By BOB GRITZINGER | Contributing Editor The instrument panel "Driving…
Imagine auto journo eye candy as far as the eye can see. Turn to the left, and your eyes are filled with visions of the special edition Dodge Vipers and incredible Easter Jeep Safari concepts. Pivot to the right and you see a parking lot filled with more than 30 offerings from Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles’ 2017 lineup, separated by makes: Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram. This is what they call “car porn”, although I abhor the over-used term, and it’s exactly what it was like to take in all of FCA’s 2017 product at its “What’s New” media introduction at Chelsea Proving Grounds just outside Ann Arbor, Mich.
Honor the Embargo
While most of what we drove and snapped photos of can’t be revealed until early September, I can tell you this: FCA has a boat-load of vehicles for consumers to consider. Every shape, size and capability was available to drive on a short performance loop, more technical autocross course, or an off-road trail. Then there was the Charger and Challenger drag strip featuring updated technology, and well, that’s all I can tell you about that (for now).
Going off-road in the Renegade
I started off my morning off-road with the one-and-only Jill Ciminillo inside a Solar Yellow 2017 Jeep Renegade. I can’t say much, but I can confirm that it’s still completely capable of going anywhere off the beaten path!
Paying homage to the Dodge Viper
FCA honored the bittersweet soon-to-be retired Dodge Viper with each of the four special editions on display — including the Viper 1:28 Edition ACR, Viper GTS Commemorative Edition ACR, Viper VooDoo II Edition ACR, and the Viper Snakeskin GTC — as well as the original concept that debuted at the 1989 Detroit Auto Show.
Production of these special editions will be extremely limited (in the tens, not thousands). And with the enthusiastic recent return of the Viper — temporarily badged under SRT but now back under Dodge — it’s sad to see its second run only lasted five model years. But we’ve got to hand it to Ralph (who made an appearance at the event) and his amazingly talented team for bringing us this beautiful beast once again.
Apparently, this concept Viper was what inspired design chief Ralph Gilles to pursue a career in automotive design.
Want to know just how amazing the Viper is? Let professional driver Chris Winkler take you for a hot lap or two. We witnessed him on the performance track, in the rain of all conditions, whipping around fearlessly. The man is one with the car, as he should be considering he’s broken nearly every track record possible in this car. I was lucky enough to catch him at the autocross track (for me, lunch and hot laps do not mix!), where he completely schooled me on taking turns in a 2016 Viper GT. I’ve not been that slap-silly giddy in quite some time. It was a hoot.
Dreaming about Easter Jeep Safari concepts
Other cars on display included Jeep’s Easter Safari concept vehicles, including the Crew Chief and Comanche concepts. My favorite tho? The lime green and black Wrangler; I would totally pull up anywhere in this bad boy. Best seats, however, go to the vintage red Jeep Shortcut next door. Plaid and faux crocodile leather are just too much fun!
Reflecting on a day of fun
This was a day not only a day for automotive diehards to play, but it was also an event for FCA employees, particularly those who’ve worked tirelessly on these vehicles and so many more, to get out of the office and enjoy the fruits of their labor. With roughly 150 attendees, it had to be a treat to see so many cars out for a loop or pacing through the technical track.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad day to be in my seat. I’m fortunate to have these opportunities and I’m so grateful I can share them with you here! Keep in touch with these fun times and other goodies by subscribing to the Be Car Chic newsletter – I curate it each month just for you!
Stay tuned for more details on the new 2017 model updates from FCA in September. We’ll have some great photo and video to share then as well, so be certain you’re following @BeCarChic on all your favorite social channels.
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