Quickies: What Else Was New?

2015 Ram 1500 w/EcoDiesel
2015 Ram 1500 w/EcoDiesel – All Photos Courtesy of Chrysler Group LLC

What else is new at Chrysler?

Other than the Chrysler 200, Jeep Renegade, Ram ProMaster City, Alfa Romeo 4C, Dodge Challenger and Charger, everything else is simply gravy. You could say "carry over," but why? Fiat and Chrysler will offer some new variants, options and other details across the lines. It was part of the program attended back in June at their Chelsea Proving Grounds.

This event gave me an opportunity not only to drive the new 4C and the Fiat 500 Abarth with the new automatic transmission; it was a chance to catch up on other products that have not been covered on here. Some may be redundant, while others may be of interest based on prior material. Some might even surprise you.

RAM 1500 ECODIESEL: Having driven the new VM Motori 3.0liter V6 turbocharged diesel in the Grand Cherokee in May, I was curious how this engine would do in its most important application. Ram returned the diesel back to half-ton pickups for 2014. It was termed a success.

Driving it is almost like driving the HEMI – emphasize the word "almost." What is has is off-line thrust, maintained performance and speed, smooth delivery with no turbo lag and just plain grunt. Keep in mind that this is not the HEMI. Nor, this is not the 5.9liter Cummins in the Heavy Duty Rams. But, this is one damn good engine and matches up well with the Ram 1500.

The test of this is to put a load on it. Unfortunately, I did not have a load to put in the bed, or something to tow. However, it certainly matches up well even on an empty bed. This might not satisfy the doubters who want to see the EcoDiesel under load, but how often do you tow or load up the bed?

Ram has one of the best propositions in the business with the EcoDiesel as leverage. I believe consumers will hopefully agree with this summation. If not…well, that is for another discussion.

2015 Ram ProMaster
2015 Ram ProMaster

RAM PROMASTER: Having been at the unveiling at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, never having driven one sparked partial curiosity about the repurposed Fiat Ducato for the North American market. What prompted the drive of the ProMaster on the Proving Grounds’ inner ring was a previous event with the Ford Transit. With the opportunity to drive a 1500 model with the Pentastar V6, I had to see if the Ram is as good as the Transit.

In some cases – the short answer is "yes." Drivers will appreciate the cab forward position of the ProMaster in comparison to the Transit’s set-back cab design. They will also appreciate the more business-like dashboard of the Ram in comparison to the Kinetic interior design of the Ford. The key to operator efficiency is a cab that is livable and workable – the Ram may have done this one better.

Pentastar power is very good, but it appears that you could only fuel up with regular gas, rather than alternative fuels. Yet, the ease of steering operation will be an advantage for a fleet, small business or non-profit owner when comparing it to the Transit. While Ford offers 58 different configurations for the Transit, Ram offers only 13 configurations with two engine options. The Ram is only offered in front-wheel drive, which in essence actually works in the ProMaster in terms of cargo space and utilization and vehicle handling.

It is tough to make a decision between the ProMaster and the Transit. Both have exceptional qualities, but the Ram might make things easier for drivers and owners alike. The comparisons may go on, but somehow, the Ram seemed to delight me even more.

2015 Chrysler Town & Country
2015 Chrysler Town & Country

CHRYSLER TOWN & COUNTRY: I like Al Gardner. We had a good change to chat on a couple of occasions. I like his energy and humor as he fulfills his role as Chrysler brand CEO.

It was after a chat and a few laughs that I climbed in the 2015 Chrysler Town & Country Limited. Having reviewed the Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Blacktop last year, I found myself a bit more comfortable behind the wheel of the T&C. If it is not the leather, but the overall luxury feel that we expect from a T&C. You can also count on all of the innovations this generation of minivan has to offer – on the top of the list being the Stow 'N Go seating.

There is a reason for driving the T&C. By 2016, there will only be one minivan left at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. It will be under Gardner’s watch that the new minivan will emerge. While some will lament the passing of the Grand Caravan and the "Man Van," I believe those consumers will warm up to the S package on the current model and hope that the next minivan will have a wide range of environments equaling to what is currently offered between the two brands.

The T&C is a good minivan. It is a familiar old shoe that provides comfy transport for families, friends and strangers. It is tried and true – the way the T&C should be.

2015 Dodge Durango R/T w/Blacktop Package
2015 Dodge Durango R/T w/Blacktop Package

SERIOUSLY, WHAT IS NEW FOR 2014?t us get one thing out of the way: There are some changes outside of what has been announced before now. For one, you can now get a Dodge Durango in the Blacktop package. If you love the aggressiveness of this package on other Dodges, the Durango is a good fit. This package is available on the SXT, Limited and R/T. You can also get the Rallye Appearance Package in the Limited. Add a Beats by Dr. Dre speaker system, and you can rock your many packs of gum by just showing up in the Durango.

Chrysler is also touting a stop-start system on varying new models – including late production Chrysler 200s and the Jeep Cherokee. Though some of accomplished this rudimentarily, I would hope Chrysler’s system is unobtrusive, efficient and smart.

If you were wondering about the Viper, it is now a Dodge. Aside from that, there is a new GT model that offers the luxury of the GTS with a bit less content. Believe it or not, the Stryker Purple GT on display was the first chance I ever got to sit in a Viper. I had headroom, but it was a bit tight for me. Let us not forget there is a wide sill with an exhaust finial within a foot's distance…

With new products, such as the Jeep Renegade, Alfa Romeo 4C, Chrysler 200, Ram ProMaster City, the revised Dodge Charger and Challenger leading the way in Chrysler and Fiat showrooms across North America, rest assured there will be excitement towards the next step in integration of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. If you read V&R regularly, you probably know there has always been a lot of confidence in CEO Sergio Marchionne and his teams worldwide.

Trust me – there is still much more to come…

DISCLAIMER: Vehicles, travel and event logistics provided by Chrysler Group, LLC.

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