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2009 Dodge Caliber SRT4: Compact Muscle

Posted in Chrysler, Compact Cars, Dodge, General by Geoff | September 23rd, 2008 | 9 Responses |

2009 Caliber SRT4
2009 Caliber SRT4

Although it’s the Neon’s replacement in the Chrysler family, the Caliber is not just a compact hatchback Crossover substitute.  On the outside, it has the crosshair grille and tough-looking body panels present in many vehicles across the Dodge lineup.  But while most of the Caliber models are inexpensive and useful, actual driving performance is lackluster at best.  The SRT4 is Dodge’s way of injecting a little firepower into the Caliber.

In its most practical use as a people and cargo mover, the Caliber’s capabilities in hauling stuff is enhanced by rear seats that fold in a 60/40 split that increases cargo space to a maximum of 48 cubic feet. The front passenger seat can also be folded forward to make room for longer items, such as ladders, skis or surfboards. The Caliber has decent headroom and legroom in the front and back, but as a small car, 4 adults are the limit in what the it can comfortably accomodate.  Impressively, in an increasingly crowded field of contenders, available all-wheel drive and variable transmission options do set the Caliber apart from the pack.  Unfortunately, any advantage with potential customers that those options may give the Caliber are outweighed by its underwhelming power and handling.  Dodge’s response to remedy this fact is the SRT4, whose turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces 285 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels via a six-speed manual transmission that gives it 21 and 26 mpg in city and highway driving.  The SRT4 is over 100 horses higher than the next model down, the R/T, and nearly twice the amount of the base model. The SRT4 also gets, 19-inch wheels, lowered suspension, upgraded brakes, a performance trip computer and sport seats.

Caliber Interior
Caliber Interior

As seemingly impressive as those numbers would seem to indicate, the translation of this engine into a car that weighs over 3000 lbs. results in only a modest 0-60 mph time of 6.3 seconds.  While that’s a nice figure, it does not allow the Caliber to completely pull away from other hatchbacks in this segment or make up for its weighty and lumbering handling.  The other shortcoming of the SRT4 is the cheapo level of finish to the interior that does little to distinguish itself from the interior of the  base economy versions.  Despite all of the cute contraptions like a “cool zone” compartment for drinks, death by hard plastic is the most egregious fault , which compared to it’s competition seems particularly low-grade.  Some will also likely be disappointed that the SRT4 starts at just a shade under $24,000; several thousand dollars higher than the previous Neon SRT4.

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9 Responses

  1. desertsoldier22 says:

    0-60 in 6.3 seconds? You guys either pulled the numbers off another review, or you can’t drive. I have hit 5.8 seconds bone stock, not to mention you tested a 08 model. The 09 has numerous handling improvements over the 08. Quit being import biased.

  2. Geoff says:

    “Either we tested an ’08…are going by someone else’s numbers…..or can’t drive?” Well you’ve certanily got all the bases covered. haha Yes, you are absolutely right. Many other reviews have also put out the SRT-4’s 0-60 time in the 6 seconds + range. If you have achieved a better time in your Dodge Caliber, congrats.

    In terms of handling, Car and Driver says, “It didn’t take many circuits at Putnam Park near Greencastle, Indiana, to convince us that the SRT4 isn’t happy on a racetrack. Understeer in this environment ranges from mulish to absolute, the limited suspension travel provokes some unpleasant wallowing, and the actions of the traction control produce some strange sensations, although the engineers insist it’s more effective than a conventional limited-slip diff, which they tried initially.”

    Thanks for reading!

  3. Dennis says:

    Just had one of these try to race me in my ’03 Altima 3.5SE and he thought he had me beat when I let go doing 90 in a 45 between lights in Lexington, KY. Hopefully he noticed he couldn’t get past me until (at the pleading of my wife) I let go and slowed down.

    From what I’ve read, the Altima does 0-60 in 5.95 seconds…

  4. Import Killer says:

    an 03 altima doing what? you beat a what? with what? Typical rice driver, doing a blow by and telling everyone he beat them! LOL!

  5. Eric says:

    I tell you whats so funny. I test drove a brand new 2009 SRT-4 Caliber three weeks ago. The salesman drove it off the lot with me in the passenger seat. He drove it like my grandma would. Then I asked him, what does this thing do? He admitted that he couldn’t drive stick, so he pulled it over and I got behind the wheel.

    (Former Sprint Car Racer, Motocross Racer and 1/4 mile stock) MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

    I ripped the tires into a gray cloud and let her go. I did a whopping 5.5 seconds 0-6 and I reached to 100MPH in at about 9 seconds. I have to say, I know this was an extreme abuse of the car, but it did run pretty nice. It ran alot smoother than my 08 Mazda 3 sport. They are basically the same car in power and weight ratio. Some variance, but I liked the SRT-4 much more better.
    Ok, there’s my dime’s worth. :)

    OBTW, the salesperson wanted me to teach him how to drive. LOL.

  6. C James says:

    I also believe that the test drivers need to learn how to properly launch the srt4. I as well am a certified driver in advanced driving techs for the U.S. government. Dual mass flywheel, you can’t launch it like other cars in the same class.. if you do you’ll either boil or bogg. Try a little heal/toe action and a brake boost launch at 2.3k.. control the wheelspin with the gas, not the clutch. I htave data logged continously at the track on on regular tarmac and have seen 60mph sprints as fast as 5.3.. but on average 5.5, slowest 5.8… rounding numbers of course. Mid 13’s @ 102-106mph seems to be the avg for this car. But to say that the times they posted aren’t as bad as some i’ve seen, so cudos for the diecent times, but your testers can do better. As for as the suspension upgrades for the 09′.. it is an improvement, but still i have to agree with the testers on there opinions. They don’t get a huge amount of time to get use to the car.. once you get the feel of it.. yes it can be pushed a lot harder and the limited suspension is not a problem.. but then again, they don’t have months to learn the car. Overall I believe that a person that just takes one review out of the dozens on this car over there own opinions and chooses not to buy one… that’s just plain dumb. Nice write up guys and please keep putting up your honest opinions about your reviews. Thanks

  7. C James says:

    OH.. and to add.. you also have to take into air temp, humidity, air pressure, road surface.. so for the first post… please don’t hate till you calculate all the factors in. :)

  8. Jim P says:

    I have a 2009 SRT4 with 5500 miles. Using the 0-60 and 1/4 mile timer built into the instrument cluster, I have ran a 5.5 sec 0-60 and a 13.75 @ 103 mph 1/4. That’s with traction control turned off and a HARD launch. With traction control on, my best 0-60 time is 5.9 sec. I ran an SRT10 pickup from 0-75 and got him by a car length. (If we would have ran from a 75 roll, he would have taken me because he was coming on strong at 75).

  9. jakesnake says:

    The numbers all of the owners are tossing around are from the onboard perf pages which numerous reviews have determined to be ridiculously optimistic in their numers