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  • 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Platinum

    Minivan is the go-to car for active lifestyles

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    Minivans are ideal vehicles for outdoor enthusiasts for the same reasons they appeal to young families: large, configurable interiors hold everything from soup-to-nuts. Chrysler- the automaker that invented the minivan in the early 1980s- continues to lead the way in features that make these vehicles the perfect base camp.

    Chrysler’s newest minivan family- the Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid- meld cargo versatility with sexy exterior design and, for the first time, a green option.

    Combining a 3.6-liter V-6 engine with an electric motor, the Pacifica Hybrid can travel up to 33 miles in pure electric mode. Total range is 556-miles, according-to the automaker. The idea is to give owners enough range to operate in pure-electric mode during the weekly 9-5, without the range limitations of electric vehicles.

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    Engineers modified Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 engine to Atkinson cycle, keeping the intake valves open longer during the engine’s four-stroke cycle for better fuel efficiency. The battery pack recharges on 120-volt household current in about 14 hours, or two hours using a 240-volt plug-in.

    The upscale Platinum grade priced from $44,995 comes loaded with family-friendly convenience features including keyless entry and start, hands-free sliding side doors, hands-free liftgate, tri-zone climate control, Uconnect infotainment system with navigation, satellite and HD radio, Bluetooth interface and sliding second-row seats that make access to the third row easier.

    Third-row seats fold into the floor to extend the cargo bay. Because of the battery pack’s location under the second row, those seats do not fold into the floor as with the gasoline-powered Pacifica. They are, however, removable.

    Two option packages on the test car add blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, front and rear park assist, a surround-view monitor, parallel and perpendicular park assist, lane departure warning, automatic high beam lighting control that dims the lights when cars approach from the opposite direction, rain sensitive wipers, premium audio system, seatback video screens, a Blu-ray DVD player, headphones, 115-volt power outlet and tri-pane panoramic sunroof.

    Final MSRP including the $1095 destination charge is $47,885. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Chicago Auto Show

    Nation’s largest consumer show expands family-friendly activities

    By Nina Russin

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Nissan Midnight Edition

    Those of us inside the car industry tend to forget the role consumers play in an auto show. In addition to new product introductions, these events are a rare opportunity for those outside the bubble to get up close and personal with cars they are thinking of buying. The driving public is the meat and potatoes of the Chicago Show, held each February at the McCormick Place convention center. In terms of attendance, it is the largest auto show in the United States.

    This year’s show features fun for all members of the family, including those too young to drive: a Lego Batmobile at the Chevrolet booth plus scale replicas of the Y-Wing Starfighter, X-Wing Starfighter, TIE Striker and AT-ACT, all displayed under the Death Star in Nissan’s special Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition Display appeal to the kid in all of us.

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Nissan Rogue One Star Wars Display

    Those of driving age can get behind the wheel and have some fun at the show’s five indoor test tracks.

    Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz include test tracks as part of their displays: an appeal to millennials who value experience over the written word. Mercedes-Benz’s Iron Schockl is a 45-degree grade, demonstrating the outstanding climbing ability of the G-Class, while Camp Jeep brings off-roading indoors with rock crawls, steep inclines and sandy surfaces. A Ram proving ground includes six stations that demonstrate the trucks’ work capabilities while Toyota enthusiasts can test drive the new RAV4 and Highlander midsize crossover. Read the rest of this entry »

  • First Drive: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    Plug-in hybrid technology gives minivan a green footprint

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    The all-new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the first production minivan with a plug-in gasoline/electric powertrain: one of a bumper crop of family-oriented hybrids entering the market. While their first inroads were in the compact segment, hybrids make a lot of sense for busy, value-conscious families.

    The plug-in feature in the new Pacifica gives owners up to 30 miles per charge on electric power. That’s enough for the average commuter to get through a day, so owners rarely need to refill gasoline. Charging with the standard 115-volt plug takes about 14 hours, but those willing to invest in the optional 240-volt plug can fully recharge in two. A Uconnect phone app enables owners to schedule recharging during off-peak hours and remotely change charging times.

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    While the powertrain is based on its gasoline-powered sibling, there are significant differences between the two cars. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine was modified to Atkinson cycle with a higher compression ratio for greater efficiency.

    Despite its 11.3:1 compression, the engine runs on 87 octane gasoline. Chain drive eliminates expensive timing belt replacements after the warranty expires.

    The hybrid also has a new eFlite electronically variable transmission whose single clutch design enables both of the car’s electric motors to drive the wheels. The most noticeable difference to consumers is that unlike the nine-speed transmission in the gasoline car, the eFlite has no obvious shift points.

    Engineers located the 16 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack under the second-row seats. While the battery doesn’t reduce interior space, it does occupy the bucket space for Chrysler’s Stow ‘n Go system, so the seats in the hybrid are removable but not stowable.

    Buyers can choose between two grades, the Premium priced from $41,995 and upscale Platinum priced from $44,995. Pricing does not include $1,095 destination. Both models quality for a federal $7500 tax credit.

    The test car is the upscale Platinum grade that comes with a 13-speaker Alpine premium sound system, navigation, hands-free sliding doors and 18-inch rims, as well as an active safety package including collision warning, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree around-view camera, lane departure warning, parallel and perpendicular park assist. The car has one option: a tri-pane panoramic sunroof. Final MSRP is $47,885. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring

    Go-to family car reinvented

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica

    It’s no surprise the automaker that invented the minivan has introduced the most compelling new product in the segment. With the Dodge Grand Caravan discontinued, the all-new Pacifica becomes Chrysler’s only minivan offering. But it is more diverse, with a gasoline-powered version on sale now followed by a gasoline electric hybrid that rolls out later this summer.

    Exterior styling is more like a crossover, appealing to buyers turned off by the one-box minivan stigma. This idea isn’t unique to Chrysler: Kia took a similar approach with the current Sedona.

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica

    Chrysler’s ace-in-the-hole is family-friendly features including chicklets on sliding side doors making them easier for kids to open, and built-in vacuum cleaner. Proprietary Stow ‘n Go seating folds second-row seats into the floor to create a capacious cargo area. Second-row seats can also tilt forward without removing child safety seats for better third-row access.

    The Touring grade tested appeals to value-focused buyers with a base price of $30,495 excluding the $995 destination charge. An optional power liftgate brings the final MSRP to $31,985. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring

    New minivan appeals to active families

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica While they are arguably the most practical vehicles on the road, minivans have long carried the stigma of being soccer mom cars. Chrysler’s solution with the all-new 2017 Pacifica is a crossover-like exterior and versatile interior that’s pure minivan.

    Available in five grades priced from $28,595, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is a sexy-looking car with available seating for up to eight passengers, an expanded roster of active safety features and the newest version of the automaker’s Uconnect infotainment technology. A new hybrid model that gets up to 80 miles-per-gallon with 30-mile pure electric range is a segment first.

    2017 Chrysler Pacifica Power comes from a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission, delivering 22 mile-per-gallon average fuel economy. Engineers eighty-sixed the live rear axle from the Town & Country, replacing it with an independent setup that significantly improves ride comfort. The new car is about 300 pounds lighter, so while engine power remains the same, performance during acceleration and passing is improved.

    An updated Stow ‘n Go system enables owners to fold second and third-row seats into the floor to create a large cargo bay that can haul camping equipment, bicycles, kayaks, skis and snowboards. Available tri-pane panoramic sunroof makes the interior a bright and light space that will appeal to outdoor enthusiasts.

    Base price for the Touring model tested is $30,495 excluding the $995 destination charge. Optional eight passenger seating and a power liftgate bring the final MSRP to $33,275. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2016 Chrysler 300S

    Full-size sedan carries rich heritage into the future

    By Nina Russin

    2016 Chrysler 300S

    2016 Chrysler 300S

    Sixty years ago Chrysler took the wraps off the C-300: the first mass-produced car to pack 300 horsepower under the hood, outpacing the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford Thunderbird. Back then the 300 was a two-door car, but it seated more people than the two roadsters it competed against in the horsepower war. And it made the point that a family car could be a heck of a lot of fun.

    The newest 300-sedan is less muscle car and more family car, now that Dodge has become FCA’s dedicated performance brand. But the S model, equipped with an available 5.7-liter Hemi engine and eight-speed automatic transmission is no wallflower. A heritage egg crate grille and strong profile that harken back to the tailfin days.

    Twenty-inch wheels inside wide wheel arches and dramatic daytime running lamps give the car’s front end an animate quality. Dual exhausts sit under black LED tail lamps, punctuating the car’s back end.

    Base price for the test car is $35,470 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options include a panoramic sunroof, rear spoiler, GPS navigation, blind spot monitoring, Uconnect infotainment, performance-tuned suspension and tires, bringing the final MSRP to $42,855. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chrysler 300 Limited

    Flagship sedan is perfect for summer road trips

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chrysler 300

    2015 Chrysler 300

    It’s the Fourth of July weekend and my husband and I are loading up a 2015 Chrysler 300 Limited sedan for the trip between Phoenix, Arizona and Durango, Colorado. Over the next four days we will log over 1,000 miles, taking in low and high desert, mountains, hundred-plus degree temperatures and monsoonal rain. Elevation gain between Phoenix at 1,200 feet and Hesperus, Colorado, the highest point of the drive, is about 7,000 feet.

    The 300 is Chrysler’s flagship: a full-size sedan that goes head-to-head with the Toyota Avalon and Ford Taurus. Available with rear or all-wheel drive, it shares chassis components with the four-door Dodge Charger, but the car’s styling and performance are geared towards an upscale market versus the Charger’s sportier focus.

    Power for the test car comes from the same Pentastar V-6 engine used in the Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Challenger and Charger. While the Jeep engine is tuned for low-end torque the 300 block gets an extra dose of horsepower. An eight-speed rotary shift automatic transmission utilizes large overdrive gears to extend fuel economy to 31 mpg on the highway.

    Base price for the Limited model is $31,570 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include a convenience package that adds LED fog lights, rear backup camera, remote start and a universal garage door opener and a Uconnect option including navigation and HD radio, bringing the final MSRP to $35,255. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chrysler 200S

    Midsize sedan with a performance focus

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chrysler 200

    2015 Chrysler 200

    Midsize sedans are the workhorses of the passenger car world, not only because they comprise the largest volume of sales: they also serve a wide variety of purposes, from family cars to mobile offices. For 2015, Chrysler introduces an all-new version of its entry: the 200. The newest 200 continues the direction of the model it replaces, moving the brand’s midsize entry upscale from the former Sebring.

    Based on the Alfa Romeo Guilietta chassis which it shares with the Dodge Dart compact sedan, the new 200 comes with a choice of two engines, front or all-wheel drive. The brand’s new nine-speed automatic transmission stretches fuel economy to 32 mpg on the highway for the V-6 model tested.

    Pricing for the base model starts at $21,700 excluding the $995 destination charge. The test car is the front-wheel drive S model priced from $24,725. Options include leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic temperature control, remote start, a premium Harman audio system with navigation, Alpine speakers, high definition radio, Uconnect with 8.4-inch touch screen, high-intensity discharge headlamps with LED daytime running lamps and 19-inch hyper-black alloy wheels.

    The V-6 engine is an optional upgrade from the standard 184-horsepower inline four-cylinder block. The larger engine adds about $2000, bringing the final MSRP to $33,185. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chrysler 300

    Flagship sedan is the new face of Chrysler

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum

    2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum

    What once was old is new again. For 2015, Chrysler pays homage to the sedan that helped to launch the muscle car era with an all-new model geared towards active millennial buyers.

    The 1955 Chrysler 300 hardtop was the sweetheart of the NASCAR circuit, thanks to its 331 cubic inch Hemi engine that developed 300 horsepower. The 363-horsepower Hemi engine available on the all-new 2015 300 sedan accelerates from zero-to-sixty in less than six seconds as compared to 16.9 seconds for the ’55 model. Thanks to an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission it gets much better gas mileage as well: 25 mpg on the highway according to the EPA.

    The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine on the base model is no wallflower either, developing 292 horsepower and 260 foot-pounds of peak torque. The Pentastar engine is the brand’s soup-to-nuts V-6, found in everything from the base Challenger to the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. It’s a great block, balanced and durable, tuned in this case for the needs of the full-sized sedan.

    All-wheel drive is available as a $2500 option on all V-6 equipped models. Hemi V-8 cars are rear-wheel drive only. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Chrysler 200S

    Midsize sedan is stylish and value-packed

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Chrysler 200

    2015 Chrysler 200

    Midsize sedans comprise the largest and most competitive segment in the passenger car market. Those who want to lead the pack need to bring their A-games and take no prisoners.

    When Chrysler product planners began work on the 2015 200, they started with a clean sheet of paper, leaving any references to the former Sebring or 200 models in the rearview mirror. From its muscular exterior to a standard nine-speed automatic transmission, the midsize sedan doesn’t compromise on style or performance.

    The 2015 model is also eminently affordable, with the base car starting at under $22,000 excluding the $995 destination charge. There are four grades: LX, Limited, S and C. All-wheel drive is an alternative to the standard front-wheel drive configuration on S and C cars.

    There are two available engines: a 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder rated at 184-horsepower, the same 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 that also appears in the Jeep Grand Cherokee, producing 295-horsepower.

    The test car is the sporty S grade with the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine and nine-speed automatic, priced from $24,495. Options include a convenience group that adds automatic climate control, heated steering wheel, rear backup camera and heated front seats, navigation with Uconnect, a driver information display, satellite radio, real time weather and traffic updates, blind spot obstacle detection and a premium lighting group that includes high intensity discharge headlamps and daytime running lamps. Final MSRP, including destination is $29,170. Read the rest of this entry »