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Forget about fuel economy: Power sells

Published January 11, 2007

DETROIT -- Even an ounce of needlessly sacrificed petroleum gives environmentalists a case of the yips.

So what does Dodge do?

It pops an 8.4-liter, 600-horsepower V-10 into its Viper SRT10 sports car at the Detroit Auto Show. That's marked up from the 500 horsepower, 8.3-liter currently available.

Lexus joins the fun with its IS-F packing a 5-liter V-8 that generates 400 horsepower and LF-A with a V-10 that carries more than 500 horses and a boast it "likely" will top 200 m.p.h.

Focusing on miles per hour rather than miles per gallon? Go figure!

"Not surprising. Horsepower sells. Always has and will. It generates sales by increasing showroom floor traffic," said Art Spinella, general manager of CNW Marketing Research.

"There's still buyers who respond to performance if gas prices are stable or not. Chrysler sold Hemi V-8s when gas was $3.50 a gallon--not a lot--but it still sold them."

Spinella noted that most families have three vehicles in their fleet, "so the 600-horsepower sports car doesn't have to be driven every day--or when gas is at $3."

Dodge boasts Viper can fly from zero to 60 m.p.h. in less than 4 seconds but won't calculate how much fuel it burns in flight until it goes on sale this summer.

Other than the engine, major changes include a new hood with a large center scoop and air extractors along the sides to cool the beast.

At Lexus, F is the designation for a high-performance marque like the BMW M-Series.

The IS-F, on sale in early 2008, is a V-8 powered rocket with an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifting. It joins the V-6 IS sedan. The LF-A was a concept two years ago sent back for tweaking. It's getting closer to a nod to compete in the super powerful and expensive exotic segment.

Dodge also unveiled the 2008 Magnum on sale this fall sporting a new front end, including hood scoops on the SRT8.

The midsize Chrysler Sebring sedan is joined by a sporty Dodge Avenger derivative on sale soon starting at $18,895, including $675 freight. An all-wheel-drive Avenger R/T arrives in spring.

Chrysler won't say whether Sebring gets AWD or whether Avenger gets a convertible like Sebring. But it did talk about a pair of concepts: the Chrysler Nassau and Jeep Trailhawk.

Nassau is derived from the 300 sedan.

"The audience is those looking for an upscale Hemi V-8 car with the styling of a coupe, the function of a hatchback," said Trevor Creed, senior vice president of design.

Noteworthy features include push-button shifting on a dash pod, skylights front to rear on the roof and video screens in the backs of the front-seat headrests.

"As cars become more like computers, there's even a mouse in the dash to operate the navigation system," Creed said.

Trailhawk, derived from the 2007 four-door Wrangler, is 6 inches longer than a Grand Cherokee and a possible luxury Wrangler, "an area we don't play in currently that could prove interesting," Creed said.

Features include navigation system, iPod holder in the dash, removable boom box in the rear sidewall, stowage in the tailgate and slide-out, divided trays in the cargo hold.

SIMON SAYS: Want to get into the Guinness Book of World Records and win a car?

Chrysler can help you do both when it stages the world's largest game of Simon Says on Feb. 9 at the Chicago Auto Show in McCormick Place.

The game will start with 1,200 players, and the last one standing gets a free 24-month lease on a 2007 Sebring.

Participants must live in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan or Wisconsin, be at least 18 and hold a valid driver's license. Registration deadline is noon Friday at

The world record Simon Says is held by 1,169 people in Scotland.

In Chrysler's previous auto show games, consumers have won vehicles for being the last one sitting in, holding or kissing a truck or mini-van.


Read Jim Mateja on Sunday in Transportation and Tuesday and Thursday in Business. Hear him on WBBM-AM 780 at 6:22 p.m. Wednesdays and 11:22 a.m. Sundays.

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