May 11, 2012
The Dodge Dart will be available in five trim levels, with the SE ($15,995), SXT ($17,995), Rallye ($19,495) and Limited ($23,245) going on sale in July, and R/T ($23,995), which should arrive in the fall. The SE and R/T were not available when we drove the cars in Austin, Texas in late April.
2013 Dodge Dart. Click image to enlarge
It is likely that most buyers will pass on the SE, which includes remote keyless entry and power windows, locks and mirrors, but lacks air conditioning, and opt instead for the $17,995 SXT. The SXT adds 17-inch steel wheels, six-speaker audio system, security alarm, 60/40 split-folding rear seat, sliding armrest, and air conditioning.
The Rallye includes unique black front fascia accents, black headlamp bezels, projector fog lights, integrated dual exhaust with bright exhaust tips, 17-inch aluminum wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, steering wheel audio controls, and trip computer.
The top comfort trim level is the Dart Limited with 6-speed automatic transmission, unique bright grille and door handles, 8.4-inch touchscreen with rear backup camera, 7-inch TFT (Thin Film Transistor) reconfigurable instrument cluster display (a first in the segment), projector fog lights, premium Nappa leather with heated front seats, heated steering wheel (another first in the segment), 10-way power driver seat, automatic headlamps, and premium accent stitching on the instrument panel and active grille shutters.
Grille shutters prevent air from entering the engine compartment at highway speeds. At slow speeds air enters through the grille to help keep things cool under the hood, but at higher speeds the air isn’t needed and hinders aerodynamics, so the grille shutters automatically close to route air around the car.
All trim levels, with the exception of the SE, can be upgraded with premium wheels, 8.4-inch touchscreen if not included, navigation system, passenger seat in-seat storage, rear backup camera, power sunroof, and a 506-watt sound system.
Personalization is encouraged. There is a choice of 12 exterior colours, 14 interior colour and trim combinations, and seven wheel options. Add in the choice of three engines, three transmissions, and some 150 Mopar accessories developed for the Dart and buyers have an almost unlimited ability to select a car that is unique to them.
Whether a buyer chooses an entry level SE or the well-equipped and luxurious Limited, certain comfort and functionality features remain the same. The front seats could be leather covered and power adjustable or cloth covered and manually adjustable, but they are still the same (very comfortable and supportive) seats. Every car has the same well-padded and soft-to-touch dash top. Every car gets the same sound-deadening laminated acoustic windshield, triple-sealed doors and underbody panels. Active safety features like stability control, traction control, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, brake assist, and projector headlamps are standard across all trims.
A new Tigershark (who dreams up these names?) 2.0L inline four-cylinder with 160 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque is the standard engine for the SE, SXT and Rallye. A six-speed manual transmission is also standard equipment for all three, but a 6-speed automatic is optionally available. A 1.4-L MultiAir Turbo that produces 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque is available for SXT and Rallye.
Not available for testing and not available to consumers until the fall, the Dodge Dart R/T should catch the attention of enthusiasts with its 184 hp (171 lb-ft of torque) 2.4-L Tigershark MultiAir 4-cylinder. There will be a choice of two transmissions: a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed dual dry clutch (DDCT) transmission. Along with the standard features of the Limited, the R/T adds 18-inch aluminum wheels, sport suspension with frequency-sensing damping shocks, unique performance front fascia with black accents and Hyper Black grille, black headlamp bezels, dual, R/T-unique premium Nappa perforated leather seats and dual- zone automatic temperature control.
During a full day of driving through the country near Austin, Texas, I had the opportunity to drive both the Limited and Rallye, the former equipped with the 2.0L and automatic transmission, the latter with the turbocharged 1.4L and six-speed manual transmission.