This week I drove the 2003 Dodge Stratus. Stereotypes do a disservice to nearly everything you can think of. And most of our prejudices come from our youth, when we knew everything. Surely I knew all there was to know about cars in my youth. I could name every car on sight from three blocks away and so could all my friends. It was a game to us then.
But Chrysler was not a very popular car to many in my peer group in the 1950’s and 1960’s when Fonz was our hero as much as Joe Friday on Dragnet – Badge 714. We couldn’t miss Alfred Hitchcock Presents or Rod Serlings Twighlight Zone even if it were a school night. Great times for “American Graffiti” but not such a great time for Chrysler cars. Only nerds would be caught driving a Dodge, Plymouth both of which probably belonged to their parents who drove a Chrysler or Buick Roadmaster – tanks of the day.
But times change as do people, fads and fancies. As for cars, the romance is not as pronounced and the styles are not as fresh and exciting as they used to be when cars were emerging as the transportation of choice in America. There were lots of attempts at developing new gadgets for almost anything and cars were no exception. But other than the computer aided designs of the 21st century cars haven’t really changed all that much from the mid 20th century.
Handling & Performance:
Surely cars DO handle much better than in the “Good Old Days”. Suspensions weren’t as sophisticated so cars leaned a lot in turns, transmissions are not clunky any longer so the transition between gears is smoother. Engines are fuel injected and employ electronic ignition so they run much smoother and more efficient. And they are more powerful even with fewer cubic inches.
Today’s cars are designed in wind tunnels and friction coefficients are important to fuel economy and thus we get sleek looking cars. Stratus is a great example of futuristic styling. Few would argue these new generation cars are better than ever. But better is a relative thing and there are some notable exceptions like the new BMW built Mini Cooper – a remake from the past. It is anything but sleek. But then it is interesting and promises to be a winner – sleek or not.
Fit and Finish:
Better than Chrysler has ever been and I believe as good as anything on the marker in this price range.
Chrysler has led the way with price competitiveness for the past two decades and remains one of the best cost-to-benefit car companies in the world.
The Competition: (alphabetically)
Chevrolet Malibu $18-20,000, Chrysler Sebring $18-30,000, Dodge Stratus $19-22,000, Honda Accord $18-26,000, Hyundai Sonata $15-18,000, Infiniti G35 $27-32,000, Mitsubishi Eclipse $18-28,000, Mitsubishi Galant $18-24,000, Nissan Altima $17-23,000, Saturn L-Series Sedan $18-21,000, Subaru Legacy $19-25,000, Toyota Camry Solara $19-31,000, Toyota Camry $19-25,000.
Nice styling, good gas stats for a powerful V6 and well priced.
ABS brakes not included and should be standard, difficult for tall people.
3.0 liter V6 200 horsepower engine, 5-speed manual transmission, 4-wheel disc brakes, power steering with leather wrapped tilt wheel, sport suspension, battery run down protection system, air conditioning, power windows and locks, radio with 4-disc CD, steering wheel mounted controls, security/immobilizer system, keyless entry, 12V aux outlet, courtesy lights in side and trunk, cruise control, leather wrapped shift knob, halogen lights, power mirrors, tinted glass, fog lights and spoiler.
21 City and 29 Highway MPG.
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