Chicago 2011: Dodge Amps Up Portfolio With New R/T Models

Ralph Gilles, president and CEO of Dodge, understands the brand has lost its way by slapping the R/T badge on many undeserving models over the years. Gilles admits the R/T badge basically became a trim level — but he wants to reverse that trend by delivering a full line of legitimate R/T models.

Ironically, Gilles included the 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan in the R/T revival. Until we get behind the wheel to verify the 40% increase in suspension stiffness works, color us skeptical. Gilles promises the “Manvan” will actually handle better than some of Chrysler’s sedans; though he refused to name any single model, we’re betting it at least out-corners an Avenger. The Manvan will supposedly appeal to the group of people who drive minivans and don’t have children.

The Durango R/T receives a revised suspension with a 20mm lower stance and a more aggressive exhaust tone. Gilles pressed the Durango team to come up with a Durango that drives more like a Charger, because there are people who can’t drive a Charger for one reason or another but still enjoy the act of driving. Hopefully the Durango R/T fills that gap in Dodge’s showrooms. For buyers who like the look of the R/T but don’t quite have the cash to get one, the Durango Heat takes its visual cues from the R/T and trades out the Hemi for a Pentastar V-6. Heat models also ditch the third row of seating to save weight.

Perhaps more important than any non-SRT8 products unveiled today is Gilles’ level of enthusiasm for cars, along with his desire to transform Dodge into a brand for enthusiasts that don’t quite have the money to purchase more revered products. Dodge has lived under radio silence for quite some time, and it’s clear Gilles and his team have been hard at work freshening the portfolio and transforming mediocre vehicles into much more compelling propositions.