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Mike Manley, President and CEO Jeep Brand-Chrysler Group LLC, describes the new Pentastar V6 engine at the 2010 Paris Motor Show.

Hey Boys: I heard Jeremy saying in a TV episode that he would only buy a diesel SUV. Hmmm. I seem to recall an article a few weeks back wherein he mentioned that the new Pentastar engine in the Grand Cherokee gets better mileage than the outgoing diesel. So, what gives?

Not only am I sold on the new Pentastar engine, I am totally enthused on all the new Chrysler products. Sign me up for the IPO because I am drinking the Sergio Kool-Aid! Keep up the good work. FYI, if you were to set up a Vaughan dunk-tank for charity at the Toronto auto show, I would quickly donate all of my money. Warm regards - Rich

Vaughan: Not a bad idea about the dunk tank, Richie. Bring lots of money because you would actually have to hit the target with a baseball. If your aim is like your investment judgment, I probably wouldn't get a toe wet.

Cato: Take it easy, Vaughan. Our devoted reader and viewer is offering up a little personal philanthropy.

On top of that, he's identified the new V-6 engine that is going to be very important in Chrysler's future. The Pentastar in various forms will go into 13 Chrysler vehicles by 2013. The new engine will replace seven different V-6s. Better engine, less complexity - a win-win for Chrysler and its customers.

Vaughan: Yeah, great. Does it run on Kool-Aid, too?

Cato: Ah, the wit. You're so quick. This V-6, for the record, runs on good, old regular gas - 87 octane gasoline - or E85, a blend of mostly ethanol with gasoline. Chrysler says it will be 11 per cent more fuel-efficient than the units it replaces.

Vaughan: Listen, a lot of manufacturers are bailing out of V-6s just as Chrysler is jumping in with a new one. Hyundai, for example, won't even offer a V-6 in the new Sonata because it gets all the juice it needs out of a high-tech four.

If Rich wants to blow his dough on the Chrysler IPO, and the dunk tank, he might want to think again. Maybe he'd better take a closer look at engine development elsewhere.

Cato: Look, Chrysler's got four-cylinder engines, too. But would you want a four-banger in a Dodge Challenger muscle car? On the other hand, the Pentastar arms the Challenger with a decent alternative to a fuel-swilling V-8, but still with 305 horsepower.

Meanwhile, a milder 283-hp version is now in Chrysler's minivans. Jeep's 2011 Grand Cherokee comes standard with a 290-hp version of the Pentastar, and soon the Jeep Wrangler will get one, too. Pentastars everywhere.

Vaughan: Well, it could sure use it. The Wrangler is a great off-roader and the basis of the Jeep brand, but at the moment it has a crude, underpowered engine.

Cato: Make up your mind. Seems to me that you're arguing for a V-6 in the Wrangler - a better one.

Vaughan: Some Chrysler vehicles certainly do need a V-6 because Chrysler is all about big cars, big SUVs and trucks. I agree this engine is very important to the company. It's an all-aluminum, 60-degree, dual-overhead cam with variable valve timing. Better and cheaper to produce than the old ones.

I just hope it doesn't blow up; Chrysler is still no hell in the quality ratings. If this thing starts leaking oil all over everyone's driveway, you can kiss that IPO goodbye.

Cato: Here's what we know: Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, Canadian-trained as he is, has been all over Chrysler's quality issues. He ordered a delay in the launch of the new Grand Cherokee because he didn't think it was up to snuff.

And for the record, Consumer Reports, never a big fan of Chrysler, has said that the change in Chrysler products is notable and impressive since Fiat took over management control. Chrysler is making progress on quality, without a doubt.

Vaughan: I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am totally impressed with the redesign that head designer Ralph Gilles and his team has done on basically the whole Chrysler lineup.

The exteriors are all a lot cleaner and sharper. And the interiors - wow.

Chrysler has a fighting chance now, something I wouldn't have said a year ago. I have no idea what vehicle Richie wants to put his new Pentastar into, but I'm sure it will be better-looking than what he's driving now.

Cato: Personally, I think the Pentastar in the minivans represents the biggest improvement in any particular vehicle.

Vaughan: Grand Cherokee. If Richie wants a Pentastar, it shines brightest in there.

In the meantime, I'll just get myself ready for the dunk tank. While I'm sitting there, high and dry, maybe I can sell Richie some IPO stock in Moose Pasture Gold Mines Inc.

Cato: You're on the board, correct?

*****

HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 Dodge Durango SXT

2011 Dodge Challenger coupe, base

2011 Chrysler Town & Country Touring

Wheelbase (mm)

3,042

2,946

3,078

Length (mm)

5,075

5,022

5,151

Width (mm)

1,924

1,923

1,998

Height (mm)

1,801

1,455

1,725

Engine

3.6-litre V-6

3.6-litre V-6

3.6-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

290/260 lb-ft

305/268 lb-ft

283/260 lb-ft

Drive system

automatic full-time four-wheel drive

rear-wheel drive

front-wheel drive

Transmission

Five-speed automatic

Five-speed automatic

Six-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

2,229

1,739

2,115

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

13.0 city/8.9 highway

11.7 city/7.3 highway

12.2 city/7.9 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$37,995

$26,995

$39,995

Source: car manufacturers



Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.