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When Performance is Measured, Performance Improves.

Consumer Reports takes Chrysler for a Test Drive

Chrysler has been bumping along on a couple of flat tires in recent years. Most of its models have suffered from below-average reliability, according to our Annual Auto Surveys. And the company has consistently logged the lowest average road-test score in our yearly automaker report cards. Over the past three years, we’ve recommended only one Chrysler-built model, the Dodge Ram 1500 pickup.

In the two years after emerging from bankruptcy and coming under the control of Fiat, however, Chrysler has been reworking most of its models, striving to improve their competitiveness. To see how the company’s overhaul is shaping up, we tested eight Chrysler models for this issue: Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, and Dodge Charger sedans; the Chrysler Town & Country minivan; and Dodge Durango, Dodge Journey, Jeep Compass, and Jeep Patriot SUVs (all available to subscribers). Overall, we’ve found that Chrysler’s vehicles are getting better, but their level of improvement varies considerably.

The Durango and Charger, which received significant redesigns, have improved the most. We tested two all-wheel-drive versions of the large Durango, one with a V6 and the other with a V8. Their overall test scores—65 and 66, respectively—are dramatically better than the class-low 45 of the previous Durango V8. Their scores are comparable with that of the redesigned 2011 Ford Explorer (65), although they are well below rivals like the Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Traverse.

The V6-powered Charger Rallye we tested improved to 71, compared with the previous Charger V6’s dismal 58. It now scores close to the Ford Taurus and Buick LaCrosse.

The freshened Town & Country, which is a virtual twin of the Dodge Grand Caravan, is also considerably improved, although its 17-mpg overall fuel economy remains the lowest of all minivans we’ve recently tested.

Although they performed well enough, none of those three are recommended because they are too new for us to have reliability information. We are not impressed with the 200, Avenger, Compass, Journey, or Patriot. Despite some improvements, they’re still mediocre overall, scoring at or near the bottom of their respective categories and too low to be recommended.

From Consumer Reports, August 2011 

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