Funny; I'd assumed this car had quietly slipped into the night, much like the short-lived Chrysler Crossfire SRT6. I can't remember the last time I saw a Caliber SRT4 on the road here in Mopar-laden Michigan, although I did manage to count five Neon SRT4s driving in Ann Arbor over the past week.
The SRT-tuned Neon continues to maintain a strong fan base, but I wonder if that will be the case for the Caliber. The Neon proved to be a rip-snortin' version of a compact car that already, when properly modified, had some track prowess (anyone else remember the first-gen ACR?). The Caliber, with its wide stance, mail-slot windows, and tall nose, feels more like a cute-ute SUV with a stroked engine than a hot hatch.
For the record, that engine--a 285-hp, turbocharged 2.4-liter I-4--is quite good. Despite being built off (Daimler)Chrysler's world engine, it offers a substantial amount of torque (explicitly evident, thanks to front-wheel drive) and feels surprisingly refined. If it weren't for the boost gauge added to where an HVAC vent should lie, I'm not sure I'd recognize this as being a turbocharged mill.
It's an interesting package, and kudos to the engineers at Chrysler for wanting to have at least a little fun with a boring package. Still, other manufacturers (notably Subaru and Mitsubishi) have raised the bar for building tuned econoboxes, and I'm not sure the Caliber clears it.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer