Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dodge: What's coming in 2009 - - and beyond

Dodge introduces the full Challenger lineup

AVENGER: The Avenger gets a new "acoustics package" designed to reduce cabin noise. New standard equipment includes floor mats and a cabin air filtration system, while SXT and R/T models get a leather-wrapped steering wheel with stereo controls, fog lights, and antilock brakes.

CALIBER: The Dodge boys have added insulation to the engine bay and floors and retuned the exhaust in an effort to give the Caliber a quieter ride. Uconnect Tunes (hard-drive-based music server) and

Uconnect GPS (navigation) are now offered as options, and SXT models get antilock brakes as standard. The hot-rod SRT4 gets SIRIUS satellite radio, Uconnect Tunes, and a performance computer as standard, and leather-trimmed seats are now optional.CHALLENGER: The big-daddy Challenger SRT8 made its debut in 2008; the rest of the Challenger lineup follows for 2009. The entry-level Challenger SE is powered by a 250 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 with a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the Challenger R/T gets a 5.7 liter HEMI V8 and choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic. Meanwhile, the 6.1 liter 425 hp Challenger SRT8 adds a 6-speed manual option to go with its 5-speed automatic. SRT8 models get black hood stripes, red-trimmed seats, and two new colors, High Performance Red and B5 Blue.

CHARGER: SE models get upgraded interior trim, nicer floor mats, and aluminum wheels; R/T models get an improved 5.7 liter HEMI V8 that produces more power and torque than last year's 5.7. The optional all-wheel-drive system has a new center differential that can disconnect the front axle, improving fuel economy. SRT8 models get more standard equipment and improved fuel economy, which lowers the car's gas-guzzler tax. A new limited-edition SRT8 Super Bee Buzz Model features Hemi Orange paint, orange-accented seats, and a serialized dash plaque.

DAKOTA: The SXT model has been replaced by the Big Horn and Lone Star models; SLT, Sport and TRX 4x2 versions have been dropped.

DURANGO: Now available with Chrysler's Two-Mode hybrid system, which improves the EPA city fuel economy estimate by about 40%. The Uconnect Tunes system now has a 30-gig hard drive, and the rear-seat entertainment system includes SIRIUS Streaming Video.

GRAND CARAVAN: The entry-level SE gets more standard equipment, including Stow 'n Go seats, stain-resistant seat fabric, power second-row windows, cruise control, and floor mats; the upper-level SXT gains a roof rack with cross rails. New options include a blind spot warning system and the Rear Cross Path System, which warns of oncoming traffic when the Grand Caravan is in reverse. The brake system has been updated for better performance with less noise, and the optional 4.0 liter V6 gets better fuel economy than last year. A new Grand Caravan Cargo model is aimed at commercial customers.

JOURNEY: Dodge's new crossover aims to marry the road manners of a car, the functionality of a minivan, and the all-weather confidence of an SUV. In terms of interior storage, it's a smuggler's dream car; it has more hidden cargo bays than the Millennium Falcon. The Journey shares its platform and engines with the Dodge Avenger sedan; power choices are a 2.4 liter four-cylinder or a 3.5 liter V6, the latter with optional all-wheel-drive.

NITRO: A manual transmission is no longer available, and the suspension, steering and brake systems have been retuned for improved handling and road feel. Floor mats, a rear dome light and an auto-unlocking feature are now standard, and SLT and R/T models get express-down front power windows.

RAM 1500: The RAM 1500 is all new for 2009. Though it keeps the same basic styling theme, the grille is canted forward for a more aggressive look and the whole cab has been reshaped for better aerodynamics. Up front, you'll find the recently-updated 5.7 liter HEMI V8 (other choices include a 3.7 liter V6 and 4.7 liter V8); out back you'll see a coil-spring rear suspension that promises much steadier handling with an improved ride; and inside you'll find the best interior to appear on any Chrysler Corporation product in years. Other innovations include lockable storage right in the bed sidewalls as well as a proper four-door crew cab. Still no official word on whether Dodge will offer the RAM 1500 with a small diesel engine.

RAM 2500/3500: The brakes have been upgraded with larger rotors and twin-piston calipers. The 5.7 liter HEMI V8 has been retuned for more power, and RAM 2500s with this engine now come exclusively with an automatic transmission. The RAM 3500 pickup gets the 6.7 liter Cummins diesel engine and a limited-slip rear differential as standard.

SPRINTER: The Sprinter's short dalliance with gasoline power has ended; 2009 Sprinters come exclusively with a 3-liter turbodiesel. The Mercedes-sourced van gets an MP3-capable stereo, optional electrically-powered sliding doors, and a host of other features designed to increase flexibility for commercial customers.

VIPER SRT10: Dodge's 600 horsepower super-snake gets a modified steel frame, revised fuel tank and filler, four new colors and new optional six-spoke forged aluminum wheels.


RAM 2500/3500: Dodge has made no official announcements about the 2500 and 3500 versions of the RAM pickup, but it's safe to assume that they'll follow the 2009 RAM 1500 by a year or two.

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