Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Groundbreaking Dart

Chrysler Group brings back one of its most revered nameplates with the introduction of the 2013 Dodge Dart, a sporty and technologically advanced compact midsize sedan that represents a huge leap forward over the 2012 Dodge Caliber model it essentially replaces. The Dart is the first Dodge vehicle to come as the fruit of Chrysler's new partnership with Fiat, and is closely based on the award-winning Italian Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

Exterior Styling: Classy and Sporty Rolled into One
The Dart's exterior is a departure from other Dodge models like the Avenger and Charger, with softer curves and a European-inspired design. That said, it's instantly recognizable as a Dodge thanks to the brand's iconic cross-bar grille. Available in SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and R/T trim levels, each takes a slightly different approach to differentiate within the lineup between Euro luxury and all-American sport.

Powertrains: Advanced Technology Combines Power and MPG
For 2013, the Dart is available with three engine choices. Two Chrysler-developed Tigershark four-cylinder engines are joined by Fiat's advanced turbocharged four, dubbed the Multi-Air. Base models receive a 2.0-liter Tigershark making 160 horsepower, excellent for the class. Next in line is the Multi-Air turbo four with 160 horsepower but also 184 foot-pounds of torque, good for 0-60 times of around 8 seconds. The 1.4 turbo is the most fuel-efficient engine of the bunch, rated by the EPA at 27 city/39 highway mpg. A late-release Aero model will raise highway mpg to 41, one of the best numbers in the class.

The top trim level R/T model uses a larger Tigershark four-cylinder displacing 2.4 liters and making 184 horsepower and 171 foot-pounds of torque. Zero to 60 mph comes in around 7 seconds. Each engine is available with the buyer's choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The Dart is notable for offering manual transmissions even at the more-luxurious trim levels, while competitors often place the row-your-own gearbox only in the stripped-down base models.

Interior Design: A Nice Place to Be
Highlighting the Dart's interior is Chrysler's optional newest-generation UConnect Touch infotainment and navigation system, with nice features like an 8.4-inch touchscreen, voice commands, and Bluetooth calling and music streaming. Smartphone integration is no problem, with automatic contact download and a text message-to-speech function with preset responses. Upscale Limited and R/T models open up the availability of attractive Nappa leather seating surfaces and trim, though the seats may be mounted too high for the tallest drivers. Contrasting-color stitching and a choice of several trim colors further makes the Dart's interior among the most attractive and comfortable in the class.

The base Dart, with its 2.0-liter four-cylinder and manual transmission, starts at $15,995 or around the same as the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze and Honda Civic. Topping the range is the R/T model, starting at $22,495. According to consumer pricing data from, the Dart's average transaction price when including available option packages hovers at around $20,600.

With excellent fuel efficiency combined with usable everyday horsepower and a class-leading luxurious interior, the Dart is the most important model to Dodge's bottom line to release in several years. The automaker's partnership with Fiat pays off in many tangible ways, from the car's European-inspired styling to efficient turbocharged engine choice. While the outgoing Dodge Caliber compact was the butt of many a joke for its terrible efficiency and lackluster interior, the Dart improves Dodge's compact lineup in every tangible way.

About the Author: Jennifer Carrigan understands all the effort that went into the new Dart, but she prefers her motorcycle to a car any day. For her motorcycle insurance, she compares quotes at Kanetix.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Importance of Taking Your Volvo In for Its 100,000 Service

Volvo cars have always stood for outstanding durability and an advanced commitment to safety. Even today, it is not uncommon to see decades-old Volvo cars still on the roads with hundreds of thousands--or even 2.6 million--miles on the odometer.

So you've clocked 100,000 miles in your Volvo, and you'd like to keep driving it a while longer. If you've kept up regular maintenance, chances are it will still serve you well for many miles to come.

Now is the perfect time to have your Volvo checked out by a dealership or licensed service station, as plenty of vital car parts can begin to wear out at around 100,000 miles. Catching these often small, easy fixes before they turn into catastrophic problems is the key to maintaining the financial advantage that comes with keeping an older car.

100,000-Mile Volvo Inspection and Service: What Comes With It?

If your Volvo is just hitting 100,000 miles, chances are good it was made early or in the middle of the 2000s. Many Volvo cars of this era came with 5-cylinder engines known for durability but prone to catastrophic damage from timing belt failure and other maintenance issues.

A complete 100,000 mile service should include timing belt and water pump replacement, a complete brake overhaul, a full tune-up, the changing of fluids and any number of other small but important maintenance items. Make sure your mechanic checks turbocharger components if your car is equipped with one. This oft-overlooked maintenance item can be an issue with older-model Volvos.

The complete service may cost you a couple thousand dollars now, but will save you thousands more by preventing future repair expenses. It's also a whole lot cheaper than buying a brand-new Volvo.

100,000-Mile Service and Volvo Safety

For more than 50 years, Volvo has led the industry in researching and developing first-to-market new safety technologies that quickly see adoption by the rest of the industry. Did you know that some of your Volvo's safety features (besides just the brakes) need periodic checking and maintenance as well?

Airbags must be inspected, and sometimes replaced, at 100,000 miles because a malfunctioning or punctured airbag can be worse than none at all. Burns can result when the airbag's charge goes off improperly, negating its effects and causing even more problems.

Other Volvo safety systems like anti-lock brakes and some of the market's earliest stability control systems should be checked for proper function. A well-maintained Volvo, with good tires and brakes, proper-functioning windshield wipers and maintenance items taken care of is the best bet in the industry to keep you and your family safe on the road.

The 100,000-Mile Myth

Common wisdom used to state that cars just plain old wore out at around 100,000 miles. For many brands, especially American cars and some of the more exotic European brands, this was very much the case. Volvos do not fall into that category.

From the 1960s to today, these well-built Swedish machines with their devoted following are built to last. Any Volvo built after 1985 can easily clock 200,000 miles with simple preventative maintenance and occasional repairs.

Still, as is the case with all European brands, Volvos can get quite pricey to fix when things do go wrong. Comprehensive repairs that may cost a few hundred dollars on a competing model can easily stretch into the thousands. A higher-mileage Volvo is still a great car and a great investment, but don't neglect the service!

About the Author: Jen Peters is an author and published car blogger, with a thing for Swedish engineering - hey, if you're in need of a taxi in the Seattle-area, check out: