Monday, 7 May 2007

Dodge and Chrysler Crossover

Dodge engineers have begun testing prototypes for a new crossover vehicle to do battle with the Ford Edge, Toyota Highlander, and the rest of the burgeoning crossover crowd. This new model known internally as the JC49 is based on the just-released Chrysler Sebring and soon-to-be Dodge Avenger sedans, although this spin-off is clearly larger than its platform-mates.

Despite the camouflage, typical Dodge styling cues show through. The cross-hair grille design takes after the Avenger, the headlights appear to have some of the Nitro's detailing, while the chiseled shoulder line, flared wheel arches and chunky lower body sculpting appear somewhat Caliber-inspired.

The taillights have Dodge's typical red lenses with white bands, as on the Charger and Avenger. The prototype also displays a fetching profile, thanks to a nicely raked windshield and a rising beltline, which gives this new Dodge a fairly athletic stance.

DaimlerChrysler reps have described this model as a "new concept crossover", somehow designed to separate it from its competitors, but from what we can see here it's pretty much what you would expect from the mainstream crossover offering. Where this model might cause a stir is in price -- if initial reports of a starting price around $20,000 hold true. To go for that price, we expect that it will be offered in both four- and six-cylinder forms. This seems to fit the evidence we have seen on the testing circuit, since, in addition to the dual exhausts visible on the prototype in our photos, we spotted another prototype sporting a single exhaust.

Dodge's new mid-size crossover will be built in its updatedToluca, Mexico assembly plant, alongside the PT Cruiser. Dodge planners hope for 150,000 annual sales of this model. A production run in the east China province of Fujian is reportedly also planned, for export to other markets outside of North America.

The JC49 is expected to reach the market in early 2008. A Chrysler spin-off is possible for 2010, likely serving as the replacement for the Pacifica.

Codenamed JC49, these are exclusive pictures of the upcoming crossover to be built by the Dodge boys in Toluca, Mexico, and sold in Europe as a Dodge and Chrysler – referred to as the “JZ49” – at the same time.

Both versions will be built on the new Sebring platform, with production scheduled to start in December of 2007, and an on-sale date of early 2008. Chrysler’s version will likely not arrive before the 2010 model year and may replace the retro-styled PT Cruiser. Wearing completely unique sheet metal, the Chrysler model will only account for 25% of the total units built.

Size-wise, the new crossover will measure in a bit larger than Honda’s CR-V, Hyundai’s Santa Fe and the Toyota RAV4 – and hopes to compete directly with Ford’s new Edge in the U.S. The car-based crossover will be offered in a FWD configuration, with AWD optional. A 3.5-litre V6 is guaranteed to be one of the several offerings.

The crossover is likely to come into Europe with a range of petrol and diesel engines and with a range of transmissions too although the AWD drive option isn't likely to make it here.

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