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William Maley

Quick Drive: 2016 Dodge Challenger SXT Blacktop

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For a time, the V6 was looked down upon in the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang because they were seen as lackluster. The engines didn’t match aggression that was being expressed by the exterior of the coupes. But rising gas prices and increasing regulations on fuel economy and emissions has the likes of GM, Ford, and FCA revisiting the idea of a V6 muscle car. We recently spent some time in a 2016 Dodge Challenger V6 to see if it is worth it.

  • I will argue that the Challenger is still the meanest looking out of the three muscle cars on sale. Dodge’s designers were able to bring the design of the original Challenger into the modern era without making it look like a complete mess. The little details such as the narrow grille, quad headlights, fuel filler cap, and rectangular taillights are here and help it stand out. Our tester featured the optional Blacktop package that adds a blacked-out grille, black stripes, and a set of 20-inch wheels.
  • The downside to bringing the original Challenger design into the modern era is poor visibility. Large rear pillars and a small glass area make it somewhat difficult to backup or making a pass. The good news is that a number of Challenger models like our SXT Plus come with a backup camera as standard and blind spot monitoring is available as an option.
  • The Challenger’s interior hasn’t changed much since we last reviewed it back in 2014 with the SRT 392. It is still a comfortable place to sit in and controls are in easy reach for the driver thanks to the center stack being slightly angled. Still, the limited glass area does mean you will feel somewhat confined.
  • Power for the SXT is Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, you need to step to one of the V8 engines.
  • The V6 is quite surprising with how much performance is on offer. Step on the accelerator and the V6 moves the Challenger with surprising authority. Power comes on a smooth rate no matter what gear you find yourself in. The eight-speed automatic is one of best in the business with smart shifts.
  • Only disappointment is the V6 doesn’t sound like it belongs in the Challenger. There isn’t that muscular roar when step on the accelerator. A new exhaust and some tweaking in the engine could fix this issue. 
  • As for fuel economy, we got an average of 23.4 mpg. Not bad for a coupe that is rated at 19 City/30 Highway/23 Combined.
  • One item that the Challenger is known for is its ride comfort and this hasn’t changed. Even with the optional Super Track Pak fitted to our tester, the Challenger was able to provide a cushy ride over some of Michigan’s terrible roads. Road and wind noise are kept at very low levels.
  • Speaking of the Super Track Pak, this should be mandatory equipment on the V6 model. With firmer suspension bits, it makes the Challenger feel slightly smaller and reduces body roll around corners. However, it cannot mask the Challenger’s weight. Pushing it around a corner, the Challenger feels quite big and not as nimble the as the Chevrolet Camaro I drove afterward.
  • The Challenger SXT Plus starts at $29,995. Add on a few options such as the Blacktop package and you’ll came to an as-tested price of $34,965, pretty good value for a muscle car.
  • Going with the V6 option in the Challenger isn’t bad a choice. You get the looks of a muscle car and some decent performance. But as I drove the Challenger during the week, I couldn’t help but think about what if I had the V8. Six is good, but eight is even better.

Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2016
Make: Dodge
Model: Challenger
Trim: SXT Plus
Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM: 305 @ 6,350
Torque @ RPM: 268 @ 4,800
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/30/23
Curb Weight: 3,885.2 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario
Base Price: $26,995
As Tested Price: $34,965 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
SXT Plus 3.6L V6 Package 21V - $3,000.00
Driver Convenience Group - $1,095.00
Sound Group II - $795.00
Blacktop Package - $695.00
Super Track Pak - $695.00
UConnect 8.4 NAV - $695.00


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10 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

No thanks. V8 or bust in this segment. Especially in the Chally.

Agreed.

I actually think the small turbo mills are more enticing than the V6's. Just something about them that I like more than torqueless V6's...

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And to this I say: Meh. V8s are overrated.

Yes, they make a good noise. Yes, they offer more in the way of straight-line speed. But so what?

I can claim ownership of both a fourth-gen Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird, a Dodge Challenger and a late-model Ford Mustang. None of those cars were equipped with their optional V8s; they were all lowly V6 models.

But that doesn't mean they were any less fun.

Actually, what you give up in raw grunt you earn back in handling (it's especially true for the Mustang). And, personally, I relish good handling over a V8's thump since I find myself traveling more on Kentucky's curvy backroads versus our interstate highways or bypasses. However, for the times I have traveled on straighter blacktop, I've always found the V6 to be adequate.

Then there's the money you save on the purchase price and, obviously, on insurance costs and at the gas pump.

I guess what you do lose and never gain back is image. But, you know, I could care less about my car giving some mediocre middle-aged bald spot a hard-on between traffic lights. I didn't buy my car for someone else to enjoy -- selfishly, it's for me and me alone.

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Not in those older generations you don't gain handling capabilities back with their skinny tires and soft suspensions.

"that doesn't mean they were any less fun" - Yes. Yes it does mean they are less fun! lol

 

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7 hours ago, ccap41 said:

Not in those older generations you don't gain handling capabilities back with their skinny tires and soft suspensions.

"that doesn't mean they were any less fun" - Yes. Yes it does mean they are less fun! lol

Certainly, you do realize you've just made an argument here that's about as watertight as the Titanic.

Skinny tires? My fourth-gen, six-banger Camaro and Firebird were both equipped with the same exact 16-inch wheels and tires as the Z28 and Trans Am, respectively, for 1998.

(Only SS and WS6 models had 17-inch wheels and tires. Additionally, all Camaros and Firebirds used the same dual-piston brakes starting that year, regardless if they were V6 or V8-equipped.)

In fact, the Firebird I owned was also equipped with the Y87 performance package that earned the car a V8 steering box and an upgraded suspension. I can't remember if the Camaro I had also packed the Y87 package, but I'm leaning toward yes since it had the Z28's 16-inch wheels and I remember the window sticker showing the car to be pretty much a fully-loaded V6 car, save for leather seats. So then, so much for a downgraded suspension.

Let's also dig a little deeper, think with an open-mind for a second. Those V6 cars actually had most of the engine's weight placed behind the front wheels, and weighed a few hundred pounds less than their V8 counterparts. Obviously, these factors had positive effects on how the V6 cars handled.

Facts aside, driving impressions are, like styling, ultimately a subjective matter. The stock tires on a Scion FR-S, for example, are actually pretty frickin skinny. But, if I recall correctly, most reviewers praise the FR-S as being fun to drive and a good handling car, just slow. Hmmmm...

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9 hours ago, Blake Noble said:

Certainly, you do realize you've just made an argument here that's about as watertight as the Titanic.

Skinny tires? My fourth-gen, six-banger Camaro and Firebird were both equipped with the same exact 16-inch wheels and tires as the Z28 and Trans Am, respectively, for 1998.

(Only SS and WS6 models had 17-inch wheels and tires. Additionally, all Camaros and Firebirds used the same dual-piston brakes starting that year, regardless if they were V6 or V8-equipped.)

In fact, the Firebird I owned was also equipped with the Y87 performance package that earned the car a V8 steering box and an upgraded suspension. I can't remember if the Camaro I had also packed the Y87 package, but I'm leaning toward yes since it had the Z28's 16-inch wheels and I remember the window sticker showing the car to be pretty much a fully-loaded V6 car, save for leather seats. So then, so much for a downgraded suspension.

Let's also dig a little deeper, think with an open-mind for a second. Those V6 cars actually had most of the engine's weight placed behind the front wheels, and weighed a few hundred pounds less than their V8 counterparts. Obviously, these factors had positive effects on how the V6 cars handled.

Facts aside, driving impressions are, like styling, ultimately a subjective matter. The stock tires on a Scion FR-S, for example, are actually pretty frickin skinny. But, if I recall correctly, most reviewers praise the FR-S as being fun to drive and a good handling car, just slow. Hmmmm...

1998 Camaro v6's has tire options of 215/50R16 and 235/55R16 and the SS came with 275/40R17s. Z/28 has a super awkward tire size of 245/5016. Those are very much different tire sizes. Not just section width but a more aggressive aspect ratio as well. And yes those taller sidewalls made for a squishy feeling.

Looking up what exactly this Y87 Performance Package entails.. Nothing to do with suspension. 3.42 gears, Zexel-Torsion LSD, 235/55R16 Goodyear Eagles, Dual exhaust, 4 wheel disc brakes, and the V8's steering rack.

The little FR-S/BRZ twins do have relatively skinny tires, and they also come with low rolling resistance tires from the factory. 214/45R17. The car has a boxer engine and it sits extremely low in the car bringing the CG down a ton in comparison. Yes, the V6 Camaros and Mustangs of those older generations weighed less because of less engine but you'll never objectively explain how the V6(of those older generations because the new ones are a completely different story with 1LE packages and north of 300hp and such) could be more fun than their V8 counterparts. Sliding around a 2700-2800lb car with exceptional balance is not the same as a 3300-3500lb, not well balanced, car.

"Also critical in it’s handling dynamics is the BRZ has one of the lowest centers of gravity of any production car in the world at just 18.1 inches. This is because of Subaru’s Boxer engine design with its inherently low height and its mass concentrated low in the chassis. It contributes to all Subaru’s having this important characteristic, but BRZ takes maximum advantage of this."

http://www.torquenews.com/1084/three-things-make-2015-subaru-brz-special-sports-car

For what it's worth, C/D compared the Mustang and Camaro back in 1999 and the V6 Camaro ran a 16.1@87mph. That's not exactly fun speed either.. The little BRZ does the same in 15.0@94mph. Not the greatest comparison. Slow and overweight vs quick and light.

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15 minutes ago, ccap41 said:

1998 Camaro v6's has tire options of 215/50R16 and 235/55R16 and the SS came with 275/40R17s. Z/28 has a super awkward tire size of 245/5016. Those are very much different tire sizes. Not just section width but a more aggressive aspect ratio as well. And yes those taller sidewalls made for a squishy feeling.

Looking up what exactly this Y87 Performance Package entails.. Nothing to do with suspension. 3.42 gears, Zexel-Torsion LSD, 235/55R16 Goodyear Eagles, Dual exhaust, 4 wheel disc brakes, and the V8's steering rack.

The little FR-S/BRZ twins do have relatively skinny tires, and they also come with low rolling resistance tires from the factory. 214/45R17. The car has a boxer engine and it sits extremely low in the car bringing the CG down a ton in comparison. Yes, the V6 Camaros and Mustangs of those older generations weighed less because of less engine but you'll never objectively explain how the V6(of those older generations because the new ones are a completely different story with 1LE packages and north of 300hp and such) could be more fun than their V8 counterparts. Sliding around a 2700-2800lb car with exceptional balance is not the same as a 3300-3500lb, not well balanced, car.

"Also critical in it’s handling dynamics is the BRZ has one of the lowest centers of gravity of any production car in the world at just 18.1 inches. This is because of Subaru’s Boxer engine design with its inherently low height and its mass concentrated low in the chassis. It contributes to all Subaru’s having this important characteristic, but BRZ takes maximum advantage of this."

http://www.torquenews.com/1084/three-things-make-2015-subaru-brz-special-sports-car

For what it's worth, C/D compared the Mustang and Camaro back in 1999 and the V6 Camaro ran a 16.1@87mph. That's not exactly fun speed either.. The little BRZ does the same in 15.0@94mph. Not the greatest comparison. Slow and overweight vs quick and light.

Jesus, dude...

Alright then, let's do this, I guess...

  1. The 245/50R16 tire size you mentioned for the Z28 were a Z-rated tire offered as optional equipment for 1998. They were not the standard tire for that year. All base Z/28s had 235/55R16 tires... and, hey, wouldn't you know it? Those are the same tires that my V6 Camaro had.
  2. I've discovered there's some confusion as to whether or not Y87 cars had upgraded suspension parts. I've seen a few sources say yes, others no. I've been under the impression the suspension was upgraded somehow over a basic non-Y87 car. So I decided to do a little research. It appears whatever source you've quoted is ultimately correct. However, with that said, it's possible Y87 cars likely use different steering arms from base V6 cars to use the V8 steering box. If so, I suppose some sources might be counting that as an "upgraded suspension." My apologies for further propagating that confusion.
  3. ...But, while researching the above topic, continuing on with V6 vs V8 suspension differences, all '98 and up V6 and base V8 F-Body cars actually use the same rear coil springs (code TJ). Obviously the front springs are different between the two to account for a lighter/heavier engine, not necessarily to make the handling worse or the ride any softer. Again, only SS and WS6 cars had upgraded springs all the way round. So, once again I'll ask, what downgraded suspension?

So to recap:

  • The Camaro I owned had the same 235/55R16 tires as a base model Z28 for 1998.
  • The Camaro I owned I believe had the Y87 package, which meant it shared the same steering box and rear differential as a 1998 Z28. It's also possible the steering arms are shared as well.
  • The Camaro I owned had the same rear coil springs as a base model '98 Z28. The front coil springs were different to compensate for difference in weight of the V6 versus the V8 engine, not to compromise the ride or handling. This is true for all 1998 Camaros -- base V6, Y87 V6 and base Z28 -- with the exception of SS models.
  • As an aside, at this point, it wouldn't surprise me if even the shocks are the same between base V6, Y87 V6 and base Z28 Camaros built in 1998, although I haven't researched this yet.

The tire and suspension differences are so minor between the car I owned and a base Z28 I don't see how anyone could argue the V8 absolutely handled better, unless we're talking about an SS model which could boast a slight advantage over both the V6 and Z28. But at that point, what engine the car has becomes completely irrelevant. Sure, you can say there's a V8 better than the V6, but you'd be choosing to be ignorant to the fact that it's also better than a similar V8 car as well.

Moving forward now...

  1. Using quarter mile times in a discussion about handling is totally irrelevant. I don't think you make left and right hand turns in a straight-line drag race. Or are you onto some new fun trend that you'd like to share?
  2. Curb weight has little to weight distribution. For example: it's possible for one car to weigh 3,000 lbs. and the other 3,500 but both have the same 55/45 weight distribution. So your point is... ?
  3. The V6 Camaro has 57/43 weight distribution. The FR-S is 53/47. I thought that was interesting.

Ultimately, though, you are missing the point of my mention of the FR-S in the last bit of my post, just like how you're missing the entire message of my original post.

On that last note, let's see if using a British accent fixes that, for whatever reason:

Does that make it any clearer? You're trying to dispute that entire notion based on -- what? -- two out of the four cars I've owned that I'm basing my impression on?

I need a goddamn Advil now.

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32 minutes ago, Blake Noble said:

You're trying to dispute that entire notion based on -- what? -- two out of the four cars I've owned that I'm basing my impression on?

This is all that needed to be said.. you're defensive of them because you've owned them..

I'm not intentionally coming off aggressive.. That's the stupid internet's fault or not capturing my light-ness of discussion. My bad there, brother.

The reason I brought up 1/4 mile times/0-60 times was because you said "fun". You said they were more "fun" and that's why I looked into more than just maximum handling capabilities.

Thank you for informing me on those v6 and z/28 similarities. Way closer than I would have thought but I'm still coming up with 245's and 235's for the z/28, both on 16 inch wheels. That seems like not enough tire for the LS1..just sayin'.

The point of weight distribution is handling capabilities. A Camaro with a v6 or v8 over the front axel is going to have a lot more weight over the front end than a BRZ with a boxer 4 tucked lower and further back. The BRZ and '98 Camaro will be night and day in corner carving.

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1999 z/28 test results

1999 Camaro v6 test results

I realize they are 1999 and not 1998, FYI. But that's the same generation for the Camaro so I assumed it was okay.

Found it interesting that the z/28 held a higher maximum lateral g's but the v6 did the emergency lane change a good amount quicker(nearly 5mph). They also took the same distance to brake 70-0mph. Interesting, indeeeeeeed.

Edited by ccap41

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The Challenger needs the 5.7L V8 to be relevant. It weighs too damn much and lacks handling/braking in its class overall, but especially in V6 trims. A V6 Challenger will not drive better because you saved 100 lbs, as the car's most redeeming quality is being a muscle car and the V6 struggles to keep up with common family cars with 2.0Ts and V6s. Fun in a Challenger is a rip-roaring V8 laying a patch of rubber, not getting 30 mpg and losing races against grocery getters.

The same argument can easily be applied to the Camaro and Mustang prior to the late 2000s. It's an incredibly unpopular stance to claim that a 90s pony car is just as fun (or moreso) without a V8. Some things are "subjective opinion" but come on.

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20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

This is all that needed to be said.. you're defensive of them because you've owned them..

I'm defensive of them because not necessarily because of my ownership of them, but because these cars deserve to be judged and enjoyed based on their own merits and not what they lack compared to their V8 counterparts. These cars do have a unique flavor of their own to offer and appreciate. 

Let me touch on this thought of mine for just a minute: I sincerely believe the "no replacement for displacement" mentality that lingers over the Mustang, Camaro and Challenger like a sour fart is what'll ultimately doom these cars when internal combustion engines go the way of the carrier pigeon, Soviet Union and Member's Only jackets. And what I've seen unfold in this thread only further solidifies that notion, honestly.

If these cars survive electrification, it'll be nothing short of a damn miracle because the shear number of all of the old folks and folks who are "old at heart" dying from heart-attacks at the silence of a electric Mustang burnout alone will likely justify some sort of government '90s assault weapons-style ban on electric cars, despite the fact an all-electric Mustang could give way to the best driving Mustang of all time, if not simply the best all-around Mustang ever.

20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

The reason I brought up 1/4 mile times/0-60 times was because you said "fun". You said they were more "fun" and that's why I looked into more than just maximum handling capabilities.

I said they were more "fun" because you can use more of the car in legal driving conditions. Remember the driving conditions I mentioned earlier? I've never set a tire on a drag strip and I don't carry a stopwatch around. I do plenty of driving on curvy country roads and backroads (US 421 in particular is a real treat) and anything packing more than 300 to 325 horsepower would be pretty much useless. Really, 300 horsepower can be a bit too much at times.

Reference that James May segment I posted. There's less power with a V6 Camaro, Mustang or Challenger, sure, but there's more usable power. Sure, with a V8 model you can go 0-60 faster than the taco squirts, and down the quarter mile quicker than an ape with a hot fire poker up its ass, but those are ultimately just numbers on paper. It doesn't count for much if you can't use those numbers in the real world.

20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

Thank you for informing me on those v6 and z/28 similarities. Way closer than I would have thought but I'm still coming up with 245's and 235's for the z/28, both on 16 inch wheels. That seems like not enough tire for the LS1..just sayin'.

Well, hey, it was the late '90s. Compared to what automakers were using less than 10 years prior, those tires were probably something for the Camaro then. Today, we're used to 17 inch wheels as standard equipment on Camries and Malibus.

20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

The point of weight distribution is handling capabilities. A Camaro with a v6 or v8 over the front axel is going to have a lot more weight over the front end than a BRZ with a boxer 4 tucked lower and further back. The BRZ and '98 Camaro will be night and day in corner carving.

Well, yah.

I really don't know where to go here but I wasn't originally trying to directly compare the Camaro to the FR-S...

20 hours ago, ccap41 said:

I'm not intentionally coming off aggressive.. That's the stupid internet's fault or not capturing my light-ness of discussion. My bad there, brother.

No worries. I didn't mean to come across abrasive, either. Defensive, maybe. But then again, I'm not used to an argument being this civilized around here, sadly.

19 hours ago, cp-the-nerd said:

The Challenger needs the 5.7L V8 to be relevant. It weighs too damn much and lacks handling/braking in its class overall, but especially in V6 trims. A V6 Challenger will not drive better because you saved 100 lbs, as the car's most redeeming quality is being a muscle car and the V6 struggles to keep up with common family cars with 2.0Ts and V6s. Fun in a Challenger is a rip-roaring V8 laying a patch of rubber, not getting 30 mpg and losing races against grocery getters.

The same argument can easily be applied to the Camaro and Mustang prior to the late 2000s. It's an incredibly unpopular stance to claim that a 90s pony car is just as fun (or moreso) without a V8. Some things are "subjective opinion" but come on.

I'll agree that the Challenger is a Fatty McFatpants that needs to go on a diet. But I'm sticking to what I said earlier: the V6 SE and SXT cars are better at backroad exploration than the R/T models.

But, really, a Challenger is best at cruising down boulevards and interstates and going on long distance trips. It's a big, comfortable car. It's half family car, half grand tourer. It's basically a Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe wearing a pony car pelt. (Not much different, then, than the Challenger in Vanishing Point if you think about it a bit.) And, really, what engine you have under the hood is moot when all you do is loaf around on straight-stretches of road.

And I'm proud to march to the beat of different drum here.

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I own a 5.7 Challenger R/T. I love it, but could a V6 Chally replace it? Sure. Why not? It's is a rare event when I get a chance to stretch the Hemi's legs. It's my go to car for road trips, and on rare occasions I drive it down some winding, twisting mountain roads near where I live, but that is usually a waste of time because of the number of families out for a weekend cruise on the same mountain roads that muck-up any opportunity for me to unwind the Challenger, and that is the problem. There really isn't any safe legal way to reach the potential of these cars unless one spends his weekends at the track, drives dangerously, or temps fate with the local law enforcement and most people have little time for that, so most of these cars are really nothing more than daily driver's, and who really cares if it is a V8 or V6?  

 

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    • By William Maley
      One thing Jeep is very good at is providing different variations of their models to fit a buyer’s desire and budget. The Grand Cherokee is an excellent example with seven different models on offer. Jeep is using this same strategy for the Cherokee with seven different trims ranging from the base Sport to luxurious Overland. We spent some time in the Overland to see if a luxury version of the Cherokee makes any sense.
      The Overland model stands out from other Cherokees as the lower body cladding is painted in the same color as the body. Depending on what color you select, it will either make the Cherokee look good or just a giant blob - the latter being the case for our silver test vehicle. A set of 18-inch polished aluminum wheels come standard and add a nice touch of class. Compared to other Cherokee’s I’ve driven, the Overland does feel a little bit more luxurious. This comes down to some of the appointments used such as cream leather upholstery for the seats and door panels, a texture dash cover finished in brown, and accent stitching.  Overland models get power seats for driver and passenger. This makes it easy to find a comfortable position thanks to the adjustments on offer. Backseat passengers also get their own set of adjustments - reclining, and sliding the seat forward and back. Passengers will have no complaints in terms of space or overall comfort. One area that a fair number of people will complain about is cargo space. The Cherokee is towards the bottom of the class with only 24.6 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 54.9 cubic feet when folded. This comes down Jeep making certain compromises to be able to fit all of the off-road hardware to the Cherokee. The 8.4-inch UConnect system fitted to the Cherokee is the previous-generation version. While you do miss out on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, UConnect still comes with one of easiest interfaces to wrap your head around with large touch buttons and redundant physical shortcut buttons. Powering the Cherokee Overland is a 3.2L V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission and Jeep’s Active Drive II 4WD system. With this Cherokee tipping the scales at 4,046 pounds, the V6 is the right engine for the job. It offers enough performance for everyday driving and is one of the most refined engines in the class. The nine-speed automatic provides smooth and quick upshifts. Downshifts are another story as the transmission seems somewhat reluctant whenever merging or making a pass. The Cherokee has some of the worst fuel economy numbers in the class with EPA figures of 18 City/26 Highway/21 Combined. I was able to eek out 22 MPG during my week of driving in mostly urban areas. Ride comfort is a plus point to the Cherokee as the suspension absorbs most impacts from bumps and other road imperfections. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. One area that Cherokee does surprisingly well is in handling. Despite its off-road credentials, the Cherokee handles with confidence with a limited amount of body roll. The steering is precise and has some decent weight. Still, the Cherokee lacks the fun element you would find in competitors such as the Mazda CX-5. The Overland trim is quite expensive with a starting price of $38,690 with 4WD. This particular model seen here came with an as-tested price of $43,690 with a few options ticked such as the Active Drive II system, Technology Package (includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, parking assist, and rain-sensing wipers), and a panoramic sunroof. For that kind of cash, you can get into a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4 that offers slightly more power and returns similar fuel economy figures. The Overland is nice a variant of the Cherokee. But there is no way it can justify a price tag of nearly $44,000. If you really want a nice Cherokee, drop down to the Limited and go easy on the options list. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the Cherokee, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Jeep
      Model: Cherokee
      Trim: Overland
      Engine: 3.2L DOHC 24-Valve V6
      Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, 4WD
      Horsepower @ RPM: 271 @ 6,500
      Torque @ RPM: 239 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/26/21
      Curb Weight: 4,046 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Belvidere, Illinois
      Base Price: $37,695
      As Tested Price: $43,690 (Includes $1,095.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      CommandView Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof - $1,755.00
      Technology Group - $1,645.00
      Jeep Active Drive II - $1,205.00
      Heavy Duty Package Group - $295.00
    • By William Maley
      Ever since Mazda launched the MX-5 Miata back in 1989, competitors have been trying their best to out-maneuver it.; whether that is through better design, handling, or more power. While all have come and gone, while the Miata is still kicking around. What do you do in this case? If you can't beat them, join 'em. That's the case with Fiat as a few years ago, they would take the place of Alfa Romeo of developing a new roadster using the Miata as a base. The end result is the 124 Spider.
      Fiat’s designers wanted to do a modern interpretation of the 124 Spider designed by the legendary Pininfarina design house. The problem was trying to get that design to work with the MX-5 Miata’s structure. To pull this off, designers would add five inches to the overall length of the 124 Spider. The front end features many of the design touches found on the original 124 Spider with teardrop headlights, trapezoidal grille, raised fenders, and twin-power bulges on the hood. Around back is where the design begins to fall apart. The overall shape and certain choices such as the overhanging trunk lid don't fully mesh with the front. It looks like Fiat had two design teams working on either end of the vehicle, but put a curtain between them so they couldn’t see what the other was doing.
      The Abarth version of the 124 Spider does get some special touches to help it stand out from the other trims. They include a darker grille opening, 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a dark gray, and a quad-tip exhaust system. The only item we would change is making the Abarth badges smaller. The large size really detracts from the iconic look Fiat is trying go for.
      Putting the soft top down in the 124 Spider is very easy. Simply unlatch the mechanism holding the top in place and fold it back into its little storage space. Raising the top is just as painless as you just need to pull a latch behind the seats and pull the top forward. It will only take a few tries before you’re able to put the top up and down in just a few seconds.
      Moving inside, the only real differences between the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata are the Fiat badge on the steering wheel, different fonts used for the gauges, and soft-touch plastics on the top of the door panels. Otherwise, the 124 Spider features the same layout and quirks of its donor vehicle. Controls readily fall to hand for either driver or passenger. Abarth models come with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment as standard equipment. On the plus side, Mazda Connect is easy to grasp thanks to an intuitive interface and a simple control knob. Downsides include the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto;, and the awkward placement of the control knob. It will get in the way whenever you are shifting gears with either transmission.
      Snug is the keyword when describing the experience of sitting inside the 124 Spider. I’m 5’ 8” and had to set the driver’s seat almost all the way back to not feel cramped. Once I was able to find the right seat and steering positions, it felt like I was a part of the vehicle and not sitting on top of it. The passenger will complain about the lack of legroom as the transmission tunnel protrudes into the footwell. The seats themselves provide excellent support and will hold you in during an enthusiastic drive.
      The motivation for the 124 Spider is provided by Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder. The Abarth produces 164 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The base Classica and up-level Lusso see a small decrease in horsepower to 160. The difference comes down to the Abarth featuring a different exhaust system. Our tester featured the optional six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual comes standard. Although the 124 Spider has higher power figures than the Miata, it isn’t that much faster. Reviewers who have run 0-60 tests say the Miata does it under six seconds, while the 124 Spider takes over six seconds. There are two reasons for this: First, the Miata is lighter than the 124 Spider by an average of about 120 pounds. Second is the engine has a bad case of turbo lag. The turbo doesn’t fully spool up until about 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, leaving you wondering where all of this power is when leaving a stop. Once it’s going, power is delivered in a smooth and somewhat linear fashion.
      The automatic transmission is another weak point of this powertrain. It loves to upshift early and leaves you without any turbo boost. This can be rectified by using the paddles on the steering wheel or throwing the automatic into the manual shift mode. The manual transmission is the better choice as it allows more flexibility with the engine.
      EPA fuel economy figures for the 124 Spider stand at 25 City/36 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 MPG.
      If there is one place that the 124 Spider Abarth can give the MX-5 Miata a run for its money, it is in the handling. The Abarth feels more athletic and confident when entering a corner with little body roll and fast transitions thanks to a sport-tuned suspension. Steering is the same as Miata with excellent road feel and quick turning. The downside to the athletic handling is a very stiff ride. Road imperfections are directly transmitted to those sitting inside. There is also an abundance of wind and road noise coming inside the 124 Spider.
      In some ways, the 124 Spider is better than the MX-5 Miata. The Abarth provides crisper handling and the interior is slightly nicer than what you’ll find in the Miata. But in other areas, the Miata is the better vehicle. The turbo lag from the turbocharged 1.4L saps a bit of the fun out of the vehicle and the design is somewhat unflattering. We can understand why someone would pick the 124 Spider Abarth over the Miata as it is something different. But is it the better Miata? The answer is no.
      Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 124 Spider, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Fiat
      Model: 124 Spider
      Trim: Abarth
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29
      Curb Weight: 2,516 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $28,195
      As Tested Price: $30,540 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      6-Speed AISIN Automatic RWD Transmission - $1,350.00
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