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Daimler Reject Chrysler Launches Dodge Nitro In Europe
Chrysler New Product Onslaught Includes Sebring, Jeep Patriot
“the Nitro looks like a cross between a 1930s armoured vehicle which delivered cash to banks in gangster movies, and a modern military transport. It looks as though it won’t be messed with”
German luxury car maker Daimler has finally shaken itself free from its Chrysler subsidiary after the U.S. company made huge losses because its oversized, gas guzzling vehicles were rejected by the American public.
It comes as something of a surprise then to find that Chrysler does produce many smaller, handsome vehicles, which are set to storm European markets.
Chrysler has had a big success in Europe with its iconic 300C, and although it is certainly not small, the originality of its looks still turns heads 2 years after its introduction.
Chrysler has two other brands Jeep and Dodge. Jeep produces big Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) and People Carriers. In the U.S., Dodge makes pickup trucks like the Ram, and smaller more downmarket cars and SUVs. Dodge has already introduced the Caliber into Europe a compact SUV which takes up about the same road space as a Volkswagen Golf and which stands out from the crowd because of its edgy looks and low prices.
Dodge is about to unveil another moody looking SUV, the Nitro, which is based on the same engineering as the Jeep Liberty. The Nitro has in-yer-face looks which will not please everybody, but will certainly attract car buyers who like to be noticed. With its high, flat bonnet, and outrageous flared wheel arches, the Nitro looks like a cross between a 1930s armoured vehicle which delivered cash to banks in gangster movies, and a modern military transport. It looks as though it won’t be messed with.
Looks, prices, loaded
Dodge will offer a choice of one petrol and one diesel engine together with four-wheel drive on the Nitro. The all-new 2.8-litre common-rail turbo diesel engine has four-cylinders, and a six-speed manual transmission or five-speed automatic. Maximum power is 174 bhp with a claimed fuel economy of 30.1 mpg (9.1 l/kms). The 3.7-litre 203 bhp V-6 petrol engine is only available with an automatic gearbox. Not surprisingly, fuel consumption is a dire 23.3 mpg (12.1 l/kms)
Prices for the diesel start at £18,995 (28,150 euros), and the petrol automatic costs £23,490 (35,000 euros). The diesel engine was powerful and surprisingly smooth for a big four-cylinder. On the highways the engine performs well, cruising at legal speeds with quietness and ease, while there’s plenty of acceleration. Torque 460 Nm at 2,000 rpm with the automatic transmission will tug your horsebox with ease.
More Blair than Brown
The interiors are practical, trendy and roomy, with a reversible and removable rear cargo floor. The top layer slides out to reveal a four-inch deep storage bin beneath the lid. On the top-of-the- range Nitro, the Load ‘N’ Go cargo floor slides out with the rear tailgate open by 18 inches (457 mm) for easy, convenient loading and can support up to 181 kg (400 lb). There is masses of room with the seats folded. The seats are designed to allow easy cleaning. Cubbies are everywhere.
There are two trim levels SE and SXT. The SXT, with bigger wheels, front fog lamps, and body colour mouldings doesn’t add very much because the SE level gives a plethora of goodies including air conditioning, six speakers and AM/FM MP3 radio.
Prices for the Jeep Patriot 2.0 litre manual start at £15,995-€23,700. The 2.0 litre diesel manual costs £16,995-€25,200. The Patriot is also very well equipped, and although it doesn’t have high-tech 4x4 features, it drove up and down Welsh mountains near Bala with ease and aplomb.
I drove the 2.0 litre diesel, (the engine is supplied by VW), and it did everything you’d expect with plenty of torque when required and smooth, quiet cruising. It was a tad noisy.
The Sebring is very well equipped, but the interior is awful. In the model I drove, the doors and facia were decorated with faux wood which looked like a leopard skin design. They liked it so much, the motif was coordinated with the wood rimmed steering wheel.
Woolly steering, lumpy ride
All Sebrings have “Limited” trim and are loaded with goodies including ESP, fog lamps, automatic headlamps, leather trimmed seats, powered driver’s seat, tinted glass, air conditioning, and power boot release.
Chrysler says prices are 10 per cent below the competition. I don’t think that will be enough. Even the cup holder which either heats or cools your drink (you just know it’s going to heat your cold drinks and freeze your coffee) won’t lure the punters.
Chrysler sold 109,920 vehicles in Europe in 2006, and expects to double this by 2009. Eastern Europe will be a big target market, with Russia a priority, and press reports suggest the company may set up a factory there. Chrysler expects to do well in the East because its vehicles are rugged, cheap, and attractive, with powerful brand names, if often lacking the sophistication and quality of mainstream European cars.
Divorced by September
Neil Winton July 10, 2007
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