Dodge took a big gamble this year by entering the hottest segment in the automotive industry-the small four-door compact sedan-competing against the Toyota Corolla, Nisan Sentra, Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze, Mazda3, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, to name a few. With the 2013 model year ending in September, Dodge Dart total sales were slightly more than 25,000 units. That’s not bad considering the competition. I tested the uniquely designed five-seat Dart GT and found it a very competent performer on the street with standard equipment inside that isn’t even offered by any of the competition and at a price of just $20,995.00 and $23,275.00 for the loaded edition that I tested. The new Dart is loaded with innovative technology, class-leading safety features and clever functionality; it sets a new standard in the compact car segment by offering unmatched personalization, roominess, style, functionality and fun-to-drive dynamics.
The exterior styling boasts a timeless, stylish and distinctive exterior design. It sports an athletic, sculpted, fluid and aesthetic ally agile appearance from any angle. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta based architecture’s low, wide and long dimensions ensure a stable body-in, wheels-out stance and coupe-like silhouette. Once the basic design was in place, with dynamic lines and curves from every angle, designers inserted a little Dodge attitude into the mix. The face of the Dart is styled with the unmistakable Dodge chrome split crosshair grille, but with a modern, sleek look that ‘floats’ in the front fascia, giving the Dart a full-width mask. The rear view of the all-new Dart GT features the Charger inspired ‘racetrack’ full-width tail lamp with 152 indirect glow LEDs and a lip spoiler with lower diffuser and dual, 4 inch wide oval exhaust tips. The front of the Dart has been designed for smooth airflow around, above and below the car without compromising styling or engine cooling requirements. In addition, a lower radiator close-out panel is positioned below the front fascia that not only contributes to the Dart’s lower front-end appearance, but also reduces drag while still allowing for an 8-inch curb clearance. Tasteful, detailed accents add to the design of the Dodge Dart. Style lines on the hood lead the eye to the floating crosshair grille, while chrome accent spears below the projector headlamps and projector foglamps highlight the attention to detail.
From the side are steeply raked windshield A-pillars, aero-styled heated/power-remote sideview mirrors with repeater turn-signal lights, body-colored pull-out door handles, lower side extensions and flared fenders featuring 17X7.5 inch hyper black cast aluminum wheels wrapped with premium, high-performance Continental 225/45R17 inch Pro Contac tires. This sleek and sexy looking body is designed and engineered for world-class aerodynamic performance with more than 600 hours in the wind tunnel during its development using technology typically found on more expensive vehicles. Dodge engineers and designers looked at every aspect from the ground up to optimize aerodynamic performance. The all-new Dodge Dart is the first Dodge vehicle to use an active grille shutter system. The system automatically stops airflow through the lower intake at highway speeds when less engine cooling is needed and aerodynamic drag is most significant. When closed, the shutter system enhances aerodynamic performance by redirecting airflow around the front of the car and down the sides, rather than through it. The active grille shutter system will open or close automatically based upon engine coolant temperature and vehicle speed. Furthermore, underbody panels run stem to stern on the Dart, covering the majority of the lower vehicle from the front fascia to the rear fascia. Constructed of mold-in-color black composite, the panels both enhance the aerodynamic performance and also block road noise. Tire spats located forward of the front and rear tires were engineered to function as mini air dams and were optimized for shape and ground clearance, adding to the underbody efficiency in conjunction with the underbody panels. Triple-sealed windows further lessen noise from coming into the cabin. I haven’t seen or heard of any other compact sedan with these standard aero features.
The all-new Dodge Dart is powered by three fuel-efficient, powerful, state-of-the-art four cylinder engines that add to the Dart’s fun-to-drive personality. A new 160hp Tigershark 16-valve, DOHC, all-aluminum in-line four-cylinder engine that comes with the Limited, a 160hp MultiAir intercooled turbo engine and a new 184hp 2.4 liter Tigershark 16-valve, DOHC MultiAir 2 in-line four-cylinder engine that comes with the GT model I tested.
Each of these engines features a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic with sequential AutoStick shifting, and a six-speed dual dry clutch Powertech automatic transmission available on the 184hp Tigershark engine. My GT came with the smooth shifting six-speed Powertech automatic with AutoStick. This top-of-the-line powertrain really moves the GT quickly from stop lights/signs, out accelerating other compact sedans. Merging onto fast moving highways was no problem when I pushed the throttle hard, and passing slower moving highway vehicles was also no problem. With the dual-pinion electric power steering system I felt a great transmission of feel from the road with quick reaction to my steering inputs and a very good on-center feel. I felt well connected to the car when passing slow city traffic or on the highway at high-speeds.
Part of the fun-to-drive dynamics is the excellent fully independent suspension that further gave me a feeling of being connected to the car, and more importantly connected to the road surface. Up front is a proven MacPherson strut setup with coil springs over gas-charged shocks and a solid stabilizer bar. The rear features a multi-link setup with coil springs, gas-charged shocks and a link-type stabilizer bar. The front and rear shocks are high-performance Frequency Response Damping. Stabile at very high-speeds on the highway and feeling like I was sliding against a wall at high-speed in steep curving roads, the suspension is top-notch-most other compact sedans feature a cheaper or light-duty control-blade or torsion beam rear suspension. The Dart GT gives a smooth, quiet ride that takes out the bumps on purely paved roads.
Standard electronic stability control and traction control ensures no torque steer and the ability to control the car when taking it to its limit of adhesion on a curving road. Also part of the fun-to-drive atmosphere of the Dart GT is that it is very rigid-68% made of high-strength steel-hot stamped, high-strength and ultra-high-strength-resulting in an architecture that is lightweight, modern and solid.
Quickly slowing the Dart GT down from speed are four-wheel, power-assisted steel disc brakes. Up front are big 12 inch vented discs with 10.4 inch solid discs in the rear. Each disc is clamped with large, single-piston calipers. Standard ABS and BA help to keep me in control of my direction when braking hard on wet or slick pavement. These steel disc brakes are the largest in the segment.
While the mechanicals under the skin are on par with the best-selling compact sedans in the segment, the interior really takes the all-new Dodge Dart to another high level of comfort, innovations, high-technology and safety. Open the doors of the GT and the interior looks like a compact German luxury sedan. Soft leather, chrome, aluminum trim, soft-to-the-touch quality materials, red stitching and black piano veneer instantly say sport and luxury’. The cockpit features the instrument panel and cluster canted toward me for easy reach of all of the dials, switches and buttons. The 3-spoke tilt/telescopic/leather-wrapped steering wheel features buttons for the cruise control, audio system and a reconfigurable instrument cluster, a segment first.
Packaged in the footprint of a compact sedan, the 2013 Dodge Dart features the interior spaciousness of a mid-size sedan, and it boasts best-in-class hip and shoulder room. The premium Nappa leather sport front bucket seats are comfortable and very supportive with 8-way power-adjustments/power lumbar adjustments for me and manual settings for my passenger with a height-adjustment lever. The high-tech centerpiece of the Dart Limited is the class-exclusive floating island bezel which houses the segment-exclusive 7-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) LED customizable gauge cluster display with light pipe surround that also houses the class exclusive Uconnect Touch 8.4-inch touchscreen Media Center/Navigation System-the largest touchscreen in its class. Thoughtful storage options throughout fit today’s technology. The glove box easily conceals a stowed iPad, the center console features auxiliary jacks to plug in a wide variety of electronic devices and slides fore/aft. Thoughtful inventive storage solutions such as a flip-up passenger storage seat bottom, center console side pockets, storage slots in each door, are perfect for storing mobile phones, receipts or pens and paper. Lighting in all the right places provides me and my passenger a warm, comfortable cockpit. The optional ‘racetrack’ lighting surround the floating island bezel. Ambient lighting for the door handles, map pockets, foot wells, glove box, storage bin and illuminated cupholders is both useful and provides a warm atmosphere inside the car. The rear seats feature a pull-down armrest with dual cupholders, storage bin and forward folding 60/40 split bench seat for additional trunk space.
Standard equipment not mentioned above include grab handles above each door, dual map lights, flip-down sunglass holder, dual lighted vanity mirrors, power windows with express up/down in front, power door locks, AM-FM-CD-Sirius satellite radio with 6-speakers, auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless entry with push button engine start/stop, ParkSense Rear Park Assist with rearview camera, auto headlights, heated front seats, one-touch sunroof, Rain-Sensing wipers/washers, heated steering wheel, remote start, dual-zone electronic climate system, universal garage door opener, remote fuel filler door, remote trunk release, automatic high beam headlight control, and front/rear floor mats. The all-new Dodge Dart GT is a true sporty luxury compact sedan on the inside.
Safety is important and the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart Limited once again leads the segment with standard equipment only found on high-priced luxury sedans. Start with 10-airbags-dual-staage adaptive venting front driver/passenger airbags, front-seat mounted pelvic and thorax airbags, rear-seat mount pelvic airbags, front driver/passenger knee airbags, all-row side-curtain airbags, active front head restraints, unsurpassed in the compact sedan class, Blind Spot Metering, rear cross path detection, electronic roll mitigation, 5-3-point seat belts with front pretensioners/load limiters, Hill Start Assist, Enhanced Accident Response System, LATCH system for child seats, rear door child locking doors, Rainy Brake Support uses the ESC pump to occasionally push brake pads lightly against brake rotors in rainy conditions in order to keep rotors dry and assure maximum braking performance, safety cage body structure with 60% of the body made of high-strength steel, tire pressure monitoring system, trailer-sway control, front/rear crumple zones and steel beams in each door.
The all-new 2013 Dodge Dart GT leaps over the competition in every respect but Dodge needs to bring in customers to test drive and look over the all-new Dart to increase sales. It will be a tough job as the competition is so fierce.
COPYRIGHT: 2013: HARVEY SCHWARTZ