Chrysler will roll out its new small-car powertrain platform in early 2006, with the introduction of the Dodge Caliber. The line-up marks the official debut of the 4-cylinder "World Engines" jointly developed with Mitsubishi and Hyundai. The engine family includes a 140-hp 1.8-liter; 150-hp 2.0-liter; and 170-hp 2.4-liter versions. The engines will be produced at the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance plant in Dundee, MI. The engines are expected to generate fuel economy savings of 5% compared with the 2.0-liter mill they replace (see www.autofieldguide.com/articles/020501.html).
In addition to the engines, Chrysler will use the Caliber to debut its new all-wheel-drive system, featuring an electronically controlled split to provide maximum torque between front and rear wheels. Power is biased toward the front wheels during normal driving situations, while up to 60% of power output can be sent to the rear wheels during off-road or inclement driving situations. The AWD module's power take off unit was developed by Tochigi Fuji Sangyo and is assembled in Japan, while the rear differential is supplied by Mitsubishi Motor and assembled in Japan. Half shafts are provided by NTN, assembled in the U.S. and Canada. The prop shaft was developed by Showa in Canada.
Additionally, Caliber will mark the debut of Chrysler's foray into the continuously variable transmission (CVT) fray. Developed in cooperation with JATCO and currently used on the Nissan Lafesta, the CVT includes software programmed to mimic an automatic transmission via artificial shift points and changes in RPM. "Customers expect to feel shifts and hear changes in the RPM," says Eric Ridenour, Chrysler's executive vp of product development. "We will add an auto shift mode, so if you want to bang through six gears, it will bang through six gears like an automatic transmission. We have benchmarked all the CVTs in the world…and we were able to cherry pick the things we like and get it all in one package."
Chrysler expects the new engines and CVT to boost overall fuel economy on Caliber and its platform mates by up to 10% over the previous 2.0-liter 4-cylinder and 4-speed automatic transmission configuration used on the outgoing Dodge Neon.—KMK