Although it’s not quite out of the woods yet, the big story at this year’s Chicago Auto Show has to be the resurgence of the Dodge and Ram brands. It appears that the Dodge boys have been hard at work, especially considering what they’ve been given and the time frame they had in which to accomplish it.
In Chicago, Dodge introduced two versions of the restyled 2011 Durango, the Heat and R/T and high-performance versions of both the 2011 Charger and, believe it or not, the 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan.
In a later press conference, the company’s Ram division unveiled the Tradesman 1500 and the 3500 HD – marking the brands first-ever debut at an auto show.
2011 Dodge Durango
Think of the Heat as a sort of club racer version of the Durango. Although powered by the same Pentastar V-6 as most Durangos, it boasts a new air intake, dual exhausts and five more horses. The third row seats get 86’d, while the exterior is massaged with sportier front and rear fascias, lower side skirts, smoked headlamp housings, a painted grill and dual exhaust tips.
The Heat also gets quicker steering, 20-inch wheels and a firmer suspension that’s 0.8 of an inch lower than more plebian Durangos. Inside, drivers are also treated to a high-zoot 506-watt Alpine sound system.
If the Heat is somewhat of a poseur, the R/T is the real deal. Equipped with a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, the R/T shares the same sound system, body kit and lowered suspension, along with additional amenities such as third row seating, load-leveling rear suspension and HID headlamps.
To go along with its 360 horsepower, the R/T boasts leather seats with suede inserts and red stitching, leather steering wheel and shift lever as well as remote start and a power liftgate.
2011 Dodge Journey R/T
Call us purists, but we think this particular Journey should’ve been called the Journey Heat, since there is absolutely no reason to slap an R/T badge on a vehicle with a 283 horsepower Pentastar V-6 unless it’s the size of a Fiat 500.
Nonetheless, Dodge did it, so we’ll have to live with it until they come to their senses. It does have a retuned suspension, 19” alloy wheels, a body-colored grill and fog lights. Inside, the red and black treatment is done in cloth, although there is a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift lever accented with red stitching.
2011 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T
Tim Allen now has an official minivan for “Man Land” as Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of the Dodge Brand referred to the latest Grand Caravan as the “Man Van” and to its interior as a “man cave.”
Starting with a firmer suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels, the exterior of the R/T (again with a V-6) sports standard fog lights and body-color grill and trim. The red-stitched perforated leather seats and all-black interior are enhanced by a 506-watt sound system complete with subwoofer.
2011 Dodge Charger SRT8
Last but not least on the list of new Dodges is the 2011 SRT8 version of the restyled Dodge Charger. It is, according to Gilles, “one hell of a machine” and comes with Chrysler’s 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 that delivers a estimated 465 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque, 40 and 45 more than the previous version. The new Charger also comes standard with paddle shifters connected to its new flat-bottomed steering wheel and Dodge’s Uconnect touch infotainment system.
2011 Ram 1500 Tradesman
If you’re an entry-level truck buyer looking for horsepower, have we got a deal for you! For under 23K, plus tax, you can drive away from you local Dodge dealer in a new Ram 1500 Tradesman and its standard 5.7-liter 390-horsepower Hemi V-8 that produces 407 lb.-ft. of torque.
Although only available as a regular-cab truck with either vinyl or cloth split-bench seats, you can choose from two bed lengths and upgrade to 4WD. Other options include power windows and locks, chrome bumpers and remote entry.
Standard equipment includes such niceties as air conditioning, six speaker audio system with CD and audio jack. Airbags, ABS and electronic stability control are also part of the entry-level price along with a Class IV trailer hitch, heavy-duty engine cooling and a heavy-duty transmission oil cooler.