Hey cutie! Where've you been all my life?
An exaggeration? Not to the teen who praised his mother for FINALLY getting a cool car. Success can sometimes come in a four-wheel package like the mother's new Dodge Caliber, an eye-catching bundle of steel and chutzpah designed to get a second glance despite its budget-pampering characteristics. Score one for satisfied progeny.
Like other Dodge vehicles, Caliber shares the dominant signature crossbar face, although in less-than-intimidating thin chrome. Styling lines that slant up and back with arcing trimlines, flared wheel wells and eye candy colors add in-motion punch to this rather tall five-door crossover/wagon compact.
Launched a year ago to replace Dodge's long-lived Neon, the 2008 Caliber adds two new exterior colors (Surf Blue and Brilliant Black Crystal pearl coats), interior chrome trim touches, upscale options including SIRIUS Satellite radio and powertrain tweaks for more performance and less noise.
Standard four cylinder engines are 1.80-liter, 148-HP (SE trim), 2.0-liter, 158-HP (SXT) and 2.4-liter, 172-HP (R/T). Caliber SE and SXT models are front-drive; the R/T front or AWD. All have a standard sliding center console armrest that moves three inches forward to accommodate diminutive drivers.
For those wanting more gusto, there's the SRT4 from the Street and Racing Technology (SRT) studio with a lowered suspension, a 2.4-liter, inline four World engine boosted to 285-HP, plus sporty trim, bolstered seating and "Chill Zone" beverage storage.
Base Caliber pricing is $14,000. (The SRT4 starts just under $23,000.) Best fuel economy is 28/32 (1.8-liter engine in manual mode). An available continuously variable automatic (CVT2) gains 6 to 8 percent in fuel economy over the four-speed automatic's 26 MPG combined.
Dodge reminds concerned moms that Caliber has taken safety a step beyond, with high strength steel, standard multi-stage and side curtain airbags, and a driver's inflatable knee bolster. Caliber, for 2008, won five star ratings during federal crash tests. That should add a sense of security when turning over the keys to that jazzed up 16-year-old.