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DCX'S NEW CROSSOVERS AND CORVETTE KILLER

DCX isn’t sitting on its laurels.

DCX isn’t sitting on its laurels. It has plans to expand the Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Avenger family with a crossover in 2009, and to take on Chevy’s supercharged 640-hp Super Corvette with a more powerful 2007 Dodge Viper.

The Sebring/Avenger platform will spawn a crossover that is larger than the Caliber, but smaller than the Pacifica. Insiders liken it to Toyota’s RAV4 and Ford’s Edge, but state it will be a seven-passenger vehicle with a rear seat that folds flat into the rear floor. And while this seat reportedly is fit for not much more than toddlers, it’s felt that the ability to advertise two more passengers than the Ford at the same—or lower—base price will be a distinct advantage. Moving forward under the “JC46” codename, the new crossover will come in front- and all-wheel drive versions and offer the same powertrain lineup as its sedan counterparts. As there also are plans to offer a more sporting version of the Avenger, its performance parts might make their way into the as yet unnamed family hauler scheduled to debut in Detroit in just over one year. Chrysler also will have a version of this vehicle, with much more equipment, to compete with Lincoln’s MKX, though it is doubtful there will be a Jeep version, especially in light of the soft sales of Jeep’s Compass.

Those attending the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, however, will see the reason behind all of the Vipers running around Detroit with camouflaged hoods. Not willing to wait for the Über Corvette to hit the market before forming a response, the powers that be at DCX plan on pulling the wraps off their modified sports car at the same show Chevy will use to launch the new ‘Vette. Hiding under the Viper’s taller, ridged hood is a first for the brute-force Dodge: variable valve timing. The addition of a technology that has been found in Asian economy cars for years has not only smoothed out the power delivery under extreme conditions, it raises horsepower to an even 600 while increasing torque to more than 700 lb-ft. This reportedly will drop the car’s 0-60 mph acceleration time into the mid-three second range, and add a few mph to its top speed.—CAS