’07 Dodge Caliber Bets On CVT, AWD

’07 Dodge Caliber Bets On CVT, AWD

New Dodge compact crossover takes Neon’s place next year.
by Joseph Szczesny (2005-08-08)

The Chrysler Group is letting out some more details about the 2007 Dodge Caliber its plans to have ready for showrooms by the middle of 2006.

Eric Ridenour, the Chrysler Group’s executive vice president of product development and chief operating officer-designate, said the new Caliber will feature a continuously-variable transmission and all-wheel drive, as well as the new four-cylinder global engine that was designed jointly by Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Hyundai. Tests aren’t anywhere near complete yet but the combination of the CVT and new engine should raise fuel economy by 8-10 percent over the fuel economy of the Neon, the Chrysler group’s current offering in the small-car segment.

The Caliber will come only in a two-box bodystyle that borrows design elements from sport-utility vehicles, the larger Dodge Magnum, and the hatchbacks of the 1970s and 1980s. Chrysler has no plans for a three-box sedan model, Ridenour said during a briefing on the powertrain for the next-generation small cars.

“The idea is for something a little more aggressive in the marketplace with those proportions,” he said. “It’s very, very impressive the way it has stood out at auto shows. That’s what we’re trying to do with our cars. We make sure they catch your eye,” he said.

ECT, AWD, and CVT

The all-wheel-drive unit slated for the Caliber will be the first with an electronic control split for front and rear torque. Under normal condition, the split is biased towards the front wheels for better on road handling and shifts to the rear wheels as needed, Ridenour said. “It’s an all-electronic system, so that way you get good fuel economy,” he added.

The collaboration with its two Asian partners allowed for development of an engine with more sophistication and technology, and more refined than the typical four-cylinder engines now used around the world, Ridenour claimed. “We tend not to get much technology in four-cylinders at least here in the U.S. ,” he said.

At the same time, the price for consumers is about the same, he said. “We’ll be able to bring it in at a price point similar to what we would have done” with Chrysler’s other four-cylinder engines, he said.

Ridenour said the block is very stiff, which helps reduce noise and the valve cover is isolated on thin rubber to reduce noise. The oil pan also has been stiffened to reduce the noise and vibration and give the engine a more refined feel. “We wanted to design in sweetness and a good sound,” he said. “A lot of thought went into this vehicle,” he said.

Among the features of the world engine is a balance shaft that’s integrated into the oil pump. “That means less parts, which means it’s easier to manufacture,” he said. “We did a lot of work on the computational side in flow dynamics to really shape intake, the exhaust port, and the combustion chambers,” added Ridenour, who noted the engine will come in three different variants. The 1.8-liter version will produce 140 horsepower with 125 pound-feet of torque.

The 2.0-liter version will produce 150 horsepower and 140 lb-ft of torque, and the 2.4-liter version will deliver 170 horsepower with 165 lb-ft of torque.

Ridenour also said Chrysler plans to sell the Caliber in Europe with a diesel engine but has no plans for selling such a vehicle in the United States, even though it will be built for export from the group’s assembly plant in Belvidere, Ill.

The CVT unit is a proven version from a Japanese supplier, which features electronic controls and variations. “This is very much a first for us,” Ridenour said. “We’ve learned from others’ experiences.” Unlike some of the CVTs that have reached the market, the Caliber’s CVT has electronics that optimize vehicle performance and customer satisfaction, he added. Nissan uses a similar unit and JATCO, the Japanese supplier, allowed Chrysler to review the warranty data, which was impressive, Ridenour added.

Ridenour said he believes the customers will like the feel of the new CVT. “We were able to cherry-pick what we liked and put it all together in one package,” he said.

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