2009 Dodge Caliber SRT4

Per their usual, the engineers at SRT worked hard to make this car an extreme performance machine. The only problem in this case is that the basic Caliber is far from a good starting point. So, you end up with an ultrafast hot hatchback that has nasty hard plastics in the cabin (particularly on the upper parts of the inner door panels), a poorly damped (read: too bouncy) ride, and a general feeling of cheapness. I'm not sure if the wandery steering carries over from the base Caliber or if it is an SRT-spec system, but I was unimpressed, particularly after hopping out of the superstar Nissan GT-R and into this silver Dodge. DeMatio's "lipstick on a pig" reference is totally accurate.

Granted, this Caliber does have some nice features, including Bluetooth and satellite radio (as it should at this price). The gigantic subwoofer in the cargo area is cool, but it takes up lots of cargo space and doesn't sound all that impressive. The very large speakers in the rear doors and the dropdown speakers in the liftgate are pretty cool, too, even if they are typical Chrysler gimmicks.

I'm all for crude, but I much prefer the crudeness of the original Neon-based SRT4. Still, this might not be a bad time to seek out a smokin' deal on this raw muscle machine.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

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