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SMOKING GUN

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 Sun, Feb 3, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

SMOKING GUN By Harvey Schwartz

Successfully introduced in 2007, the five-door Dodge Caliber blends the versatility of a compact sport utility with the ride quality of a compact four-door sedan. The Caliber showed its innovation with a heated and cooled beverage holder located between the triple-tiered glove box that holds four bottles or cans, and the front dual cup-holders are each illuminated with glowing light and can heat or cool. The top of the center console slides back and forth, and can hold a cell phone or MP3; plus the rear cargo light is rechargeable and clips into or out of the rear headliner enabling it to be taken out if the need arises. With a base 1.8-liter engine making 148 horsepower, a 2.0-liter making 158 horsepower, and a 2.4-liter making 177-horsepower, you have a wide choice suited for the driving habits and needs of a great variety of consumers. For 2008, Dodge takes the model to a higher level for enthusiasts who want to use the Caliber's versatility, while thoroughly enjoying a lot more power and performance. Street and Racing Technology (SRT) is Chrysler's performance division. SRT creates some of Chrysler's boldest, most distinctive products by following its core vision: Deliver benchmark performance at the lowest price, and deliver it with absolute integrity and credibility. Every SRT vehicle showcases five key aspects: Exterior styling that resonates with the brand image; race-inspired interiors; world-class ride and handling characteristics across a broad range; benchmark braking; and a standout powertrain. These aspects are realized in the all-new 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4. The Caliber SRT4 is a head-turner with its unique muscular exterior styling. Up front is the signature Dodge crosshair grille that is enlarged, moved slightly forward with extended walls to accommodate the intercooler because it is positioned higher behind the front grille. The fascia below the crosshair grille uses functional performance features including ducts that direct air to cool the front brakes and a wide center inlet that provides airflow to the radiator. Fog lamps are positioned alongside the brake ducts. The hood incorporates a functional scoop that brings cooling air into the engine compartment and a pair of heat extractions on top to help exhaust hot air. The bottom part of the front fascia acts as an air dam to direct air around the front of the car, and wraps around to visually integrate with the large radiused wheel wells and lower side-sill moldings.

The rear fascia continues the muscular, functional character of SRT with lower vertical strakes that direct underbody airflow more smoothly contributing to increased stability at high speeds. A single, 4in. wide exhaust tip exits from the low right side. Aerodynamic efficiency in the rear is also aided by an integrated spoiler above the rear glass. This spoiler is nearly 60 percent larger than that on the standard Caliber, and is tuned for smoother airflow and increased downforce while maximizing the rear view. Darth Vader would fit right beside this stunning SRT4 painted in brilliant black crystal pearl coast. Capable of 0-60 mph in just 6.1 seconds, the all-new Dodge Caliber SRT4 gets its power from Chrysler's world engine. Chrysler's 'world engine' is a family of small fuel-and-emissions-efficient aluminum four-cylinder gasoline engines. This all-new 2.4 liter, dual-VVT, turbocharged world engine generates 285 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 265 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. To make this much horsepower and torque, SRT engineers took the 2.4-liter engine block and machined it for increased water flow. They also added unique cast pistons that travel within iron cylinder liners, are cooled by oil squirters, and affixed to forged connecting rods for high-revving reliability. Tri-metal bearings are used for the connecting rods and crankshaft for high-performance durability. A unique oil pump/balance shaft module keeps the reciprocating assembly well-lubricated and running smoothly. An external cooler keeps oil temperatures within a safe range. The aluminum cylinder head is equipped with high-temperature Inconel exhaust valves. Dual VVT uses a computer mapping to open and close intake and exhaust valves at optimal points for efficient combustion and flow while adding to the wide torque band. The camshafts and micro-alloy forged steel crankshaft, shared with the non-turbocharged 2.4-liter 'world engine', are fully capable of high-horsepower loads. Free-flow induction begins with an all-new air cleaner assembly that draws cool air through an opening in the front upper crossmember. The air is then compressed in a TD04 turbocharger specially configured for the engine's inlet and outlet packaging requirements, then sent through a large 11-row intercooler to a 57 mm throttle body. Fuel is provided by a high-flow pump feeding injectors developed specially for the Caliber SRT4. An all-new engine management system was designed by Siemens-the Global Powertrain Engine Controller-keeping the powerplant running at maximum efficiency and power.

On the exhaust side, spent gas exits through a free-flowing system that features two catalytic converters-one immediately downstream from the turbo, and another further along the 3in. single-pipe exhaust system. Using two catalytic converters in this way provides significantly better 'light-off' for decreased emissions. The exhaust is tuned for maximum performance while meeting federal noise regulations, but you can't help but enjoy the throaty exhaust note when you stomp on the throttle then get pushed hard into your seatback. Power is smoothly transferred to the front wheels through a dual-mass flywheel to the Getrag six-speed manual transmission. The dual-mass flywheel consists of two flywheels sandwiching internal springs that are specially tuned to reduce noise and vibration. This 6-speed Getrag transmission and an electronically tuned Brake Lock Differential deliver 265 pound-feet of torque to the wheels. Putting all of this twisting torque to the ground are giant, wheel-well stuffing, Goodyear 225/45R19in. F1 Supercar tires. These super-high-performing tires are wrapped around 19X8, SRT signature, cast-aluminum wheels. With the SRT engineered 2.4 liter turbocharged engine making more than 100 horsepower per liter, the 2008 Dodge Caliber is a world-class entry in the 5-door, sport-compact class. Underpinning the Caliber SRT4 is a SRT engineered steel unitized chassis and frame that has been stiffened and strengthened to handle the heavier loads both straight-ahead and laterally. The unique fully independent suspension system furthers the high-performance driving character of the Caliber SRT4. The front suspension is lowered 13/16-inch and features a MacPherson strut setup, race-bred ZF Sachs twin-tube dampers tuned by SRT, 210lb./in. coil springs, and a solid stabilizer bar. Ride height is lowered 11/16in. in the rear and features an independent multi-link system with upper & lower lateral links, and SRT-tuned ZR Sachs twin-tube coilover dampers with 240 pounds per inch springs, A 7/8-inch link-type rear stabilizer bar in the rear helps reduce understeer and keeps body roll to a minimum during hard cornering. Guiding the Caliber SRT4 is a power-assisted rack & pinion steering system tuned by SRT to produce easier low-speed maneuvering without compromising performance at speed. At any speed it gave me a great feel for the road and sharp and quick response to my inputs, especially during heavy g-loads. Even though the Caliber SRT4 is a front-wheel-drive performance car, it performed better than my expectations were. I had fun wringing out the rear in hard turns but really wanted to see all-wheel-drive and the enhanced traction and grip. I'd rather let the rear wheels get loose with rear-wheel-drive than with front-wheel-drive. I am biased toward pushing rather than being pulled. Helping you during severe maneuvers is the standard Electronic Stability Program that is uniquely calibrated to provide excellent directional stability in all driving modes without being overly intrusive. Just like more expensive sports cars, you really don't know when it is working.

Quickly slowing the new Caliber SRT4 down from speed are big, power-assisted, SRT engineered steel disc brakes at each corner. Up front are 13.4-inch vented discs clamped with large dual-piston aluminum calipers, while the rear features 11.7-inch solid discs clamped with big, single-piston calipers. The ABS system was uniquely calibrated for the SRT4's performance to maintain directional stability without wheel lockup, and Brake Assist helps to minimize braking distance. All brake calipers are painted in signature Dodge SRT red. The race-inspired interior is unique with sophisticated and contemporary appointments not found inside another compact crossover. SRT designers infused the interior with performance-oriented enhancements to complement the Caliber SRT4's aggressive styling. SRT touches include sport bucket seats with aggressive bolstering and performance fabrics to hold occupants firmly in place during exhilarating driving times, and a leather-wrapped sporty 3-spoke steering wheel with a 'carbon fiber' pattern on the upper portion. The seats, steering wheel and leather shift boot feature contrasting red stitching. Also unique to the SRT4 is an 'alloy silver' finish on the instrument panel and shift bezel, and bright aluminum pedal pads that feature rubber studs for better grip. The center-stack-mounted short-throw shifter includes a lift ring to engage reverse-unique to the SRT4-as well as a leather boot with a carbon-fiber pattern, a leather-finished shifter knob and cap with a bright chrome finish. The easy-to-see instrument cluster features three gauge 'tunnels' outfitted with performance-oriented instrumentation, including a center-mounted 8,000 rpm tachometer, 180 mph speedometer, and coolant temperature and fuel gauges. The optional 'performance pages' in the Reconfigurable Display (RCD) can display 0-60mph times, 1/8-inch and ¼-inch acceleration time and speed, braking distance, and g-forces. The electronic Auto Meter boost gauge is located on the left side of the cluster and is easily seen.

Standard equipment not mentioned above includes AM-FM radio with CD changer and six-speakers, solar control glass, intermittent wipers/washers, rear window defroster, rear window wiper/washer, power windows/door locks, power-remote side mirrors, Sentry Key theft-deterrent system, sliding sun visors with mirrors, grab handles above each passenger door, power accessory delay, 12-volt auxiliary power plug, tilt steering wheel, outside temperature display in odometer, sliding armrest, driver's seat with height adjuster, rear 60/40 folding seats, folding flat load floor storage, halogen headlamps, dual map lamps, and thick-cut pile carpeting with floor mats. Options not mentioned above include power express open/close sunroof, and a SRT engineered Kicker high-performance audio system with 13-speakers in seven locations, and is powered by a 322-watt amplifier and 200-watt subwoofer. Standard safety features include advanced multi-stage airbags up front with pretensioners/load limiters, belt alert, front/rear crumple zones, steel beams in each side door, energy-absorbing steering column, height-adjustable seatbelts, Home-Link Universal Home Security System Transceiver, inflatable knee blocker, knee bolsters, lower anchors for Child Seats, supplemental side-curtain airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system. The all-new 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4 stands alone in the compact crossover segment by offering performance enthusiasts bold and aggressive styling backed up with SRT's proven high-performance enhancements to the powertrain, suspension, brakes and interior. For a base price of only $22,435.00, how could you go wrong by having your cake and eating it too? © Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz SUMMARY JUDGMENT The heavy guns in the SRT4 deliver the goods for the Caliber. For more information about Dodge products, go to www.dodge.com. To see more of Harvey Schwartz's photographs, go to www.autofotos.com.

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4 Price of vehicle: $23,840.00 Engine type: 2.4-liter DOHC 16-valve with dual VVT and turbocharged Horsepower: 285 horsepower at 5,700-6.400rpm Torque: 265 pound-feet of torque at 2,000-5,600 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission type: 6-speed manual Front suspension: SRT tuned independent MacPherson strut, coil spring over gas-charged shock and stabilizer bar Rear suspension: SRT tuned independent multi-link with coil springs, link-type stabilizer bar, gas-charged shocks Wheels and tires: 19X7.5 cast aluminum wheels/225/45R19 high-performance tires Brakes: Front: 13.4-in. power-assisted vented discs with dual-piston calipers Rear: 11.9-in. power-assisted solid disc with single-piston floating calipers ABS Overall length: 173.8 in. Overall width: 68.8 in. Overall height: 59.7 in. Curb weight: 3,180 lbs. EPA mileage: 21mpg/city, 26mig/highway 0-60 mph: 6.1 sec.

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