2012 Fiat Freemont

European Journey: Fiat Shows Dodge-Based Freemont Crossover
By Andrew Peterson

Plenty has been written about Fiat's technologies, platforms, and vehicles making their way into Chrysler's future portfolio, but the American automaker is also expected to contribute to Fiat's European offerings. Perhaps the first instance of this transfusion lies with the new 2012 Fiat Freemont -- a seven-seat crossover that's little more than a badge-engineered Dodge Journey.

The new Fiat Freemont, a rebadged Dodge Journey. Like the Lancias, the translation has been mostly cosmetic, though Fiat claims they’ve also reset the suspension tuning to European standards. The Freemont will launch in May with two MultiJet diesel engines driving the front wheels only through a six-speed manual transmission. One offers 140 horsepower, the other 170 horsepower. In October, the Freemont gets even less Italian with Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic and all wheel-drive.

Predictably, the Freemont isn't worlds removed from its North American sibling. Styling revisions do help set it apart from the Journey, but are relegated mostly to the front sheetmetal. A new grille insert (which incorporates a large Fiat badge) and a rounded, lowered front fascia help lend the crossover a sportier look. In back, cosmetic revisions are relegated to a new taillamp design, along with a sleeker bumper fascia with integrated fog taillamps.

Changes beneath the sheetmetal, however, will be harder to spot. From what we've seen, the new Fremont will share its cabin with the updated 2011 Journey, and incorporate the same 8.4-inch touch screen infotainment display on most -- if not all -- trim levels.

When it comes to engine selections, however, the Freemont markedly differs from the Journey. Base front wheel-drive Freemont models receive a Fiat-sourced, 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo-diesel I-4 mated to a five-speed manual transmission. A 170-horsepower version of the same engine is optional, but those seeking all-wheel-drive are apparently forced into gasoline engines. A 170-horsepower, 2.0-liter I-4 is standard on Freemont AWD models, while Chrysler's 276-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 is optional. Fiat also promises the suspension tuning has been recalibrated to suit European tastes, but only time -- and a crack behind the wheel -- will verify that claim.

Why a Fiat-badged Journey? Product planners believe there's still an opportunity for a seven-seat crossover to succeed in Europe, but since the Dodge brand is no longer sold in European markets, the Fiat portfolio is arguably best suited for selling such a high-volume vehicle. Although the Freemont will debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March, expect production to begin at Chrysler's plant in Toluca, Mexico, later this summer.