News Column

Dodge Caliber SRT4

January 24, 2008

Ralph Gray

Dodge Caliber SRT4

For years Chrysler has turbocharged everything on wheels except the mailroom cart. The Dodge Caliber SRT4 is its latest hotrod.

Results over the year, though, have been somewhat uneven. There have been the compact K-car coupes which little could help. But the subcompact Omni GLH really did Go Like Hell.

So now, SRT--Street and Racing Technology. The SRT4 is called a sport compact with a base price of $22,295 and $24,905 as tested.

Like the GLH, the SRT4 goes fast--0 to 60 in 6.2 seconds. And like predecessors and other front-wheel drive cars, the power overwhelms the steering.

That's called torque steer and occurs when there's just too much power--like the SRT4's 285 horsepower. The result is the vehicle veers to one side or the other on very hard acceleration. A light foot on the gas pedal doesn't produce the effect.

But with a firm grasp on the thick, four-spoke steering wheel--the other is engaging the six-speed short throw manual transmission--it's ok. Chrysler thoughtfully places the tachometer in the center of the instrument panel. The smaller speedometer is off to the right.

Dodge Caliber SRT4 interior Dodge Caliber SRT4

•Engines: 2.3L turbo I-4

•Dimensions: 103.7" wheelbase; 173.8" length

•Base price: $22,295; As tested $24,905

•Fuel economy: 21/26 mpg

Going through the gears to maximize the GLH factor dictates close attention to engine revs for the maximum scoot. The shifter is a little heavy but fairly precise for a fwd connection. It falls easily to hand with its chrome knob and well-positioned armrest.

Often overlooked in some manual transmission is a center console parking brake. A foot-operated one does no good when there's a clutch.

The driving position is fine and the aggressively bolstered seats grasp firmly. Side mirrors are small to cut wind resistance but need to be larger. There's a vast blind spot to the rear caused by thick back pillars.

The 19-inch performance tires help provide a stern but athletic ride. Ride height is lowered slightly and there's a welcome electronic stability program and anti-lock braking.

The Dodge produces a good amount of lean on fast curves but it's very well controlled and those bolstered seats counter driver lean nicely.

There's a new enlarged grille on the SRT with the Dodge crosshairs. It looks bolder than that of the Ram pickup and would not be out of place on an 18 wheel semi-trailer truck. "We wanted an aggressive SRT signature look," says Trevor Creed, senior vice president of design. He got it.

The hood scoop is functional, directing cooling air into the engine compartment. The bottom fascia of the grille catches the eye and curbs.

The rear spoiler extends over the sloping rear window like an awning.

Dodge SRT4 is your basic around town little hotrod.

Source: (c) Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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