What comes after hump-day? The TopSpeed Podcast, of course!
Happy Thursday everybody, and welcome to EPISODE 010! of the TopSpeed Podcast. This week is special for a few reasons aside from our milestone number. Firstly, Justin is gone on vacation, so we brought in a special guest, Logan Utsman. Logan is an old friend and colleague of Mark and myself, and he is a proper hoon to boot. We hope you enjoy hearing him.
If you hated him, let us know that too. We will be sure to have him drawn and quartered for offending the masses.
Secondly we have a hybrid video podcast that has photos in it too. The first part is great news, the second part is less so. Thanks to some shaky internet, my recording PC dropped the video feed about halfway through. I filled the rest of the podcast with some photos from my personal portfolio to provide some visual entertainment. You can see the video after the break.
As for the show, our Weekly Wheels features a return of the Lexus ES 350, a look at the Audi A3 TDI, and I discuss my time flogging some new Cooper Tires on a track with the Ford Mustang and BMW 3 Series.
News coverage includes a thorough look at Chrysler’s big five-year plan, what it means for SRT, Dodge and Ferrari, plus the return of the Grand Wagoneer and the official announcement of the Maserati Alfieri. The BMW i3 also makes an appearance in our news segment.
Our Q/A segment features more automotive destruction, a short look at the best lime-green hatchbacks you can buy, the oldest cars we have driven, and we speculate on dream drag races.
As always, we finish with Own, Drive, Burn. This week we have a trio of Ferrari models.
Please let us know if you have any comments, questions or concerns. You can reach us in the comments below, on Twitter @TopSpeedPodcast or by email: Podcast@TopSpeed.com
We are also on iTunes. If you wanted to subscribe, rate or leave us a review we would really appreciate it.
See you next week you crazy kids.
Weekly Wheels: Lexus ES 350, Audi A3 TDI, BMW 328i
Hosts: Christian Moe, Mark McNabb, Logan Utsman
Watch the video version after the break!
There are chunks of big news coming from the Chrysler Group today, as the Detroit giants has outlined a five-year plan that includes major changes across all brands. However, the most important piece of information has SRT in the spotlight, with the performance marque scheduled to die as a standalone brand and become part of Dodge.
Naturally, the first question that surfaces is what will happen with the Viper. Well, Chrysler says we don’t need to worry about it, as its halo sports car will live on under Dodge, with a refresh planned for 2015. So basically the Viper is regaining the badge it was launched with back in 1992. A bit ironic, eh?
As far as the SRT-prepped Challenger muscle car and Charger muscle sedan are concerned, they will be reintegrated into the Dodge lineup as range-topping, performance iterations. And with the new product plan revealed, Dodge has finally confirmed that the two will be redesigned for the 2018 model year.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also announced that former SRT CEO Ralph Gilles will continue to serve as Senior Vice President of Product Design and President and CEO of Motorsports within Dodge.
But that’s not all that’s bound to change at Auburn Hills. The Dart, for instance, will be revised in 2016, followed by the launch of the Dart SRT. Surprisingly enough, the latter will sport a turbocharged engine under the hood and all-wheel drive. The same year will also see the introduction of a brand-new Dodge Journey with a beefed-up SRT version to arrive the next year. What’s more, all-new B-segment sedan and hatchback models, of which we know nothing about, will be unveiled in 2018.
Lastly, Dodge is getting ready to unload two vehicles from its lineup. As expected, the Avenger will get the axed by the end of this year. However, we were surprised to find out that the company will stop producing the Grand Caravan as well. The vehicle that started the whole minivan craze 30 years ago will be phased out in 2016, when the next-generation Chrysler Town and Country rolls off the assembly line.
Click past the jump to read more about the SRT Viper.
Now that Viper production is on temporary halt due to poor sales, it seems that the folks over at Street and Racing Technology (SRT) are spending time developing a new, special edition version of its V-10-powered sports car.
The brand’s newest iteration, which is on display at the New York Auto Show as we speak, brings together two of the meanest SRT Vipers launched throughout the last 12 months. We’re talking about the Viper Anodized Carbon Special Edition and the Corvette ZR1-killing Viper TA (short for Time Attack).
Suggestively named Anodized Carbon Special Edition TA, the new model takes the coolest features from the aforementioned versions: a unique-looking body and a track-prepped chassis.
As you might already know, the 2014 SRT Viper Anodized Carbon Special Edition features an exclusive grey-like, metallic matte exterior color, satin black exhaust bezels, gloss black badges and a carbon-fiber rear applique. Moving over to the Viper TA, it’s main highlights are a Bilstein Damptronic suspension system tuned for track use, racing stabilizer bars, a carbon-fiber X-brace and high-performance Brembo brakes.
So what happens when you take these machines and build them into one?
Click past the jump to find out more about the SRT Viper Anodized Carbon Special Edition TA.
Oh there are some really, really savvy spy photographers out and about these days and this time they caught the mother of all shots. The Barracuda has been an on-and-off venture for Chrysler for some time now, but we now have proof — via these exclusive spy shots — that it will debut this year at the New York International Auto Show in April. What’s more, it’s nothing like any of us imagined it would be...
We so happen to have a little "birdie" that works in the printing department at a large monthly automotive publication, and he noticed that the "boss man" was making sure only a select few saw the inside of this magazine. When he happened across a stray copy, he was as shocked as we are to see that the Barracuda will return not as a muscle car, but as a rebadged Dodge Dart.... sigh.... Our dreams are now crushed.
He managed to whip out his cell and snap off a few quick pictures, and this was the clearest one he could get, as he worried his boss could come around the corner at any second. We cleaned it up a bit by changing it to black and white, as the colors were a little messy from the poor lighting.
According to our source, the Barracuda features the same Fiat Compact platform as the Dart and Chrysler 200, but with some extra performance goodies. On top of the images, he scanned the page for as much information as he could absorb, and managed to catch that it will feature turbocharged four-cylinder with somewhere in the 250-horsepower and 260-pound-feet range, and that it will debut in New York this year. Unfortunately, that is all the information he could grab in the short amount of time he had alone with the stray mag.
Though the image is blurry, he described it as "a Dodge Dart with SRT aero mods and rims, and a dark grille." He couldn’t tell if it was an SRT model or a Plymouth, but the chances of Chrysler bringing back Plymouth for just this one model are slim to none.
So there you have it folks; Fiat has struck again by releasing another Chrysler icon from the muscle car years as a front-driven sedan, a la the Dodge Dart. We’ll go bury our heads in the sand until the NYIAS is over...
Update 4/1/2014: In case you haven’t figured it out just yet, this is a figment of our crazy imaginations here at the TopSpeed offices. Our rendering artist extraordinaire put a modified Dodge Dart on the pages of some random magazine, blurred the text a little and pasted in a Barracuda emblem and even a swimming barracuda in the background for the added "cheesy" effect. Thanks for playing along, we’ll be here all night; make sure to tip you waiters and waitresses...
Well this is some pretty sad news. After sitting out for more than a decade, the Viper returned to Endurance racing last year and participated in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. It seems that triumphant return was short lived as SRT and Chrysler have announced that they are pulling out of the historic race.
While it is not being claimed as the official cause, and the production and motorsport programs are separately funded, the recent closure of the Viper production plant in Detroit due to low sales is likely playing some part in this decision. Racing is expensive; it’s a simple but saddening fact.
Thankfully you can still hear the V-10 wail of a Viper GTS-R on track as the SRT Racing team is still competing in the US TUDOR United SportsCar Championship for the remainder of the season. Current plans are to continue with the series next year, but the Le Mans run was supposed to be a multi-year initiative as well.
If you have the means, and you enjoy the Viper, maybe you should put one in your garage and help these guys out.
Click past the jump to read more about the SRT Viper GTS-R.
There is no denying the pony car wars are raging hotter than ever. With the Chevy Camaro boasting the ZL1 and new Z/28, the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang coming to market soon, and Dodge presumably working on an outrageous halo engine for the Challenger, the segment is on fire. Well, things are getting a little less “presumable” for Dodge these days.
According to Allpar, one of their contributors shot a photo of a T-shirt worn by SRT staff members while at SRT’s annual Spring Festival of LXs. That shirt sported the menacing image you see above – and what is likely the logo for the new 6.2-liter supercharged HEMI engine.
Rumors suggest the Hellcat HEMI will crank out some 650 horsepower and 640 pound-feet of torque, besting even the mighty SRT Viper’s 640 horses and 600 pound-feet. The Hellcat’s numbers make sense, considering the standard output of the current, naturally aspirated, 6.4-liter HEMI in the Challenger and both the TorqueFlite and Tremec six-speed manual transmissions are capable of handling even more power.
Though Allpar says SRT’s CEO Ralph Gilles told their contributor the Challenger would debut in just under three months, most suspect the new Hellcat-powered Challenger will appear at the New York Auto Show happening April 16th and 17th. It’s appearance will also likely usher in the next generation of Challenger, as we’ve caught them testing around the streets of Detroit.
Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat.
The SRT Viper’s well-chronicled sales struggles have been well documented in the media these days. While company boss Ralph Giles continues to put on a brave — and maybe even defiant — face, today’s news involving Chrysler’s decision to shut down production of the Viper because of lagging sales is something even Giles doesn’t have any excuse for.
The company made the announcement in a statement, essentially confirming rumors that it was shutting down its Conner Avenue Assembly Plant from April 14th to to June 23rd. That’s two months of the Viper’s production remaining idle, but given how much supply it still has in its inventory — 756 unsold on March 1 — there was no need for the company to keep building more Vipers.
The Viper’s struggles in sales are a little surprising, considering the hype and fanfare the sports car received when it made its return a few years ago. Some people might point to the season as a reason for lagging sales, but even that doesn’t fully explain how the Viper hasn’t been universally lauded the same way as the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
Even with its limited production, wouldn’t consumers be tripping over themselves to get a Viper if it were in such a high demand? The truth its, demand for the sports car isn’t as high as SRT would’ve hoped.
We are starting to wonder if this lack of interest may result in a very short lifespan for the new SRT Viper... Let us know what you think in the comments section.
Click past the jump to read more about the SRT Viper.
Any self-titled crazed car nut such as myself will tell you, there’s more to cars than just rubber and metal. No, it’s far deeper than that. It involves a certain level of passion and fanaticism not appreciated by the casual onlooker. No, some folks just have gasoline running through their veins and 5W-30 oil in their heads. It’s a disease, really.
Chrysler’s SRT division seems to have hit the nail on the head with its latest commercial. It’s all about the brand being more than a brand; it’s about being a legend, making a statement, and having a certain attitude. It embodies the essence of being a car junkie and stirs the souls of gear heads everywhere.
Besides a well-made commercial featuring some of our favorite vehicles, the commercial indicates Chrysler’s intentions of heavily promoting SRT as its own brand or division. It all started with the Viper’s rebirth in 2013. Moving from under the Dodge branch, the Viper seemingly created its own niche label. Conveniently, the Viper immediately had similarly-badged SRT friends ready to join the party. Although they still sport their own badging, the group of SRT vehicles includes the Dodge Charger and Challenger, the Chrysler 300, and the famous Jeep Grand Cherokee – all with monstrous V-8s thundering underhood.
With SRT’s growth and increasing recognition, it wouldn’t be unlikely for the division to grow its lineup. Perhaps a slew of SRT4 models would be appropriate — ya know, sporting turbos with crazy boost numbers, manual transmissions and rear-wheel-drive. We already know SRT’s CEO Ralph Gilles has been hearing the SRT fan base screaming for an answer to the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S twins. Perhaps commercials like this are our first indication Gilles has something up his gasoline-soaked sleeve.
Note: Dodge Demon Concept Pictured Here.
Chrysler’s SRT is an undeniably hot division within the Pentastar, but it seems the loyal fans are wanting more. Ralph Gilles, the brand’s CEO, let loose of some interesting information during a recent interview with AutoGuide. Gilles says SRT is receiving tremendous feedback about the brand’s need to build a competitor to the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S twins.
“I’m happy to see that a lot of our fans want that,” Gilles says. “They ask us about that a lot.” Whether or not SRT will move forward with such plans is still unknown — and Ralph wasn’t saying much past acknowledging the hole in the vehicle lineup and the roaring customer demand.
Chrysler’s last major stab at building a small, affordable sport car was in 2007 with the Demon concept (pictured above). It was powered by a 2.4-liter in-line-four that made around 170 horsepower. The car never made production due partially to the “Great Recession” and Chrysler’s need for public assistance. However, times have changed and the possibilities for a new SRT-exclusive product are greater than ever.
Even if SRT wasn’t able to materialize a small, front-engine, rear-drive car of its own, it still has a few options with modifying existing cars in Chrysler’s portfolio; namely the Dodge Dart. Rumors have swirled about the Dart getting its own SRT4 makeover since its launch in 2012, with some suggesting it will sport as much as 300 horsepower.
“The community goes deep,” Gilles says about owners of past SRT4 models. “[They] still care about what we’re up to.” We suspect the SRT team may have something fun up their high-performance sleeves.
Click past the jump to read more about Subaru BRZ.
With cars like the Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, and to a lesser extent, the GTO, bringing back the nameplates and style of the classic muscle cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s, it makes sense that people will be clamoring for their favorite car to return as well. One of the biggest and the loudest of these groups is the Mopar boys asking for a new Barracuda.
There had been several rumors that Dodge and the SRT team had been working on possibly modifying the Challenger platform to bring a new ‘Cuda to the market (we even made renders), but it now seems those plans are thoroughly shut down.
At the recent Chicago Auto Show, Automobile Magazine sat down with Ralph Gilles, SRT president to ask him about the return of the Barracuda name. In short, he says it won’t be happening anytime soon.
Hit the jump for a full rundown of what Automobile learned, and to hear why Ralph says he won’t be working on a new ‘Cuda.
While every other automaker on the planet is embracing change, SRT looks as if it is resisting the modernization of its Viper lineup. In an interview with Edmunds, Ralph Giles said that the SRT Viper will remain with only a six-speed manual transmission, while nearly every other sports car and supercar is heading toward offering at least an optional paddle-shift transmission.
Gilles had this to say about Viper buyers in relation to the paddle-shifted auto: "The people who buy (the Viper) relish the manual, they relish the driver’s car, the raw connections to the vehicle. That is what it is about. So we are not chasing rainbows here." We see your claim, Mr. Gilles, and raise you the fact that SRT had to slash the production of the Viper because they are growing roots in dealerships. Maybe you need to recheck the pulse of the American sports car buyer, sir... Just sayin’...
Edmunds then queried Mr. Gilles about the possibility of dropping a HEMI V-8 into the Viper, and releasing a less-powerful "entry-level" Viper to help boost sales. To that, Gilles answered, taking a jab at the Stingray in the process: "We have no interest in becoming a Corvette." Well, considering the Corvette is one of the hottest items available and the Viper is little more than dealership eye candy, he may want to rethink his position.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Viper, but the market has apparently spoken...
Click past the jump to read more about the SRT Viper.
Chrysler revealed the current 6.4-liter, HEMI V-8 engine back in 2005, but it didn’t see use until the 2011 Dodge Challenger SRT8 rolled out. Since then, the engine has found itself under the hoods of many Chrysler vehicles, including the Chrysler 300 SRT8, Dodge Charger SRT8, Ram 2500 and 3500 trucks, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.
Now, SRT president and CEO Ralph Gilles said that the company is considering replacing the current HEMI engine, but not before the end of the decade. And that’s because customers are still very much in love with the HEMI engine, but research also revealed that customers would also accept some changes in the lineup.
In a recent interview, Gilles said: "We are only making it because our customers want it. They love it. They love how it sounds, how simple it is, the elegance of it, it’s so reliable, and the torque."
When the current HEMI is replaced, you wouldn’t be surprised to see that SRT will decide to offer something other than a naturally aspirated V-8. This leads us to the possibility of smaller-displacement, turbocharged engines. This allows SRT to offer more powerful engines — on paper, that is — and reduced fuel consumption.
Click past the jump to read more about the current HEMI 6.4 liter V-8 engine.