Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Test Drive: 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye

When the much anticipated Dodge Dart was released to the general public late in 2012, many people were understandably excited. This was the first real attempt by Dodge to produce a small, fun, economical alternative to Ford's Focus and the legendary badge of the Volkswagen GTI.

At first, my hopes were raised by the sporting good looks of the front fascia. It has a happily aggressive sneer worked into the grille and headlights that makes me want to jump in and flog the heck out of it. The wheels that come equipped on the Rallye spec version are plain enough not to dissuade the eco-minded individual looking for a commuter, yet sporty enough to complete its overall edgy look.
The interior of this car is excellent in almost every way. The steering wheel is made of a material that is smooth to the touch, but you won't ever find yourself having trouble keeping a grip. My favorite feature inside this little car would have to be the sport leather seats. Not only do they look great, but they also have excellent lumbar and shoulder support, something that is blatantly missing in a lot of the cars on the road today. They had what looked like supercar quality hand-stitched leather (Although we know they aren't.) and they felt expensive even though its list price keeps it in line with entry level Corolla's and Civic's.

The drive: Before I jump into this, I want to clarify something. This car was designed with the sole purpose of being direct competition to the Ford Focus and VW Golf. Unfortunately, I feel it has fallen vastly short of being anywhere near what it could have (or should have, for that matter) been. The 2.4L Turbo felt way too restricted to be considered anything with sporting intentions. The center of gravity felt too high, the clutch was too soft, and the steering was too numb. My hopes and dreams were dashed to the ground almost as soon as I left the driveway. It's serious lack of low-rev grunt was all-too obvious, making the only way to really enjoy it by staying within 3500-6500 rpm. All in all, the only way I see this car becoming a mainstrem sports ride, is if there are aftermarket vendors that make inexpensive, high-quality parts for this disappointing example of what a drivers car should be. Way to fail Mr. Gilles.

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