This week, Fiat Chrysler flew its top dealers to Las Vegas and put on a magic show. For its first trick, the company gave its dealers a glimpse into the future, previewing no fewer than 30 new models set to hit showrooms by 2018. Its next trick, astonishingly, was that it pulled this off without a single leak to the press (at least as of this article’s publication). No blurry pictures reached Twitter, no scoops to media outlets, nothing. How they managed to pull that off in this day and age, we’ll never know.
What we do know is that FCA showed a combination of preproduction models and images of future cars to an overwhelmingly positive audience. Products ranged from the next-generation Chrysler Town & Country minivan and Jeep Compass, to more interesting pursuits from Jeep, Ram, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and the SRT performance brand.
Among the highlights were a turbocharged Dodge Dart R/T and GLH, a throwback to the company’s ’80s-era Shelby connection (GLH meaning, of course, Goes Like Hell), a 1,000 horsepower ADR Challenger built for the drag strip, and the Ram Power Wagon, a performance off-roader set to do battle with Ford’s next-generation Raptor.
Of these 30 cars that were unveiled last Tuesday at Las Vegas’s Mandalay bay Resort, here are 8 of the biggest highlights, along with everything we know about them.
1. Dodge Barracuda
No, that isn’t a typo, FCA is planning to bring back the legendary Barracuda, only this time, it’ll be a Dodge. Like the classic 1970-’74 E-Body car, it’s likely to be similar to the Challenger, but it’ll be slightly smaller, and will have a convertible version. Fourteen years after the Plymouth name disappeared, the Barracuda’s legend still looms large – this 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda (as high-performance cars were badged) ragtop was sold by Mecum for $2.25 million at this month’s Monterey Car Week. If you ask us, if FCA is bringing back the Barracuda name, they might as well bring back Plymouth brand, if only for this special car.
2. Alfa Romeo Giulia
We were skeptics when FCA said the big launch of the Alfa Romeo brand in the U.S. (the 4C is already on sale here) would be centered around a BMW 3-Series fighter. Then the Giulia was revealed, and we were sold. In top Quadrifoglio trim (pictured above), it’ll sport a 510 horsepower V6 and do zero to 60 in under four seconds. FCA dealers got a chance to see one up close in Vegas, and while the car rides on its own rear-wheel drive platform for now (albeit based on much-modified Maserati architecture), the company announced that it’ll soon be sharing it with the Barracuda and next-gen Charger.
3. Jeep Grand Wagoneer
Since FCA let slip that it’s reviving the Grand Wagoneer nameplate to take on Range Rover and Mercedes, we’ve been looking forward to what they have in store for the legendary off-roader. Will it have the iconic bull-nose of the original? Can it win back the well-heeled Hamptons set that it once dominated? Perhaps most importantly, will it have wood paneling? With little information leaking from Vegas other than a positive reception, we’ll be on the lookout for any updates on Jeep’s eight-seater flagship.
4. Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
After the Charger and Challenger Hellcats hit showrooms, Mopar fans across the country wondered what would be next to get the supercharged 707 horsepower treatment. Earlier this month, FCA let slip that it would be the Grand Cherokee. With power like that, the Hellcat Jeep – known as the Trackhawk – will slot nicely above the already potent SRT model (pictured above), and will most likely rival the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, and upcoming Bentley Bentayga, and Maserati Levante for the title of the world’s most powerful SUV, and do it for thousands less.
5. Dodge Charger
The Charger will be all-new for 2018, and according to attendees, it’ll look a lot like the 1999 Charger concept pictured here. When it was unveiled 16 years ago, it was celebrated as one of the most aggressive sedan designs of all-time. With the current-gen car already employing a similar beltline from the A-pillar back, we’re looking forward to seeing how Dodge can bring the rest of this styling language into the 21st century.
6. 2018 Jeep Wrangler
While FCA needs a few of these new cars to be hits, fewer models shown were as high stakes as the all-new 2018 Wrangler. On one hand, the venerable Jeep needs to make huge strides in safety and fuel economy to avoid being legislated into obsolescence. On the other hand, it needs to maintain its rugged solid axle, body-on-frame construction to keep the Jeep faithful happy. According to insiders – and probably to the relief of Wrangler die-hards – the next-gen Jeep is conservative and evolutionary, with no big surprises.
7. Alfa Romeo SUV
After Alfa Romeo releases the Giulia sedan in the U.S. next year (which was also at the event), it’ll be closely followed with an SUV to compete with the likes of the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. While most Americans still won’t be very familiar with the brand, a rumored rear-wheel drive performance version might draw in a few families who want to have fun with their people movers. We might not know its name yet, but FCA dealers have seen it in person — and by all accounts, it looks good.
8. Fiat 124 Spider
The Fiat brand won’t be a one trick pony for much longer. On top of the 500 and the 500x, FCA announced that it will soon be joined by an SUV, and this little gem — a revival of its classic 1966-’85 124 Spider — will be developed under a partnership with Mazda. That means we’ll finally get the best of both worlds: An affordable sports car with Japanese reliability (it’s closely based on the Miata, pictured above) and beautiful Italian styling. We can’t wait to hear more about this one.
Fiat Chrysler has been in the headlines constantly this year, and it’s rarely been good news. Between the company’s recall fiasco, or chief Sergio Marchionne’s fruitless effort to merge the company with other automakers, the bad news have all but overshadowed the fact that the company’s sales are stronger than they have been in years. With new models like these on the horizon, the future looks bright for FCA.
Follow Derek on Twitter @CS_DerekS
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