2009 Dodge Caliber SRT4 new car reviews

Better than: Chevrolet HHR SS
But not as good as: Mazdaspeed 3
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 83.87

The Caliber SRT4 boasts huge power levels and a lot of performance-oriented features. With 285 horsepower, the car offers more grunt than the Subaru WRX, Mazdaspeed 3, and Mitsubishi Evolution by a significant margin. Thanks to its huge intercooler, big brakes, and SRT-specific suspension components, this car is a world away from the economy-minded Calibers.

Even with these features, however, the car doesn't quite match the outright sporting performance of some of its competitors. The high curb weight and center of gravity demand a lot from the tires, and without a limited slip differential it can be hard to extract all of that performance—unless you're in a burnout contest, that is. There's a downside to having 285 horsepower on tap, too. The SRT4 suffers from a greater torque steer effect than any car in recent memory.

If you've got the wherewithal, there are some great bargains to be found for the SRT4; we've seen brand-new 2008s and 2009s listed well under $20k. A savvy shopper could be very happy with the SRT4.

Other staff views

Greg Voth Greg Voth
Dork

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the Caliber SRT4. I drove it around town for a couple of days and competed at the local autocross with it. While you may either love or hate the looks, the hood and nineteen inch wheels certainly attract attention. Although I personally prefer the more subdued looks of the Mazdaspeed 3, the SRT4 certainly did not offend me, in fact by the end of the week it had almost grown on me. The interior quality left something to be desired when compared to a Mazda 3 but I found it on par with our 2008 WRX. I was impressed with the sound system which featured a quick release subwoofer and fold down speakers on the rear hatch. The SRT4 also came equipped with the optional beverage cooler above the glove compartment. This system just didn't quite work unless you had the AC on full blast. A pointless feature in my eyes.

There is no doubt that the SRT4 is downright quick. It has power when you need it regardless of which gear you are in. It was easy to drive around town, the turbo spooled quickly and the exhaust note was present but not annoying. The car did exhibit torque steer which is to be expected from any front wheel drive car with the Calibers helping of horsepower and torque. I have never found the torque steer to be that bothersome although some people cough cough Joe though the car was most unpleasant.

On the day of the autocross I loaded up the car with my helmet, painters tape, beef jerk, and water. Having an old RX-7 I had forgotten what it was like not having to prepare myself with tools and spares. As I followed Tom down I-95 the ride was smooth, the ac was cool and the wind noise was low. Again this is a departure from what I am used to with my cars. When they run. If they run. Anyhow once at the site I spent most of my time fashioning the numbers and letters with the painters tape while waiting for tech. I was to be grouped in D-Stock against the SRT4s main competitor, the Mazdaspeed 3. In D-Stock there were three Mazdaspeed 3s and a 2007 BMW 328i. Two of the MS3's had real tires but one was bone stock on factory rubber. I had my target. Aside from the first run when I forgot to turn the traction control off my times were all within a second of each other. In the end I lost to the the stock Mazdaspeed 3 by just over a tenth of a second. The Mazdaspeed 3s on real tires beat us by almost three seconds and the BMW by a second and a half. The SRT4 was the first FWD car I had ever autocrossed but I found it very easy to drive despite the power and lack of limited slip. It spun the tires and plowed a bit when pushed but overall there was no excess body roll or twitchiness in transitions. It was pretty much a point and shoot affair with wheel spin. The power and torque were welcome and I was able keep it in the same gear throughout the majority of the course.

Despite all of the criticisms the Caliber SRT4 has faced when it arrived a the office I was impressed with the overall package. I doubt I would buy one over a Mazdaspeed 3 but I would certainly think long and hard about it. Adding to that we have seen prices on brand new SRT4s hovering around $19,000. That is a serious bargain for the amount of performance you get. If this depreciates like most Dodge products it may be a steal on the used car market.

Scott Lear Scott Lear

It's hard not to give Dodge some credit for even making something like the Caliber SRT4 a reality; it's absurd, but it's a fun kind of absurd. The lack of a proper limited-slip diff is inexcusable, however, especially since they had that one figured out just a few short years ago with the Neon-based SRT4. Like the old SRT4, the turning radius on the Caliber SRT4 is terrible, so plan ahead on U-turn attempts.

It didn't feel nearly as quick as the horsepower ratings would suggest, due in part to the high curb weight and the lack of useful traction in first gear. I'm not really sure who personifies the market for this high-powered quasi-trucklet. I think the most significant contribution the Caliber SRT4 could make to society would be a nearly bone-stock racing series, not unlike the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race they have each year at Long Beach. It'd be a riot to see these things bouncing off each other as they go four-wide into a three-wide turn.

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