For many years, the three big North American automakers unveiled their upcoming new models in a process often called a Long Lead – a pre-launch unveiling of the new vehicles and of their extended versions. This gave automotive journalists, in those days working according to staggered deadlines, the time to get to know and test out the new models being produced by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler (now FCA).
The first two of these manufacturing giants have in recent years abandoned this practice, well-appreciated as it was by the press, in response to the advent of the Internet and the speed with which it spread news. Only FCA has held out, continuing its long-standing practice by organizing a yearly What’s New event, usually held towards the end of June.
Those attending the event can meet with the automaker’s engineers, marketing heads and many other people involved in the creation of FCA’s vehicles. We were also given the opportunity to drive next year’s models on a track, in a dynamic test area and on a course that put the vehicles’ lateral road grip abilities to the test. FCA even provided us with a drag strip and a relatively arduous off-road trail. Hard to resist an invitation to such an event!
As tradition has it, FCA did impose an embargo on information regarding our first drives and details about the new models, which prevents us from reporting them before September 1. Luckily there are exceptions to the gag order, and we’re able to share with you the principal innovations related to those.
The banners flying over the 2018 Dodge lineup are performance and power, and the flagship model leading the charge is the new Challenger SRT Demon, whose 840 hp and 770 lb-ft of torque help make it the fastest muscle car and production vehicle over a quarter-mile. What’s more, the Challenger SRT is also available in a Widebody edition powered by a 707-hp, 6.2L HEMI Hellcat engine. This version gains several outside elements that make the vehicle larger and lower to the ground, giving it a distinctly more aggressive demeanour and placing it among the world’s true ultra-high-performance models. Also worth noting are the addition of exclusive badges, more-refined interior amenities and several choices of new high-performance tires.
Sticking with the same theme, the Durango SRT sports a 475-hp HEMI engine and is the fastest three-row SUV on the market; it can go from 0-100 km/h in 6 seconds and complete the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds. In a testament to its great versatility, its performance-minded streak doesn’t prevent it from being able to tow up to 8,600 lbs. As for the Durango R/T, its appearance has been modified by air intakes integrated into the hood in addition to several other esthetic tweaks.
Still in the realm of performance vehicles, the manufacturer’s Jeep division is launching an impressive new SUV for 2018. The Grand Cherokee Trackhawk occupies a unique position in the category of high-performance utility vehicles. With its 6.2L HEMI supercharged engine, a beast able to deliver 707 hp and 645 lb-ft or torque, this all-terrain vehicle can go from a stop to 60 mph (97 km/h) in only 3.5 seconds, do the quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds and maintain a top speed of 290 km/h. Almost difficult to imagine from an off-road specialist!
FCA’s embargo, we should mention, prevents us from discussing in detail the many upgrades and modifications brought to the other Grand Cherokees and the rest of the Jeep lineup.
After suffering through years as the neglected child of the FCA family, the Ram brand is today one of the most popular on the market. The explosion of different versions and powertrains being offered gives buyers the opportunity to choose the precise model that suits them. The 1500 category alone includes 11 variations: Tradesman Express, SLT, HFE, Big Horn/Lone Star, Lone Star Silver, Sport, Night, Rebel, Laramie, Laramie Longhorn, Laramie Limited and Limited Tungsten.
The Limited Tungsten Edition is brand-new for 2018 and comes with a range of exclusive features and options.
The trio of 500 models from Fiat is back without major changes in terms of mechanics or esthetics. What changes there are focus on finishing details and a revamp of the options packages, in addition to some mechanical tweaks. The 500e all-electric model, available in the USA, is not currently being offered for Canada. The 500 Abarth, meanwhile, is now offered in both coupe and convertible versions; the turbo versions, you’ll recall, were abandoned last year.
Consumers can also choose individual options from a wide range of features that previously were only available as part of options packages.
So now you have an early glimpse of those models not part of FCA’s current news embargo. Starting September 1, we’ll have all the rest of the new 2018 FCA models and their details for you, including the changes being brought to the Chrysler 300 and Pacifica. Stay tuned!