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Chrysler previews future Jeep pickup truck, Dodge Viper to dealers

Consumer Reports News: September 20, 2010 05:04 PM

Car enthusiasts and even casual shoppers always want to know, "What's next?" Idle curiosity and fuel for automotive passions are legitimate reasons for wanting a peek at the new hardware. Usually, auto shows satisfy this need but with Chrysler having been rather mute about future product during the last auto show season, consumers are left wondering.

As part of the automaker's restructuring, Chrysler has been rather open about its plans for imminent product freshenings, redesigns, and restylings. It just hasn't shown much to the public until this past month with the revised Chrysler Town & Country, all-new Dodge Durango, updated Jeep Wrangler, and tease of the freshened Sebring, recast as the 200. Now, word has it that dealers were shown two notable concepts at a recent meeting that give insight into future Jeep Wrangler pickup and a next-generation Dodge Viper.
Jeep-Wrangler-Gladiator-interior
The concept vehicles were presented last week at the 2010 Chrysler Dealer Show in Orlando, Florida, according to Automotive News. The event was attended by more than 75 percent of Chrysler Group's 2,314 U.S. dealers. In follow-up calls, Chrysler refused to comment, unwilling to confirm or deny the report.

Redesigned for the 2007 model year, the current Jeep Wrangler marked a dramatic size increase over from the preceding model. Its larger dimensions and styling were foretold by the 2005 Jeep Gladiator concept, a striking green pickup truck that made the show circuit. Could a pickup variation join the traditional Wrangler and the Wrangler Unlimited? It sounds plausible. The Wrangler is currently the best-selling Jeep model based on August figures, and at the moment, it is outsold by only the minivans and Dodge Ram pickup truck within the Chrysler Group portfolio. Building on this success with a new variation would make sense. The idea has historical precedent with the old Cherokee-based Comanche, CJ-8 Jeep Scrambler, and recent JT military-spec variant spun off the Wrangler Unlimited with a five-foot bed.

The Gladiator has four doors like an extended cab pickup, providing limited second-row seating or storage. (The JT is strictly a standard cab design, like the Scrambler.)

What a production pickup needs is a stronger engine. After all, pickup trucks are often called upon for towing duties. The current 3.8-liter V6 is expected to be replaced by the new corporate Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 now migrating through Chrysler products. In the new Grand Cherokee, the 3.6L makes 290 horsepower–enough to give a small pickup some towing might.

Alfa-Romeo-8C-Competizione-Viper
The other concept shown was an Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, a hand-built, limited-production sports car offered in coupe and roadster forms. According to Automotive News, the sample 8C Competizione had a Viper "face."

The rear-drive 8C Competizione has a 450-horsepower, 4.7-liter V8, and Alfa claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds, with a 181 mph top speed. In contrast, the outgoing Viper boasts a 600-horsepower, 8.4-liter V10. In our tests with a 510-horsepower version, the Viper coupe ran 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds.

From the limited run, 119 8C Competizione cars were sold through Maserati dealerships in the United States at prices well above the Viper. The roadster stickered for $299,000, according to Automotive News. Perhaps the ultimate question here is, would an Italian supercar be accepted when recast as an American performance icon?

Let's hope Chrysler becomes less shy with the upcoming auto show season, as it clearly has many vehicles up its corporate sleeves.

Share your thoughts on these proposals in the comments below.

Jeff Bartlett
   

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