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2004 Detroit Show, Part I


2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

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2004 Detroit Auto Show Coverage (1/4/2004)

 

Chrysler Drops Bombshell with ME4-12

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

Enlarge Photo
Chrysler Group executives wowed an audience of hard-to-please journalists with a completely new supercar, the last and grandest concept car to be presented on the stand. The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve — which stands for mid-engine, four turbos, twelve-cylinder — will claim to be the new reigning king of supercar performance. The Four-Twelve’s 6.0-liter V-12 is force-fed by four turbochargers with dual-core intercoolers and a very free-breathing exhaust (if the sound of the show car was any evidence) to make an incredible 850 hp at 5750 rpm (a new benchmark at 142 hp per liter). Power is delivered through a seven-speed Ricardo sequential, double-clutch transmission with quick 200-millisecond shift times. This translates to some numbers that left hard-to-please members of the press momentarily breathless: 0-60 acceleration in 2.9 seconds, 0-100 in 6.2 seconds, and the quarter mile in about 10.6 seconds at 142 mph. Top speed is an equally awe-inspiring, although theoretical, 248 mph (400 km/h!).

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

Enlarge Photo
Chrysler Group design chief Trevor Creed, who has worked on the vehicle firsthand along with a very small design and engineering team explained that the project “…has been one of the most closely guarded secrets, not only to the outside world but also within our organization.” Creed explained that there is no comparable car in Chrysler’s history, so the team didn’t have the pressure of trying to live up to shapes and design cues of the past. The utmost attention was given to maximizing down force for the by pressure-mapping the car’s shape for high speeds (with 925 pounds of down force at 186 mph). Extra attention was given to the shape of the interior as well, usually an afterthought for supercars. The car has an unusually roomy cabin, with 42 inches of legroom — far more than any other supercar — while its turning circle at 36 feet is shorter than that of a Ferrari. Curb weight is a very light 2880 pounds, making for an unprecedented power-to-weight ratio. Giant 15-inch carbon-ceramic brakes and huge 335-width tires in the back help haul the car up or down to speed with astonishing haste.

Outside of the presentation, company insiders said that the new Chrysler supercar will not share a platform or any major parts with the new Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren supercar, but officials added that that the ME is not so much a concept car but a prototype for a real production car. While there may be the odd component one can find shared with the SLR, Chrysler officials insisted they could not think of any, pointing out that, among many differences, the Mercedes supercar has a front-mid engine design. In fact, the mid-engine layout is actually preferred by supercar aficionados. A source tells TheCarConnection.com that this may be creating a bit of friction between Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler. If it wasn’t for Chrysler chief operating office Wolfgang Bernhard, we were told, they probably wouldn’t have allowed it to go through.

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

2004 Chrysler ME4-12 concept

Enlarge Photo
Asked about whether this car might truly end up in the Chrysler lineup, Bernhard was as quick on his feet as a supercar on a slalom course. He stressed that the final decision will depend on coming up with a business case, but it appears they’ve come a long way to engineering a feasible car. “Assuming it goes well and we have our business case, we go ahead.” Among the many things still being discussed is where it would be built; production could go to an outside specialty maker. They are also looking at how many they could sell. Bernhard pointed to extremes ranging from the Bugatti Veyron (which is planned for no more than one produced per week) to the Mercedes McLaren SLR (at a volume of 500 or more per year). Price is another important issue. It could range from the range of the Ford GT40 (about $139,000) to the SLR (at $1 million-plus). Bernhard noted that engineering is far enough along that they have already dealt with the sticky supercar-engineering situation of cooling, but it appears that perhaps the biggest question mark would be customer acceptance of a supercar. Said Bernhard, “That’s the challenge.” —TCC Team and Bengt Halvorson

 

Dodge Sling Shot: 45-MPG Sportscar?

2004 Dodge Sling Shot concept

2004 Dodge Sling Shot concept

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Dodge’s Sling Shot concept is a curvy two-seat hatchback sports car that will offer impressive performance while delivering up to 45 miles per gallon, the DaimlerChrysler brand says. The Sling Shot, based on a platform borrowed from DaimlerChrysler’s Smart lineup for Europe, features a rear-mounted 100-hp three-cylinder engine. While the engine configuration is a bit unusual, the rest of the car keeps it simple, with a five-speed manual transmission, rack-and-pinion steering, and four-wheel disc brakes. And, as Chrysler Group design chief Trevor Creed verified, most of the Sling Shot’s components come from the DaimlerChrysler corporate parts bin, so the costs would likely not be too high to bring the Sling Shot to production. Does that mean that they’re serious about building the Sling Shot? Sort of. Like all automakers, Chrysler tries to find production possibilities in virtually anything, and the company is known for testing the waters with its concepts. A senior official on background told TheCarConnection they’ll be watching closely to see how showgoers react. But he did caution that the Smart-based Sling Shot would be “pretty hard to certify to meet safety regulations for the U.S.” —TCC Team and Bengt Halvorson

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