Columbus, Ohio

2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4 – The GTO of the Millennium

All I can say is, WOW! Dodge designed an awesome car!If you’re into sub-compacts like I am, this is now the leader in the group hands down.

I’ve been a sub compact enthusiast since I purchased a 2000 Honda Civic EX. The Civic was never a fast car, but the size and handling capabilities won me over. I learned quickly that my Civic EX paled in comparison to other sub compacts including the sport model of the 2000 Civic line, the Si.

Sub-compacts have always had a power limit of about 200hp. I always suspected that the car makers didn’t want a sub compact on the market that had more power than their mid size line of cars. I call this the preventing of the GTO effect. Back in the 60’s John DeLorean sneaked powerful engines into intermediate-sized cars (the Pontiac LaMans) when the GM policy was not to put large engines in cars of that size. The result sparked the Muscle Car era, which caused a flurry of performance improvements in cars that carried through for years after.

For what ever reason, corporate executives seem to fear that their smaller line of cars could be more popular then their more expensive, larger products. I always question this logic. Lee Iacocca went on a limb with the Mustang in the 1960’s, but he knew what younger customers want to consume and if you impress a young customer, you can keep them as they grow older. Today, Ford and their sport model Focus is a weak attempt to connect with young customers and the Saturn Redline and Cobalt SS Supercharged is GM’s almost well executed attempt. Dodge/Chrysler not only attempted, but they also set the new bar for sub-compacts.

The next high performing Caliber should be called the SRT4 x 4 (four by four) and include all wheel drive. Right now only Subaru and Mitsubishi have fast sporty sub-compact all wheel drive models, this would be a real alternative in that market.

I’ve always been a Pontiac fan. Pontiac styling has always been a touch better than the rest of the GM family of cars. But GM has been screwing with the sub-compact side of the Pontiac line for a few years now. The damage this is causing to the entire line may be permanent, sending Pontiac down the Buick/Oldsmobile road of extinction. I like the idea of a retro Firebird Trans Am, that product will only attract die hard Firebird owners and guys that want to remember the old days. The Mustang may be doing well with this for a few years to come, but someday someone is going to want a re-designed Mustang. I’ll bet money Ford hasn’t even thought about a next generation Mustang, outside of maybe dashboard/quarter panel changes. What Pontiac needs to do in the short term is step it up a notch with the Pontiac Vibe and the G5. The 2009 Vibe styling is great, but the performance with the sport model doesn’t even compare with the performance offered in other cars in the market including the new Caliber SRT4. The best thing Pontiac could do in the short term is create a G5 in both coupe and sedan with a GT model packed with the same engine from the Cobalt SS Supercharged model and make the limited slip differential standard equipment. At least then GM would have a well styled car that could compete with the sub-compact Honda Civic, Scion tC and Nissan Sentra Spec-V.

The first manufacturer to start thinking about sport models tied with hybrid technology is going to grab a lot of attention and maybe even sales. Especially if they offer it in the sub-compact. I know it’s possible to make a fast hybrid, Honda’s 2006 Accord Hybrid had more power than the regular Accord with a V6. Once they let the genie out of the bottle, I bet we’ll see a whole new revolution of performance parts and modifications for sport hybrids that make regular sport models look boring. History will prove if I’m right on this. Time will tell.

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