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Dodge Caliber 2007 Review

Big ol' muscle cars with plenty of Yankee attitude.

Yet the brand has returned to Australia after two decades with the Caliber; a front-wheel-drive crossover between a small car and a compact SUV.

Not what you would expect of the aggressive US brand with the ram's head in the cross-hair grille.

You would also expect a Dodge to have a big block engine with loads of grunt, like the Challenger and Avenger which will hit our shores in coming years.

Meanwhile, the brand has been reintroduced with the Caliber powered by some rather puny engines.

There are seven models: ST 1.8L 5-speed manual $23,990; SX 1.8L manual $25,990; SX 2L CVT $28,490; SXT 1.8L manual $27,490; SXT 2L CVT $29,990; R/T 2.4L manual $29,990; and 2.0-litre CRD turbo diesel $28,990.

The 1.8 and 2-litre petrol units are very underpowered; just 110kW of power and 168Nm of torque for the 1.8 and 115kW and 190Nm for the 2.0.

However, the 2.4litre R/T, which stands for Road and Track, is not as you would expect.

Yes, it's got a bit more salsa in the brew (127kW and 224Nm), but it is hardly what I would call a track car. Furthermore, the extra power only serves to highlight the pitch, roll and understeer of the high-stance, short wheelbase car.

It also exaggerates the massive torque steer and in wet weather there is plenty of scrambling for front-end traction.

The only concession to the extra power seems to be the welcome addition of Electronic Stability Program and Traction Control which work overtime even in the dry.

ESP is a $490 option in the other models.

This engine should be in the base model while a sporty model should come with a bit more power and better suspension.

For me, the pick is the 2-litre turbo diesel SXT with 103kW of power and 310Nm of torque.

This is not intimidating power, just usable power that drives you off the line without wheelspin and helps pass other vehicles on the highway.

The only problem with the diesel is that the power comes on in a bit of a burst just over 2000rpm which seems to occur when you are exiting a corner.

That sudden rush of power causes a fight between driver and steering wheel to stay on track.

The CRD sips diesel at a claimed 6 litres per 100km although it registered 7.1 on my stint, compared with the R/T which drank petrol at a rate of 9L/100km, compared with the claimed rate of 7.7.

Like the R/T, the CRD has ESP and Brake Assist standard, adding to its five-star safety rating.

The diesel also gets the six-speed manual, while the R/T only gets the five-speed.

Both shifts feel notchy and the sharp fake chrome on the top of the R/T shifter is rough against the soft inside of your hand.

They steer and stop well, and cabin noise is eerily quiet with almost no wind buffeting and scant tyre scrub.

The only noise comes from the engines. The petrol unit wails a bit at high revs, while the diesel has a not unpleasant note.

Ride is firm without being harsh and the 195mm clearance is excellent for around-town duties such as mounting footpaths and straddling shopping centre speed bumps and suburban traffic calming obstacles.

Inside the R/T are a few splashes of extra colour and pizzazz you don't get in the other models. There are blue seat inserts, a blue centre stack and illuminated cup holders.

Yet, there is still plenty of cheap-looking, hard-feel plastic trim and an armrest that is so hard it hurts and it builds up static which tickled the hairs on my arm. Caliber standard features include dual front and side-curtain air bags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, keyless entry with Sentry Key engine immobiliser, security alarm, central locking, air-conditioning, CD stereo, steering wheel adjustable for height but not reach, driver one-touch power windows, power folding heated exterior mirrors and 60/40 split rear seats that fold flat.

The R/T adds ESP, Traction Control and Brake Assist, 18-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats with colour inserts, colour-matched centre stack,a bright exhaust tip and chrome body details.

R/T options include a power sunroof for $1980, 18-inch alloy wheels for $490, a premium sound system at $1075 and leather $2475.

Inside and outside, the Caliber looks different to almost anything else on the road.

Design is a love/hate thing. Some people love it, some hate it.

In this regard, it is very much like its quirky retro-style company cousin, the Chrysler PT Cruiser.

Pricing guides

Based on 20 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

ST 1.8L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $4,510 – 6,710 2007 Dodge Caliber 2007 ST Pricing and Specs
SX 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $5,500 – 7,810 2007 Dodge Caliber 2007 SX Pricing and Specs
R/T 2.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $5,940 – 8,360 2007 Dodge Caliber 2007 R/T Pricing and Specs
SXT 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $3,410 – 5,390 2007 Dodge Caliber 2007 SXT Pricing and Specs
Mark Hinchliffe
Contributing Journalist


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