Chrysler's in a tough spot right now. The beleaguered automaker survived the Daimler fiasco only to be picked up by an indifferent Cerberus team before ultimately ending up in bankruptcy court. Chrysler came out of those proceedings with a new dance partner in Fiat, and while the new company has a healthier balance sheet, a lack of funding has left the Pentastar with a nearly empty cupboard when it comes to new 2010 products.
Jeep Liberty, Dodge Nitro and the light-duty Ram pickup have a system for 2010 that turns off the fuel during deceleration to increase fuel efficiency. The driver will know it is happening when the "eco" button on the dashboard lights up. Much of the 2010 lineup, including all Jeeps, are equipped with the eco feature.
The Dodge Journey gains 1 mpg in efficiency with a 3.5-liter V-6.
Many of the tweaks to the lineup make optional features standard. Some vehicles come with a price cut, like the Dodge Caravan SXT minivan with a base price that is $2,180 lower for 2010.
The new heavy-duty Ram pickup comes as a crew cab for the first time, allowing Dodge to play in the highest volume part of the market. It will be followed up for 2011 with a new fleet of commercial trucks, as the Ram 3500, 4500 and 5500 chassis cabs will debut.
As for the rest of the lineup, Chrysler did the most it could with its limited resources. Among the running changes for the 2010 model year are an improved Dodge Caliber interior, an updated, smooth-hooded Chrysler Sebring (as if anyone's going to notice) and plenty of fuel economy-related updates. The Dodge Nitro, Jeep Liberty and light-duty Ram receive a fuel cutoff feature during deceleration. The Dodge Caliber, Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot add entry-level 2.0L four-cylinder models that deliver nominal fuel economy gains (2 mpg in the Dodge, 1 mpg in the Jeeps). The 3.5L Dodge Journey, a car that we'd all but forgotten about, will also see tweaks that will allow it to pick up an additional mpg as well.
The Chrysler brand will see changes to the creased hood on the Sebring sedan and convertible, which will be replaced with a conventional and smoother hood for 2010. New wheels complete the look. Inside, the gauges have been redesigned.
Chrysler's new management decided to keep the Dodge Viper and extend the 2009 model year. There are four new colors, including a "snakeskin green" and a new interior with tan Nappa leather seats.
Finally, Chrysler hopes to entice buyers by making previously optional equipment standard for 2010, while also adjusting pricing. The Dodge Caravan cost of entry has been lowered by $2,180 to $21,800, giving families a budget-priced option in the minivan market. Oh, and one last thing -- a limited edition Dodge Challenger SRT8 will be offered in Plum Crazy for 2010. Now that sounds genuinely interesting.