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2018 Chrysler 300S

Chrysler 300S defines modern American iron … 

2018 Chrysler 300S
Photo by Robby DeGraff

Looking for the modern definition of American iron?

Search no further than Chrysler’s 300 full-size luxury sedan. It is handsome, strong-jawed American iron with an attitude and the horsepower to kick the you-know-what out of any other large sedan, and that’s just in its basic trim. Continue reading 2018 Chrysler 300S

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2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited  improves its on-road abilities … 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara

I’m not too proud to say that I used to dread test driving a Jeep, especially the Wranglers as they have traditionally been the most basic of vehicles meant for crushing rocks, splashing water and wallowing in mud.

I love the outdoors as much as the next guy, but slopping around in muck and then bouncing all the way home like I’m in an inflatable bounce house is not my idea of fun. Continue reading 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4

2017 Dodge Durango GT Blacktop AWD

Outlier Durango delivers function and style …2017 Dodge Durango GT Blacktop

Dodge’s Durango is an outlier of sorts. It features function and style while many of the better selling large SUVs maintain a staid look, favoring square exteriors and overly manly interiors with oversized gauges, knobs and air vents.

Durango though likes to spiff itself up, like it’s saying it wants to be formal, but likes to party too.

This week’s case in point, the large Durango GT Blacktop AWD. While not as racy, or gas thirsty as the R/T version I tested a couple years back, this one still has plenty of muscle, while maintaining a sporty look, at least as sporty as SUVs go.2017 Dodge Durango GT Blacktop

Under the hood is a 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing and boasting 293 horsepower. Torque is rated at 260 lb.-ft. The engine is strong and the Durango, while not nimble, feels substantial and quick enough to outrun traffic as you pull onto the freeway. I had this on a roundtrip to Toledo and it cruised the toll roads with ease and was quick to pull out and pass slow semis and dawdlers.

Dodge uses an 8-speed automatic transmission with the V6 and the tranny shifts smoothly and efficiently. While not in the league with hybrids, the Durango managed 22.0 mpg on the trip, including some city driving along with long stretches of highway. The Dodge drinks regular and the EPA rates it at 18 mpg city and 25 highway. I had a fairly heavy load of luggage in the back and one passenger. Continue reading 2017 Dodge Durango GT Blacktop AWD

2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4×4

Jeep’s Renegade a fun drive, high-value 4×4 …2017 Jeep Renegade

Young folks wanting a Jeep for its looks and rugged personality, but who are on an entry-level budget and prefer comfort to mudding ability can find refuge in Jeep’s Renegade.

This is a multi-trim model that ranges from $20 grand, including delivery, up to $30 grand for an off-roading version. Renegade is built on the Fiat 500X chassis in Italy, so quite a ways from Toledo, Ohio, the spiritual home of Jeep and its predecessor, Willys.

But Renegade, despite being a downsized Jeep offers much more civility for daily driving, plus that low-ball entry price. Mine was a near fluorescent neon green (dubbed Bright Hypergreen) that seemed to glow in the parking lot like one of those radioactive bars that Homer Simpson gets stuck in his pocket.2017 Jeep Renegade

Folks at the office taunted me about the color, but it turns out to be quite fun to drive around in such a glow stick and was incredibly easy to find in any parking lot.

It’s the civility that strikes me most about Renegade. Ride is downright comfortable and tame, not the usual don’t-come-knocking-when-this-baby-is-rockin’ ride of its original off-roading cousin, the roughhewn Wrangler. Even on Wisconsin’s crumbling roads the Renegade delivered a relatively well-controlled an smooth ride, no small accomplishment for a vehicle riding on just a 101.2-inch wheelbase. Continue reading 2017 Jeep Renegade Altitude 4×4

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ltd. 4×4

Jeep’s Grand Cherokee touts power, toughness and luxury …2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

What could be more patriotic than a Jeep? And the brand, now part of Fiat-Chrysler, is celebrating 75 years of Jeepdom, although the test model wasn’t specially adorned.

This was a dark metallic gray Grand Cherokee Limited with 4-wheel-drive, starting at a relatively sane $39,895 and ending up at a luxurious $47,930 after adding one hefty $4,200 option package and three others that were more fiscally conservative.

Jeep lovers love the fact that many models can be taken for serious off-roading. While Wranglers are the primary off-roaders, Jeep is happy to tell you that Grand Cherokees can be too.

The Limited could as it came with a 4-wheel-drive system with five traction settings, sand, snow, mud, rocks and automatic. Guess which one gets used the most?2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee

This is all handled by a neat dial on the console so it’s easy to dial up the traction your Jeep currently needs. In automatic it was fine on damp Wisconsin roads.

There’s plenty of power too. The base engine is a 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing and a healthy 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. The Grand Cherokee will move and a Sport button will amp up the power by holding lower gears longer while also firming the steering effort considerably. Entering a highway the Sport setting is the way to go.

As with many cars now, the Jeep has an automatic stop/start feature that turns the engine off at stoplights and other times where it otherwise might idle. This saves a bit of gas, but this one is particularly rough. However, you can turn the feature off for smoother operation. Speaking of which, the 8-speed automatic tranny standard on the Grand Cherokee is exactly that, smooth. Continue reading 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Ltd. 4×4

2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad Plus AWD

Value-minded Dodge Journey keeps improving journey1

Dodge’s Journey is a good example of a carmaker not being satisfied with its work, with its own status quo.

How so? To look at the Journey you’d think it’s long in the tooth. On its face, that’s true. Journey joined the Dodge lineup 7 years ago and looks pretty much as it did then, when it was one of the first mid-size crossovers on the market, a blend of minivan and sport-utility vehicle.

But Dodge has kept improving the Journey year after year to keep it relevant as a low-cost option for folks needing to haul up to seven people along with their stuff, plus providing enough power and all-wheel-drive security to get them where they want to go.

This year, for example, Dodge has broadened Journey’s lineup of 10 models in 5 trims to include the Crossroad Plus model with leather seats and Dodge’s large 8.4-inch nav/radio screen. I tested a bright red Journey Crossroad Plus with AWD that started at $29,595 and after options ended up at $34,360. That’s at the lower end of pricing for mid-size crossovers with AWD. Continue reading 2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad Plus AWD

2016 Dodge Charger SXT AWD

Dodge Charger AWD charger awd

Big people need cars too, and sometimes automotive interior designers forget that fact.

So hurrah for the Dodge Charger and its generous sized interior, a full-figured person’s dream machine. There’s head and legroom to spare, front and rear, plus Charger happens to be available in so many trim levels a person can pick and choose just the right power and goodies quotient to meet their needs, and pocketbook.

My test car was the SXT AWD model, which means it can hold its own on slippery streets. The SXT also is second on the trim level list to the base SE, so it’s not a complete budget buster. Oh, and Charger looks muscular and distinctive, not something many large sedans can claim. Dig the full-body-width taillight bar!

For the record a base SE lists at $28,990 including delivery. It comes with the same 3.6-liter VVT V6 as in the SXT, an engine with a generous 292 horsepower and 260 ft.-lb. torque rating. Moving up to an AWD version pushes that to $31,240, just about the average transaction price for a new vehicle these days.

charger awd2The tested dark metallic gray (Maximum Steel Metallic) with a hint of blue in it, was listed at $31,995 in AWD trim. If power and speeding tickets are to your liking, the super-duper top-end Charger is the SRT Hellcat with a 6.2-liter V8 that cranks a mind-bending 707 horsepower. It lists at $68,640, but compare that with the supercars that start north of $1 million and have lesser horsepower, and it’s a bargain. There are three other trim levels between SXT and Hellcat and yes, HEMI V8s are available. Continue reading 2016 Dodge Charger SXT AWD