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2012 Dodge Charger, Challenger and Chrysler 300 V6 Models Will Get 8-Speed Automatic

Having just introduced an all new Dodge Charger, Challenger and Chrysler 300 for 2011, all three models are set to get an important update for 2012 under the hood. The engine will remain unchanged, but models equipped with Chrysler Corp's new 3.6L Pentastar V6 will get a significant jump in fuel economy and notably improved drive quality thanks to the addition of an 8-speed automatic.

As for the R/T and 300C models, they will retain the current 5-speed auto-box, as will a budget-priced Challenger SE model.

Chrysler is expected to add a higher-gear transmission to its V8-powered models in the future as well, replacing the current 5-speed unit. There's also a solid chance the new 8-speed could be used in vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango.


2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

For those not familiar with the current-gen 500 Abarth, it’s not new. First introduced to Europe in 2008, the 500 Abarth is an absolute hoot to drive. European Abarths have 133 hp in basic tune or 170 in the Esseesse version—say “SS” as an Italian would; it stands for “supersport.” Here, though, we get a turbocharged version of the regular 500’s wimpy 101-hp, 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder that will make about 160 hp. (The Abarths currently available in Europe don’t have MultiAir variable valve-lift; to read more about the technology, click here.) Torque is a healthy 170 lb-ft starting at 2500 rpm. Unfortunately, Fiat is sticking with a five-speed manual transmission—beefed-up for service in the Abarth—rather than fitting a six-cog unit. Sure, we understand the concept of cost control, but a little shrimp of a car with a small engine (think less sound deadening plus engine noise) might want a sixth gear for highway cruising.

In Europe, Abarth is considered a separate brand—one with substantial racing heritage. The 500 Abarth benefits from this connection with a suspension that has been substantially revised from the normal car's. New front springs are 40 percent stiffer than the regular 500’s, while the rears are 20 percent stiffer. Koni shocks go up front, the car sits 0.6 inch lower than a normal 500, and there's more negative camber now. The Abarth’s steering is quicker, and the front brakes grow an inch in diameter to 11.1 inches. The standard wheels are 16s, and 17s are an option.

To complement the fiercer hardware, the cutie-pie face of the 500 gets more aggressive. The Abarth’s front fascia has a larger intake opening, accented by a subtle chin spoiler. There are new rocker extensions and the rear bumper hosts a diffuser with dual exhaust pipes. Other unique exterior items include a roof-mounted spoiler, red brake calipers and mirror caps, and Abarth’s signature scorpion logos and decals. Inside the 500 Abarth, you'll find a very serious little place. There's a flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel, a boost gauge, and bolstered seats with integrated headrests. Cloth is standard in either black or a black/red combo; leather is available in the same schemes.

Overall, Fiat promises that the 500 Abarth stays true to the Continental version, saying that, “every piece of hardware and every mile of development tuning has been thoroughly examined to ensure the European model’s DNA is delivered to North American driving enthusiasts.” We know a lot of changes were required, both to fit the U.S customers and to fit our regulations, so we hope this statement is more than just an empty promise. We'll find out for sure when we drive the U.S.-spec Abarth in the coming months

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