The CEO of the Fiat Group, Mr Sergio Marchionne is a rare breed in the auto industry. He is a well versed businessman who is passionate about cars, and he clearly understands how one drives the other. Italians have a long history of building uncompromising supercars, but even their more pedestrian offerings still possess that ethereal quality of driving soul.
When you sit in the big chair of the company that owns controlling interest in the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo, you had better understand how some cars are needed to fuel the desires of driving over the rationale of practicality.
With that thought in mind, I wish to make a proposal to the the savvy petrol-head holding the reigns over Chrysler Corporation.
The recent announcement regarding the realignment of Pentastar product lines makes a lot of sense, and I think it opens a few prime opportunities. With Dodge filling the role as the face of performance cars and Chrysler moving away from the notion of near-luxury in favor of a more mainstream market immediately makes the Chrysler nameplate a more high value vehicle.
I was happy to read the Durango is most likely going to transition over to become a Jeep, since it Charger-esque styling might be somewhat eye-catching, it has all the performance and handling of a small bus…with similar fuel economy. The Avenger was already DOA, the Grand Caravan was competing against the Town & Country in the same showrooms (not good business) and the 200 needed a full overhaul, which it got at the cost of losing the convertible. However, another drop-top model is rumored to be in the works and if it bears even a passing resemblance to the Maserati Gran Turismo Cabriolet, the world will be a beautiful place.
With Dodge moving away from mini-vans and SUVs, Chrysler options get more interesting. I pray they burn and bury any notion of reviving either the Aspen or Pacifica SUVs, since both were over-priced, bulbous heavy whales with horrid mpg ratings.
There are many of us who enjoy a more practical vehicle without wanting to give up the sporting feel of a car. The Charger and the 300 prove you can have room, comfort, power and real world economy in a full-size sedan, and those are great things, but one element is missing… a bit more carry space for those occasional large items.
Not everyone wants to jump to a mini-van or SUV, and there is no sense competing against your own sister brands, so why not offer something different. Bringing back a Charger-based Magnum would probably not fly with the musclecar image of Dodge (nobody will care about a Hellcat Sportwagon) but the 300 is another story entirely.
The 300 falls short of the Charger in sales virtually every month despite having similar equipment and the same engine lineup. Daimler-Benz sold an estate version of the 300 in Europe for several years, but with the drastically upgraded styling and materials used by Fiat/Chrysler, I think the time is right for the 300 Touring estate car to debut in North American showrooms. Leave the bloody fake wood in the trash where it belongs and give us the sleek 300 style we’ve come to love.
Dodge Magnums still command top prices in the used market, and the 5-door body would offer something unique for the 300 model line that Dodge couldn’t touch. The “S” variant would make a slick shooting brake while the fabulous Pentastar 3.6/8spd auto would deliver great utility with real-world, high 20s fuel economy.
The Magnum R/T was one of the coolest hot rod wagons ever built, but it suffered from Daimler-Benz lackluster interior and being the first of its kind in the country in years. A 300 S Touring on the other hand would deliver comfort, space, power, economy and true versatility.