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We Drive Chrysler’s 2007 Concepts Page 2


 

One of the automaker’s few recent success stories is the inexpensive but strikingly styled Dodge Caliber. What happens if you trick it out, with a performance-modified powertrain, oversized rally lamps, and a full aero body kit? The Caliber Targa is an indication of what’s possible, a prototype developed by Chrysler’s in-house “skunk works,” and aimed at the tuner crowd that normally swarms to Las Vegas every autumn for the annual SEMA show.

 

This one-off was designed for Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s design director, who put it through as serious a test as you could imagine, racing it in the Targa race in rugged Newfoundland last year.

 

Rolling that down

Jefferson Avenue
, with its 30 mph speed limit, was no challenge at all. While we don’t expect such an extreme edition, we’d be pleased to see Chrysler continue to push the limits with its entry-level products, as it did with the old Neon SRT-4.

 

 

Nassau: Who needs Mercedes?

 

2001 Mazda Protege

2001 Mazda Protege

Enlarge Photo
Now that Chrysler’s trans-Atlantic marriage is ending in divorce, there’s less reason for the automaker to worry about pushing into luxury territory, where it would have otherwise bumped up against Mercedes-Benz. But is the Nassau show car a sign of things to come?

 

Launched at the North American International Auto Show, in January, it’s a striking alternative to the more macho 300 sedan, upon which the Nassau is based. Rather than the current production sedan’s sharp edges and massive grille, the Nassau is defined by sweeping curves and an unusual rear that falls somewhere between hatchback and wagon. Perhaps the closest similarity is the tail of the Lexus RX crossover.

 

The coupe-like four-door features unusual half-pillars between the doors, so windows down, there’s an unbroken view and flowing air. Two glass panels sweep the length of the roof, adding to the almost convertible-like feel.

 

With a 6.1-liter V-8 under the hood, you feel the raw power as soon as you fire the HEMI up. Yet even in concept form, with its ten-spoke, 21-inch wheels, the Nassau is a surprisingly smooth ride. We’d have loved to put our foot into it, but the Chrysler technician, who came along as guardian, cautioned that with the lowered show-car suspension, a pothole could rip out the entire undercarriage. We chose to behave ourselves.

 

With its huge 120-inch wheelbase, the Nassau is a roomy ride as well. The high-tech interior, with its retro-modern push-button gearshift and iDrive-like controls, is divided into four quadrants by the center console that runs the length of the cabin.

 

While the Nassau pushes to the edge of production styling, we’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing significant elements of its design when Chrysler rolls out the next-generation 300 sedan.

 

 

Back to basics with JT, Trailhawk

 

2001 Mazda MPV ES rear

2001 Mazda MPV ES rear

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The automaker’s Jeep division is just wrapping up the most significant expansion in its long and storied history, jumping from three to seven models. Yet Jeep is still focused exclusively on the SUV segment, even with the launch of its first crossover, the Compass. And that’s irked some loyalists who would love to see the return of the old Jeep Scrambler, from back in the 1980s.

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