Two great names from different parts of the world come together to create an interesting and innovative car: the Chrysler TD by Maserati. The car is the result of the link between FIAT, the Italian giant that also owns, among others, Maserati and Lancia, and Chrysler, one of the oldest names in US motoring, and it’s not the first time the two have collaborated. The TD is something of an enigma – it looks as though it’s not sure where it comes from, it lacks a clear identity, but represents an interesting alternative for those looking for a neat, convertible car with tidy looks.
What’s it all about?
Let’s get the basics out of the way first: Chrysler has been active in building the Maserati Kubang, a crossover SUV that is itself based on the Jeep Cherokee, and this car also appears in Europe in limited numbers as a Lancia. In exchange, the Italians agreed to style the TD, and it is an interesting result. It’s a compact, pretty car from some angles, slightly awkward from others, with a front end that is clearly Maserati and a folding hard top that will endear it to many potential buyers. The problem may be that it is directed at a market which already has some serious players – think Mini Cooper and VW Eos – and that may mean it struggles to find buyers. The other side of the coin is that it is an alternative to those two very familiar models.
Platform Sharing Saves Money
The Chrysler TD by Maserati is based on the familiar Dodge Dart, a car that takes its own platform in turn from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, another FIAT offshoot. Sharing a platform means saving money, so we expect the car to pitch in at a sensible price. The body, however, is a departure and looks considerably different to the Dart, so gains its own identity as a result. The top is an innovation and is neatly executed, something that will meet with many fans of hardtop convertibles. Whether, however, it entices the American buyers, who may well remember its predecessor, the TC, a less than successful machine, remains to be seen.
Power in the base model comes from a lively 160bhp 1.4liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as used in the fun and frivolous FIAT 500 Abarth. This should provide adequate performance in what is a compact and light model, but will not be to the liking of those looking for something more potent. Another option, and an interesting one at that, will be the 0,9liter ‘Twin Air’ twin cylinder engine, something not seen before in the USA and bound to be a novelty. This tiny, turbocharged engine provides 85bhp and very lively performance in its FIAT models, and it will be interesting to see how it is perceived when it reached the TD. Clearly, Chrysler is aiming for a small, luxury car that will appeal to a niche market; it will not be built in massive numbers, but just who is that niche market when all is said and done?
Will it Make a Mark?
The problem that Chrysler is creating by introducing the TD by Maserati is the same as that suffered by its predecessor, the TC: it needs to really hit the mark and leave a positive memory on the US market, which the TC clearly did not. Granted, this is a good looking car that is well built and cleverly engineered, and that the engines are proven and capable is not in dispute; it’s simply that the car is not clearly defined in the market place and really will need to fight its corner. Reviews have been mixed – some love it, some hate it – and it is perhaps second or third on the list of hardtop convertibles in the compact class, but it is different, and that really is its main selling point. Perhaps the Maserati connotation – and the big Trident badge on the grille advertising its association – will bring in the buyers, but there is a feeling that US customers require something more than that.
Who Will Buy the Chrysler TD by Maserati?
It’s a good question; young executives on the up may be suitably impressed at driving a Maserati – which is really a Chrysler and something of an Alfa Romeo – and at the price, expected to be around $35,000, it represents an interesting choice. However, the basic Dart costs a lot less and is a competent car, while it’s possible that the FIAT 500 Abarth may be more fun, if a lot smaller. It’s a gamble by Chrysler and FIAT, but one that adds to the market an interesting and different automobile that, when all is said and done, looks good and brings entry level Maserati ownership to a wider audience.