Will they be missed?
Not by Chrysler. Or Chrysler’s new owner, Fiat – which knows a stinker when it smells one. The Caliber never hit the target and last year was particularly awful, with overall sales down more than 20 percent. Ditto the Nitro – which was about as explosive as a soggy M80.
And so, it’s time to say sayonara. And hello to something much more appealing.
A single new model will replace both the Caliber and the Nitro when Chrysler resurrects a great name from its past – Dart. Chrysler teased the car press with a sneak peak at this year’s Detroit Auto Show. Unlike the boxy-crossoverish Caliber and Nitro, the reborn Dart will be a compact sedan – more in line, layout-wise, with the Caliber and Nitro’s best-selling forebear, the Dodge Neon. It will also be the first Chrysler-badged model to be cross-pollinated with Fiat DNA, including the 1.4 liter turbocharged and intercooled engine from the Fiat 500 Abarth – rated 160 hp. Reportedly, this engine will be capable of at least 40 MPG on the highway – which would be nearly 10 MPG better than the gas-thirsty Nitro or Caliber.
An R/T “Tigershark” version will be offered, too. This Dart will have a larger and more powerful 2.4 liter engine that also features Fiat’s “Multi-Air” technology (electric-hydraulic control of the air intake without a conventional throttle body). Output is pegged at 184 hp.
All engines will be paired with six-speed transmissions, either manual or automatic.
The Dart itself is also a Fiat reboot, even if it has a historic American car name.
It’s based on the European Alfa Romeo Giulietta, but made longer and wider to better suit American tastes – and American roads.
The skin, though, is still very Detroit. The car on display looked very much like a two-thirds scale Charger – with very similar full length LED tail-lights and the familiar, familial split-crosshair grille up front. Inside, there’s a stylish asymmetric dash with a glow-red LED surround – although that might not see production.
Technology-wise, the Dart will be offered with replay mode SiriusXM satellite – the first production car in this class to offer that feature – plus wireless remote iPod connectivity via the U-Connect interface.
Chrysler dealers will also offer 150 different accessories with which owners can upgrade the performance of their Dart or just make it more unique. See here for official details:
It looks like a winner. More to the point, it looks the like the car that should have succeeded the Neon instead of the Caliber and Nitro – which turned out to be Chrysler’s version of the Pontiac Aztek.
Word is the new Dart will be hitting the streets this summer as an early-release 2013 model.
I’m looking forward to getting my paws on one – and I’m betting a lot of you are, too.