leave many in its dust.

Styling:

Now this is what I call “Coyote ugly”. I found the entry and exit to be difficult for all. There is no step low enough for easy access particularly for both old and young.

Fit and Finish:

Rattles a bit but it is assembled well as you’d expect from a Mercedes-Benz company.

Cost:

No exact competition but reasonably priced for a commercial use vehicle.

Conveniences:

It doesn’t have more than the basics equipment except for the air conditioning which is pretty impressive, but then with ten people you need that to be good. We had a large group for a birthday dinner celebration and it was nice not having to take more than one vehicle.

Consumer Recommendation:

Applications: Company Van Pooling/ shuttle; small school bus; summer transportation van. But most likely it will find a home where there is a commercial need. Race Tech company tells me they bought this (Mercedes truck knock-off) for uses a Box Van wasn’t as well adapted to. They take race bikes, etc. to testing sites and built out for their needs gave it a more solid and quiet ride. Another major reason for buying the Sprinter was that it gets 28 mpg where alternate van types get only 10-11 mpg. “It is also more car like to drive.” “We particularly like the rear door opening that allows for doors to swing completely around and lock on the sides.” Mike says it is a Mercedes with a Dodge nameplate.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Sprinter $30-36,000, Ford E-Series Wagon $25-32,000, Chevrolet Express $24-29,000, GMC Savana $24-29,000.

However, this is truly a special purpose vehicle and there really isn’t any close competition especially when it comes to that much headroom.

Good News:

Thoughtful seat belt reminder that wasn’t annoying as so many are. It begins as a slow ding that gradually increases. Good fuel economy. ESP system for stability. 26 gal fuel tank for long range travel between stops.

Bad News:

High step up into the cabin, difficult parking, buffeting in the wind and it could be quieter.

Standard Equipment:

2.7 liter inline 5 cylinder turbo diesel engine, 5 speed auto trans, dual airbags, traction control, 4-wheel ABS brakes, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), power rack and pinion steering, front and rear stabilizer bars, hydraulic jack and tool kit, rear window defroster, 26 gallon fuel tank, climate control, stereo with cassette player, 10 passenger seating, rubber floor coverings.

Gas Stats:

City and  Highway MPG not published but ‘in-use’ experience was about 28 mpg.

Pricing:

MSRP $33,111.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

Copyright © 2006 – An Automotive Love Affair

2006 Dodge Magnum R/T AWD (600)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2006 Dodge Magnum R/T AWD. My test model was black and although I love black it has two drawbacks – it shows the dirt quickly and it gets hotter than Hades in the summer months. The Hemi is cool and ooo’s and ahh’s are heard when people learn it’s a Hemi. Just goes to show you we all have a need for speed.

I felt the steering was a little lose for my taste and the suspension needs tuning to get the swing and sway out of the ride. It reminded me of either a small boat in high seas or more appropriately the floating sensation of the old 1950s vintage Buick Roadmaster us kids used to refer to as “Road Hogs”.

Public Service:  The Diamond Lane Experience –I don’t know about you but I’m reluctant to drive in the diamond lane. I have 300 good reasons not to use it. How about you? The sign should read “Use at your own Risk”. The minimum fine is now well over $300 and that is cruel and unusual punishment. OK, on caveat is that if you get caught with no passengers you deserve the ticket. What bothers me is that the Robocop’s and Judges are a tag team with a license to steal. Assume you’re approaching your off ramp and need to get out and Cal Trans in all their wisdom has not provided a break as a way out. Should you be forced to travel several miles to turn around? I … don’t …  think …   so Charlie Brown. But just go ahead and try it and be prepared to fork over $300 plus bucks because that proud man in blue or brown isn’t paid to think. The judge in my case wasn’t buying any excuse and tossed the paperwork to the clerk and routinely said, “Guilty, bail to apply”. I wrote a letter to that judge and one of the nice things I said was “does your mother know what you do for a living?”.

Handling & Performance:

GM employs a turbine at the back of the engine to transmit power from engine to transmission. Then it locks it via a clutch that when engaged eliminates slip between the torque converter’s input and output, thereby improving fuel efficiency and performance. There is no free lunch, however, so the torque increase is achieved at the expense of rpm and efficiency.

The Auto-stick shift can be viewed as a gimmick but it is convenient to select the gear that fits the situation, as in mountain driving. Remember the old days when GM (for one) provided an “S” (super) gear setting for mountain driving. Auto-stick allows you to take control to select all gears available and that is nice.

Styling:

I love the instrument cluster because I think the white background on the instruments is not only classy but easy to read as well.

I’m not real crazy about the “Low Rider” gang banger look however. I much prefer the Chrysler 300 M for nice styling in a very similar vehicle.

Fit and Finish:

Very good as are all the Dodge and Chrysler automobiles these past several years.

Cost:

Very competitive.  

Conveniences:

Pretty usual.  

Consumer Recommendation:

You’ll need to test drive them all. It is in the top few of the listed competition not withstanding the low rider design. My preference however, in order of interest, is the SRX, Volvo and then the Magnum. I’ve owned 8 Cadillac’s and loved ‘em all. I love Chrysler cars like never before but couldn’t own the Magnum.  

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Magnum R/T $23-37,000, Volvo V70 $30-40,000, Volvo XC 70 $36,135, Cadillac SRX $36-44,000, Buick Rendezvous $24-28,000, Subaru Outback $19-36,000, Subaru Legacy Wagon $23-31,000, Nissan Murano $28-32,000.
Good News:

Powerful Hemi, AWD (all wheel drive) handling, fair fuel economy for a large sedan like special purpose vehicle.

Bad News:

Low rider styling.

Standard Equipment:

5.7 liter 340 hp V8 Hemi engine, 5-speed auto transmission with lock up torque converter, dual air bags, ESP Electronic Stability Program, traction control, power assist anti-lock 4-wheel disc brakes, auto-stick shift, power rack and pinion steering, touring suspension, front and rear solar control glass, rear window defroster, variable intermittent wipers, rear window wiper washer, rear door child safety locks, air conditioning, tilt and telescopic steering column, leather wrapped wheel, power windows and speed sensitive door locks, cruise control, 8-way power seat, keyless entry, front and rear courtesy lights, fog lights, power heated fold away mirrors, lift gate lights, sunscreen glass, 18 inch aluminum wheels.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 24 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $32,345.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2005 – An Automotive Love Affair

2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie Mega Cab 2 WD Pickup (596)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie Mega Cab dualee (dual rear wheels) short bed pick up truck. Wow. This is one big truck and the Dual Rear Wheel configuration is awesome, albeit a pain to maneuver. For example when you parallel park the rear wheels opposite the curb side (touching the curb) will extend out into the street beyond the standard painted markers by the entire two wheels. I own one and on the ranch it is just as troublesome as on city highways. Really, it doesn’t fit between trees comfortably because even off-road most roads don’t take a wide ass truck into consideration.

The Mega Cab configuration is pretty impressive too. You could seat three NFL linemen in the rear seat suited up for the big game, or the entire cheer leader squad. What’s really nice is the rear area is so large it also allows for a cargo area behind the rear seat. You can tote a foursome and all their golf clubs stowed behind the rear seat and still have room for at least one caddie.

One negative is the small box on the back when you opt for the Mega Cab. But everyone has their own needs and carrying folks in comfort may be more important than a large pick up bed. This is a perfect choice to haul that 5th wheel and the entire family and friends on holiday.

Public Service: this is a reminder to use your cruise control if your car has it. This is surely the greatest tool for improving highway traffic flow. Accelerating and decelerating with the touch of a button makes changes less abrupt and thus keeps the flow smooth for everyone. Rapid changes of speed are the most significant cause of accidents and backups on the highway. The ripple effect of erratic driving of someone up front affects virtually everyone behind. It benefits everyone by helping them get where they’re going with less stress. If your car doesn’t have cruise control, simply try to keep with the average flow of traffic and maintain that speed. Ok, you say, “what about the idiot who weaves in and out at 10-20 mph faster than the flow”? Ignore them and you can be sure the highway patrol WON’T.

Handling & Performance:

Lots of power from the Cummins Diesel. I have about 250,000 miles on my Cummins powered Dodge Ram 3500 dual wheel truck. It’s an extended cab with small doors and a large box. Great for hauling a ton of hay or a couple of cords of wood. Mine is a 4 X 4 and this test vehicle is a rear wheel drive only – 4X2. Great for the 5th wheel but I would need the 4 wheel drive where I need to take mine.

Styling:

Dodge has always been tops in displaying its tough and rugged exterior. The interior of this one borders on being overly elegant. Thus another reason why this is suited more to the highway and clean travel than a horse or cattle ranch. It would be a shame to muddy up the beautiful interior with its great looking wood grain trim or muck up the great carpet and leather seats.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent even for a luxury passenger car.

Cost:

Ok, they got ya here. Yes it’s pretty but I’m beginning to wonder if anyone uses a truck for what it was designed for… Work.

Conveniences:

I don’t know if the seat belt and “door open” reminders are a convenience or a constant pain in the ass. Really, if I can buy and drive this truck I’m smart enough to put the seat belts on when I hit the road. In any case a gentle reminder is all I care to hear. Otherwise it’s like a nagging spouse of either gender. It makes me want to pull out the old 44 and blast the damn thing.

The fold flat rear seats are too cool. In one easy motion you tilt the seats forward and flat. And it is really nice to have heated front seats on those cold mornings.  

Consumer Recommendation:

Perfect for those urban cowboys. But don’t take it to the office or it may not fit into your assigned parking space.

Recognized Competition:

Dodge Ram 3500 $27-48,000, Ford F-350 Super Duty $23-40,000, GMC Sierra 3500 $26-38,000, Chevrolet Silverado 3500 $26-38,000.


Good News:

Powerful enough to haul a house and if it can’t nothing will. Mega cab comfort for the kids on a long trip to the mountains, river, or the ocean.  

Bad News:

Burns a lot of fuel and with a 34 gallon tank consider a fill up is $120.00 at the current (May 2006) price of Diesel.

Standard Equipment:

5.9 liter inline 6 cylinder 325 hp Cummins Turbo intercooled Diesel engine, 4-speed auto trans, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, power rack and pinion steering, front stabilizer bar, HD shocks, Sentry Key theft deterrent system with remote keyless entry, intermittent wipers, rear power sliding window, power adjustable pedals, dual zone climate control, 6-way power front seats, 60/40 split bench rear seats, heated front seats, Sirius satellite digital radio, Stereo with 6-in dash CD/MP3 player, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, power windows and locks, visors with lighted mirrors, overhead console with trip computer, power heated fold away mirrors, class IV hitch receiver, full size spare and cargo light.

Options on test vehicle: Crystal pearl coat paint, leather bucked seats, Laramie package to add side air bags, anti-spin differential axle, fold away power trailer tow mirrors, power sunroof, navigation system, dual rear wheels and tow hooks for $5,715 or a total sticker price of $51,320 including destination charge.

Gas Stats:

? City and ? Highway MPG
It bothers me when a vehicle doesn’t give EPA stats. Anyway, my overall mileage was between 15 and 17 mpg.

Pricing:

MSRP $44,705.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2006 – An Automotive Love Affair