2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4

2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4
First Drive Review

On the great scale of anticipation, the revival of the SRT4 may not rank quite as high as the countdown to a national election, but it scores way higher than the countdown to Barry Bonds hitting his 756th home run, or any Elvis sighting.

We know that you know what that SRT4 alphanumeric designation means, but for the sake of the few who may be playing catch-up, please indulge us in a moment of review.

SRT stands for Street and Racing Technology, and it describes a semisecret group of Chrysler performance zealots whose mission is to create limited-production sports cars, such as the Dodge Viper, or take ordinary production cars and make them go faster. Much faster.

The number—in this case, 4—designates the number of cylinders the SRT boys get to mine for more power. Much more.

The SRT4: Speed Past and Present

The previous SRT4 was based on the Dodge Neon, and its turbocharged 2.4-liter four delivered 230 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque—a tough act to follow. The new SRT4 is based on the Dodge Caliber—you already knew that, right?—and its 2.4-liter turbo four churns up 285 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque.

Those are some pretty hefty gains, and you'd expect to see some pretty impressive performance numbers to go with 'em. After all, the previous SRT4 was capable of scooting to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and covering a quarter-mile in less than 14 seconds. So with an additional 55 horsepower, the Caliber SRT4 ought to be even quicker, right? Uh-oh, not so fast—or should we say not as fast? We're neglecting an important factor: mass.

That 5.3-second Neon-based SRT4 we tested three years and some months ago weighed 2984 pounds. Our Caliber SRT4 test car tipped the scales nearly 250 pounds heavier. This will produce inevitable consequences at the test track, and the '08 SRT4's 0-to-60-mph and quarter-mile times are bound to suffer. We predict a half-second penalty for each.

Still, 60 mph in six or so seconds is a long way from slow. Moreover, the car's broad power band makes short-yardage passing situations a snap, and it has a claimed top speed of 155 mph.

Boost Makes World Engines Happy

The starting point for the SRT4's punch is Chrysler's so-called world engine, a joint-venture (with Hyundai and Mitsubishi) 2.4-liter aluminum four and the top engine offered in the everyday Caliber. In base-Caliber tune, it delivers 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque.

What's the difference? In a word, turbocharging.