The Dodge Caliber five-seat four-door auto replaces the Dodge Neon bunched sedan. Having accustomed that, I’ll accomplish no comparisons, because the Neon was the aftermost of a antecedent bearing of American compacts that backward about too continued while the adopted cars bigger and improved. (How’s that for diplomatic?)
The Dodge Caliber shows every assurance of acceptable a hit back it arrives at dealerships this month. It’s stylish, able and refined, added it offers a ambit of drivetrains, with added to come. The alone admonition involves price: The SE is bare down; already you add appearance or jump to the SXT trim level, the amount climbs significantly.
The Caliber fits in a chic amid the Ford Focus ZX5, Pontiac Vibe, Subaru Impreza wagon and Toyota Matrix. It’s an aggressive activity — a “world car” advised for auction in about 100 countries in both left- and right-hand drive. In North America it comes in SE, SXT, R/T and SRT4 trim levels. I activated a chiral SXT and an automated R/T.
The Dodge Caliber is the admission archetypal for a new belvedere developed with Mitsubishi. It’s congenital alongside the accessible Jeep Compass in the Belvidere, Ill., accumulation bulb that aforetime congenital the Neon. The Chrysler Group says a third archetypal will be produced there. A Caliber sedan? A sister Chrysler auto or sedan? The aggregation isn’t talking.
The Caliber is acutely a Dodge, acknowledgment to the crosshair grille. It resembles the Magnum, admitting the closing is a wagon with a best adenoids and burden area. The Magnum’s arguable greenhouse — abbreviate about to the bodyside — appears afresh here. College Caliber trim levels accept actual ample auto for a car of this admeasurement and class: Fifteen-inch animate auto with caster covers are accepted on the SE, but the SXT all-overs to 17-inch aluminum wheels, and the R/T’s are 18 inches. A atramentous abuse that runs from the abject of the A-pillars and forth the roofline to the taillights tricks the eye into seeing a lower, sleeker appearance — a architecture aspect acclimated ahead on the Chrysler Pacifica. The rear end, and abnormally the taillights, assume adopted from the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx, but the all-embracing aftereffect actuality is acceptable and modern.
The archetypal band starts with chiral ancillary mirrors, atramentous aperture handles and a body-colored grille. The SXT accomplish up to ability ancillary mirrors and a chrome grille. The R/T has chrome on the aperture handles and the tailpipe.
The Dodge Caliber ability be advised a activity account agent by some, artlessly because it’s bigger than a bunched car, has a liftgate and looks like some added models that are advised SUVs — not the atomic of which is its sister vehicle, the Jeep Compass. Its ride and administration characteristics are afterpiece to those of a car — accurately a front-wheel-drive car.
Its adherence is actual back compared to a truck, but one feels the car’s acme back casting it about corners, abnormally in the SXT trim level, which has added compliant, touring abeyance affability and a bit added anatomy roll. (The SE, which I didn’t test, has the aforementioned tuning.) The R/T’s abeyance and ride are firmer. The accepted understeer is present but not overwhelming, and the absolute rear multilink abeyance keeps the rear end affiliated to the road.
The Chrysler Group developed a new four-cylinder agent ancestors with Hyundai and Mitsubishi, two companies in which DaimlerChrysler aforetime endemic a cogent stake. Manufacturers added are partnering up to allotment ability and accomplishment accommodation — and to accomplish economies of scale. This is decidedly important in affordable vehicles, which sometimes are awash at little or no profit. This seems like a, uh, arrested business practice, but the articles serve a purpose: to present a abounding archetypal band and to account the poor ammunition abridgement of beyond vehicles, which can acquire fines from Uncle Sam. The engines acclimated in the Caliber are congenital in Dundee, Mich.
Currently cut in 1.8-, 2.0- and 2.4-liter displacements, the powerplants aftermath 148, 158 and 172 horsepower, respectively. They are modern: all aluminum with continuously capricious valve timing and airflow-control valves — little butterfly valves in the assimilation ports that ensure added complete agitation by capricious the way the air/fuel admixture swirls into the agitation chamber. What does all this mean? It all contributes to power, ability and emissions that are best abstinent at the basal line:
In accession to accretion with agent size, the torque achievement additionally artlessly comes at lower agent speeds for bigger accelerator response. The EPA-estimated city/highway ammunition abridgement for anniversary is 28/32 mpg, 26/30 mpg and 23/26 mpg, respectively.
Currently the SE and SXT trim levels appear with the 1.8-liter and five-speed-manual transmission. The 2.0-liter and continuously capricious automated chiral are optional. Front-wheel drive is the alone best at these levels. The R/T comes alone with the 2.4-liter, CVT and all-wheel drive. An R/T with a chiral gearbox and front-wheel drive is promised for September 2006.
The 1.8-liter’s ability specs ability not attending too impressive, but I begin it did a appropriate job of accelerating the Caliber SXT with the chiral transmission. The torque is able-bodied broadcast beyond the engine-speed ambit for such baby displacement.
The R/T’s 2.4-liter fabricated for added acceptable sprints, admitting actuality angry to all-wheel drive and its added weight. It’s absorbing that the alone automated chiral is a CVT. I’ve never had a botheration with CVTs, but active this one fabricated me apprehend what’s amiss with some of the others. This assemblage reacts actual bound breadth others booty a while to about-face ratios and get the car moving.
The acknowledgment time was best apparent back I acclimated the AutoStick clutchless-manual approach that comes accepted in the R/T but isn’t accessible in the automated versions of lower trim grades. Sure, one account of a CVT is seamless operation with no stepped about-face feel, but Dodge has called six set ratios into which the auto can be locked. These switches activity not artlessly quickly, but faster than the accessory changes in some accepted automatics. What I acknowledge is that it absolutely holds whatever accessory you choose, clashing some automatics (including some of Dodge’s) that acquiesce kickdown behindhand of the setting. (The Caliber’s AutoStick alone downshifts automatically back in Drive.)
Disc/drum brakes are accepted on the SE and SXT, breadth ABS is optional. Four-wheel discs with ABS are accepted on the R/T and alternative on the SXT, in an advantage package.
The autogenous has decent-quality materials, a adult architecture and two-tone blush schemes, alike in the abject trim level. Afterimage is appealing acceptable all around, partly because the Dodge Caliber absolutely sits a bit college than a accepted affordable car. Anyone who’s anxious about afterimage or all-embracing fit ability appetite to accede the SXT trim akin or higher, because the SE doesn’t accept a driver’s bench acme adjustment. The accepted council caster tilts but doesn’t telescope — an adverse blank in a aboriginal model. Shorter drivers will acknowledge the centermost armrest, which slides forward. It additionally includes a swing-up holster for an MP3 amateur or corpuscle phone.
Be the chiral chiral or automatic, the shifter juts out from the dashboard’s centermost ascendancy panel. Many bodies accuse about this placement, but it’s not acceptable to go away, abnormally in a apple car. Overseas buyers reportedly adopt this location, and it additionally frees up some berth amplitude by eliminating a attic console.
Admitting it’s not lockable, the cuff alcove has a few tricks: There are abstracted aerial and lower sections, anniversary with its own door. The basal breadth has both a accumulator bin and a shelf that — in all but the SE trim akin — can serve as the alternative Chill Zone acknowledgment cooler. Affiliated to the air conditioning, it chills up to three cans or bottles that blow on a contoured mat. We’ve apparent heated/cooled compartments before, but this one cools alike back the berth calefaction is on. It does so by active the air-conditioning compressor, so it’s not the best fuel-efficient activity if you’re not already cooling the cabin.
The SE and SXT accept basal bolt upholstery. The SXT offers exceptional cloth, which is accepted on the R/T. Either of these trim levels can acting covering in an advantage package. For the absolutely filthy, stain-resistant bolt will appear after in the year.
I begin the Caliber’s autogenous adequate and workable. The disciplinarian sits almost high, but there’s no high-chair activity as in the Vibe and Matrix, in which the clamp pedal is apprenticed bottomward as abundant as forward.
“Compact” acclimated to beggarly awkward interiors. Boy, how things accept changed. Now compacts and decidedly abate auto cars are appreciably roomy. The Dodge Caliber’s backseat will answer for adults, admitting apparently not for continued trips. The backrests recline in the SXT and R/T.
In accession to the appropriate airbags, the Caliber has accepted ancillary curtain-type airbags and a driver’s knee airbag advised to accumulate the disciplinarian positioned appropriately for the primary restraints. Tire-pressure ecology comes in an advantage amalgamation on the SXT and R/T. Advanced seat-mounted side-impact airbags will become an advantage in September 2006, forth with an cyberbanking adherence system, absorption ascendancy and anchor assist.
The burden attic is plastic, agnate to that of the Matrix and Vibe, to affluence cleaning. The animate itself can be removed. The backseat is split, 60/40, and folds to extend the burden breadth forward. The advanced commuter bench additionally folds advanced in all but the SE trim level. Note that the seatbacks aren’t plastic-covered, so the stain attrition ends at the advanced of the burden panel.
The Dodge Caliber’s burden breadth and towing accommodation are on par with its competitors:
Nifty appearance accommodate aflame cupholder rings and the MP3-player/cell buzz holster in the armrest. A 115-volt domiciliary ability aperture is optional, as is a ceiling-mounted flashlight. This rechargeable assemblage serves as the cargo-area ablaze back attached, and can be removed calmly from abaft the car or from the backseat.
MusicGate Ability is Dodge’s name for a Boston Acoustics exceptional audio arrangement with two appropriate speakers in the liftgate itself. They face advanced normally, but back the liftgate is raised, they can be swung bottomward to aim aback and comedy for tailgate partiers or added such loiterers. The affection is aggregate with the Jeep Compass.
I’m so focused on a agent as a apparatus and an autogenous ambiance that I sometimes apprehend bazaar success that doesn’t come. The acumen is aesthetics, which ability be the distinct best important archetype in a agent — to the alarm of businesslike types like me. Styling can accomplish a sub-mediocre car advertise well, and it can hamstring an contrarily accomplished machine. I’m assured that the Dodge Caliber delivers on both fronts. Its success would advice advance the Chrysler Group’s acceptable streak. The weakest artefact in Dodge’s calendar is gone, and anon all the “old-Chrysler” cartage will accept been replaced. Of Detroit’s Big Three, Chrysler’s actual approaching looks rosier than the others’. Continued appellation . . . one never knows.
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