Chrysler's largest sedans will soon be capable of more than 30 miles per gallon on the highway. So says Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler's chief executive, who announced that the 2012 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 will be equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission good for 31 mpg in highway driving.
In a recent presentation discussing several of Chrysler's recent updates, Marchionne said the 31-mpg figure will be for rear-drive versions of the 300 and Charger equipped with Chrysler's new "Pentastar" 3.6-liter V6 engine. Marchionne described the transmission as "very advanced," noting that it will include a total of five clutches, unlike one or two in most modern cars. The transmission likely won't make use of a torque converter, often found in traditional automatics, which diminishes fuel economy and acceleration.
If the Charger and 300 achieve Marchionne's promised 31 highway miles per gallon when tested by the EPA, the sedans will easily top their rivals' fuel economy figures. Current leaders among fuel-efficient large sedans include the Toyota Avalon, which achieves 29 highway miles per gallon, the Ford Taurus at 28 mpg and the Buick Lucerne at 27. The Chevrolet Impala is also among the most efficient large sedans, though its 29-mpg figure is achieved with a 211-horsepower V6 - a far cry from the 292-horsepower Pentastar powerplant in the Charger and 300.
Despite the 8-speed automatic transmission's ability to improve gas mileage figures, Marchionne stopped short of promising it would be adapted for the 5.7-liter "Hemi" V8 also found in the Charger and 300. Capable of 370 horsepower and a robust 395 pound-feet of torque, the Hemi will likely continue with its current 5-speed automatic, capable of 16 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway in both sedans.
Marchionne did, however, provide one more interesting detail about Chrysler's future transmission plans. According to Marchionne, Chrysler will roll out nine-speed automatics for front-wheel drive cars beginning in 2013, though he didn't divulge which models will get the transmissions.