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. Theres 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 todays standards, thats cheap for what you get. And driving this
car makes you feel young, whatever your age!