The Truth About Cars » Dodge Caliber http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 29 Jul 2014 20:55:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Dodge Caliber http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/review-2012-jeep-patriot-latitude/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/review-2012-jeep-patriot-latitude/#comments Sun, 24 Jun 2012 16:13:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449171

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the Jeep Patriot was the Cherokee reincarnated; the last utilitarian Jeep with solid axles, four doors and a real back seat. Instead, this boxy “baby Jeep” is the most unlikely offspring of the Chrysler/Mitsubishi alliance that gave birth the “plastastic” Caliber and the Compass (aka the Lady Jeep). Unlikely how? Because the Patriot is as attractive as the Caliber is ungainly.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

From the outside, the Patriot hit the nail on the head when it was released in 2006 with slab-sides, horizontal tailgate, trapezoidal wheel arches, “Wrangleresque” headlamps and high beltline. While 2011 brought major changes to the hot mess that was the Compass’s exterior, only minor tweaks were applied to the Patriot. Those tweaks followed the “don’t fix it if it ‘aint’ broken” mantra; the only exterior tweaks are revised fascias and some standard equipment like fog lights and an increased ride height on the base 4×4 model. (Models with “Freedom Drive II are unchanged.) The overall form screams Jeep, and that’s just how Jeep shoppers like it.

Interior

As a testament to how awful the interior was on the 2007 Patriot, Chrysler hasn’t refreshed the interior once but twice. In 2010 Chrysler killed the awkward “silver effect” center stack and replaced it with a monochromatic hard plastic dash with round vents. 2011 brought another raft of improvements ditching the old steering wheel and Mercedes-like cruise control stalk for the thick-rimmed corporate steering wheel, better upholstery, revised doors, armrests and switchgear. While plastics are a notch below the Honda CR-V and the new Ford Escape, the Patriot starts $6,500 less than the Japanese competition and $2,500 less than even the Kia Sportage. Given what you find in other $16,000 vehicles, the plastics finally are firmly (and honestly) competitive. However, should you option your Patriot Limited up to the nearly $30,000 ceiling, the plastics may seem out-of-place for the price tag.

The Patriot delivers excellent cargo capacity despite being shorter than the RAV-4 and CR-V. As we have said at TTAC before, pay little attention to the official cargo numbers from each manufacturer – the way they are measured doesn’t always translate to real-world useability. While the Patriot is around 10 cubes behind the RAV-4 and CR-V, the square cargo area makes the space extremely useable for bulky items. With the rear seats folded, the numbers are essentially a tie in my real-world comparison and the Patriot trumps with a folding front passenger seat for schlepping those long IKEA purchases. If your cargo is primarily of the human persuasion, the Patriot’s boxy form provides adequate headroom and for a quartet of 6’5″ Americans which is more than can be said of the competition.

 

Infotainment

With a low starting price and a focus on off-roading, corners had to be cut somewhere and the gadget fund took the hit. The base radio and speakers are adequate for people who need basic entertainment; for others, stepping up to the “Media center 430” gets you a 6.5-inch touch screen and the ability to browse your tunes off USB drives. Fortunately, we had no problem playing iTunes AAC files on the head unit. A further bump up to the 430N model (only available in the Limited) gets you the same head unit with a Garmin designed navigation system on the 6.5-inch screen. Moving up the option list to the more expensive head units does nothing to the stock speakers, so if you are looking for a bit more boom, a 548-watt, 9 speaker Boston Acoustics system is also available. The navigation system is easy to use but lacks voice command for destination entry that Ford’s SYNC offers. Buyers beware that to get the integrated flip-down “tailgate boombox” pushed heavily on Jeep’s web page, one has to opt for the $1,295 “sun and sound” package (which includes a moonroof and those Boston Acoustics speakers).

As before, if you need some Bluetooth/Apple iDevice love, be ready to pony up $475 for the uConnect package to add these items. This is a serious omission when most states in America have a hand-held phone ban in place and the competition is starting to offer Bluetooth as standard on some models. Despite the gadget options being somewhat limited, package costs can add up rapidly with the fully loaded Patriot Limited ringing in at $29,260 (just a whisker away from a Grand Cherokee Laredo) so shop wisely.

Drivetrain

Power numbers remain unchanged at 158HP and 141 lb-ft for the 2-liter and 172HP and 165 lb-ft for the optional 2.4-liter engine. With Jeep’s renovation budget being tight we won’t see the revised “Tigershark” engines with improved NVH characteristics under the Patriot’s hood for a while. While both engines can still be described as “gutless and unrefined”, Jeep improved the CVT tuning and sound isolation making the cabin quieter than before. With 3,346lbs to motivate, acceleration in our tester was leisurely but interestingly faster than the “non Trail Rated” model, scooting to 60 in 8.4 seconds vs 9.0 thanks to the lower gearing provided by the Freedom Drive II package.

Jeep would like shoppers to believe the Patriot is the cheap, fuel-efficient alternative to the rest of the Jeep lineup. However the reality is somewhat different because of the Dodge Caliber based AWD system. Unlike the rest of the Jeep lineup, the Patriot has no transfer case, no low-range gearbox, no locking differentials and no center differential. Like most FWD biased systems, the open front and rear differentials are connected via an electronically controlled wet clutch pack. This means that if all wheels have traction and the system is fully locked, the power is split 50/50 (front/rear). While this operation is essentially the same as the systems on the competition, what Jeep does to make the system “Trail Rated” is drop in a lower final drive ratio, tweak the traction control software and raise the ride height to 9-inches. The drop from a 6.12:1 to 8.1:1 final drive is what allows Freedom Drive II package to advertise a 19:1 “rock crawl” ratio (still considerably lower than the rest of the other Jeeps). This is also the reason fuel economy dives from 21/26MPG  to 20/23MPG. FDII’s tweaked traction control system applies the brakes to the wheels that are spinning without reducing engine power to imitate a limited slip differential. Because this essentially “consumes” engine power (because the braking wheel is turning the energy into heat in the brakes) the wheels that do have traction don’t really get a larger share of the power than if all wheels had traction. This also means that if you are using the feature for a long time, especially in combination with steep down-hill runs, brake overheating becomes a worry.

Drive

On the road, the tall and narrow proportions of the Patriot and tall ride height conspire to make the Patriot less nimble in the corners than most other crossovers. The flip side is a soft ride that is more comfortable than many CUVs with sporty aspirations. We took the Patriot to Hollister Hills SVRA and it acquitted itself on the basic traIls, as well as some very moderate ones without issue. As with most stock SUVs, the limitation isn’t snazzy AWD systems, but ground clearance. While the “brake lock” system proved helpful in off-camber situations (deep diagonal ruts), it demonstrated that plenty of slip is needed before the system intervenes. Also, because the brakes essentially consume their wheel’s share of engine power, it leaves the Patriot feeling somewhat out of breath. Despite these short comings I have no doubt that none of the competition except perhaps the Range Rover Evoque (which uses similar software) would have been able to follow us. While our foray into the mud proved the Patriot isn’t the efficient replacement for your lifted Wrangler, it is a vehicle that can handle life on a farm, ranch, or rural countryside without getting stuck as easily as the competition.

While I have to agree with the “forum fan boys” that the Patriot isn’t a real Jeep despite the trail rated badge, it is probably the most capable CUV on the market. The combination of utility, fuel economy that isn’t abjectly horrible, a low starting price and an interior that no longer makes me want to put my eyes out is finally competitive makes the Patriot a CUV that should be at the top of your list if you live in the country. If you’re a city dweller, the off-road looks and low price of the FWD Patriot is also quite compelling. After spending a week with the Patriot, the only problem I foresee  with the baby Jeep is convincing shoppers to take that second look at the Jeep dealer.

 

Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad, if you liked us on FaceBook you’d know what we have on the front burner. Get on, get social and tell us what you want to see. 

Jeep provided the vehicle, one tank of gas, and insurance for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.2 Seconds

0-60: 8.38 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.66 Seconds @ 82.2 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 19.9 MPG over 675 miles

 

 

2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, latitude logo, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, wheel, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, front, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, Jeep logo, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, fog light, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, trail rated badge, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, tow hook, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, passanger side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, dashboard, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, steering wheel, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, driver's side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, steering wheel, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, center console, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, 4WD switch, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, front seats, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, rear seats, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, rear seats, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, rear seats folded, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, dashboard, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, gauge cluster, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Engine, 2.4L "world engine", Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Engine, 2.4L "world engine", Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Engine, 2.4L "world engine", Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, Jeep logo, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, seats folded, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, seats folded, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/review-2012-jeep-patriot-latitude/feed/ 56
Question: Will Cuteness Always Equal Sales Death In America? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/question-will-cuteness-always-equal-sales-death-in-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/question-will-cuteness-always-equal-sales-death-in-america/#comments Thu, 21 Jun 2012 17:20:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449729 One of the key lessons learned by American automobile marketers in the 1990s was: friendly cars flop, aggressive cars sell. Have they learned this lesson too well?

The Neon should have been a home run for Chrysler, with its all-Detroit, no-Mitsubishi-or-Simca ancestry and Civic/Corolla-beating bang-for-buck specs. This was not the case, and the Neon went on to populate rent-a-car lots and— soon after— junkyards in large quantities. Some blame alleged lack of quality in the Neon, but I’ve always suspected the Neon’s happy “face” and Chrysler’s 1995-96 “Hi!” ad campaign was the bigger factor.
After the defeat of the Evil Empire and the ass-kicking triumph of the Gulf War washed America’s palate clean of the nasty taste of the Fall of Saigon and the Iranian hostage crisis (not to mention the not-quite-ass-kicking farce of Reagan’s only real war), American car shoppers wanted vehicles that looked like victory!
Honda staggered into this new reality with the sugary-sweet-looking del Sol and alienated all the young first-time male car shoppers who had once snapped up CRXs in a frenzy. This was exactly what Honda USA didn’t need on top of Soichiro Honda‘s death, Acura’s lack of a V8, and a weak economy hammering Accord sales. Blame cuteness!
After the “Hi!” debacle, Chrysler decided that the Neon’s replacement would sprout fangs, facial tatts, and a glovebox full of temporary restraining orders. The very name suggested a car that would cold blast its opponents: Caliber!

Just in case there was any lingering doubt about this car’s lack of cuteness, here’s a lug-wrench-to-the-teeth ad for yez. And yet… perhaps the pendulum has swung too far. The broad-brush-strokes glory of the Gulf War and Cold War victories has been replaced by a couple of incomprehensible conflicts that drag on and on and on, and the highways are clogged with increasingly angry-looking machines snarling at one another. Could the focus groups decide that they want friendly after all?

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/question-will-cuteness-always-equal-sales-death-in-america/feed/ 67
Pre-Production Review: 2013 Dodge Dart http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/pre-production-review-2013-dodge-dart/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/pre-production-review-2013-dodge-dart/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2012 16:23:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447929

The last time Chrysler made a serious attempt at the C-segment was in 1995 with the Neon. High initial sales were soon followed by less-than-stellar crash scores, a redesign that put off buyers, the death of the Plymouth brand, and the unholy offspring that was the Dodge Caliber. With Fiat needing to add a “40 MPG CAFE” vehicle to the fleet to continue their acquisition, the Dodge Dart was born. This first fruit of the Fiat/Dodge marriage isn’t just a rebadged Alfa Romeo Giulietta (pronounced Juliet-ta), and there’s a reason for that. Dodge wants a bigger part of the pie since sedans account for 80% of the compact segment. Rather than “sedanify” the Giulietta, Dodge took the extra step of crafting an entirely new vehicle that shares little with the Italian organ donor. Can some Italian spice give Dodge what they need to compete with the growing compact sedan segment? Dodge invited us to a regional preview event to find out.

Exterior

I used to be a Mopar man. My folks have bought them for years and my first two new cars were a 1997 Eagle Vision and a 2000 Chrysler LHS. Keeping that era of Pentastar product in mind, the Dodge Dart fits right in with a tail straight out of the 1999 Dodge Intrepid. Before you flame, I think the look is far more attractive than many small cars on the market. What sets the Dart apart however is the aggressive front end with a broad grille and ginormous headlights. The front end styling is almost enough to make you forget this is the C-segment. So far, so good.

Interior

Inside the Dart you’ll find a cabin light-years ahead of the Caliber. While there are still plenty of hard plastic bits to be found, the cabin actually has more soft touch points than the Cruze or Sentra. While the styling may turn off some customers, the thick-rimmed steering wheel might hook some swing-voters. Dodge either has high sales goals or isn’t concerned about dwell time on dealer lots as there are around a dozen different interior trim color and style combinations. I’d call that good for the shopper, questionable for the profitable future of the Dart. Base SE models skip air conditioning and power door locks and use a lower grade of seat fabric to keep prices low. A quick look at the lineup indicates that Dodge expects the $17,995 SXT model to be the volume seller as it has the usual mix of equipment shoppers demand like A/C, keyless entry, folding rear seats and a sextuplet of speakers and a few extra cup holders. Despite considerable improvements, the Focus and Elantra are still better places to spend your time, but I’d rather be in the Dart than a Mazda 3 or a Cruze.

Infotainment

If you love gadgets, the Dart is the compact car of choice. With the exception of a self-parking feature like Ford’s Focus, the upper trim levels of the Dart allow some snazzy features you won’t find elsewhere in the segment. Starting with the Limited trim, the speedometer in the gauge cluster is replaced with a 7-inch LCD that is highly customizable. Unlike the LCD gauges Mercedes, Jaguar and Land Rover use, this one does more than just display a picture of a dial. Aside from navigation and infotainment displays, the system also doubles as the trip computer. Dodge also decided to allow a decent amount of customization from color choices to what date you see and where you see it. Also standard on the Limited model (optional on SXT and above) is Chrysler’s 8.4-inch uConnect system. Our brief time with the system showed that Chrysler has worked the Apple iDevice bugs out of the system. uConnect 8.4 now offers full voice command of your iDevice allowing you to say “play song, Red Solo Cup” and have the system do your bidding. The system works as well as Ford’s MyTouch but is far more responsive than Ford’s slow system.

Drivetrain

Despite the PR folks not commenting on the long rumored 9-speed transmissions, there was plenty of new metal to see under the hood. First up is the 2.0L engine. This is related to the Caliber’s 2.0L engine but only shares 20% of the parts. Most of the changes relate to smoothness and noise control, but power does get a slight bump to 160HP and 145lb-ft of torque. Next up is a 1.4L turbo Fiat engine almost directly transplanted from the Alfa. This “MutiAir” engine cranks out the same horsepower as the 2.0L but trumps with 184lb-ft of twist. Next up is the 2.4L engine (in the R/T model) which gets the same NVH improvements and incorporates MultiAir to boost power to 184HP and 171lb-ft of twist. MultiAir is Fiat’s way of saying that the intake valves on the 1.4L and 2.4L engines are actuated via solenoid-actuated hydraulic chamber that sits between the valve and the cam (at least on the 2.4L. The 1.4L doesn’t have an intake cam). The result is more controlled valve lift, the ability to remove the throttle body and some seriously complicated plumbing. What’s the reliability going to be like? Your guess is as good as mine. If you want to know more, check out this video. All engines can be mated to the 6-speed Fiat manual transmission while the 2.0 and 2.4 get the option of a 6-speed Hyundai-sourced slushbox and the 1.4 can be had with Fiat’s 6-speed dual dry clutch transmission.  How about that SRT Dart? The PR folks won’t say a word.

 

Drive

We had only a limited time and about 25 miles behind the wheel of two Limited trim Darts, so bear that in mind. The Dart uses a modified version of Giulietta’s suspension setup. If you think that gives you European handling, think again. The Dart weighs about 300lbs more than the Giulietta and the engineers softened the suspension and used softer bushings all around. While our brief cloverleaf-on-ramp-skidpad tests revealed admirable grip and less body roll than I would have assumed, the Dart loses its composure rapidly on broken pavement.

The base 2.0L engine and the 6-speed automatic are a the combination most owners will end up with. The pair work well together and never felt flustered in city traffic. The 1.4L turbo is more engaging and since it has more torque than even the 2.4L R/T engine it would be my engine of choice. The manual transmission had surprisingly long throws which I found cumbersome and tiring. Fortunately clutch pedal feel is good with a medium firm spring and very linear engagement. The 1.4L turbo didn’t suffer from turbo lag like some forced-induction mills and the extra twist is a welcome companion making the manual transmission easier to live with in real-world driving. Dodge didn’t have a dual clutch transmission available to test, so check back for a full review when the Dart starts shipping.

A wise man once told me that everything in the $12,000-$120,000 vehicle market competes on value. The question that kept coming to the lips of the masses assembled was: would you buy the Dart over X? The response was usually a long pause followed by a soft no. It’s not that the Dart is a bad car, it is solidly class competitive. So what’s the problem? Given a choice between the Ford Focus and the Dart, or the Hyundai Elantra and the Dart, the Dart comes in second. Why? Brand image.

Hyundai has spent the last decade producing consistently better products, but that’s not the entire reason for their recent success.  While the Darts offers more “whiz-bang” than the Elantra, the Korean alternative is slightly better put together and cheaper. That’s the hook. If the Dart was even $1,000 cheaper it would be one of the best choices in the segment. Still, if you’re in the market for a compact sedan, the Dart should be towards the top of your list, certainly above the Corola and Cruze. If you’re a tech-lover, place the Dart higher on your list, if you’re a technophobe, drop it to the middle.  Either way, be sure to stop by the Ford and Hyundai/Kia dealer before you import something from Detroit.

 

Dodge invited us to a regional event and allowed us unaccompanied drives in two pre-production Dodge Dart Limited vehicles.

Oddly enough, free beer and BBQ was also on tap.

2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Interior, Storage seat, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Interior, LCD gauge cluster, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Engine, 2.0L Tigershark four cylinder, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, Front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, front, grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Engine, 1.4L Fiat MultiAir Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Engine, 1.4L Fiat MultiAir Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, Rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, Interior, Dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, interior,  Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Dodge Dart Limited, interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/pre-production-review-2013-dodge-dart/feed/ 146
Dodge To Allocate Darts Based On Caliber Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/dodge-to-allocate-darts-based-on-caliber-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/dodge-to-allocate-darts-based-on-caliber-sales/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2012 14:33:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=448369

Dodge dealers looking to get their hands on the 2013 Dart are in for a bit of a surprise – their allocation of the new compact sedan will be based on how many units of the wretched Caliber they sold before the car was killed off.

Chrysler wouldn’t comment on allocation policies, but dealers have told Automotive News that the number of Darts they’ll receive is tied to past Caliber sales. The first examples for sale will be demos that are set to hit dealer lots at the end of June. Dealers will have to pick up the cars at a regional event, after which the cars can be sold to the public.

Our own Alex Dykes will have a review of the Dart later on – TTAC was unable to find a sex blogger that met our standards, so readers will just have to wait for The Truth About Darts.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/dodge-to-allocate-darts-based-on-caliber-sales/feed/ 48
Review: 2010 Dodge Caliber SXT [Updated Interior] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-2010-dodge-caliber-sxt-updated-interior/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-2010-dodge-caliber-sxt-updated-interior/#comments Wed, 24 Mar 2010 16:42:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=350204

For a moment, turn away from the uncertain prospects of Chrysler’s Fiat-directed future and consider the subject of this review as nothing other than one entry in the popular five-door hatchback segment of the North American compact car market.

That’s what I had to do, anyway, in order to rationalize driving and writing about a vehicle that a lot of folks would justifiably consider to be a loser car from a loser car company. The question is, is it really?

Regardless of whether or not the 2010 Dodge Caliber SXT is a loser, one thing’s for sure: it’s a goner, as a Fiat-sourced replacement will be phased in somewhere within Chrysler’s multi-brand lineup over the next five years. That doesn’t matter to the compact hatchback customer who’s looking for cheap-but-new (and ostensibly dependable) wheels today, though. Fortunately, the Italian corporate shot-callers decided to make Dodge’s current contender in this market a little more tolerable by giving it a new interior for 2010, something the dealer source I spoke with said was the result of a $500 per car endowment from Fiat that tasked Chrysler with improving the vehicle without raising its price.

Alleged interior improvements notwithstanding, the exterior remains the visual equivalent of what a Star Trek-type transporter might yield if it malfunctioned and disastrously reassembled the molecules of a car, a truck, and a small crossover in one, horrible mutant of glass, steel, and plastic. The Ram-tough grille treatment looks just as out of place on a frugal compact as it did when the Caliber first appeared, and the panel seams where the sides of the car meet the roof are still covered with cheap, gray (“pre-faded black”?) plastic strips that look just as contrived as the over-sized comic-book-looking head- and taillight elements.

Happily, things improve inside, as Fiat’s stop-gap money appears very well spent. Borrowing most – if not every – premium interior cliché from the last ten years, Chrysler engineers have thankfully imbued the cabin with niceties such as chrome-ringed gauges, a decent steering wheel, and better upholstery throughout. Soft-enough-touch materials abound, and the new console houses a touch-screen entertainment center with decent ergonomics and features that are at least class-competitive. (My favorite: one touch rippage of all songs from a CD onto the internal 30-gig hard drive.) There’s also a (parked-mode only) DVD player. All this audio-hippery would be cooler if audio phasing was better, but overall, the system doesn’t sound bad.

The “not bad” theme continues as you contemplate the interior’s functionality. Given the comparative popularity of small sedans in the compact market today, it’s a fair bet that most hatchback buyers are looking for enhanced utility. Here the Caliber really delivers, with a fold-down (and reclining) rear seat that reaches near-flat status, a plastic-backed flip-forward front passenger’s seat, and headroom that’s every bit as ample as Jessica Simpson’s [insert favorite body part here]. Far and away, though, the Caliber’s most noticeable bit of interior redemption is it’s rear cargo area. Flash-covered plastic panels that looked like shipping-duty refugees have given way to much better looking, thicker equivalents, and the flimsy floor panel covering the temporary spare has been ditched in favor of a substanital mouse-fir-covered, multi-piece unit that, according to the manufacturer, can hold up to 250 pounds.

But don’t put 250 pounds back there (or much more than that, anyway), because an already-taxed 158-horsepower 2.0-liter four banger will only seem less impressive as you urge it forward. Even though throttle response is pretty good, you’ll quickly realize that there’s just not much there, other than maybe a disturbing resemblance to early Saturn fours in the (lack-of) smoothness department. If not for a very capable CVT that dutifly keeps this thrashy sewing machine within easy driving distance of its torque peak, the engine’s NVH alone would be a good reason not to buy this car. At one point, I lifted the hood while the engine was running. Closing my eyes, I was instantly transported to a 1970’s office building where I was surrounded by a typing pool filled with fast-fingered secretaries pounding away at their IBM Selectrics. Somewhere (probably at a race track) there are louder fuel injectors, but I’ve haven’t heard them.

What I have heard are comments from lots of regular Caliber rental customers involving driving dynamics that don’t do diddly to dissuade derrogatory discourse. And I see why. Ever serve on a team or work group that couldn’t agree on anything? Just pretend that Congress was responsible for the Caliber’s chassis setup and you’ll fully comprehend the way the car rides and drives.

Let’s start with the least-offensive part: The steering – though a little light – seemed decently responsive but had a real “artificial” feel that I would associate with some of the lesser-quality electric power steering systems I’ve encountered. Except that the Caliber’s system is hydraulic. Oh well, at least the ratio seemed well-chosen.

But the really horrible part of the Caliber’s driving dynamics involves the complete disharmony between the springs/dampers (extraordinarily mushy) and the 17-inch tires (bone-jarringly stiff). The rock-ribbed construction and hard, brittle compound of the ill-chosen rubber neither gripped nor glided, yet I was able to count no less than three Town Car-worthy up-and-down motions after a hitting a medium-sized pothole at 45 MPH thanks (or no thanks) to the big-car-from-the-Sixties suspension tune.

At this point, I turned on the radio (to drown out the road noise produced by the awful tires). But even the shrill tones of Lady Gaga were no match for the sound I made when I nearly rear-ended a Bimmer in traffic after expecting that the Caliber’s brakes might actually perform like those fitted to other modern automobiles. The vague ineffectiveness of this car’s binders is simply inexcusable. Ever driven a vehicle equipped with high-performance, high-heat range brake pads early in the morning when they’re cold and require excessive pedal effort and increased stopping distance? If so, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this mass-market, garden-variety little Dodge hatchback on a daily basis. In other words,the Caliber’s brakes are bad…almost scary bad.

But is the whole car bad?

I remember Dan Rather once saying, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that he didn’t believe Bill Clinton was a liar, because, “I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.”

Debate that statement all you want, but I can’t help but apply similar logic to the Caliber: I believe a car can have a number of serious flaws but still be a decent car. Sure, the cons outweigh the pros by a ton here, and yes, the Caliber is a dying model from a seemingly dying brand built by a company with a still-uncertain future. But for the right customer – one who only has $17,320 (as my moon-roofed tester stickered for after three grand worth of incentives)…and who needs a dependable, new hatchback – I think the Caliber might be…certainly not the best choice…but at least a decent one.

One thing’s certain, though: Chrysler derived the maximum bang for their meager upgrade buck by investing in a nicer interior for this wayward little hatchback. If gradual product improvements as effective as this one become consistent year after year throughout the company’s entire product line, maybe Chrysler’s future won’t look so bleak after all.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/review-2010-dodge-caliber-sxt-updated-interior/feed/ 127