Whet your appetite with these rich and varied pickings from FiatChrysler’s menu
AMBITIOUS growth targets and the need to satisfy an expanding dealer network are behind Fiat-Chrysler Australia’s push for more models. Given what’s in the global line-up, the wishlist isn’t unrealistic.
The biggest issue will be building a business case for each model but the emergence of India as an automotive powerhouse will only help our cause, given the subcontinent is right-hand drive.
Carsguide travelled to the US to sample some of the vehicles the Australian arm is interested in.
The bambino has grown up fast, with the L bearing only a passing resemblance to the diminutive 500.
The curves have been pushed out into a more boxy shape and as a result it takes five adults with ease and has one of the largest cargo spaces in its class at 633L.
It also drives better than the 500, and the vague on-centre steering will be appreciated by mums glancing back to check on the kids.
The 1.4-litre MultiAir engine is a gem with the manual transmission and Fiat-Chrysler Australia wants to bring it here with a dual-clutch auto in place of the DuoLogic “manumatic” fitted currently in Europe.
That means we’ll have to wait until 2015 but the 500L makes perfect sense as the car for 500 owners who find having kids means they’ve outgrown the bambino.
DODGE RAM 1500
The Ram was named truck of the year at last year’s Detroit Motor Show. Having driven the big beast, I can see why.
The 3.0-litre turbo diesel, as used in the Grand Cherokee, is more than capable in the larger Ram when teamed with the eight-speed auto.
Best of all, it doesn’t drive like a US monster truck. The steering is weighted off-centre and the ride quality is exceptional, even without payload.
This one’s more of a wishlist prospect than a realistic arrival but the prevalence of righthand drive aftermarket conversions for Rams and Chevy Silverados in Australia shows there is a small but enthusiastic market for the big pick-ups. Many are used to haul fifth-wheel trailers or big boats. A limited run in the Ram shows it would be a more civilised mode of transport than most other options.
DODGE CHALLENGER SRT
If Ford can find a market for the Mustang, the Challenger should be just that — a challenger for Australian performance enthusiasts’ affections. This is an old-school muscle car, right down to the gearshift threatening to vibrate out of the console the moment the 6.4-litre Hemi V8 (351kW/637Nm) is tapped.
A new model is due in the next couple of years and, in keeping with the global marketing strategy, will be engineered to accommodate right-hand-drive.
That car should also benefit from the refinement the Fiat tie-in has brought to all vehicles in the US-built stable, from Dodge to Jeep — and that would make it a marketable vehicle in Australia.
That just leaves FiatChrysler Australia to mount a reasonable business case for the sporty two-door.
Fiat-Chrysler needs more variety.
The Alfa 4C sports car and mid-sized Jeep Cherokee SUV will be shiny new toys for customers — and dealers — in the short-term but the long game calls for a decent product range for all brands. Jeep is the focus for now but the unloved Dodge Journey sorely needs a stablemate, be that the Dart, the Ram or the Challenger.