Chrysler K platform
|Body style(s)||2-door convertible|
4-door station wagon
|Engine(s)||2.2 L K I4|
2.2 L Turbo I I4
2.2 L Turbo II I4
2.2 L Turbo III I4
2.2 L Turbo IV I4
2.2 L TC I4
2.5 L K I4
2.5 L Turbo I4
2.6 L Mitsubishi G54B I4
3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6
3.3 L EGA V6
3.8 L EGH V6
The Chrysler Corporation's K-cars were compact-to-midsize cars designed to carry six adults on two bench seats and were aimed not only to replace Chrysler's nominally-compact F-body Aspen and Volaré, but also to compete with intermediates like the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fairmont. Based on their passenger space, the K-cars were placed in the same "midsize" category by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as Chrysler's significantly larger and heavier M-body cars
The K cars have been categorized as compact for their external size and small front-wheel drive layout. Technically, the K cars include only the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, second generation Chrysler LeBaron, and the Dodge 400, which used the K platform. The rest of the K-derivatives, including Chrysler's minivans, were based on the K platform with adaptations and modifications to suit vehicles of different size and intended usage. These vehicles had modified suspensions and were longer and heavier than the original K-cars, but all had the same basic architecture: a solid beam rear axle, independent front suspensions with MacPherson struts, and front-wheel drive (except for the AWD minivans). Sometimes, they also shared numerous internal components and trim pieces (e.g. the Reliant and first-generation Voyager).
The actual K-cars (Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, Chrysler LeBaron, Dodge 400, and, in Mexico, Dodge Dart) sold very well, selling between 280,000 and 360,000 every year from 1981 to 1988, and edging over 100,000 in their final year, 1989. The manual transmission provided acceleration of 0-60 mph in 10 seconds, while the automatic was between 13 and 14 seconds, similar to or better than most competitors, while gas mileage was rated by the EPA at 26 mpg city, 41 mpg highway with the manual transmission. All had a 100.1-inch (2.54 m) wheelbase. The overall length of the two and four-door models was 176 inches (4.5 m). The wagon was 0.2 inches (5.1 mm) longer. The vehicles had a 13-gallon fuel tank. The coupe and sedan had approximately 15 cubic feet (0.42 m3) of luggage space; the wagons, 35 cubic feet (0.99 m3) with rear seat up and about 70 feet (21 m) when folded. Numerous improvements to the sound insulation and general feel were made in 1983; in 1985, the Reliant, Aries, and LeBaron received a facelift, with a rounded front fascia, smoother hood, and bigger taillights, accompanied by fuel injection on the 2.2 liter engine and a 2.5 liter engine replacing the Mitsubishi 2.6.
They were also initially very profitable, and Lee Iacocca credited them with allowing Chrysler to pay off its loans early.
The first stretched-wheelbase K cars, introduced in 1984, were not given their own platform letter, but had stretched wheelbases with New Yorker styling in front: the Chrysler Executive Sedan and Limousine. They were made at the St. Louis assembly plant, and held five and seven passengers, respectively. The pair were powered by a carbureted Mitsubishi 2.6 liter four-cylinder engine coupled to the usual Torqueflite automatic transmission, though in the last year of the Limousine, a turbocharged (but not intercooled) Chrysler 2.2 liter four-cylinder engine was added. Standard features included air conditioning, cruise control, power brakes, front and rear cigarette lighters, front/rear divider and rear compartment with cabinet (Limousine), rear defroster, digital instrument panel, electronic voice alert, tinted glass on all windows, hood ornament, lights that went on with the dual horn, illuminated entry, a full lighting package inside, opera lights outside, dual power mirrors, power antenna, locks, windows, and driver's seat, FM stereo, "luxury cloth" seats, tilt steering, leather steering wheel, intermittent wipers, and padded landau roof. The sedan lasted two years, while the limousine lasted four.
The K-derivatives offered a large variety of engines depending on year and model. Four cylinder engines were initially equipped with carburetors; fuel injection was phased in beginning in the mid-1980s. Engine output ranged from 86 hp (64 kW) to 224 hp (167 kW). Most vehicles had the 2.2 L or 2.5 L Chrysler four-cylinder engine, though from 1981-1986 a 2.6 L Four and from 1987-1995 a 3.0 L V6, both made by Mitsubishi, were offered. All had electronic ignition.
Chrysler economized greatly across the K-derivative models with standardized parts, so that many parts (aside from sheet metal) are easily interchanged across the lines, leading to owners upgrading by using higher-power or sportier K-derivatives' parts.
However, in the 1990s, lack of investment in the K-derivative models coupled with the effects of too much cost-cutting and standardization led to a reliance on heavy rebates to sell the vehicles, causing Chrysler to lose money on many of these vehicles.
Though the K-derivatives did not generally have a strong reputation for performance, several were notable, particularly the Dodge Spirit R/T, which could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in under six seconds, and the Daytona R/T.
Use of a common platform is a common practice for reducing the number of parts and engineering time, and Chrysler, when creating the K platform, was building vehicles from a small number of common platforms (e.g. F/J/M and R). Lee Iacocca claimed that the huge number of parts in inventory and the complexity of building many completely different versions of vehicles was one reason Chrysler was losing money, and directed the engineers to focus on making a large number of common parts where they would not be visible to customers; this was already common practice in Japan and Germany and would help to make the K-cars profitable even at low prices.
Chrysler applied nameplates somewhat capriciously, so that there could be an E-body New Yorker at the same time a C-body New Yorker was sold; there were also numerous, very different LeBarons for sale at the same time. While there were no Jeep- or Eagle-branded K-derivatives made, at least one Rubicon-ready prototype was made.