Expect good things from Chrysler in 2012, beginning with the first appearance of the Fiat-sourced Dodge Caliber replacement at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. To be built on a stretched version of Fiat’s high-volume compact platform, the new Dodge Caliber (or whatever the replacement will be called) will likely be the first in a series of new compacts from Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep. The Fiat platform is so versatile that it can be used for anything from compacts through mid-size vehicles, making it the ideal choice for a cost-conscious manufacturer like Chrysler.
Since Chrysler hasn’t focused on hybrids, electrics, or compact, fuel-saving engines to date, the automaker will have some catching up to do. Rumors say the new Chrysler compact cars will offer a range of normally-aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder engines, mated to eight and nine speed automatic transmissions for impressive fuel economy numbers. There’s even word of a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission, which probably means that a replacement for the Dodge Caliber SRT4 is in the works.
We had a chance to speak with SRT head, Ralph Gilles, last spring, and he was tight-lipped about what may or may not be in the development pipeline. He was enthusiastic about their upcoming compacts, however, as well as the bound-for-the-U.S. Fiat 500 Abarth. There’s no denying that the SRT8 versions of the Dodge Challenger, Dodge Charger, and Chrysler 300 are fun to drive, but it looks like small-car Mopar fans will have a very good year ahead of them.