Category Archives: Dodge

2003 Dodge Stratus R/T (423)

Overview:
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.

Styling: 

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.

Cost:

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.

Good News: 

Nice styling, good gas stats for a powerful V6 and well priced.

Bad News:

ABS brakes not included and should be standard, difficult for tall people.

Standard Equipment:

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.

Gas Stats:

21 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $21,725.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2002 – An Automotive Love Affair

 

 

2000 Dodge Ram 2500 HD Sport (292)

Overview: 
This Dodge Ram 2500 HD Sport regular cab truck is a “Real Man’s” package of muscle in the V10 Magnum engine with 310 horsepower. Empty it is wonderfully fast. And with a load, the ride is softer and you will hardly know it’s there. Turn on the air and still no noticeable loss of power.

After picking up this beauty I set out “south of the border, down Mexico way”. About 100 of us spent up to 4 days in Tecate and Valle Verde, El Florido where we met the challenge to build two houses in two days. It proved to be a great test of man and machine. I have to say this very heavy duty truck held up better than my body. The roads in that area are mostly dirt and as bumpy as you’ll find anywhere. For you skiers, picture moguls made of hardened clay mud. Thank you Dodge for providing the transportation.

I was pleased with the performance for the entire trip other than the consumption of gasoline. However, it just so happened that I ran into a fellow at one of the gas stations I chanced to visit, who was filling up his 1997 V10. I listened with great interest about his problems with that model. He said he had no problem with the engine and drive train, but some other components failed. Coincidentally he travels into Mexico on business very often and also experiences the off road conditions as I did. First, he says the rear brakes went out after only 25,000 miles. The rough roads didn’t contribute to that problem, but the relentless shaking caused the strap on the front of the gas tank to snap and the horn bracket welds broke as well. And finally he had a short that kept blowing fuses. All had been resolved and basically he was a happy camper.

I had a reader e-mail me about the diesel V8 version. He says, “I bought a 1999 2500 Cummins (diesel) back in January (1999). It has the four doors, eight foot bed and all that other stuff. It’s the same model that is pictured on your web site. I’m very happy with it. A few little notes for you….I am averaging 19 MPG… better than any V-8 that Dodge makes.
Kent
Mansfield, Ohio”.

Well, to Kent and others, I agree with his comments, and 19 MPG isn’t bad for a big truck like that. However, this is a V10 Magnum and I experienced overall mileage of 13.64 for the week. There are no published numbers that I could find. 

Handling: 

On those back roads at slow speeds or on the freeway it maneuvers well. It is stable, albeit a little uncomfortable without a load as you’d expect for a truck suspension built to handle a 3700 lb. payload.

Styling: 

It ranks up there in style with other leaders in the big muscle trucks produced by Chevrolet, Ford and GMC.

Fit and Finish: Well, it’s a truck. I’d have to say all the major competitors in this class are very similar. They are all car like inside and better than a truck should be.

Conveniences: 

This model has everything you’d need even in a luxury passenger car except no back seat. That proves to be a distinct drawback. It is better, in my view, to have at least the extended cab. The Quad Cab is good if you don’t have a need for the long bed like this 4X2.

Cost: 

Not bad for this very capable workhorse.

Recommendation: 

As you know from television advertisements, Chevy’s are built “like a rock”, Fords are “Ford Tough”. And this Dodge Ram is as tough as 16 penny nails. I can’t ignore the concerns of the owner of that 1997 model, but more importantly you need to remember the conditions in Mexico are extreme for any vehicle. You might ask the dealer if the problems he mentioned have been fixed.

The competition: 

Chevrolet Silverado 2500 $20,489-33,465, Ford F250 Super Duty $20,110-31,370, GMC Sierra 2500 $21,134-30,556,

Good News: 

Comfort and convenience of a passenger car in a heavy duty truck built for heavy payloads and towing capacity. V10 high torque and horsepower.

Bad News:

V10 gas consumption.  A little rough ride when empty, over 65 mph.

Standard Equipment: 

8.0 liter V10 Magnum 310 horsepower with 450 ft. lbs. of torque, 4-speed automatic trans., dual air bags with on/off switch for passenger, power disc / drum in rear anti lock brake system, power steering, front coil springs and rear 60” leaf springs, HD gas shocks, large center armrest w/ storage, AM/FM radio with cassette.

Gas Stats:

?? City and ?? Highway MPG. / estimate for my trip of about 14 MPG overall. 

Pricing:

MSRP  $20,240, and the model I tested had the SLT package including air conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, tilt wheel, special light package, dual power fold away mirrors, upgrade tires and wheels, plus sport group including special headlights and fog lights, plus trailer tow group and much more for a total of $25,630.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

1999 Dodge Ram 2500 (232)

Overview: 
Ok, it’s time to break out the kidney belt. I’ve gotten a little soft since the last macho truck I tested. This “bad boy” 1999 Dodge Ram 2500HD 4X4 Quad Cab ST with a Cummins 24 valve turbocharged diesel is a trucker’s truck. Argh, argh, argh as Tim Allen would say. In fact, along with the purchase price for this “man’s machine” you get automatic bonding with 18 wheel truckers. You sit nearly as high as they do which provides good eye contact, and I found myself reaching for the air horn rope over my left shoulder. I also like how they flash their lights to signal or acknowledge passing moves. You feel like you’re one of the boys. Rodney Dangerfield should buy one of these so he can finally get a some “Respect”.

Well, I believe Dodge has really pushed the truck segment of the market to respectable heights by creating the image of tough, no nonsense trucks to get the job done to “out-truck, out-hustle and out-muscle the competition. I believe they do just that. This Ram has it all, plus the power and torque to tow one of those 18-wheelers while carrying up to six passengers to boot. The Quad Cab (extended) has two small rear doors that provide reasonable access to the rear for those other four people.

Ram pickups are offered in 1500, 2500 and 3500 versions with rear or all-wheel drive equipped with short or long beds. A 3.9-liter V6 engine powers Ram 1500s, while 5.2- and 5.9-liter V8 engines are standard in other trims. This test vehicle was equipped with the turbocharged diesel option. And yet another option is an 8.0-liter gasoline V10 power plant for a whopping 310 horsepower. Transmission choices include a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic. I tested the 5-speed manual to build up my leg muscles for skiing.

The competition:

Chevrolet Silverado 2500 $20,005 – $32,799, Ford F-250 $17,200 – $30,005, Ford F-250 Super Duty $19,275 – $28,840, GMC Sierra 2500 $20,605 – $29,790.

Good News: 

Great styling, tough image, solid feel, four-door extended cab, center section of the front seatback folds down to serve as a useful desk.

Bad News: 

Poor gas mileage which explains the 34 gal tank, diesel is noisy, stepladder entry.

Standard Equipment:

Air bags, power anti lock disc/drum brakes, power steering, 4X4 part time shift on the fly, 34 gal fuel tank, AM/FM Cassette, dual rear access doors with rear bench seat, tinted glass, 6-inch by 9-inch outside mirrors and intermittent wipers.

Pricing:

MSRP $24,950

1998 Dodge Viper RT-10 (203)

Overview:

Ok, I want to know why they have to paint fast cars like this Dodge Viper, bright RED. It’s like bears to honey….Smokey Bears. Fast is an understatement and if you’re a muscle car enthusiast you can’t help but love the thrill this car delivers. I suspect brother John’s Daytona Ferrari jingles in my memory as I think of pressing the pedal to the metal. V-10 is plenty John. Sorry officer I just got this and promise never to do that again.

I drove prior year models of the Viper on the Willow Springs race track but on the street it is almost totally out of its element. Like a fish out of water. Not that it should be outlawed, after all this is a free country. And at only $70,000 it gives the poor a chance to keep up with the rich Jones’ who spend much more on their Ferrari’s, Aston Martin’s and Por-sha’s.

The car is so outrageous it attracts the attention of people from all ages and walks of life. People just can’t refrain from looking even if only obliquely glancing like they’re really not interested. And when you’re sauntering down the freeway at 60 (nearly at idle) and you need to pass – no problem. 450 horses launch you forward with neck breaking acceleration. If there is lots of open road ahead it is awesome to look in the rear view mirror and see big things quickly transform into tiny things. It reminds me of the pictures of the X-15 camera shots to the rear as it soared into the stratosphere. To give you a point of reference, it will take you from 0-60 mph in a scant 4.1 seconds with top speed of 185 mph. Quite frankly, I couldn’t find anywhere to prove that top speed statistic, not even on the track.

As to an every day driver, forget it. Even race drivers drive Honda’s and other sewing machine powered cars off the track. My partner Price Cobb putts around in a Nissan Altima when home in Colorado. He is so mild mannered off the track it’s like Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Cobb. Price has an Indy team this year, but last year he drove on the Viper team for Chrysler and was impressed with the car. I was impressed that he was impressed. But I couldn’t drive this car every day… my heart simply couldn’t take the excitement. As you get older you have to be careful with sex and fast cars, both of which can be hazardous to your health. There, another fear to grab on to in this “everything is bad for your health” world.

This exciting Chrysler sports car was the first in automotive history to go from auto show (Detroit 1989) as a concept car to dealer showrooms largely unchanged. It went into production in 1992. Perhaps they’ll continue to change it until it resembles a real street car. But then why would you want one?

The competition:

Acura NSX $84,000 – $88,000, Aston Martin DB7 $130,000 – $148,000, Chevrolet Corvette$37,995 – $44,425, Ferrari F355 $121,495 – $140,885, Lotus Esprit $82,625, Porsche 911 $65,030 – $74,460.

Good News: Fast, outlandish styling, hardtop and removable soft top, power roll up windows.

Bad News: Rough ride, limited use, real small trunk, difficult entry & exit.

Standard Equipment:

8.0 liter Aluminum V-10 450 horsepower engine with 490 ft lbs. of torque, 6-speed manual trans, 4-wheel independent suspension, power rack & pinion steering, power 4-wheel disc brakes, 5-spoke alum. wheels, removable hardtop, removable soft top, Alpine AM/FM with CD sound system, keyless entry system, dual air bags, air conditioning & power windows.

Gas Stats:
11 City and 21 Highway MPG.

Pricing:
MSRP is $70,000, including Gas-Guzzler Tax.

1998 Dodge Durango SLT (193)

Overview: 
OK, so what’s all the excitement about this Dodge Durango utility vehicle? Is it because macho guys get off on rugged manly things like the recent Dodge truck line that is everything we like? Yep, we’re different animals and this Durango like its brother the Dakota and their daddy Dodge Ram give men that rugged, flex your muscles feeling. The look and feel is like a shaved down 18-wheeler that makes these Dodge trucks all man. Don’t misunderstand me gals, you can climb on and drive one too, because the macho stuff is catching. It just feels good to get behind the wheel of something with a little substance. It reminds me of one of my Harley T-shirt’s that say, SIZE DOES COUNT. I think I’ve had enough of those frilly cars with doilies on the armrests. This is a mans truck and Dodge makes no bones about it. And if you opt for the big block Magnum V8 you’ll know what I mean when you start it up. You will wear the back tires bald if you don’t exercise a little restraint. You can just hear Tim Allen grunt his approval of the 5.2 liter 318 cu in V8, multiport fuel injection, mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission with a lockup torque converter…. Aargh. Of course he would improve the power a little and get the 5.9-liter V8 that is another option.

Just as I got settled in and comfortable that this Durango is made for a man, Shirley says, “Hey Joe, you’re driving the exact truck I’m buying. I’ve looked at every one that’s made and this is the best by far.” Uhhhhh?!…yeah, ok sounds good to me Shirley. So what’d ya like best about the Durango? “Just everything”, she says, “it looks great, has the best seating configuration of any of the SUV’s I looked at, and I mean I looked at them all – trust me.”

Well Shirley, I do trust you, and you’re right on. I didn’t want to give this Durango back. I usually like the turn around day because it’s exciting to move into the next new and interesting car, but some models I just hate to give back. I really wanted to drive the Durango another week but oh well. So I’ll get to ride in Shirley’s.

From the minute you step into this utility vehicle you get a sense of confidence. As much as I like the Jeep line I just get a feeling of command in the Durango. I’d like to hear what you think about this car. I know there’s been a lot of talk, but are folks buying them?

Good news: 
A selection of V6 or two optional V8 engines. Command styling. Seats up to 8. Tow capacity over 7,000 pounds. Competitive pricing.

Bad news: 
Big V8 sucks up lots of gas.

The competition: 
Chevrolet Blazer $21,663 – $25,176, Chevrolet Tahoe $23,585 – $31,985, Ford Expedition $28,225 – $34,690, GMC Jimmy $21,786 – $25,855, Isuzu Trooper $26,550, Jeep Grand Cherokee $25,945 – $38,275, Land Rover Discovery $35,000 – $38,000, Mercedes-Benz M-Class $33,950, Toyota 4Runner $20,558 – $34,618.

Standard Equipment:
3.9-liter V6 230 horsepower engine, (5.2-liter V8 230 hp or a 245-hp 5.9-liter V8 are optional), air conditioning, power steering, rear defroster, AM/FM stereo cassette, dual air bags, power front disc rear drum ABS brakes, luggage rack and dual power mirrors.

Gas Stats:
13 City and 17 Highway MPG.

Pricing: 
MSRP is $25,810 and the model I drove included the optional SLT-Plus Package that includes tilt steering wheel, cruise control, power windows & door locks, keyless entry and aluminum wheels for $1800; skid plates, overhead console, third seat, magnum 5.2 liter 230 hp engine, upgraded tires and interior decor and destination charges added $2,720 and after a Dodge discount of $700 the total came to $29,630.