Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep

Many Chrysler vehicles rank at the bottom of our Ratings in their categories, and none currently meet our requirements for being recommended. Even most newer models have been mediocre in our tests and below average in our reliability surveys. We're seeing incremental improvements to existing models but little in the pipeline that looks promising.

What's right

Acceleration, transmissions

Some engines, such as the new 3.5-liter V6, are refined and perform well. The continuously variable transmission used in several small cars also works well.

Chrysler interiors often have handy features, such as stow-in-the-floor minivan seats, cooled and heated cup holders, and pop-out flashlights.

Overall, Jeep makes some of the most capable off-road vehicles.

What's wrong

Reliability, fit and finish, outward visibility, agility, fuel economy, ride comfort, engine noise

Overall, Chrysler has Detroit's poorest reliability. Almost two-thirds of its models get a below-average reliability Rating. The Sebring Convertible is the worst; it has 283 percent more problems than average.

Many models have a lackluster driving experience and subpar fit and finish. Once the benchmark, the latest versions of Chrysler's minivans don't come close to equaling those from Honda and Toyota as overall packages.

As a brand, Chrysler has focused more on powerful Hemi V8 performance than on fuel efficiency. The lack of a small, fuel-efficient car is a glaring omission in the lineup. And the company's only hybrids, the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango hybrid SUVs, were on sale for only a month before their production was canceled.

Most Jeeps sacrifice refinement and livability for off-road prowess. And Chrysler's eye-catching styling often means trade-offs in outward visibility and huge blind spots.

Looking ahead

Chrysler needs to give its model line a major overhaul and raise its reliability, interiors, fuel economy, and overall refinement up to the level of its styling.

That might have begun. Our initial impressions of the redesigned 2009 Dodge Ram pickup we're testing are mostly positive, and the ride is markedly improved. Newer Chrysler models, such as the Dodge Journey and Ram, have higher-quality interiors.

But beyond that, future product plans remain vague. Chrysler might offer a Dodge-badged version of the small Nissan Versa subcompact. And the company says it will produce an electric-drive vehicle in 2010.

Posted: January 2009 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: February 2009