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2003 Dodge SRT-4

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San Francisco: The SRT-4 is new for 2003, and is based on the 2000 Neon SRT concept car. The word "Neon", however, appears nowhere on the 2003 car or in its literature. That’s probably because the Neon, in its nine years, has been a roomy but unremarkable econocar. Conversely, the SRT-4 is tricked out with all the stuff you would add yourself.

Being a young person can be tough. You really want to drive a cool, "tuner" car, but usually you have to dig up an old, used model, and then patiently save up to add the extra appearance and performance parts you crave over time. Many people start with a second-hand Honda, for example. But now, if you can scrape up the payments on a $20,000 car, Dodge offers a hot little sedan with all the goodies, ready to run.

For starters, the body gets a thorough upgrade with new front and rear treatments and low, ground hugging side sills. Behind the oversized, bumper-mounted bottom-breather grille lurks an unpainted aluminum intercooler. That discloses that something powerful lurks beneath the specially scooped hood.

The tail gets an enormous wing spoiler, so tall, in fact, that a driver can gaze rearward and see traffic through it. Seventeen-inch alloy wheels, specially designed for the concept car, fill the wheel wells. Bulky 11-inch disk brakes with anti-lock live behind them.

Inside, deeply contoured, heavily bolstered sport seats are covered in a grippy, textured fabric with vinyl accents. The instrument panel features a silver-faced 160 mph speedometer and a tachometer with handsome satin silver rings around them. More satin silver brightens up the dashboard.

Hanging off the brow of the gauge cluster is a neat little boost gauge that tells you when and how the turbocharger is working. The pedals are cast aluminum, for just the right racy touch.

From only 2.4 liters of displacement and just four cylinders, the SRT-4 puts out a rousing 215 horsepower and 245 lb-ft. of torque, which sends the little ton-and-a-half rocket from zero to sixty miles an hour in a mere 5.9 seconds.

That makes it the fastest Dodge in the entire lineup except for the V10-powered Viper supercar. It beats the pants off any of the competition in its price range and challenges cars closer to the $30,000 price point. And, apparently, you can buy aftermarket parts from Dodge that pull even more power from the inline four.

Controlling that power is great fun using the manual five-speed transmission with its satin ball shift knob. With a decent revving of the boosted engine, the SRT-4 scoots along, emitting a growl at acceleration and a rhythmic burble during deceleration. There’s nothing dainty here, just audible potency.

Despite this macho performance, daily motoring chores are pleasant and painless, as long as you can squeeze into the narrow seats. One place the car truly pinches is at the gas pump. Despite its sub-six-second zero-to-sixty performance, the SRT-4 is rated at 22 city, 30 highway. You do have to feed it premium unleaded, however. No beige or Moonlight Mist paint for this baby. My tester came in Flame Red, and you can also order up three other potent shades: Solar Yellow, Black, or Bright Silver Metallic.

The SRT-4 comes well equipped, without adding a single option. You get air conditioning, variable intermittent wipers, a tilt steering column with a leather-wrapped wheel, keyless entry, an auxiliary power outlet, power front windows, and fog lamps. Typically Neon-like, the rear windows roll up and down manually. Also, the hard textured plastics on the dash are not as elegant as in an Audi, but I experienced no assembly bugs or irritating noises or malfunctions.

The price of my Dodge SRT-4 tester was $19,995, with no extras added or needed. By today’s standards, that’s cheap for what you get. And driving this car makes you feel young, whatever your age! By Steve Schaefer AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  Dodge offers a hot little sedan with all the goodies
Topic:  2003 Dodge SRT-4
Word Count:   716
Photo Caption:  2003 Dodge SRT-4
Photo Credits:  Dodge Internet Media
Series #:   2003 - 37

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Publisher - Editor:   Tony Leopardo
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