Tests of eight Chrysler cars shows progress

Consumer Reports’ tests of eight Chrysler vehicles revealed the automaker’s cars are getting better, but their level of improvement varies considerably.
The Dodge Durango and Charger have improved the most. Both the V6 and V8 tested versions of the Durango SUV received “Very Good” road test scores. The Charger Rallye also received a “Very Good” road test score.
The Town & Country earned a “Very Good.” Its road test score is also considerably improved.
CR’s testers were unimpressed by the 200, Avenger, Compass, Journey and Patriot. Despite some improvements, they’re still mediocre vehicles overall.
Most of Chrysler’s models have suffered from below-average reliability, according to CR’s Annual Auto Surveys, and the company has consistently logged the lowest average road-test score in CR’s yearly automaker report cards.
All of the tested vehicles were updated for 2011. The Charger and Durango were redesigned and the 200, Avenger, Journey and Town & Country were extensively updated. The Patriot and Compass received some minor updates.
None of the models tested are Recommended. The Durango, Charger and Town & Country are too new for CR to have adequate reliability data to Recommend. The 200, Avenger, Compass, Journey and Patriot scored too low to be Recommended. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than 7 million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.
Prices for the tested vehicles ranged from $47,375 for the Durango V8 to $22,290 for the Avenger.
CR’s findings include:
— Dodge Charger. The Charger now has a steady, comfortable ride. The Dodge Charger Rallye Plus ($30,945 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 292-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that gets 21 mpg overall in CR’s own fuel economy tests. The 60/40-split rear seatbacks easily fold down to expand the trunk area.
— Dodge Durango. The redesigned, unibody Durango is much more sophisticated than the body-on-frame model it replaced. The Dodge Durango V6 ($43,785 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 290-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that works hard to provide modest acceleration and gets 17 mpg overall. The Durango V8 ($47,375 as tested) is powered by a 360-hp, 5.7-liter Hemi V8 that gets 14 mpg overall. Cargo and towing capacity is generous.
— Chrysler Town and Country. The updated Town & Country is much improved but still falls short of the best minivans. The Town & Country Touring-L ($37,505 MSRP as tested) has a powerful 283-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that gets 17 mpg overall. Cargo volume is generous; most versions have seats that fold flat into the floor.
— Dodge Journey. Despite a new engine and interior, the Journey is still a mediocre vehicle. The Dodge Journey Lux AWD ($36,795 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 283-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that delivers good performance but got only 16 mpg overall. Cargo space is generous.
— Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger. The 200 and the Avenger are essentially the same mid-sized sedan. Fuel economy was unimpressive. The Chrysler 200 Limited ($27,825 MSRP as tested) and the Dodge Avenger Mainstreet ($22,290 MSRP as tested) have a standard 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that gets 21 mpg overall in CR’s own fuel economy tests. The 200 has a small trunk for its class; the Avenger’s is larger. Trunk space can be expanded in both cars by folding the 60/40-rear seatbacks.
— Jeep Compass and Patriot. The Compass and the Patriot, basically the same vehicle, both provide a compliant ride. The Jeep Compass Latitude 4×4 ($24,985 MSRP as tested) and the Jeep Patriot Latitude 4×4 ($24,400 MSRP as tested) are both powered by a noisy and sluggish 172-hp, 2.4-liter four cylinder engine. The Compass gets 22 mpg overall; the Patriot, 21 mpg. It’s easy to fold down the 60/40 rear seatbacks, creating a good-sized cargo bay.

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