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DRIVERS LOG: 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4

Rafay Ansar

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2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4
IN FLEET: Sept. 16-30
AS-TESTED PRICE: $26,145
DRIVETRAIN: 2.4-liter turbocharged I4; FWD, six-speed manual
OUTPUT: 285 hp @ 5,700-6,400 rpm, 265 lb-ft @ 2,000-5,600 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 3,189 lb
FUEL ECONOMY (EPA/AW): 22/19.4 mpg

EDITORIAL ASSISTANT JONATHAN WONG: I've said it before, but this is not your normal Dodge Caliber. If it were, especially one equipped with the CVT, I wouldn't have wasted my time. Thrust from the boosted four-cylinder is healthy, and torque steer is well controlled for a front-driver.

When pushed hard, it does plow into corners, but the wide rubber helps put the power down and keep things controlled.

But steering feel is just too heavy. Blame the tires and/or a steering system that doesn't dial in enough assist, but it is a pain around parking lots and the like.

Brake performance is strong, and the suspension keeps body motions tidy while being plenty forgiving when motoring around on normal roads.

The styling alterations made to the SRT4 are clean and give it a nice, hunkered-down look. The only thing I would change inside is to put the boost gauge on the A-pillar instead of down low to the left of the main cluster.

SENIOR EDITOR KEVIN A. WILSON: Jonathan having been so conscientious in his evaluation, I am allowed to just be opinionated, right? This car is ugly, but at least it steers like a truck, rides as hard as one and handles like a car with 400 pounds of cargo mounted on the roof.

The SRT guys have done what they can with what they were given, but they were given a turdmobile, and the best you can do with that is build a faster turdmobile. I much preferred the Neon SRT4 of yore.




As for the more objective view: Everything Jonathan said, plus I really like this orange paint job. It's different from all the bland greige on the highway but does not resort to standing up and shouting "Look at me!" the way yellows and most reds do.

ART DIRECTOR KEN ROSS: I have to agree with Kevin: Stuff this powertrain under the hood of almost any other small vehicle, and you would have a vehicle worth taking a look at. But the Caliber is simply too tall, the suspension too harsh.

As for how cheap the car feels, the interior is where most of the money was saved. The ceiling panel collapses about a half-inch when you turn on the interior lights, and the doors are so light that you're constantly slamming them--and they still sound open.

But the color is nice.
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