Dodge Intro's 2007 Nitro and 2007 Caliber

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Dodge Caliber Concept

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Dodge Nitro Concept

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By Thom Cannell
Detroit Bureau

Commercia Field Detroit

October 27, 2005;

Today in Detroit, Dodge exposed its latest production vehicles to local press. It’s part of a traveling road show going coast-to-coast. Nitro – debut in Chicago this year – and Caliber, which gained major attention at the Frankfort (Germany) Auto Show, are two major new players for DaimlerChrysler.

Nitro, the bold mid-sized SUV based on the Jeep Liberty platform arrives at a slightly unfavorable moment. Caliber couldn’t be more propitiously positioned as it has SUV looks, small wagon utility, and car-like economy and size.

Nitro is both gorgeous and handsome. Bold and brawny with enormous shoulders and chiseled surfaces it is unlike anything in production. Notice the flared fenders and wheels pushed out flush. While it is rectangular in theme, beveled chamfers wrap around from nose to tail lamp and created a reflective highlight the gives dimension and visual movement. The interior, which Dodge designers say, “will be easily recognized in production versions,” is finished in brushed aluminum and exotic inset seat colors. Nitro’s cargo area is finished in very industrial rubberized surfaces and the rear load floor slides out almost 1 meter to accept packages. Nitro is “designed to stand out in a sea of sameness,” said Jeffrey Godshall, Senior Design Manager .

Caliber is the first Dodge equipped with a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission,) a quartet of engines (three gas engines in the US, plus a diesel abroad,) and both All Wheel Drive and Front Wheel Drive. Caliber is aimed at 25-35-year old first time new car buyers, offering value, panache, and versatility. While interiors are not yet set, the exterior is complete. This is a highly styled bit of rolling sculpture with many visual tricks. The bulging hood slopes sharply into heavily flared fenders. They incorporate wrap-around headlamps that pass both US and International standards and are fared into the leading fender edge. Side views are expressive with depth and a flowing light-catching bevel that runs from fender flare to fender flare and into the rear pillar.

A slick trick disguises vehicle height is the use of matte black appliqué to pull the roofline closer to the ground visually. In fact Caliber is 4” (100 mm) taller than the Neon it supplants, yet is shorter and a bit wider.

Engines are a 1.8-liter (140 hp/125 lb-ft torque), a 2.0-liter (150 hp / 140 lb-ft torque plus balance shafts,) and a 2.4-liter balance shaft equipped engine with 170 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. The diesel, not for sale in the United States, produces 134 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque and uses Direct Injection for better idle, fuel economy, and lower emissions. It mates to a 6-speed manual transmission.

This is the powertrain every automotive journalist lusts for. Vehicles with the CVT may be equipped with Chrysler’s AutoStick ® “manual” shift which simulates a 6-speed gearbox in the CVT through software. Dodge says the CVT offers a 6-8% improvement in fuel economy over similar 4-speed automatic transmissions and the gasoline engines are 5% better than similar engines they replace. Though you can’t stack those numbers, the actual increase in fuel economy should be minimally 5-13%.

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