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Automotive Traveler Magazine: 2011 01 2011 Fiat Freemont Page 1

Sneak Peek: 2011 Fiat Freemont

Turnabout is fair play. We get an Americanized version of the Fiat 500. And now, reports Bill Basore, Italy gets an Italianized version of the... Dodge Journey.

The previews for the 2011 Geneva Motor Show are already flooding in. And while we've all been following the progress of Fiats coming to America, what about trans-Atlantic journeys the other direction? Geneva will host the debut of the new Fiat Freemont, which will go on sale in the second half of 2011.

If the silhouette looks familiar, it should. The Fiat Freemont is built on the base of the Dodge Journey. The first Fiat-badged vehicle to emerge from the partnership with the Chrysler Group, it will be produced in the Mexican plant of Toluca, where the Fiat 500 is manufactured for the North American market.

The Fiat Freemont is a seven-passenger crossover designed to meet the needs of families on both sides of the Atlantic. The company describes it as ideal for those seeking a spacious, comfortable, and versatile vehicle to accommodate both the busy pace of the workweek and weekend leisure time.

Three rows of theater-style seating allow maximum visibility. The second row can be fitted with a child booster-seat system to ensure the safety of younger passengers and optimize the seat-belt geometry. The third row is described as easily accessible and folds down completely below the floor when not needed. The rear doors open to a full 90 degrees for access.

Fiat designers also kept on-board comfort in mind with the high driving position, new roomy and ergonomic seats (shared with the recently introduced 2011 Dodge Journey that received an extensive refresh for the current model year), various storage compartments, a generous luggage area with two compartments, and a flat load platform. Overall capacity is up to 1,461 liters, according to the company.

The vehicle's design includes what the company describes as muscular, decisive lines, expressed in a front end with new bumpers and grille. The rear end has been redesigned with the adoption of a new bumper and LED taillights.

The all-new passenger compartment features an up-to-date design and soft touch materials, with a choice of two trim levels. Features include a wrap-around dashboard with chrome elements, a brand-new instrument panel, and an infotainment system with a large, color touch screen.

Additional features of each include seven-passenger seating, a triple-zone automatic climate control system, keyless entry system, cruise control, advanced trip computer, a tire-pressure monitoring system, fog lights, and a touch-screen radio with color screen and controls on the steering wheel.

The more metropolitan version will include 17-inch alloys, a touch-screen radio with 8.4-inch screen, an SD card and DVD reader, a Bluetooth system, rear parking sensors, fold-down door mirrors, automatic headlight activation, darkened rear windows, and roof bars--again, all shared with the new Dodge Journey.

The Freemont will have front-wheel-drive with four-cylinder, two-liter turbo diesel engines (with 140 or 170 horsepower, the second featuring Fiat's MultiJet technology) combined with a manual gearbox, combinations not available to North American buyers. Later, the vehicle will also be available in an all-wheel-drive version with the 170-horsepower 2.0 MultiJet four-cylinder and Chrysler's 276-horsepower 3.6-liter gasoline-fueled V6 engines, both with automatic transmissions.

The vehicle's dynamic performances have also been tuned by Fiat engineering, which, the company says, has developed and introduced a special suspension and steering configuration for the greater accuracy and directness that their European buyers expect.

Safety features standard on all vehicles include seven airbags, an anti-lock braking system with brake assist, electronic stability program with hill-holder, and electronic roll mitigation.

The vehicle combines flexibility and practicality with its own distinctive and original style, according to the company. The dimensions (length of 192.4 inches, width of 72.2 inches, and height of 66.6 inches) guarantee interior roominess, aided by the best-in-class wheelbase of 113.8 inches.

What's up next? The Lancia version of the all-new Chrysler 300. Check out our advance coverage of the Chrysler 300 on our website.