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Auto blogWed, 16 Jul 2014 13:30:00 EST
When people look back at today's automotive industry, what do you think they'll remember us for? The emergence of hybrids? Ever more expensive and exotic supercars? The dawn of the self-driving car? All likely scenarios, but so is the blurring of lines between one bodystyle and another, giving rise to hardtop convertible coupes and crossovers of every shape and size. But one bodystyle the North American auto industry has stayed largely away from in the past couple of decades is a car nose and chassis with a pickup bed.
It's a bodystyle immortalized by the Chevrolet El Camino, but with few exceptions, we haven't seen too many of these automotive platypuses in recent years on our turf. Subaru tried with the Baja and the low-volume Honda Ridgeline soldiers along largely unchanged, but the genre's biggest adherents are still Down Under, where ute versions of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon live. With a few other examples scattered to the four corners of the earth, that's really about it. But if these spy shots are anything to go by, it looks like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles could be working to bring it back.
Spied undergoing testing in Michigan, what we appear to be looking at is a heavily disguised Fiat Strada being prepared - like the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster and the smaller Doblo-based ProMaster City - for Stateside duty as a Ram product. The Strada, for those unfamiliar, is a product of Fiat Automóveis in Brazil and is based on the Palio economy car. The nameplate has been around South America since 1996 and was originally designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro (long before Volkswagen monopolized his talents), and takes a more rugged approach in the form of the Strada Adventure.
The annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas can often be a sensory overload of overwrought madness, with cars that don't even look drivable anymore. But every once in a while, a modestly modified show car graces our presence, like the customized Dodge Durango you see here, which, in addition to giving us our first glimpse at the aftermarket possibilities for the refreshed-for-2014 model, proves that a car doesn't have to be slammed, scooped, donked and Lambo-doored to have presence.
Sure, this Durango has custom hood inserts, dark 22-inch wheels and custom fender flares, but as far as external modifications go, that's it. Inside, Dodge has fitted new door sill guards, an ambient lighting kit, bright pedals, premium floor mats and - of course - Katzkin leather. The automaker has even added wireless internet connectivity as part of the excellent Uconnect infotainment system.
Performance upgrades are minimal on this Durango R/T, which comes packed with Chrysler's 5.7-liter Hemi V8. Larger brakes have been fitted, as have lowering springs (though it certainly doesn't look that much lower) and a custom exhaust.
The University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team could be in some hot water, following a pair of posts on social media.
The first post was sure to raise a few eyebrows on its own. It's an Instagram of sophomore running back Derrick Henry standing in front of his new Dodge Challenger (we're guessing it's an R/T based on the fender stripes). Complete with a custom set of wheels, the image was enough to trigger more than a few questions about where an unemployed student-athlete came up with the money for such a purchase. Now, this could be harmless. Henry, flush with a full-ride to Bama could have convinced his parents to get him something nice with his college fund.
The second post, though, is a straight-up accusation. It comes from former West Virginia Mountaineer and current CFL quarterback Pat White, who posted the following on his Facebook page.