By on December 5, 2007

better_days.jpgPity the poor engineers charged with turning Dodge’s “anything-but-cute,” anything-but-clever Caliber into a proper hot hatch. Transforming the Caliber into a desirable piece of sporting kit seems about as likely as landing Michael Jackson a job as a mall Santa. But here it is, for 2008: the Caliber SRT4. So Dodge’s gone and done the deed anyway. Or have they?

The boffins at SRT faced two fundamental problems whilst squeezing blood from this particular turnip. One is the Caliber’s tall-sitting, proto-SUV stature; it totally, like, wants to be a Ram when it grows up. While the SRT4’s grates, scoops and hulking fender flares all convey the requisite Dodge “attitude,” they turn the already-campy Caliber into, well, a rolling hormone. It’s just right for 13-year-old motorists with $22,995 burning holes in their pockets.

dg008_026ca.jpgSpeaking of not sitting quite right, that’s fundamental flaw number two: stepping into the SRT4 feels like commandeering a bite-sized tank, a sensation as well-suited to a sport-compact as diarrhea is to dating. You sit high off the floor, peering over a tall half-acre of dash through a mail-slot windshield. Military-grade plastic fills your peripheral vision. Ever tried to autocross with A-pillars the size of ham shanks? Cones will tremble at the sound of your name.

Now, lest you think I’m being unfair, all sport-compacts inherit interiors from their pedestrian brethren— for better or worse. But the SRT4’s hand-me-down cabin is as “or worse” as it gets. At the helm, you face bulgy, blocky slabs of sheeny plasti-granite, Tonka-style; fits and surface grains befit the toymaker, too. Look over your shoulder for a particularly good view of the stuff. There’s precious little glass to get in the way.

dg008_029ca.jpgSo, exterior and interior, we’re 0 for 2. Here are two better figures: 285 and 265, the respective hp and torque specs for the SRT4’s turbocharged, intercooled 2.4-liter four. That’s serious stuff for a cheap ride. And fun. Hit it, and you’ll smoke 60 in 5.8 ear-pinning seconds, after two torrential floods of whooshing, gasping, rasping torque. Throttle response fairly sparkles; turbo lag is next to nonexistent.

Twisting this big-lunged Four to the 6,250 rpm penthouse requires an attentive and assertive pair of hands: one to keep the meaty, firmly-weighted steering wheel cocked to the left, countering the SRT4’s fierce torque-steer weave, and another to the notch the six-speed stick through its short, chunky track. That’s right: despite being mounted on a jutting diagonal shelf, the SRT4’s shifter is a treat to stir. Put that in your Si and smoke it.

dg008_017ca.jpgArrive at a corner, and all of this snorting and stirring means you’ve likely gone in deeper than you anticipated. Deeper in trouble? Not if the curve in question is a shallow one. Nudge the hefty wheel off-center, and the SRT4 bites like its looks say it ought to; its sticky 225/45R-19 tires keep the Caliber’s 3,248 lb carcass firmly planted to the pavement. Go ahead, drop the throttle, brush the brake. That rear end ain’t goin’ nowhere.

But if you’re stuffing the SRT4 into a rinky-dink hairpin, well, llllet’s get ready to fumble! Here, the nose-heavy SRT4 scrubs harder than Molly Maids. Its front tires grind and judder gracelessly, kicking hard at your hands. Worse, as you’re scrambling to supply more steering lock, you may well find that you’re fresh out. It seems those fashionably massive wheels can’t turn very far. Yep, this Dodge’s got an attitude, all right: understeer.

No matter. Ignore any snickering Miata pilots in the vicinity, and waste the next straight with a stonking swell of torque. But what’s this? As the rush comes, the wheel pulses in your hands, a subtle side-to-side stutter. Is the ABS system on the fritz? Nope. That’s just Dodge’s discount stand-in for a limited-slip diff: the brakes are set up to nibble away at an uppity front wheel, shifting the power back and forth. It’s less annoying than it sounds. But not by much.

dg008_019ca.jpgAll in all, I’ve got to hand it to the loose screws at SRT. They’ve done far more than perfume a pig; they’ve turned the crummy Caliber into a torquey albeit porky buzzbox that’s a kick in the pants to drive. The painfully obvious catch: it’s still a Caliber. It clunks. It rattles. You can’t see out of it. The high chair exaggerates every turn-induced tip and teeter. And deep down, under all its Ginsu-sharp plastic moldings, the poor thing still wants to be a truck.

Which is why enthusiasts no longer in their teens will skip straight to the MazdaSpeed3, Volkswagen GTI or MINI Cooper S– sport-compacts that are not only less intrinsically conflicted, but aren’t much (if any) slower or more expensive. Ah, well. You played a good hand, SRT. Let’s just hope that, next time, the suits upstairs are playing with a full deck.

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60 Comments on “Dodge Caliber SRT4 Review...”


  • avatar
    quasimondo

    A commendable effort by SRT engineers, but the bottom line is this: The Caliber is simply a horrible vehicle to begin with. You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.

  • avatar
    CeeDragon

    I think Dodge missed a huge opportunity to add some more engineering resources to this vechicle to make the 2.4 turbo work with the awd components. It would have eliminated much of front-drive problems, made it more compatible with the Ram-wannabe image and really differentiated it from the MS3 and GTI.

  • avatar
    ericthejet

    My wife had a base Cali as a company car last summer and I had a chance to drive it a few times. I came away unimpressed and the CVT was a total joke compared to the 2007 Sentra we had rented for a weekend in Vermont.
    Our 1996 Civic Hatch continues to shine and jumping from the Honda into the Dodge revealed this domestic’s inability to match the refinement of other brands.

    Dodge Caliber aka Plastic Fantastick?

  • avatar
    Ed S.

    The MS3 and GTI have set a low standard in the transaxle department. Instead of funding research into developing a more civil (or capable) powertrain I would have liked to see upgraded interior materials or a weight-saving diet. Even if the Caliber is not a junior-executive level car like the Mazda3 and Rabbit seem to be, the SRT variant could still afford to rise to that level in materials, at the very least. Put another way, the SRT variant can’t afford not to rise to that level.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Shrink it down to 1:24 scale and it will make a perfect gift for my 8 year old nephew.

    Apart from that, no thanks. I am actually quite fond of unrefined vehicles that go like stink. However, not when they are as profoundly butt ugly as this. All things considered, I’d take the old SRT over this.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    It sounds like a two-star car to me.

    Noncompetitive in most ways, better than the rest in, say, one way? Is great 0-60 all it takes?

    A fine review though, despite the eeewww-effect caused by the digestion simile.

  • avatar

    P.J.

    Any thoughts on how it compares to the last SRT-4?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    What’s next, an SRT minivan? They need to build cars you can see out of, not car show future vehicles that don’t actually have to be driven.

  • avatar
    windswords

    CeeDragon, you’re right that a AWD system would have been great for this application. A Chrysler engineer said that the current AWD system they have (available in the R/T I think) could not handle the power output. So the choices they had was to limit the power output (more expensive and they would be put down by critics for not having a competive power output), engineer a capable AWD and miss the price point (they would be as expensive or more than their competition) or stick with FWD. They chose the latter. Not sure if that’s what I would do but I understand their reasoning. They probably thought no one would buy this if it were starting in the mid to high twenties.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    The term that always comes to mind when I see a new domestic sport compact is “tragic inevitability.”

    No matter how good the SRT engineers are, they can’t perform magic. Maybe someday the domestic brands will have a basic platform worthy of their efforts.

    Until then, I’ll keep my RSX Type-S

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I hope the people who drive this car should not thing they are faster than a BMW, Acura or Evo 9 (I drive this car). I almost get killed with one of this car on 95. He/She tried to force it self on a fast lane and tail gated every damn car in front of him/her.

    Take it easy with this car it’s not a rice rocket.
    Just a darn wanna be 2009 Toyota Matrix.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I bet they could shed a couple hundred pounds by opting for a more appropriate 16″ or 17″ wheel with good tires ;)

    I’m just sort of “meh” on this vehicle. What pains me most is that of all the engine choices, Chryslerberus gives us this version, instead of the diesel. So instead of extending their compact line to encompass the “economical/groundbreaking/longevity” end of the spectrum, they are pushing it into to already-crowded compact sport segment.

    I’m not saying this as a diesel fanatic (which I am, somewhat)– I’m saying this as a businessperson.

  • avatar
    Chaser

    As a previous owner of the old SRT-4, I was really hoping for more. The original was great but a little too raw for my tastes. My boy racer days are over so I didn’t stick with that car for very long. I was hoping the new SRT would have most of the grunt of the former beast with a little more polish. Unfortunately, the base Caliber is just such a piece that there was little hope. Add a couple of options to the SRT-4 and you’re looking at $24k-$25k. At that price I’m going straight for a Mazdaspeed3. Heck, I’d even pony up a few more bucks and get a Mustang and I don’t even like Mustangs. :)

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    Its standard SRT fair. Take the crappiest, unrefined, dumbest interior, an ugly, in your face, annoyingly stupid exterior, and then shove the biggest, baddest motor it can take in the engine bay.

    I highly admire the mentality behind the SRT division. Power power power. Maybe some handling, but mostly power. Cars that require you to know what the hell is going on.

    But so far, the only SRT I would die for has a V10 and is named after a snake. Give me the new Viper in the Obnoxious Everyone Look At Me Green, please. As for the sport compact sector, my Mazdaspeed3 is just fine and dandy.

    The SRT cars are great for respective track days (I didn’t think I’d ever hear the words easy 11 second 1/4 and Neon in the same sentence), but that is where the fun ends. Using the SRT-4 for example. Its great at a track, but in my MS3, I have no problem tearing it up at a track, then heading out to pick up my girlfriend for a decent dinner and a movie.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    I think this is an example of a company getting stuck in it’s own rhetoric. I think they promised a new SRT-4…before the caliber design was even finalized.

    Do you know how long Dodge took to develop this thing? Way too long. And why? There’s nothing too unique about it. They didn’t re-design much. It looks like a host of aftermarket parts slapped on one car.

    Oh, and they original promised 300 horsepower at this price point. In my short period of time in business, I’ve learned it’s never a good idea to oversell your product to the same people that are going to own it. Just leads to dissapointment, or resentment towards you when your product finally comes out and is less than promised.

    This car makes me feel bad for the engineers though…the car guys at Dodge. The ones with oil in their blood.

    Their competition was given solid compacts to work.

    The VW Golf – a solid chassis with a great interior at a rock bottom price. They through in an existing engine (2.0T), retuned the suspension, and added some GTI specific bits and then sold it for 7k more than the golf’s base price.

    The Mazda 3 – World renowned and loved for it’s dynamics. Took an engine being deployed in their SUVs and stuck it in their compact (the classic formula). Turned up the handling to 11. Stuck in a real LSD (God bless you Mazda). And a few other tweaks. Blam. The best sport compact in America.

    Civic – Honda had the easiest job of all (I own a 06 Civic SI). They took the Civic and added a 5-6 year old engine and mildly tweaked it, an LSD, retuned the suspension/steering, stuck in some SI specific seats and sold it for 20k.

    Dodge – A bottom-of-the-barrel ugly mini-SUV with a cheap interior, engineering that paid no attention to polar-moment-of-inertia-thinking, and no real sporting pretensions. And then they handed it to the SRT guys and told em to give it 300 HP, make it handle, etc. etc….

    Can you imagine being given that job?

    Joe

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    “…they turn the already-campy Caliber into, well, a rolling hormone.”

    Well said!

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    CeeDragon and Windswords mentioned the lack of AWD, and several have mentioned what a lousy vehicle SRT inherited as a starting point.

    This isn’t by accident — this is the direct result of Chrysler’s decision to outsource platform design. Mitsubishi did the hard work, but they also reaped the rewards, developing good vehicles off the very same platform — the Lancer and Outlander.

    Chrysler, on the other hand, developed horrible vehicles off that same platform, like the Sebring, Compass and Caliber.

    That line windsword mentions that the SRT engineer gave about not having an appropriate AWD system is complete BS. Mitsubishi engineered one of the best AWD systems in the world for that very platform, but no way would they share the key componentry behind the EVO.

    There are no shortcuts to greatness in the auto business.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Other than the Civic, 3, and Mini, I don’t see any of the other vehicles in the sports compact area worth buying. The obvious compromises and ‘value issues’ are simply not being addressed. To put it bluntly, they really don’t know the customer (Mitsubishi and Subaru excepted).

    The Tc would be a consideration if they increased the engine to competitive levels, offered AWD, and redesigned the front and rear fascias. I’ve always loved the Celica All-Trac’s (owned three of them) and in many ways I consider that car and the 1st Gen Eclipse GSX to be the benchmarks of what one should always expect in a high performance compact. I’ll leave the gushing of these two vehicles for another rant in the not too distant future.

    BMW, Mazda and Honda have hit the mark because they have always had an enthusiast bent. They know their customer and, with rare occasion, stay true to that focus. Dodge’s, Saturn’s, and even Toyota at times are all over the proverbial map. It shows in the products they offer, especially in the sports compact market.

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    If they were going to stick with FWD they could have just kept making the Neon based SRT-4 and probably out sold this thing.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    “At the helm, you face bulgy, blocky slabs of sheeny plasti-granite… Look over your shoulder for a particularly good view of the stuff. There’s precious little glass to get in the way.”

    Nicely written, P.J. It’s so much harder to write this kind of wry, understated truth than the usual ba-da-boom analogies. But it’s so much more enjoyable to read.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    How cheap would this car have to be for you to buy [or consider buying] one?

    If it was $19000 (after rebates)?

    Would it have to be cheaper?

  • avatar
    philbailey

    I rented a bog standard Caliber in San Fran last month and drove it up to Lake Tahoe. The CVT is a noisy nuisance, but the brakes and handling stood up well to climb from Sacramento. Horrible interior, but what do you want for 16K Canadian, or $114 a week unlimited mileage?

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    Justin…you would have to pay me enough to buy one of my dream garage cars for me to take this.

    EDIT: Or go ahead and toss in that metallic green Viper SRT-10. Then I’d buy it.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I had a new base Calibar as a rental and wasn’t impressed. The interior not only looks and feels cheap but there were also rattles and squeaks from a car with less than 1000 miles on the clock. The handling was predictably avarage but the suspension was also harsh and tended to crash when faced with even the smallest road imperfections. However, it was very practical.

    Honestly, I can’t see the point in giving a car like that any more power. The new 2.0t Cobalt SS, VW GTI or the MazdaSpeed3 are much better value.

  • avatar

    Brilliant review, PJ. Both hilarious and insightful, it comes by its laughs honestly.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I wonder when the Jeep Compass SRT4 Rallye Edition will be available.

    If you’re going to make weird stuff like this Caliber, might as well go all out.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    How cheap would this car have to be for you to buy [or consider buying] one?

    If it was $19000 (after rebates)?

    Would it have to be cheaper?

    Honestly, I could never see myself buying this car. It’s such a disappointment from the Neon SRT-4. The old Neon was true bang-for-buck, big power, little car. This is a step in the wrong direction. It’s too much like a cute-ute, it cut corners in the wrong way (even a viscous limited-slip would’ve been better than the electronic gimmickery of using the brakes to control wheelspin), and basically it’s not workable.

    In most cases more horsepower is a cure-all for a bad car. This case is a rare exception.

  • avatar

    seems like a shame we couldn’t get that engine in, you know, a real car. bring back the omni GLH!

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    “265 and 285, the respective hp and torque specs”
    Do you have those figure reversed?

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear about the good feel of the transmission. I test drove a MS3 and was extremely disappointed with the shifter feel.

    This car is likely to cost you more in tires than gasoline. I checked tirerack.com for replacement tires. There are only 4 makes available. The all-season offering has a treadwear of 260 and cost $219. The summer Pirelli Nero is lowest cost at $216 but treadwear of 220. The regular model Calibers aren’t much better at more than $100 a pop. That is a bad design from the customer’s standpoint.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    There is a limit as to how much power you can send to the front wheels of any light-weight FWD car with only a 4 cyl. engine under the hood and a manual gearbox. Once you exceed 200hp the fun factor starts to drop like a stone.
    For that matter heavy FWD car with big V6s and manual gearboxes SUCK when it come to putting the power to the pavement. I have driven Maximas, TLs, SAABs, and SHOs with manuals and automatics, all of these cars worked much better with the autobox than the stick.

    I have also driven a Mazdaspeed3 and this car actually feels like a very compromised Mazdaspeed6. 260 or 280hp going through the front wheels of a car that weighs less than 3000lbs does NOT feel good. IT feels exactly like I though it would, like tricked-out aftermamrket job. From the drivers seat the Mazdaspeed3 feels like some kid took a Mazda3, stuck a turbo on it and maxxed out the boost. When you floor the pedal on a Mazdaspeed3 you get the sensation that the engine wants to rip itself out of the chassis, or better yet the engine is too powerful for this car and will cause many other components to fail prematurely just like a car tuned to the max with bolt-on aftermarket parts. Very fast but lacking overall balance is the best way to truly describe the Mazdaspeed3.

    The only powerful FWD, manual transmission car I have ever driven and found to feel balanced was an 06 Accord V6. Needless to say the reason for that is the fact that the torque curve in that car is correct for an FWD application. The max torque of only 212 lb ft come on at over 4000rpms. The torque comes in when the car has settled down and has the momentum to absorb the power not when the tires are fighting tooth and nail to gain some traction.

    The Mazdaspeed3 was a suprise because IMO Mazda took an excellent car with a great deal of extra performance potential and went and compromised it so they can claim HP bragging rights. Had Mazda had the good sense to stop at 200 to 225 hp the Mazdaspeed3 would have been the best driving FWD EVER! Yep, better than an 1983 VW GTI!

    With the Calibur I can understand why Chysler shot for the moon in terms of HP. There are NO other redeeming qualities about the Calibur! So why not aim for 300hp, you can’t unbalance an already unbalanced POS of a car.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    whatdoiknow1: The only powerful FWD, manual transmission car I have ever driven and found to feel balanced was an 06 Accord V6. Needless to say the reason for that is the fact that the torque curve in that car is correct for an FWD application. The max torque of only 212 lb ft come on at over 4000rpms.

    I think the TSX is fine. I haven’t driven an Accord V6 manual – for a while it was only offered in a coupe – which I didn’t care for.

    Honda added the MT option to the V6 sedan and I never heard about it. I only found out by being behind one at a red light. I actually got out and had to do a quick check of the cabin – they guy driving looked at me like I was a psycho.

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    The TSX has a 200-220 hp 4 banger unless they added a lot more power recently.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Agreed on the “too-much-power-to-front-wheels” thing.

    If you want some fun in a FWD car, try stiffer springs and removing the front sway bar. You’ll add body roll, but (nearly) neutralize the handling and smooth out the front end. That’s how they should come from the factory…if most people weren’t so weaned onto understeer from most cars.

  • avatar
    Terry

    Whatdoiknow1 wrote: “I have also driven a Mazdaspeed3 and this car actually feels like a very compromised Mazdaspeed6. 260 or 280hp going through the front wheels of a car that weighs less than 3000lbs does NOT feel good. IT feels exactly like I though it would, like tricked-out aftermamrket job. From the drivers seat the Mazdaspeed3 feels like some kid took a Mazda3, stuck a turbo on it and maxxed out the boost. When you floor the pedal on a Mazdaspeed3 you get the sensation that the engine wants to rip itself out of the chassis, or better yet the engine is too powerful for this car and will cause many other components to fail prematurely just like a car tuned to the max with bolt-on aftermarket parts. Very fast but lacking overall balance is the best way to truly describe the Mazdaspeed3.”

    I work on these cars every day, and to tell the truth..NOTHING in the driveline has broken. I’ve had one instrument cluster(hi-beam indicator inop), there is a recall for variable intake servos and recalibration, but that’s about IT!
    To me, the clutch feels like an on/off switch, and this car would have been better with AWD as opposed to FWD. But for performance/value/FUN, the Mazdaspeed3 can’t be beat.
    What I find curious is that these breathed-on sedans(Mazdaspeed6) and 5-doors(Mazdaspeed3) are faster and more performance-oriented than their nominal sports cars– Miatas and RX-8s–and I own a Miata.

  • avatar

    The only weapon in the Caliber SRT4′s arsenal: the $5,000 “ADP” [added dealer profit] line item I saw on the Mulroney sticker of a 2008 Mazdaspeed3 at Star Mazda in Glendale yesterday morning. At $22,9 the MS3 makes a bunch of sense. At $27,9, they’re getting silly.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    The best part of this car is the new all aluminum 2.4 liter Turbo 4. Designed by Hyundai, Chrysler and Mitsubishi it will also be powereing the new EVO and Lancer Ralliart.It is a beefy design that will be super strong when modded.

    This SRT-4 is another vehicle that will be a great used car value in 5 years.

  • avatar
    autoacct628

    Did you by-God write 3,248 pounds? Over a ton and a half?

    Yikes!

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @IronEagle:

    And this is definitely the best application of that engine currently on sale in the U.S. The naturally aspirated versions in the Lancer and Sebring have been hampered by other aspects of the car (Lancer – the CVT, Sebring – everything). The Sonata has the same 2.4 liter engine, yes? I’ve liked it in that.

  • avatar

    I used to think Nixon was an absolutely terrible president. And I used to think the Neon was the epitome of automotive ugliness. But W, and the Caliber have redefined presidential malpractice and the meaning of “ugly” when applied to cars.

    Great review though.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    All I can say for the last time is ¿

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Argentla -

    I can’t speak for where you saw that price, and I’ll comment on it in a second, but I’ve been able to get a Mazdaspeed 3 for $500 under MSRP for ~1 year now….especially in colder weather, dealers can’t move them as quickly. I live in PA, and checked out the MS3 fairly seriously.

    That being said, I’m willing to bet you saw the MS3 with MazdaSpeed accesories on it. Mazda offers several very nice accesories to the Mazda. Cold air intake/exhaust that boosts power to ~295 HP. Coilover suspension that’s pretty much made for the track and not the street. Lightweight wheels/tires. All in all, there are about $5000 worth of modifications that could be tacked on under warranty, and none of them are “all show and no go”.

    Also, there are two trim levels of MS3. A ~$22,500 version called “sport” and a ~24,500 version called “grand touring” which includes adjutable height xenon headlights, upgraded stereo, partial leather seating, and a few other do-dads. After that, there is navigation.

    Personally, I think the MS3 is one of the most brilliantly designed cars of our time. Unfortunately, I’ve grown to a phase where I want an interior that feels a little better than “economy car”…

    Damn growing up….takes all the fun out of life.

    Joe

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    “It sounds like a two-star car to me… is great 0-60 all it takes?”

    Flaws notwithstanding, this really isn’t an un-fun car. Shifter/clutch feel is really quite good for the class—-better than the MS3’s—-and its dynamics are satisfying on a fast road with smooth, shallow curves. For sure, the manifold flaws make it less fun than an MS3, MINI Cooper, or even an Si… but it’s not the utter pile that the base car is.

    “Any thoughts on how it compares to the last SRT-4?”

    I wish I could offer some. Sadly, I never drove it.

    “How cheap would this car have to be for you to buy [or consider buying] one?”

    Cheaper than a Chevy Cobalt SS Supercharged, which I still think is a better car… what’s the discount on those these days?

    “285 and 265… Do you have those figure reversed?”

    Oops. Yes. Sorry.

    “Did you by-God write 3,248 pounds?”

    Also yes. For that, Dodge’ll have to say sorry.

  • avatar
    carguy1964

    You want to talk about a “chick Car” this is IT…this thing screams IM UGLY…What the hell was Chrysler thinking,( Hey Guys let’s build somthing between a Viper and a mini van) c’mon guys!! A parts bin car/suv that even has that cheesey looking dashboard that looks like it was shrunken down from the 300/charger/and the mini charger…it’s no wonder why anybody would be interested in buying American cars…I am not even impressed with the old Neon SRT, that engine has no refinement whatsoever, it reminds me of the old 2.4 liter Dodge Daytona turbo engine..very course running engine. I know this from experience, I had a 1989 Mits turbo Mirage and a 97 Turbo Eclispe, despite the Eclispe’s lousey engine design, thanks to Diamond star, (Mit’s and Chyrsler’s colabaration team)I’d have to say they were the smoothest running engines built..

  • avatar
    f8

    What is this car for, anyway? If you want a genuinely fast car, you probably don’t want an overpowered FWD mini-SUV. If you want a car with modding potential, you probably don’t want that either. If you want a car that can go fast in a straight line, there are better deals in that price range. If you want a car that handles well, you can certainly do better than a heavy box with a high center of gravity and no LSD. I can see the niches that Si, GTI, MS3, and Mustang GT fill at least – what does this do better than others? Add terrible Dodge interior and awful exterior and this car is not a contender in any category.

    edit: just looked up 06-0 on the Mustang GT and sources put it in the 5.1-5.2 range. That’s a lot more power and speed (and potential for going faster) for only a grand more (and SRT will probably cost the same with dealer markups). Not to mention that in a Mustang you won’t look like you stole a clown car from the nearest circus

    Great review by the way, very funny and well-written

  • avatar
    8rings

    Ah, yet another vehicle that the youngins will flock to, so that they can drive with one hand cocked up on the top of the wheel and give me that badass look when I am beside them at the stoplight. Oh, but this always seems to happen when I’m driving my truck. That’s right they love to race minivans and SUV’s. Somehow when I am out on the prow with my certain coupe that happens to have four exhaust pipes and an M on the back the baddass in these guys disappears–the fart can is nice and quiet. It is almost as if they treat me like I’m not even there.
    This car will be around for awhile, annoy us all for awhile, but then it will self-destruct like every other POS coming out of Chrysler. Come to think of it I have seen less and less Neon
    SRT-4s …

  • avatar
    Johnster

    And to think that this is the spiritual successor of the old Shelby Omni GLH. (GLH stood for Goes Like Hell).

    Oh, the pain! The pain!

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    GVWR Like House?

  • avatar
    RGS920

    Correct me if i am wrong but i thought that the MS3 actually limited the amount of power in the first 2 gears. While 3rd and above got the full amount of power. I thought that was how they dealt with the limit of HP you can send to a FWD car.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    In 1968, Chrysler brought out the Plymouth Roadrunner, a cheap musclecar based on the cheap Belvedere. They expected to sell about 4,000 of them but the actual number exceeded 10 times that amount making it a certified hit. Ever since then, Chrysler has been trying to repeat that success with another ‘kid-car’ (as they’re known in industry) that’s as successful as the original.

    That’s what the SRT-4 series is trying to accomplish. Unfortunately, unlike the original Belvedere, the Caliper is an extremely poor basis for such an exercise. The previous Neon version worked out much better.

    Even with the inevitable rebates which will undercut the prices of much better choices (specifically, the MS3), I just don’t see many people ponying up for the speedy (but crude and ungainly) Caliber SRT-4.

  • avatar
    atlsrt4

    “Ah, yet another vehicle that the youngins will flock to, so that they can drive with one hand cocked up on the top of the wheel and give me that badass look when I am beside them at the stoplight. Oh, but this always seems to happen when I’m driving my truck. That’s right they love to race minivans and SUV’s. Somehow when I am out on the prow with my certain coupe that happens to have four exhaust pipes and an M on the back the baddass in these guys disappears–the fart can is nice and quiet. It is almost as if they treat me like I’m not even there.
    This car will be around for awhile, annoy us all for awhile, but then it will self-destruct like every other POS coming out of Chrysler. Come to think of it I have seen less and less Neon
    SRT-4s …”

    You’re kidding right? I’ve had a neon srt4 for 3yrs now and never once had a problem with it. I don’t race minivans nor SUV’s and I certainly dont fear a car with an m on the back. Its funny when people talk down about my car and then get beaten so badly that they just shutup completely, or in your case apparently go bs on the net

  • avatar
    Spitzbergen

    8 rings makes a good point, but with me I always get the kids in BMW “M” cars and Mustang GTs wanting to race me in my Neon. When I drive my other Dodge the same people are afraid to make eye contact. Go figure…

    I bought my Neon new in 98 and it hasn’t once broke down or left me stranded. The Neon wasn’t for everybody and neither is the Caliber. I’ve always liked the big engine in the little car concept.

  • avatar
    burgermind

    Troll much?

  • avatar
    kunfused7

    i’m sorry what happened to dodge being badass they had the best muscle cars and now nothing. they replaced a perfectly good neon srt4 with an f’in wagon who wants this? what made them say let’s make a turbo station wagon for the kids. i haven’t seen one on the road yet and do you know why cuz everyone knows they suck. why? dodge why? they should hire new design teams for everything they make cuz all the new stuff sucks the only good thing they have is the hemi that shuts down 4 cylinders at cruising speeds

  • avatar
    08calibersrt4

    Does anyone that posted on this actually own a Caliber SRT4?! I’m very disappointed and wanted to clear some things up. I have owned A LOT of cars in the past couple of years- Mazda RX-7, 300hp V8 S10, 05 Colorado ZQ8, 03 Neon, and many, many more! Now that I’m 24 and a little more practical the Caliber SRT4 is the perfect car. Sure, it’s a wagon/ SUV looking car but they made up for that in other ways. The thing has 3 scoops on the front, basically a wide body kit, very bold front and rear, huge spoiler on the back, and 19 inch wheels. I am just really upset with most of things related to this article as this is an exceptional car and I have owned and driven a wide variety of cars- mainly sporty ones! I DJ so I can haul all of my equipment in this car. just got back from a family vacation in it, can haul the family or clients around, and can pass someone and hit 100 in the blink of an eye… What more could a person ask for?! Sure, it’s not the perfect car but I drive this car everyday and it does what I need it to do, can go 155mph, takes corners exceptionally fast, stop fast, and still get 27 mpg’s! What’s the problem?!

  • avatar
    deckstar

    I agree with 08srt. I own this car and although I would not have paid $25,000 for it for the simple fact I could pick up a STR-8 for just a few more. I love the styling of this car it’s stance is very clean and mean looking. Yes it need much improvement to the Material used inside but it is a TON of Car or should I say a Ton 1/2. Yes I could have bought a small (Really small) compact car with the same speed and performance, but I need the room for family and traveling. The car really rides nice and gives you a great pull away, throw you back in the seat, make you say this is FAST kinda sensation.

    YES IT HAS HANDLING ISSUE WHEN YOU STOMP THAT BIG TURBO BUT TO ME THAT IS HALF THE FUN OF HAVING THAT MUCH POWER.

    Stop talking about the base model calibers. THIS CAR IS NOT A STOCK CALIBER WITH A TURBO AND BODY KIT ON IT. IT IS COMPLETELY RE-TUNED AND REBUILT JUST FOR THE SRT. THE ONLY STOCK FEATURES ARE NOT PERFORMANCE FEATURES.

    TEST DRIVE ONE I CHECK THE PRICE AND THEN TELL ME IT’S NOT A FUN CAR AND WORTH EVERY DIME.

    It gives you strong performance numbers which none of you can disagree with. Not the best on this planet but very very very impressive for a car this size and this weight and speaking of weight this really make the car ride smoother than you might think, yea it would be faster but I dont like driving around all day by myself. I like people with me and this is a fun care to drive even with 4 adults.

    As for the looks, as with all cars it’s a personal choice, I hate the look of the mazda, and the new EVO looks worse now then it did 3 years ago. So if you have another 5 grand so you can go by your body kits and brakes and suspension and drivetrains and turbo setups and all the other performance stuff the by all means go ahead. BUT MY SRT-HAS ALL THAT ALREADY AND COST ME ONLY $18,500 BRAND NEW WITH ZERO MILES ON IT.

    IM 40 AND NOT A TEEN and I LOVE IT….

    • 0 avatar
      Wilgil

      The author doesn’t seem to understand the marketplace for this car. My wife and I own an RT Caliber with the falsely bemoaned CRT transmission. Audi, Mercedes Benz are two premium brands that use this tranmission. In fact, this car was developed under Mercedes tenure. I find the attitude towards bashing Detroit and products from the area is an attitude that is rapidly becoming passe. Chevrolet Corvettes, Mustangs, Cadillacs and Chryslers can run with the high compression, high revving, high priced metal from Europe and Japan, and with a few simple, practical, durable tweeks beat the snot out of them at every turn. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • avatar
    CodeTech

    It’s interesting… most of these comments were made December 5 and 6 of 2007, a time when I would have agreed with most of them.

    My first experience with a Caliber was also a rental, in Summer of ’07. I had one for a week in Toronto, and it was a total and complete piece of crap. After about 20 more rental cars, I ended up with another Caliber in early 2008, middle of winter in Winnipeg. I didn’t hate it as much.

    Now, I own a ’08 Caliber SRT4, and I really like it. It’s not even remotely like the base Caliber, it feels solid and strong. But how did I end up with this thing, my first 4-door car?

    Well, I am the original owner of a 1987 Daytona Shelby Z, which was a very pretty car in its day. She looked the part, Flash Red and slick, sexy and “sporty”. A few hundred dollars in mods and my complete rewrite of the engine controller dialed up the boost and ran higher flowing injectors to match.

    Actually, around the time this article came out my money was on a Challenger, literally. I had a deposit on a Challenger but a funny thing happened… I beat both an R/T and an SRT8 with my old, rusting, less than pleasant anymore Daytona. To be fair, I’m at 3500 feet, and non-turbo vehicles up here aren’t exactly as swift as they are at sea level.

    I decided to look at the turbo’d Caliber after that, and test drove one. I was sold pretty much immediately, and managed to score a very low mileage used black one for a good price.

    This thing is a BLAST to drive, and once I realized that the visibility problems I’d complained about in the base Caliber were mostly because I was used to looking out of a Daytona, that particular complaint was gone.

    It’s fast, it stops fast, it corners well, and as a street performer it pretty much decimates all those “other” cars mentioned above. Even though when I bought it I thought it was butt-ugly and ungainly, it has grown on me, and I now sorta see the attractiveness that its designers probably envisioned for it.

    I can load two carseats in the back and bring all 3 kids with me, and still have useful cargo space. The sound system is great, and the acres of plastic dash that first seemed so annoying are just invisible now. The steeply angled windshield deflects rocks better than the relatively vertical chip-collector I was used to.

    Yeah, it’s got its flaws, any and all cars do. But it is a strong performer, not as ugly as the base, and far more practical than the smaller alternatives. The decent mileage when not thrashing it is a nice bonus, and the traction control, ESP and ABS work extremely well to keep it safe in winter.

    Oh yeah, I’m in my 40s, and very glad this odd little car came into my life.

  • avatar
    Mobileknight

    I bought the 2009 Caliber SRT4 and love it.
    I live in the mountains with some wonderful twisty highways, I can do the corners at almost double the posted limit and boy is it nice. It hangs onto the mountain highways like a cat on a wool blanket.

    I am not looking for cute, I am not looking for european luxury at twice the cost, even the japanese competetor at the same price could only give me 2/3 of the horsepower.

    I am looking for fun.

    And btw, I am not 19, but over 50.

  • avatar
    jgajic

    This article and the people posting after it have totally missed their mark. I didn’t belong to this group, but had to register just so I could say something.

    Ive had a mazda protégé and Mazda protégé5 since 2000. Great cars. But rust easily and repairs start around 170,000km and by 250,000km, they are falling apart. Great car, fun, quick, built well. But also made for the younger crowd. id say late 20s and all through 30s. At 45 and having an active family and live style, looking for something to reflect that.

    08 Caliber SRT4…wow. Looking for something with more power, not so young looking, and can carry an 8 foot latter. And also complete! I wanted something that I didn’t have to do anything to. Saw the SRT4 Caliber…just had to have it. I didn’t even drive it but knew that I wanted it.

    What a car!!!! Has everything that you need. Water bottle cooler, dimming rear view mirror, updateable NAV system, 500+ watts of KICKER sound (freaken awesome!!), 19″ sexy yet strong and well suited wheels, leather seats, all the gauges you need even 0 to 60 and quarter mile gauges, 6 speed, 2.4 with turbo, very good crash test rating with airbags, sun roof, very comfy seats, plenty of room for a family, and more that I missed im sure. The colour…Orange…is fantastic! What car out there has all of this in it? There isn’t one. Oh, and used, I paid $14,000 CAD for it. Only has 42,000km….practically new!

    There are 2 thinks I see that would make this car better. one, a limited slip differential. and two, a suspension that takes corners that are less than perfect. I aint no girly boy, I can handle the torque steer, and love it. Makes me appreciate the power that much more. But for women out there that want to experience this beast, it would be helpful. For the men that complain…suck it up buttercup! Do some extra curls and then drive the car. Point two, this car really does stink around rough corners. and I am only comparing it to my 02 mazda protégé. that thing ate up rough turns. don’t know how they did it. If Dodge put that same technology into the Caliber, would have been so much better. I tried driving the same turns with the SRT4, no where near the speed and finesse of the mazda.

    I live in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. There are many types of cars up here. A lot of everything. But have never seen another SRT4 Caliber. Soo very rare. Looked at the register, only 6000 made in 08 and 09. 750 08s made it to Canada, only 150 Orange ones. Id say its quite a rare car. I love it! It looks fast just sitting there.

    Looking back, only have one regret….wish I bough one 5 years ago.


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