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A whole new Dodge

Posted by: Mark Bilek

I'll understand if you feel a little lost when you visit the Dodge display at the Chicago Auto Show this coming February. Though the nameplates haven't changed, just about everything else has, starting with a re-definition of the brand.

To begin with, gone are trucks. Last year, Chrysler--under the guidance of Fiat---split off the popular pickups into the Ram brand. Curious at first, this move allowed Dodge to better position itself in the marketplace. Dodge is now the maker of sporty and affordable cars and crossover SUVs. This move makes even more sense when you consider that most Chrysler Corporation dealerships sell all four brands, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram.

2011 Dodge Charger and Durango at CATA HQ
2011 Dodge Charger and Durango at CATA HQ

Next up is an unprecedented onslaught of new product. Dodge has six, count 'em, six new or heavily face lifted models for 2011--Avenger, Charger, Challenger, Durango, Grand Caravan and Journey.

Ralph V. Gilles, president and CEOof the new Dodge brand, waxed enthusiastic about the revitalized lineup at CATA HQ this morning, and the proof was in the pudding.' Ralph and Chrysler PR rep Wendy Orthman had lined up all six new models for journalists to sample. And sample we did.

The most striking commonality between the six is a focus on creating world-class interiors. Almost all vehicles now feature a striking 8.4-inch display screen that rivals an iPad for beauty of display and ease of use. But more subtly, each new interior is wrapped in high-quality soft touch materials that are consciously a class above the competition. Gilles hopes Dodge will attract buyers in much the same way the VW and Audi leapfrogged the competition with world-class interiors a half-decade ago. Furthering that goal, Dodge makes almost all of these 2011 interior upgrades standard on every model, including entry-level cars.

But there's plenty of news under the skin as well. That starts with the Pentastar V6. The new engine displaces 3.6-liters and makes 283 horsepower in most applications. It's mated to an all-new six-speed automatic transmission. Together Dodge believes the two will set new standards for power delivery and efficiency.

I'll detail all of the changes coming to each 2011 Dodge model in blog posts over the next couple of days. Suffice to say, I was impressed with what Ralph had to say and even more impressed with the way he said it. It seems that for the first time in a long while Dodge has a clear direction and a leader that's willing to take the risks to get there.

Dodge President and CEO Ralph Gilles presents the new Dodge Lineup
Dodge President and CEO Ralph Gilles presents the new Dodge Lineup
Dodge CATA Journey
The 2011 Dodge Journey
 

 

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