Chrysler has started producing the 2013 Dodge Dart in Illinois, and while the car might not get 40 mpg on the highway just yet, the car will add an aerodynamic kit to some models later this year hopes of allowing them to achieve at least 41 mpg.
While Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne alluded to the start of Dart production last week on a conference call with journalists and financial analysts, UAW Local 1268 President George Welitschinsky told Bloomberg yesterday that the first Dodge Darts will roll off the Belvidere, Illinois production line on Thursday. This comes after a rumored issue with parts that pushed the start date from early April to early May.
When the first Darts roll off the line on May 3, they'll be powered by one of two engines, a 2.0-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine, or a 1.4-liter turbocharged MultiAir four-cylinder motor. Chrysler currently estimates that the 2.0-liter will achieve 25 mpg city / 36 mpg highway, and the 1.4-liter MultiAir will achieve 27 mpg city / 39 mpg highway, both when mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
Those numbers are good, but they do fall short of the magic 40-plus-mpg mark set by the Dodge Dart's competitors like the Ford Focus SFE and Hyundai Elantra. Keen readers will also remember that Chrysler's majority shareholder, Fiat, must help Chrysler produce a 40-mpg car in the U.S. in order to increase its stake from 53.5 percent to 58.5.
To that end, Chrysler has announced that it will release the Dodge Dart Aero in the third quarter of this year, which will help the Dart achieve at least 41 mpg on the highway. The Aero package will be based on the 1.4-liter MultiAir engine, which is currently optional on SXT, Rallye, and Limited trims. The Aero package will also only be available with a manual transmission.
Dodge was mum on the specific nips and tucks for the Aero package, saying that it is still testing and modifying the car ahead of a third-quarter 2012 sale date. We expect that, at the very least, Aero models will have some weight reduction, low rolling resistance tires, as well as the flat composite underbody panels and active grille shutters that are currently available on upper trim level cars.
Expect to find out more about this package as the on-sale date nears, but in the meantime take a look at our first drive impressions of the car here.
Sources: Chrysler, Bloomberg