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2017 Chrysler Pacifica: Return of the American van

For the last several years, sport utility vehicles and crossover utility vehicles have been the hottest-selling segments in the automotive world. But a lot of American families are still buying minivans. More than 500,000 of these multi-passenger people movers were sold last year — and about half of those were made by Fiat Chrysler.

The Detroit automaker has spent lots of time and money building and promoting its newest minivan offering: the 2017 Pacifica.

The vehicle got a huge launch when it was unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show this year. And those Pacifica TV commercials featuring comedian Jim Gaffigan and his “Dad Brand” are everywhere.

There’s a lot to promote. The Pacifica is built on an entirely new platform, sharing only an engine, transmission and a few parts with other Fiat Chrysler automobiles.

Later this year it will be introduced in a plug-in hybrid electric version, the first minivan to be sold in the U.S. in that format. Sometime farther down the road it will be the vehicle that Google uses for its burgeoning autonomous driving program.

I found the interior so luxurious and comfortable that I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to drive it or hang curtains and move in. Then I noticed there are side screens already attached. So I could just move in and use those for curtains.

For a big car — I’m not sure how big a minivan can be before you have to call it a van — the Pacifica is responsive. It’s powered by Chrysler’s 3.6-liter V6 Pentastar engine — the same one found in the company’s 200 and 300 roadsters — which makes 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a nine-speed electronic transmission, the engine gets the Pacifica jumping fast off the line.

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Source: latimes.com

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2016 Ram Power Wagon: Trail Driven

But there’s another unique offering that combines immense capability with some exclusive factory parts: the Ram Power Wagon. Based on the Ram 2500 crew cab, the Power Wagon is perhaps an unlikely candidate for an off-road vehicle, but Ram is so confident in its go-anywhere abilities that it recently invited me to Arizona to drive the 2016 Power Wagon up the back way to the Crown King Trail from Lake Pleasant Regional Park to the tiny mountain town of Crown King. And after 50 miles of trails, dirt, rock and moderate obstacles that would seriously challenge most “off-road” trucks, I came away mightily impressed at this monster’s abilities.

The Power Wagon is big, one of the biggest trucks in the Ram lineup. It’s a physically imposing beast when you walk up to it and attempt to haul yourself up into its high-riding cabin. The suspension has been lifted 2 inches higher than a normal 2500, and 33-inch tires have been added to give it a ground clearance of 14.3 inches. There are no rocker step rails, so hope you’re tall or have a decent reach to haul yourself up into this rig.

Once in place the view is commanding, and the cabin is quite comfortable with big seats and a thick steering wheel. For 2017, you can get the Power Wagon option on several different 2500 trims, including the base Tradesman, which will forgo all of the cosmetic frippery and simply add the off-road mechanical goodies to your work truck. Or you can get fancy with a new grille, a retro-style sticker package and a new interior that mimics the popular Ram 1500 Rebel trim level, which brings tire-tread patterns and Power Wagon logos to the seats.

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Source: news.pickuptrucks.com

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The Dodge Challenger Shaker Stomps All Over Your Sports-Car Niceties

I just spent a week with a Dodge Challenger, and it helped me recalibrate some internal stuff. It reminded me that, as much as we here at the magazine and website love cars, sometimes we get caught up in the fussy stuff. The dickering over the weight balance and the merits of aero packages with carbon-fiber splitters, single-scroll turbos versus, well, whatever.

The Challenger I borrowed was the 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker, which is rather a fussy name come to think of it. But what it delivers is delightfully unfussy: the kind of visceral delights which got us into cars in the first place.

The Challenger is rebelling even when it’s just sitting there. Oversized and attitudinal and not even a little bit grown up. When Dodge first brought it back, they didn’t try to find a balance between the old and the modern. They just went ahead and ripped off all the good stuff from the old. And since most things modern on the roads look boring as hell, the Challenger is a win. It is a bad 1970s detective TV show, walrus mustaches and all, writ into metal.

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Source: roadandtrack.com

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2016 Renegade: A ‘real Jeep’

The Renegade, Jeep’s new small SUV introduced last year, has the chops to take on some serious off-road conditions but delivers a pretty decent ride on the pavement as well. The Renegade, which gets a new Beats audio system for 2016, is a mix of the Cherokee and Wrangler, with a decided tilt toward Wrangler.

Jeep officials said they wanted to make the Renegade a “real Jeep,” so they gave it two full-time 4×4 systems: Jeep Active Drive and Jeep Active Drive Low with a 20:1 crawl ratio. Both systems have a Selec-Terrain system that allows the driver to select from five modes: Auto for basic everyday driving, Snow to minimize oversteer and improve traction, Sand for more traction and less wheel slip, Mud to maximize traction, and Rock (Trailhawk only) which implements the 20:1 crawl ratio.

If you want the most off-road capability from your Renegade, the trail-rated Trailhawk is the one with serious skills. Besides the extra “Rock” mode, the Trailhawk has 8.7 inches of ground clearance, skid plates, tow hooks, and hill-descent control. Unique fascias allow a 30.5-degree approach angle, a 25.7-degree breakover, and 34.3 degrees of departure. The Trailhawk can ford up to 19 inches of water and has a 2,000-pound towing capacity with the 2.4-liter engine and available tow package.

Two engines are available for the Renegade: Standard in the Sport and Latitude trims is a 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged inline four-cylinder, while the Limited and Trailhawk models get a standard 2.4-liter Tigershark turbocharged inline-four. The smaller engine develops 160 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque while the 2.4-liter engine kicks out 180 horses and 175 lb.-ft. of torque.

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Source: chron.com

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