Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus

Monday July 27th, 2015 at 1:77 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus

By David Colman

Hypes: Show car Looks, Ease of Operation
Gripes: Slow KIckdown Gear, Limited Rear Vision

In the prime of the muscle car era, back in 1970, Chrysler fielded an SCCA Trans Am racing team of Dodge Challengers and Plymouth Barracudas. These were basically the same car, with only stylistic differences between them. Although Chrysler never won the Trans Am series title with either model, the cars were successful brand ambassadors, especially the Barracudas entered by Dan Gurney’s All American Racers. Gurney’s AAR ‘Cuda, as it was known by its laser stripes then, lives on today as the Dodge Challenger SXT Plus. Optimal Challengers are available either with a 375hp, 5.7 liter HEMI V8, or a 470hp, 6.4 liter HEMI. The model we tested, however, was powered by a fuel conserving 3.6 liter V6 good for 23 MPG in overall driving, and 30 MPG on the highway. The V6 Challenger SXT Plus is plenty quick as long as you’ve selected the right gear in the 8-speed Torqueflite transmission. Otherwise, acceleration is rather leisurely, as it takes the drive train a full second to get with the program when you floor the throttle with Torqueflite in Drive. Overall performance is more AARP ‘Coulda than AAR ‘Cuda.

2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus

Despite this occasional power outage, the Challenger is still rewarding to hustle through curves. You can thank the big footprint of the standard Firestone Firehawk GT tires (245/45R20) for the extra stability. These beefy rollers are enhanced by optional polished alloy 20 inch wheels ($795) with “Graphite Pockets.” Their hexagonal spoke pattern and dazzling finish look especially good when bolted to a Challenger finished in “Phantom Black Metallic Tri-Coat Pearl” exterior paint. Though you might expect to pay extra for this show car finish, it’s available as a standard shade. Complementing the sparkly black is an eye-popping Ruby Red interior. The SXT is definitely a looker, with sleek body contours and twin faux hood scoops imparting that just-raced look so much a part of muscle car credibility.

2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus

Weight saving has never been a muscle car strong suit, and the Challenger, at 4,195 pounds, continues that dubious tradition. You sense the SXT’s mass every time you flick the steering wheel from lock to lock through a series of switchback curves. While the Challenger obediently follows your lead, it takes a couple of milliseconds before the chassis settles down. In fact, the SXT version seems rather softly sprung, a trait which imparts a cushy ride at the expense of fully snubbed handling. It’s actually a worthy trade-off for real world driving, a compromise that pays off in comfort every time you’re confronted with an array of speed bumps.

2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus

With a length of 16.5 feet, and a wheelbase of 116 inches, the cabin of the Challenger is a spacious enclosure. Although access to the back seat is somewhat impeded by the aft positioning of the front seats, once passengers are ensconced in the rear they will enjoy a moderately pleasurable ride. The Challenger’s sheer size also endows it with a flat floored, 16 cubic foot trunk. Rear seat backs can be dropped to access interior space for lengthy items. The heavily sloped rear roof and small backlight limit rear visibility, so the standard Park Sense rear park assist system and standard Park View rear back-up camera are essential safety components for maneuvering the Challenger in tight quarters. Our test example also featured an optional, $1,195 Power Sunroof which helped to shed light on the many black door and dash panels that engulf the Ruby Red seats. For $795, you may also want to upgrade to the Driver Convenience Group, which endows the Challenger with a slick Remote Start System, as well as Blind Spot and Rear Cross Path Detection, plus HID headlamps. The Blind Spot monitors illuminate handily under the rear view mirror stalks, and the Cross Path alert sounds when you are backing out of a parking space into circulating traffic. Both aids are worth having in view of the Dodge’s limited rear vision.

2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus

The basic Challenger SXT Plus provides a number of luxurious and surprising standard fitments in a vehicle with a base price of just $29,995. Chief among them are Keyless Enter ‘n Go, a terrific system which allows you to forget about fiddling with your key forever more. Just slip the fob into your pocket, and every time you approach your locked Challenger, it opens magically when you touch the door release. A voice activated Uconnect Access system affords voice texting of 140 character messages, plus a mobile Access App (free for the first 6 months) that provides restaurant, hotel, entertainment, gas, bank and parking information. A 7 inch reconfigurable display on the instrument panel makes Uconnect surfing easy.

With its comfy and inviting interior, stealthy exterior, and long list of standard features, the affordable V6 version of the Challenger is the Big Easy of today’s muscle cars.

2015 Dodge Challenger SXT Plus

  • Engine: 3.6 liter V6 with 24 valves and VVT
  • Horsepower: 305hp
  • Torque: N/A
  • Fuel Consumption: 23 MPG City/30 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,175
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L Scat Pack

Wednesday March 25th, 2015 at 9:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L Scat Pack

By David Colman

Hypes: Massive HEMI Horsepower and Torque
Gripes: Doesn’t Come With Barry Newman to Drive

Your first clue that this is a very serious driver’s car appears on the window sticker under the heading “Tires.” Most manufacturers designate tire choice in a most casual manner, stating they’ve provided either “all season radials” or “performance radials.” Such non-specific categories afford car makers the latitude to equip your new car with anything available in the supply chain provided the tires meet OEM specs. For those of us who value the importance of precise tire specification, Dodge’s commitment to using only the Goodyear Eagle F1 on the Hemi Challenger is welcome and reassuring news.

The rest of this phenomenal piece of driving nirvana is equally well equipped. Under the twin scoops of the expansive hood lies that eternal gem of an engine, the HEMI, this time displacing 6.4 liters, and belting out 485hp at 6000rpm, and 475lb.-ft. of torque at 4200rpm. Nothing else provides the instant surge and gratification of this newly refined Hemi, which now benefits from a lightened valve train. Under those massive valve covers, you’ll find sodium filled exhaust valves, hollow intake valve stems, and 16 hydraulic lifters with roller tips.

2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L Scat Pack

The Torque Flight transmission has been drag racing’s hot ticket for so many decades now that few remember its debut six decades ago. The latest variant of this elephantine gear box, designated 8HP70, is a $1,400 option which now contains 8 gears. The fat T-handle floor console stick will remind aging muscle car owners of their bucket seat mounts from years ago. But of course, in the 21st century, Dodge has not only slipped 4 extra gear sets into the transmission case, but provided manual override of up and down shifts with paddles on the steering wheel and a manual gate on the floor stick. All you really need to spur this Challenger is your right foot, however. All that torque means instant acceleration even when you just leave the Toque Flight in Drive and stomp the accelerator pedal. You can feel the race breeding of the transmission as it slams home each up shift with military authority. The benefit of the super overdrive 8th gear allows the Challenger to lope along the freeway at just 1500rpm while returning an admirable 25MPG. Of course, your mileage may vary, given the mellifluous orchestra of sounds emitted by the Hemi when you floor the aluminum ribbed gas pedal. Worst case scenario is about 15MPG. We managed 17MPG through one full tank test.

2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L Scat Pack

Do not buy this car unless you enjoy being the center of attention. At virtually every rest stop, someone came up to ask a question, share a story, or just enthuse about the looks of the Challenger. Maybe it’s the car’s throwback snout, with four round, vintage style headlights, that makes observers think they’re looking at the Challenger that starred in the legendary movie Vanishing Point. More likely, however, it’s the magnetically attractive, outrageous shade of green this Dodge is painted. Called “Sublime,” it’s a carryover color from Dodge’s inventive and playful palette of the 60s. The Scat Pack Appearance Package ($1,995) provides body color tail spoiler, flat black front air dam, matching matte tail stripes, and “Hyper-Black” lightweight forged aluminum wheels measuring 20 x 9 inches. These rims carry only Goodyear’s best F1 tires (245/45R20).

Even during one of the rainiest weeks in years, the big bad Dodge acquitted itself with commendable finesse. As long as you mind the gas pedal judiciously, the Goodyears churned through standing water without so much as a side slip. When the terrain dried out, the Challenger’s independent front suspension with high mounted upper A-arms provided precise feedback. Variable rate power steering, augmented by dual ball-joint knuckles, provided a constant stream of precise information. At the rear, a fully independent five link suspension cradle, with coil springs and stabilizer bar kept the Challenger’s tail well planted. Massive, vented, four-piston Brembo disc brakes at each corner arrest the Scat Pack’s momentum with decisive finality. Although the ride of this Dodge is unapologetically harsh, you quickly learn to love its laser focus on high performance.

2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L Scat Pack

Simply put, you cannot buy a nastier ride for anything close to this kind of money elsewhere. That mythic Challenger of Vanishing Point never really vanished at all.

2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L Scat Pack

  • Engine: 6.4 Liter HEMI V-8 16 valves, 16 conventional hydraulic lifters, all with roller tips
  • Horsepower: 485hp@6000rpm
  • Torque: 475lb.-ft.@4200rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 15MPG City/25MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $47,860
  • Star Rating: 10 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Dodge Durango Limited AWD

Friday May 23rd, 2014 at 7:55 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Spunky V6/8 Speed Transmission Combo, Easy Interior Reconfiguration
Gripes: Overdone Dashboard Chrome, No Power Lift Gate Closure

For 2014, Dodge has rejuvenated the appearance of the Durango with sprightly front and rear fascias that feature a floating crosshair grill insert upfront and sequential LED “racetrack” tail lights. Also new for this year is an 8-speed automatic gearbox controlled by a rotary shift selector located on the console between the front seats that takes some getting used to. We spent a week driving the Limited version, which is a new model for 2014. The Limited upgrades the base SXT level by including premium Capri leather interior, heated steering wheel, 8.4 inch dash stack touch screen, back-up camera with park assist, LED daytime running lights and 1 year of SiriusXM satellite radio. Base price for the rear wheel drive, V-6 powered Limited is $35,995. Add in the all wheel drive specification of our test vehicle and your starting price jumps to $38,395.

Additional option packages up the ante to $46,865. “Customer Preferred Package 23E” costs $2,395 for 20 inch polished aluminum wheels with 265/50R20 Goodyear Fortera tires, GPS navigation, HD Radio, and Power Lift Gate (which curiously does not provide automatic closure). A Rear DVD Entertainment Center adds $1,995. You’ll pop $995 for Trailer Tow Group IV which allows you to pull 6,200 pounds. The Safety, Security and Convenience Group costs $1,195 for Self Leveling Bi-Xenon Headlights, and a Power Tilt/Telescope Steering Wheel. Finally, $895 covers a comfy second row of Captain’s Chairs.

Even at this price, the Durango offers solid value for your money. Its gas efficient – 19 MPG overall – V-6 engine is a surprising screamer in the performance department, with that octet of gear ratios on hand to keep it operating at peak power (290hp, 260lb.-ft. of torque). There are, in fact so many gear sets on offer that the transmission sometimes stumbles during its self selection process. A couple of times it jerked inexplicably as it seemed to hunt for a lower gear at under 25 mph, and when cruise control is engaged, the 8 speed surprisingly downshifts all the way from 8th to 5th in order to retard speed on freeway hill descents. The rotary controller, however, which Jaguar has been using for years now, is a boon to interior ergonomics. It takes up almost no space on the center console, and flicks from detent to detent with ease. But since old habits die hard, you’ll find your right hand fluttering helplessly from time to time as you reach for the stick shift that isn’t there.

Dodge has taken great pains to refurbish the Durango’s interior with premium materials and plentiful benefits. The first thing you notice when climbing into the front row chairs is how comfortable they are. This comes as something of a pleasant surprise, since the American SUVs I’ve driven recently have fallen far short of this Durango’s comfort level. The rear seat area is particularly well equipped, with its pair of adjustable Captain’s chairs, wealth of leg space, overhead and floor vent outlets, and control panel for temperature, fan speed, and source of ventilation. The optional DVD center is particularly well integrated, with screens that fold unobtrusively into the backside of the front seat headrests, and A/V sockets built into those seats as well. Even the shallow floor console between the rear seats is thoughtfully constructed to allow drink holders without protruding high enough to interfere with goods storage when the seats are folded. Although this Durango will carry 6 adults in 3 rows, it can be quickly converted to truck duty by flipping the rear bench flat, then snapping the second row “Fold and Tumble” chairs shut. Even the front passenger seat back folds flat to accommodate extra long loads. These interior design permutations are ingenious, and easy to reconfigure.

Durango Limited offers a sweet ride quality by combining responsive handling with unexpectedly plush comfort. Steering response is outstanding. The Goodyear tires run quiet, the cabin is well insulated, and vision out of all quadrants is good enough to render the Limited’s standard back-up camera unnecessary. Only the chrome rings which surround all the front air vents prove distracting, especially when the driver’s side exterior mirror reflects the chrome ring instead of showing the traffic you need to see.

Dodge offers a sizeable number of Durango combinations, including a slightly more powerful V6 version called “Rallye” (295hp), and a substantially more lusty V8 Hemi model named “R/T” which quickens your pulse to the tune of 360hp and 390lb.-ft. of torque. But unless you’re planning to tow an 8,000 pound trailer, the R/T isn’t worth the fuel penalty you’ll pay of 14MPG in city driving versus 17 MPG for the Limited V6. In fact for everyday chores, the V6 Limited is as good an SUV as you’ll find for the money.

2014 Dodge Durango Limited AWD

  • Engine: 3.6 Liter Pentastar V6, 24 Valve with VVT
  • Horsepower: 290hp
  • Torque: 260 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 17 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $46,865
  • Star Rating: 8.5 out of 10 Stars

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2013 Dodge Dart Review

Monday December 24th, 2012 at 8:1212 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Alfa Flair, Build Quality, $ Value
Against: Underpowered, R/T Not Immediately Available

Okay, let’s get the important stuff out of the way upfront. No, it doesn’t have a Slant Six under the hood, a push button automatic on the dash, or Tinker Bell script reading “Dart” on the rear fender. The new Dart is the first offspring of the US government-brokered shotgun marriage between Chrysler and Fiat. Fiat, which owns Alfa Romeo, supplies the Dart with a stretched Alfa Giulietta platform. Chrysler, which owns Dodge, supplies the USA build facility, heritage nameplate, and dealer network. The result is a marriage made in heaven – an Alfa Romeo for the price of a Dodge!

The first Darts go on sale in July, 2012. Eventually 5 different models will be available. The range begins with the SE, with disc brakes at all 4 corners, 10 air bags, and a base price of $15,995. One step higher in the pecking order is the $17,995 SXT model, with such upgrades as 17 inch wheels, power mirrors and door locks, and keyless entry. A sportier Rallye model, with dual exhausts and black chrome headlamps, retails for $18,995. The Limited version – which we drove – adds Garmin Navigation with a 7 inch dash-mounted touch screen, 10 way power seats, and rear view camera monitors, for $19,995. A 2.0 liter “Tigershark” motor producing 160hp and 148 lb.-ft. of torque powers all 4 models. A 1.4 liter, turbocharged, 168hp motor is optionally available for $1,300. Dodge will also introduce a more powerful R/T Dart later in the model year. The $22,495 R/T will benefit from a 2.4 liter “Tigershark” powerplant producing 184hp and 171 lb.-ft. of torque.


To convert an Alfa Giulietta platform to Dart duty, Dodge widened the tub 2 inches and added 10 inches in length. The chassis is constructed from 68 percent hi-strength steel, and the car is built in the United States. A series of baffles and underbody streamlining panels insure that the Dart’s coefficient of drag (Cd) is just 0.285. Body panel gaps are remarkably tight, and wind noise inside the cabin is nil.

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2012 Dodge Charger R/T Road & Track Review

Thursday August 23rd, 2012 at 8:88 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Spacious Interior and Trunk. Zinger Motor
Against: Harsh Ride, Parking Space Hungry

There’s good news for those of you stuck in the past, longing for the days when voluptuous sheet metal and big block engines ruled the highways of America. Dodge has recreated the magic of those golden days of yore with the Charger R/T. It’s a sizeable sedan, with 4 cavernous doors that open wide to accommodate 5 adults, plus a 16.5 cubic foot trunk to haul all their stuff. Somehow, Dodge engineers have managed to wrap all that practicality in an alluringly sculpted skin that looks lean and mean. Charger’s styling renaissance dates to 2011. Conspicuously reflective chrome clad alloys, 20 inches in diameter, 8 inched in width, and carrying chunky 245/45R20 Goodyear F1 tires, play off the subtle contours of the revised body.

Dodge has given the new Charger a redone interior that looks handsome, feels good to the touch, and most importantly, works well in everyday use. A satisfying combination of expensive leathers, suede and surface treatments remove Charger from the airport rental fleet and elevate it to the exotic loan portfolio. The central touch screen video unit, about the size of an iPad, works flawlessly to control most functions you’ll need to adjust, including climate, radio, telephone, and personalized settings. Redundant buttons are splayed across the dash to allow immediate access to such essentials as fan speed, temperature, and defrosters. There’s even a real, grabable knob for radio volume and a matching one for station selection, with supplemental controls available on the steering wheels spokes. If you can’t figure out how to get the job done in this cockpit, then you don’t need to do the job.


We spent 3 hours in this environment on a drive from the Bay Area to the Gold Country foothills, and another 3 hours on the return trip. The Charger performed flawlessly, churning out more than enough passing power from its 5.7 liter HEMI V8 to snuff slower traffic in an eye blink. Yet the cruising gate of the Charger consumed less than half a 19 gallon tank of fuel for the entire round trip. At a steady 65mph, the Dodge managed to score a miserly 25MPG while whistling down the Interstate with quiet precision. On twisty backroads, the Hemi Charger is an even more invigorating blast to drive. Tromp the loud pedal and this beefy beast explodes with massive forward thrust. No need to downshift unless you want to savor the experience of swapping cogs. The Hemi makes enough torque in any speed range to get the job done right now with nothing more than the automatic kickdown that occurs whenever you floor the accelerator. If you live in snow country, you can equip your Charger with optional all wheel drive.

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2012 Dodge Charger R/T Road & Track Review

Tuesday May 1st, 2012 at 1:55 PM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

For: Luxo Cockpit, Huge Torque, Precise Handling
Against: Beats Every Prius to the Pump

I’ve got shocking news for all you homegrown Mopar fans. Ask me if the new R/T’s “got a Hemi in it?” and my answer will be “Si” because the 5.7 liter, 370hp Hemi comes from Mexico. The 5-speed automatic gearbox it’s attached to comes from Germany, “Ja.” And the assembly point for this all-American muscle car? Why, Brampton, Ontario, Canada, “eyh.” Oh yes, for the record, let’s not forget that Italy’s Fiat now owns Dodge, “grazie.” Make no mistake, the Charger R/T is still a primo muscle car, but heritage and inspiration aside, the USA no longer counts quite so heavily in the build equation.

The Charger enjoyed a styling renaissance in 2011, when new sheet metal gave it a scowling catfish face, flame surfaced flanks, and LED head and taillight clusters. All these revisions appeal to the nasty and the Narcissistic in us alike. The latest iteration of the Charger is visually compelling, especially in R/T form, with massive 20 inch alloys completing the Tonka Toy look. For 2012, Dodge has finished the makeover by redoing the interior with a very satisfying combination of expensive looking leathers, suedes and surface treatments that remove Charger from the airport rental fleet and elevate it to the exotic loan portfolio.

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2011 Dodge Avenger Mainstreet Review – More than just a rental car?

Thursday August 18th, 2011 at 11:88 AM
Posted by: AKramer

2011 Dodge Avenger
By Alexander Kramer


  • Smooth and quiet ride
  • Clean, well-built interior
  • Great sounding media center with 40 GB hard drive
  • Excellent value


  • 2.4 L 4-cylinder engine needs more pep
  • Disappointing fuel efficiency
  • Steering is a bit numb and the handling rather soft
  • Exterior design needs updating

It’s been a long time since Dodge made a sedan good for more than rental fleet duty. From the K-cars of the 80’s to the more recent Intrepid and Stratus models, driving a Dodge sedan has rarely inspired much excitement.

With a name like the Avenger, you’d expect Dodge’s current mid-size sedan to offer at least some level of performance and style. Unfortunately, when it was released in 2008 the Avenger displayed the same mediocre performance, cheap interior, and generally underwhelming design as its predecessors, and the most likely place you’ll find an Avenger is at your local Enterprise or Budget.

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Rebadged Dodge Journey Lives On as 2012 Fiat Freemont for the European Market

Tuesday January 25th, 2011 at 8:11 AM
Posted by: aquadog

2012 Fiat FreemontThe partnership between Chrysler Group and Fiat will unveil the new 2012 seven-seat crossover Fiat Freemont at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The Fiat Freemont features the body of a Dodge Journey but is rebranded with a Fiat logo, new bumpers and grille, and includes different engine choices that have been developed by Fiat PowerTrain (FPT).

For FWD manual transmission models, a Fiat 2.0-liter MultiJet turbo diesel engine with 140- or 170-horsepower will be offered. Being released later will be the AWD 4×4 models with a 2.0-liter MultiJet 170-horsepower engine and Chrysler’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 276-horsepower engine, both with automatic transmissions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Porsche, Buick, Modern Muscle Cars at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit

Wednesday January 19th, 2011 at 9:11 PM
Posted by: ponycargirl

©2011 Megan Green - Porsche 918 Spyder RSR at 2011 NAIASArticle and photos by Megan Green

Porsche 918 RSR
At a 6:30 a.m. press conference in snowy Detroit, the press gathered around in anticipation of the first reveal of the day. With smoky fanfare, Porsche rolled out their 918 RSR , a high-end hybrid sports car. The best of the 2010 Spyder concept and 911 GT3 R hybrid were combined to create the fluid yet powerful two-seat coupe powered by a V8 mid-engine. Two electric motors on the front axle contribute as well as store power while braking, utilizing its flywheel accumulator – taking the place of a second seat to the right of the driver. On the console, modern touch technology is eschewed in favor of rocker switches. Finishing aesthetic touches include brown leather bucket seats and steering wheel, wing doors, with the body painted a cool blue accented with bright orange racing stripes and brake calipers. It’s just a shame that the 918 RSR didn’t stick around for more admiration during the public show days.

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News About the 2012 Dodge Caliber

Tuesday August 24th, 2010 at 5:88 PM
Posted by: Derek


A redesigned Dodge Caliber compact car is near the top of the to-do list for the new Chrysler Group LLC and its Italian partner, Fiat Auto. The replacement, which may get a new name, is expected to start sale in calendar 2011 as an early 2012 model, timing that would make it the American automaker’s first post-bankruptcy product to reach consumers.

Various sources indicate the 2012 Dodge Caliber will be built on Fiat’s C-Evo platform, a new architecture that can be varied to host a variety of “C-segment” vehicles. This means the new Caliber will compare to compact cars and crossover SUVs of the same general size as the Ford Focus and new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. Aimed to compete with the new Audi A1 and BMW 1 Series, the platform uses 84 percent high and ultrahigh strength steel, a McPherson front and a dual-link rear suspension, both of which will use aluminum components (front and rear arms, along with the crossmember). The platform comes in around 10 percent lighter than its predecessor thanks to the use of aluminum and magnesium, and is designed to fit a transverse engine and can be adapted for either front- or all-wheel drive applications.

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