Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your husband. One of the four-horsemen of the apocalypse has officially arrived. Consumer Reports has gone and paid Chrysler a compliment by saying that the 2011 Durango and Charger are the company's most-improved models and, on the whole, the automaker's cars are getting better. CR even awarded both the V6 and V8-powered Dodge Durango a "Very Good" road test score, putting it in contention with the likes of the 2011 Ford Explorer. The 2011 Dodge Charger Rallye also nabbed a "Very Good" rating, which is comparable to the 2011 Ford Taurus and 2011 Buick Lacrosse.
Even the 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan walked away with the honor of a "Very Good" designation, but things aren't all lollipops and rainbows. Consumer Reports says that its testers were unimpressed with models like the 200, Avenger, Compass, Journey and Patriot, calling the vehicles mediocre.
The report says that poor reliability hasn't helped the Chrysler cause. Over the past three years, the organization has only recommended one of the automaker's vehicles – the Dodge Ram 1500. Hit the jump to check out the full press release.
Durango and Charger improved the most in tests of eight Chrysler models;
200, Avenger, Compass, Journey, and Patriot remain unimpressive
YONKERS, NY - Consumer Reports' tests of eight Chrysler vehicles revealed the automakers' cars are getting better, but their level of improvement varies considerably.
The Dodge Durango and Charger, which received significant redesigns, have improved the most. Both the V6 and V8 tested versions of the Durango SUV received "Very Good" road test scores which now makes them comparable with the redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer. However, they score well below rivals like the Toyota Highlander and the Chevrolet Traverse. The Charger Rallye also received a "Very Good" road test score and now ranks close to the Ford Taurus and Buick LaCrosse.
The freshened Town & Country, a virtual twin of the Dodge Grand Caravan, earned a "Very Good." Its road test score is also considerably improved.
"It's clear that Chrysler is on the right path, but they still have a long way to go," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT. "We see major improvements for models that have had a significant redesign. When Chrysler invests the time and money in a true redesign, the result has been a much more competitive model."
Consumer Reports' testers were unimpressed by the 200, Avenger, Compass, Journey, and Patriot. Despite some improvements, they're still mediocre vehicles overall, scoring at or near the bottom of their respective categories.
Most of Chrysler's models have suffered from below-average reliability, according to Consumer Reports' Annual Auto Surveys and the company has consistently logged the lowest average road-test score in CR's yearly automaker report cards. Over the past three years, CR has Recommended only one Chrysler-built model, the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup.
All of the tested vehicles were updated by Chrysler 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. Consumer Reports will also be testing the updated Chrysler 300C, Dodge Challenger, and the new Fiat 500. Those vehicles weren't available in time for testing for this issue.
The full report on Chrysler models is available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org on June 21st. Updated daily, it's the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. The report also appears in the August issue of the magazine, on newsstands July 5th.
None of the models tested are Recommended. The Durango, Charger, and Town & Country are too new for Consumer Reports to have adequate reliability data to Recommend. The 200, Avenger, Compass, Journey, and Patriot scored too low to be Recommended. Consumer Reports 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 seven 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.
The Charger now handles responsively and has a steady, comfortable ride. Visibility also improved, but is still not great. The ride is steady and compliant. The Dodge Charger Rallye Plus ($30,945 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 292-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that is refined and performs well, getting 21 mpg overall in CR's own fuel economy tests. The five-speed automatic transmission mostly shifts smoothly but it can be slow to downshift when acceleration is wanted. Braking is Very Good. The spacious cabin is well-finished. The 60/40-split rear seatbacks easily fold down to expand the wide but shallow trunk area.
The redesigned, unibody Durango is much more refined and sophisticated than the body-on-frame model it replaced. Based on the revamped Jeep Grand Cherokee, it rides well and has a well-finished cabin and usable third-row seat. Overall the ride is steady and supple. 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. Acceleration times for the heavy Durango V8 are on par with six-cylinder competitors. The five-speed automatic transmission can be unresponsive at times. Wet braking distances are long, but overall braking is Good. Cargo and towing capacity is generous, making it a good alternative to a large SUV like a Chevrolet Tahoe.
The updated Town & Country is much improved but it still falls short of the best minivans. The compliant ride is more settled and does a good job of damping bumps. The improved interior is quiet, well-equipped and versatile. The Town & Country Touring-L ($37,505 MSRP as tested,) is powered by a 283-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that is smooth and powerful and gets 17 mpg overall. Fuel economy is the lowest of currently tested minivans. The six-speed automatic transmission doesn't shift smoothly. Braking is Very Good. Interior quality has improved and is well-finished. Cargo volume is generous; most versions have seats that fold flat into the floor. Many electronic safety aids, like blind spot monitoring, are standard on the Town & Country.
Despite a new engine and interior, the Journey is still a mediocre vehicle. The midsized three-row SUV rides well and is quiet, but its lack of agility makes it feel larger than it is. It provides a smooth ride overall, but it's not entirely settled. 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. The six-speed automatic transmission doesn't shift smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The interior had some very nice materials but the execution is haphazard. Cargo space is generous but the third row seat is tiny.
Despite their different styling, the 200 and the Avenger are essentially the same mid-sized sedan. The 200 is a mild reworking of the mediocre Sebring. Both models received an exterior face-lift, new interiors, revised suspensions, and a new available V6. But none of that was enough to make those aging designs competitive. Fuel economy was unimpressive, the seats are uncomfortable, and handling and braking are so-so. Both cars provide a compliant ride and good isolation, but frequent body motions make them feel unsettled. 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 is noisy and unrefined and gets 21 mpg overall in CR's own fuel economy tests. The optional smooth 283-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine is much more powerful and returns the same 21 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission can be slow to shift. Stopping distances are long. 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.
The Compass and the Patriot are small car-based SUVs that are styled differently, but are basically the same vehicle. Both provide a compliant ride and mostly simple controls. Neither is particularly agile; the Compass has lower limits in our emergency handling tests. The Jeep Compass Latitude 4x4 ($24,985 MSRP as tested,) and the Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4 ($24,400 MSRP as tested,) are both powered by a 172-hp, 2.4-liter four cylinder engine that is noisy and sluggish. The Compass gets 22 mpg overall while the Patriot gets 21 mpg overall The continuously variable transmission shifts smoothly but causes more engine noise as it holds engine speed high during acceleration. Stopping distances are long. The interiors are improved, and most panels fit well but the ambiance is basic and the driving position is narrow. It's easy to fold down the 60/40 rear seatbacks, which creates a good-sized cargo bay.