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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Dodge SRT4 review, in the eyes of an ex Caliber R/T AWD owner.

After some three weeks and about 1300 kms, it's time for me to give my verdict.

For a third installment in my unplanned series of car reviews, after the Ford Fusion and the Caliber SXT, I'm going to tell you how my transition from a Dodge Caliber R/T AWD lease-from-hell to this new purchase of mine, the Dodge SRT4.

The point in this review is not really to compare the SRT4 with my previous Caliber R/T AWD. I dont think it would be fair because to this day, I'm convinced that my previous Caliber was defective. If not, it was severely deceptive. This is more about the transition process and my observations of the new rig.

Harsh Learning Curve

The car culture is not quite the same in Canada as it is i the states, despite both countries sharing many similarities. I remember passing the border as a passenger with a friend of mine, where the US customs officer, learning that I didn't have my drivers license at 21, asked me (rhetorically) weather I was anti-american. Over here, attitude like that make canadian cringe at our southern neighbours. I got my driving license late, at 24 (am now 39) because until then, I had been a full-time Montrealer, bike and bus dweller because in that city, it just makes sense. About a year and a half later, I bought my first car: a brand new 1996 Pontiac Sunfire SE and soon after became a suburban home owner. The Sunfire was a 120 ponies 5 speed light-as-hell tin can that was uber fun to drive.

Had the car for about 4 years after which the "wife" bought it off of me so that I could get a much-needed mid-size van, a fully automatic 4.3L 190HP AWD Safari, brand new in 1999. Kids and the wife's business basically dictated that move, shutting me out of the manual tranny clan for a while. A mid van does something to a guy. It makes him feel responsible and a good provider. But damn those testies, I needed power and excitement! So I bought myself a 2003 Ninja 636 street racer to make up for the boring ride.

Eventually (in 2007) the van had enough and given I had left my wife on good terms a year earlier, it was time to let go of the van and get back a more sensible ride. The Caliber R/T AWD was supposed to give me back my testies and a near-manual transmission with the CVT's AutoStick option wich my Caliber came with. We know how that went.

Renewing with a "real" transmission with the 2009 SRT4's 6-speed GetRag, the SRT4's louder engine has caused me to feel and think I was revving much too high when engaging from neutral, causing me to stall the SRT4 a whopping 4 times before I got the hang of it! Engaging uphill also has been a bit of a cause for tire squeals a few times. I think my previous AWD Caliber is also a root cause: because of it's lack of (at least perceived) power and the AWDness of it, I had a bit of a ON/OFF attitude with the accelerator. The CVT had really spoiled my senses.

Whiplash

Once I had dealt with re-learning clutch-driving, I had to re-learn what it meant to accelerate. At least in a car (I still have the Ninja :) ) On a sports motorcycle, your riding position is slanted forward. Leaning closer against the gas tank basically gives you a longitudinal positive g-force sitting you firmly on your seat. You need only to worry about keeping your hands on the handle bar. That bike does 0-100 (km/h) in 3.9 secs from a pro diver. I managed about 4.2 once. The difficulty here is keeping both wheels on the ground.

The Caliber R/T AWD I had managed, at best, 9.5. There were no difficulties. It's a pretty smooth acceleration.

The SRT4, however, has a theoretical 0-100 time of 6.2 on paper. Some managed better on a stock configuration. While I only tried once, I botched my start and yet still managed a 6.7 secs time. In a car, the riding position is pretty much vertical and on acceleration my natural tendency to stiffen the neck muscles to keep my head straight, didn't expect this kind of G force and I bumped my head on the head rest. Eye lids peeling in surprise.

After some neck Bo-Flexing, the body adjusted for this and in extreme case of pompousness, I actually use the head rest.

Disconcerting comfort

One of the surprises in day-to-day driving an SRT4 is the disconcerting smoothness of driving this car. When leisure-driving or in heavy trafic condition, the car runs smoothly and performs admirably. The turbo has a very predictable linear power curve that wont give you bad surprises like sudden uncontrolled acceleration—like NOS kits are guaranteed to give you, or poorly calibrated turbo jobs.

While the engine is louder than the Caliber R/T AWD, it's nothing like rice fart cans. The sound remains manageable at all throttle openings.

The car's superb (and tighter) steering, coupled with precise suspension and exquisite supercar (GoodYear F1) tires makes this ride a smooth one. This CAN be cause for concern, however. I managed to find myself cruising much faster than I expected because the car just didn't feel like it was running that fast... Adjusting for this does take a few hundred KMs.

Perhaps the indicators are at fault here. On the regular Calibers, the speedometer is the center dial and the vertical line is 120 KM/h, or about everyone's cruising speed in Quebec.

On the SRT4, the tach is the predominant central dial while the speedometer is on the right, slightly obscured by the steering wheel and the vertical line is 150 KM/h. Need I say more?

One thing I lost from the Caliber R/T AWD is the back reclining seats. The SRT4 has a fixed-position back seats. While the kids didn't notice yet due to their comfort (even for adults), I always thought it was a nice feature to have. Particularly for long trips.

Surprising Economy

As I mentioned earlier, my previous Caliber R/T's CVT had "issues". One of them was my incompatibility with the elasticity between the pedal and the throttle. For passing, accelerating or just trying to get the responsiveness I wanted using AutoStick, I ended up running the engine rather high.

The SRT4's much improved responsiveness, coupled with a tight ("non-elastic") transmission, means that for commuting to work, my average RPM is down considerably. I average 1 whole liter per 100 KM better consumption, with peaks to 2L/100. This admirably makes up for the 93-octane premium gas the car requires.

Unfortunate losses

The SRT4 has cladded body that, according to the SRT group, maximizes air flow management under the car for improved aerodynamics and handling. The downside of this more elaborate body is the blockage of the hitch path, making it impossible without body modifications to have a light trailer or bike rack.

While the frame does have the mount point for the Mopar bitch receiver, both the rear bumper AND the extra large exhaust and piping are in the way. Installing the Mopar Caliber hitch receiver would require moding the exhaust to move the out pipe out of the way and allow for the L-shaped vertical-to-horizontal hitch adapter to protrude from the back.

FYI: for sale Mopar hitch receiver! Would exchange for roof rack!

Viva El Nina

So far, we've had rather crappy weather in the Montreal region. This forced me into using the car more than I would have, for commuting to work. Because it's faster to deal with in traffic and costs nothing to park downtown, I try to commute using my motorbike as much as I can. Just the parking cost I save in a day fills up the tank for two days on the Ninja so you can see why it's tempting.

Today, we've had one of our first real summer day. Sunny and within temperature normals for the season. For the first time in a long while, I had to convince myself to take the Ninja instead of my car.

That turbo-ed rocket is THAT MUCH fun to drive :p

Rain is on the menu for wednesday. I can't WAIT!

No sushi rolls

The SRT4 unsurprisingly has a stiffer, more forgiving suspension than the Caliber R/T AWD. Coupled with "supercar" GoodYear F1 tires, handling the SRT4 in corners feels as stiff as on my Ninja. There's a certain curve I take on my route once in a while that my Ninja can take at 90 km/h without a sweat. I know for a fact it can manage 120 on that curve but 90 is my usual on the Ninja.

The Caliber R/T AWD, however, would have it's tires complaining somewhere between 60-65, with the car beginning to feel bouncy. 60 had always been my self-imposed limit on there.

The first time I took that route with the SRT4, I thought I was going much slower. The car felt like it was running at 30 in that corner, while I was doing closer to 70. Amazed by the traction and thinking perhaps ESP was responsible, I decided to take the corner again at 70 and see if the ESP dash light actually came on, indicating it was correcting slippage. Nope. Nothing. So I tried again and this time, at 90. Still nothing.

While I kept taking this corner again and again, a Speed 3 noticed me and decided to follow me. At 90, I was solid in the curve while I saw the Speed 3 dancing all over the place and the driver actually pulled back.

Looks like the SRT4 is a more balanced car.

Misnomer

All in all, the SRT4 is an extremely solid package with extreme performances across the board. It's breaks are nothing short of stunning. it's handling superb and it's acceleration and day-to-day performances makes this car an extremely fun toy and tool.

Despite all of the good things I have to say about this car, there is one odd thing about it. It's totally mis-named. Despite the ressemblance, this is not a Dodge Caliber. It's a totally different beast. It's an SRT4.

And for the first time ever, I feel like partly de-badging my car :-/
 

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Rep If/When I can for this because i have my done up daRk/T and really want to switch over to a CSRT4... (car name will come later...) and i really wanted to hear something like this... i still haven't commited to the choice yet... but i'm very very close to sayin F-it... thing is i would like to somehow just rebuild/Mod up the R/T's engine and build like a custom turbo or something for it to compete with the CSRTs just for fun.... oh the choices and troubles... well thanks again for a well written comparison, and yes we all know about your perfect experience with your R/T lol
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Oh damnit. A typo edit chopped-off the end of the article. I'll repost from home tonight.

EDIT: FIXED
 

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well it still is a good read....reps for you anyway (when I can)..it sure makes a SRT4 a tempting deal for me..but then I like my bike hitch....and I only have to drive it 3.5 miles to work at 40 miles per hour..so I wouldn't get the full benifet of the SRT's horsepower on that drive..( my other drive to work option is the 67 beetle on nice days )..( even thought it's going 40 mph it feels like you are racing and going 150 )...( well not really..) ...( just fun to drive also...is what I mean )...
 

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A great read!

Attention!: We interrupt this thread for this very important message. To any and all Forum members and casual readers, I am presently looking for a great/good deal on a red or orange SRT4 Caliber, new or used preferably with Group II and Kicker, anything else is gravy. Please contact me, particularly if you/it are Midwest U.S. location! Thank you, we now return to our previously scheduled thread, still in progress.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
OK folks. I have re-edited the review and inserted back the chopped-off part. Sorry about that.
 

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Great post, thx.

Now I can't wait to finalise my order tomorrow. I just liked that car so much on my test-drive a few months ago. :) It's sure gonna be different from my current SXT Sport.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
LOL! Freudian slip!

In Unfortunate Losses, I wrote "Mopar bitch receiver".

I clearly meant hitch receiver. I'm leaving that in!
 

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Wow, that's funny, I had the R/T AWD and thought it was ok, except for the laggy acceleration. I bought the SRT just cause it was my dream car from the first time I seen the poster on the wall when I bought my R/T, fast forward to now, and your right the SRT is way more fun to drive and also more economical then my R/T for gas mileage. Good post.
 

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Great Review

:smiley_thumbs_up:I truly appreciate someone taking the time to write a lengthy review. Many of us look for excuses to drive some place. Thanks again for the well-written article. The vehicle is really smoother than is implied by reviewers who talk about the difficulty of using the clutch or starting from a dead stop. I find that the SRT4 is very easy to shift and drive, and even the sun roof is reasonably quiet at speed. Kudos for you submission.
 

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I agree Rick... I have found the SRT one of the easiest to shift out of the sticks I have driven. I have yet to stall the car... though I cannot say the same for everyone else who I have let drive it LOL!!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I can assure you all, the stalling is over :)

The tire squeals are over too. We had plenty wet surface for me to finally tune my ears to the engine.

I dont think I ever had that much fun in a car. I've even been thinking about ditching my Ninja.
 

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Wow... you guys took the words right out of my mouth. I too just traded my R/T for the SRT and yeah I can honestly say its one hell of a car. It's got just enough everything for a daily driver. Power to price ratio is right up there. Can't find that on too much else out there. Sure I'll miss the AWD when I'm up to my ass in snow but i'll just enjoy spring even more now. :) I only have 300Km on it and Ive been taking it relatively easy but the car just wants to go! Love the speedo too... skipping by 30km. That needle sure makes a quick trip to the other side.
 
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