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Chicago: 2007 Dodge Caliber SRT-4

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Dodge Caliber SRT-4 Puts Power in Small Package

Just a month after the Dodge Caliber wowed the auto show crowd in Detroit, a high-performance version of the replacement for the Dodge Neon makes its debut at the Chicago Auto Show--the Dodge Caliber SRT4.

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SRT4 project team leader John Cathcart discusses just how powerful this souped-up version of the Caliber is and how it got there. Excerpts from his interview are below.

What turns a Dodge Caliber into a Dodge Caliber SRT4?

"The first thing is horsepower. It all starts with the engine. We'll be upping the output to 300 horsepower, 260 footpounds of torque. That's always the prime ingredient of an SRT vehicle. It has to go fast. We of course, balance the approach. It has to go fast, stop fast, turn well, and turn heads. So we take that approach to all areas of the car. We're putting an enhanced braking system on the car as well. We always look for parts we can use from the corporate parts bin. SRT is a small organization. We are investment constrained typically as well as always after offering the best price possible to the consumer as well. The brakes, for example, we took from the Chrysler 300C. We take brakes from a 5,000 pound car and put them on a 3,000 pound car and the car stops real well. We've got performance acceleration, performance braking, now we also want the car to also turn well. So we need to have a little lower suspension. We were able to lower suspension by a half-inch on the car. We will retune the shocks and sway bars as well. But the prime ingredient of the car's handling ability will be the lower CG (center of gravity).

Tires are also very carefully selected for an SRT product. We do have a couple of good tire offerings: an all-season tire and then a higher performance three-season tire. All are capable of the 150 mph top speed of the car.

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We have an extensive appearance treatment for this car. A new hood, a new fascia. Actually the cut line between the hood and the fascia had to change for the SRT4 in order to package the intercooler. We do bring the body sides down a little bit for better aerodynamics with lower side skirts, and a different rear fascia as well which offers diffuser veins for increased rear down force and better directional stability, better yaw stability in high speeds.

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We think we accomplished all the primary functions of the SRT vehicle with the Caliber SRT4 as well."

How was the World Engine altered?

"The World Engine does offer a pretty good platform for the customization SRT did to the engine. Similar to the Neon SRT4, we start out by turbocharging the engine. We crank up the cylinder pressures, put a turbo on, make sure we're providing a lot of fresh air into the turbocharger inlet, thus we have a reduced restriction inlet system, and then good cold air at pressure to the cylinders via the turbocharger and the intercooler system. That's really the heart of what makes the Caliber SRT4 an SRT from an engine standpoint."

Bigger brakes:

"The brakes are a Bosch system brake, as for the Chrysler 300C. The rotor diameter is 13 and change on the front. The pistons I believe are 58 mm. pistons on the front calipers."

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Transmission choices:

"The Caliber SRT4 has a unique transmission developed specifically for that vehicle. Six-speed manual is only available in the SRT4 version of the Caliber. The vehicle performance is so tuned around the manual transmission and the gearing and top speed capabilities of that transmission, we really can't offer a different trans in the car and still maintain the level of SRT performance."

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Appearance features:

"Seating is another SRT core element. We have a car capable of high lateral G loadings, stopping, accelerating quick. We need to make sure the driver and front seat passenger are held in place. We have very aggressive thigh and torso bolster and non-slip suede surface area seating. We have a seat that will cradle the occupant, hold them for aggressive driving maneuvers, and also provide a fair level of support at all times. Beyond the seats we do have a unique color scheme for the carpet and the interior trim. It darkens it up a little bit to give it a more performance look. Also, we have an IP that's unique in that we've got a boost gauge that's integrated with the IP. It's not integrated into the dials, it's actually separate were a cubbie bin would be on the left side of the driver. We have added in that spot a uniquely tooled boost gauge so you're able to see what the engine output is or the boost output is.

The seats will have an embroidered logo in the seat back.

Why is the Caliber appropriate for an SRT version?

"The Caliber was a great choice for SRT. It's important to have an entry level vehicle in SRT and maintaining the Caliber's starting price on par with where Neon's was is an important aspect of keeping our brand alive and keeping that end of our brand alive."

Chrysler Group Media (Firehouse)

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Guest YellowJacket894

That is one ugly hood. Of all the places for the holes on the Neon SRT-4 to migrate to, why there?

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I still don't like the taillights, but the rest of it is growing on me.

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It just looks like a HotWheels car to me.

A goofy, chunky, overwrought HotWheels car.

In my eyes, that's the formula for completely and utterly uninteresting.

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