Share This Article

THE MOST ROCKETING POCKET ROCKET OF THEM ALL

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jul 3, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

WORLD'S FASTEST SPORT SEDAN FOR UNDER $21,000 By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

The Dodge Neon SRT-4 was first introduced in 2003, and was the first recipient of Sport Compact Magazine's 'Car of the Year' award. For the money the all-new 2003 SRT-4 had everything that a young racecar enthusiast wants - a 215 horsepower turbo-charged engine, five-speed manual transmission, sport-tuned independent suspension, strong brakes, big tires/wheels, an aggressive-looking front fascia, chrome-tipped dual exhausts, big rear spoiler and an interior with race inspired instrument cluster and seats. The engineers at Dodge Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO) were not satisfied with the accolades of the 2003 model, and wanted to push the envelope further on economical high-performance. They went back to the drawing board to improve all aspects of the 2004 Neon SRT-4. The new, more powerful 2004 Dodge SRT-4 (Street Race Track) version is much faster, handles better with new BF Goodrich high-performance tires, and receives another race-inspired interior goody. My SRT-4 came painted with the new Electric Blue Pearl color, over a freshened front fascia that features a meaner and more aggressive look - more like the Dodge Viper SRT-10, with a full lower body kit, hood scoop, dual rectangular air-intakes below, and a wide, mesh-covered lower air intake in front of the inter-cooler. Big, bright fog lamps are integrated into the sides of the lower bumper.

The profile of the SRT-4 is where the SRT-4 needs to be a little lower. The SRT-4 sits one inch lower than a stock Neon, but the still-high center of gravity interferes with the SRT-4's ability to remain totally flat on very sharp turns at speed. It needs another two inches to really look and feel hunkered down. I do like the 17-inch cast aluminum wheels, red painted brake calipers, and lower side extensions.

In the rear is another bone of contention with the big spoiler that Dodge engineers say helps keep the rear end on the ground all the up to 153 miles per hour. Maybe so, but it does interfere with the view out the rear window. But who cares about the view outback when you're in the lead? The power remote-controlled side view mirrors do a fine job of letting you know about traffic on your sides. I also like the three-inch wide, chrome-tipped dual exhaust pipes and the growling, throaty note that comes from the less restrictive exhaust system.

If you want to be noticed for under $21,000.00, this is the car. If you want plenty of power and performance for $21,000.00 this is also the car.

Under the hood is a more powerful 230 hp 2.4-liter DOHC I-4 engine, with a NGC3 engine control module and updated calibration that widens the torque range and reduces torque drop-off while providing more torque at lower rpms. Torque is now rated at 250 lb. ft. from 2,200 rpm to 4,400 rpm. New, larger fuel injectors are added to increase fuel flow. The Mitsubishi turbo-charger is the same in the PT Cruiser but gets a bigger, 8-row Valeo air-to-air inter-cooler. Top boost is 12 psi. All this power is transferred to the front wheels via a New Venture T-850 five-speed HD manual transmission, special equal length half-shafts, and a Sachs heavy-duty clutch and pressure plate that captures more power. A Quaife Performance torque-sensing limited-slip differential now comes standard. It is designed specifically for the T-850 transaxle, and helps put the power down when coming out of a curve and limits torque steer at full throttle. The final drive raito is 3.53:1 On the track the SRT-4 gets to 60 mph from a standstill in just 5.5 seconds, reaches the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds at a trap speed of 102.7 mph, and tops out at 153 mph. Wow, that's fast.

Matching the abundant power is a sport-tuned fully independent suspension ready to take on the most twisting and curving roads you can find. Up front are race-tuned Tokico struts, stiffer coil springs, stiffer asymmetrical lower control arms and a 22 mm link stabilizer bar. In the rear are race-tuned Tokico struts, stiffer coil springs, thicker, dual transverse links, thicker, dual trailing arms and a 19 mm solid stabilizer bar. The performance-tuned power rack & pinion steering system is a good match easily guiding where you want your SRT-4 to go with very good feedback from the road.

Braking is also racecar quick with front 11.0-inch vented discs and 10.63-inch rear solid discs. These power-assisted brakes feature ABS, and big performance brake calipers painted red. The SRT-4 brakes from 60 mph to 0 in just 114 feet. My test SRT-4 came with last year's standard Michelin 205/50ZR17 Pilot Sport low-profile performance tires. This year, new, stickier BF Goodrich high-performance tires are also offered. The tires wrapped around 17 x 7-inch racecar styled cast aluminum wheels. Inside, the racecar performance theme is carried further with Dodge Viper SRT-10 high-backed bucket seats. These are fully bolstered from the seat bottom through the seat back to firmly keep you in place during spirited driving. A tilting, racecar-styled, leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel with a carbon fiber look feels great in your hands.

The instrument cluster is designed by Dodge's PVO, and features a big, 160-mph speedometer, 8,000 rpm tachometer and smaller gauges for fuel and engine coolant temperature. Bright LED lights warn of safety or system failure. Just to the right of the cluster is an auxiliary AutoMeter boost gauge that easily keeps you apprised of your current boost level. New this year are new aluminum-faced pedals for enhanced use during quick up/down shifting and braking. I like the ball-topped shifter but it seems a little vague when trying to shift quick and cleanly. The slick shifter needs to be raised off the floor several inches and lose it's long stem. The 2004 Dodge SRT-4 comes standard inside with power windows/door locks, cruise-control, variable-speed wipers/washers, Infinity AM-FM stereo with a six-disc in-dash CD player, and sounds coming through six speakers. Also included: Theater lighting, 60/40 split rear fold-down seats to expand cargo capacity, AC/heater, rear window defogger, thick-pile carpeting with embroidered SRT-4 floor mats, grab handles above each door for easier entry and exit, a center console, door pockets, and glove box.

Safety is important, and Dodge safety engineers made sure that the SRT-4 will help occupants survive a collision with front/rear crush zones, front/side supplemental airbags, three-point safety belts for all seating positions, steel beams in each door, rear child safety doors, LATCH system for child seats, and energy absorbing steering column. High performance consumers looking to stretch their hard-earned dollars are really going to like getting behind the wheel of the new 2004 Dodge SRT-4. It delivers what they are looking for - race car looks, power, performance and interior styling for less than $21,000.00. Test drive one today. © All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

SIDEBAR COMMENTS

When Dodge first announced the Neon-based SRT-4, enthusiasts were skeptical. They just couldn't get around the fact that it was based on a Neon. Then, the SRT-4 came out, and it kicked everyone's tail. Highly regarded sport compact cars, such as the Honda Civic Si, Ford Focus SVT, Nissan Sentra SE-R, and Acura RSX S-Type were reduced to road kill. Even the vaunted Subaru WRX (in non-STi form) can't match the 13.9 second quarter-mile elapsed time of the SRT-4. Running 13s in the quarter mile is quite a feat for a muscle car. For a four-cylinder sedan under $21,000, it is mind-boggling. It's been close to two years since the SRT-4 was announced, and no one is snickering now. During this short time, the SRT-4 reputation has come a long way. - Roy Nakano

For more information on Dodge products, go to www.dodge.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Dodge SRT-4 Price: $20,450.00, plus destination charge of $695.00 Engine type: 2.4-liter, DOHC, turbo-charged and inter-cooled, semi-permanent mold aluminum block with cast iron liners and cast aluminum head, hydraulic end-pivot roller followers, sequential multi-port fuel injection Horsepower: 230 hp at 5,300 rpm Torque: 250 lb.ft. of torque from 2,200-4,400 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission type 5-speed manual Front suspension: Tokico struts, asymmetrical lower control arms, coil springs, link stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Tokico struts, dual lower transverse links, dual lower trailing arms, coil springs, solid stabilizer bar. Wheels/tires: 7 x 17-inch cast aluminum wheels, Michelin 205/50ZR17 Pilot Sport performance tires (new BF Goodrich high-performance tires available) Brakes: 11.0-inch front vented rotors, 10.63-inch rear solid rotors. Red painted high-performance brake calipers, anti-lock braking system. Overall length: 174.4 inches Overall width: 67.4 inches Overall height: 56.0 inches Curb weight: 2,970 pounds EPA average mileage estimates: 22 mpg in the city / 30 mpg on the highway 0-60 mph: 5.5 seconds 60-0 mph 114 feet

You Might Also Like These Articles:

woodland auto display paso robles racecar nascar sprintcar

A California Coastal Car Caper

volkswagen art car jetta mountain alltrack

#TBT: Five Volkswagen Art Cars

toyota supra 3.0 premium grey car misty night

Car Review: 2021 GR Supra 3.0 Premium

quattro book group b rally car

Book Review: Quattro

917 restaurant waiter food burger

917 (K)afe